Dallas Museum of Art’s DMA Friends Program Home to 100,000 Members

Dallas, TX, April 16, 2015— Two years after the launch of the nation’s first free museum membership program, DMA Friends, the Dallas Museum of Art today announced that it has enrolled 100,000 Friends. This achievement now places the DMA as the fourth largest membership of any art museum in North America. Since the program’s introduction in January 2013, DMA Friends has garnered attention from both arts professionals and national media for its innovative reengineering of the traditional museum membership strategy.

Available to anyone who wishes to join, DMA Friends focuses on activating engagement with the Museum and building long-term relationships with visitors. The Museum’s emphasis on creating meaningful arts experiences and an open and welcoming environment has expanded its audience base, with 97.1% of DMA Friends self-identifying as new members at the Museum.

Launched simultaneously in 2013, the DMA Friends’ sister membership track, DMA Partners, seeks the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations as partners in philanthropy, enabling the Museum to deliver access to its extensive collection and diverse public programs. The combination of the DMA Friends membership program along with the DMA Partners membership program brings total Museum membership to 109,969. This reflects a 376% increase in membership from solely paid members prior to introduction of the free membership program and the redefined philanthropic platform. In addition, the average gift of DMA Premier Partners, annual donors of $1,000–$25,000, has increased 19% since January 2013.

“As with free general admission, the DMA Friends program invites more of our community to become invested in their city’s art museum, forging deeper connections with us through the many exhibitions, programs, and events we offer,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “By radically rethinking the way membership works in a museum, the DMA now consistently welcomes significantly larger numbers, providing more than 100,000 people with new and innovative ways to engage with art, the Museum, and each other.”

With the return to free general admission, the DMA’s FY 2014 attendance of 668,000 visitors marks an impressive 23% increase over the previous year and ranks as the second most highly attended year in three decades. In addition, 2015 DMA visitor research indicates particular growth in the Museum’s audiences in size and diversity since 2008. Most dramatically, this includes a 35% increase in first-time Museum visitors and a 29% increase in minority audiences, with overall audience demographics successfully mirroring that of the DFW Combined Statistical Area (CSA). More specifically, the minority audience growth at the Museum since 2008 includes a 21% increase in Hispanic visitors and an 11% increase in African American audiences, and the DMA Asian audience grew 7%. 

This spring and summer, the first implementation of a two-year project on the research and expansion of the Friends platform will be activated at three partner museums across the U.S.: Denver Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The DMA received a $450,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) nine months after the launch of DMA Friends to create a system of data collection that will support new innovations in visitor engagement inspired by the DMA’s Friends program can be introduced at each institution. Designed to be easily integrated into museums’ existing membership operations, the software features digital tracking and audience analytics tools. The core of the software in Dallas allows visitors to voluntarily provide data about their interactions with the museum in exchange for points that can be redeemed for a customized set of membership benefits.

Leaders from all of the participating institutions, including The Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, which joined the collaboration in December 2013 and launched Grace Friends in Spring 2014, spent the past year exploring avenues for incorporating elements of the Friends program in their home markets and creating spinoff initiatives that respond to the specific audience needs of their communities. The DMA-developed visitor engagement software will include elements of the existing DMA Friends program as well as new features created based on the research from the participating institutions. The new model, which continues to foster long-term engagement by incentivizing audience participation, includes a recommendation function that currently provides suggestions on activities, badges, and rewards on log in at the DMA’s Friends kiosks; real time leader standings based on accumulative points earned; and the ability to create groups within the Friends program.

“Data has long been the backbone of many commercial sectors. The DMA Friends program proves that the cultural sector can adapt similar methodologies to impact and enhance operations. We are using new technologies and the incredible information they yield to improve our program offerings and cultivate long-lasting relationships across a very broad Museum audience. To use data to drive significant change continues to be extremely gratifying,” said Robert Stein, the DMA’s Deputy Director.

DMA Friends and DMA Partners, January 2013 through April 2015 

  • Museum attendance FY 2014: 668,000
  • Total DMA Friends enrollment: 100,000
  • Percentage of DMA Friends identified as a new Museum member: 96.8%
  • Total DMA Partner households: 12,869
  • DMA Friends weekly average enrollment: 864 new DMA Friends per week
  • DMA Friends most popular work of art: John Hernandez’s 1992 HI-C Avenger, Rufino Tamayo's 1953 El Hombre (Man), Etruscan gold fibula of "sanguisuga" type from c. 630 B.C.
  • DMA Friends most popular activity: Bringing friends to the DMA, viewing art, attending Late Night
  • DMA Friends favorite gallery: European Art Gallery, Arts of Asia Gallery, American Art Gallery
  • DMA Friends most popular badge: Ringleader, earned when a DMA Friend brings three people with them on their Museum visit
  • Increase in average gift of DMA Partners since January 2013 (annual donors of $100–$500): 16%
  • Increase in average gift of DMA Premier Partners since January 2013 (annual donors of $1,000–$25,000): 19%
  • Increase in total contributed revenue from DMA Partners at close of FY 2012 to projected close of FY 2015: 5.5%

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 23,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum welcomes over 650,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country, which currently has 100,000 members.  For more information, visit DMA.org.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.