Performance Counts, May 2013
The first step in improving performance is measuring progress. In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Abby and Ilene talk about the processes we use to keep and analyze data on both our general visitors and our school groups.
Abby Krolik, Visitor Services Coordinator
We are delighted to report that visitation to the JMM has increased by more than 38% in the past few months (in comparison of a 14 week span, January- mid-April, to the same time period last year). In an effort to learn more about our visitors, in the past few months we have made a concerted effort to gather specific data about each individual who walk through our doors. We track information about our visitors in several ways. For walk-in visitors, that process begins at the door, where our front desk receptionist records in the admission log how many adults, seniors, children, etc. come in and at what time of day. We also use that first interaction with visitors at the front desk to ask them where they are from and how they heard about the museum. At the end of each month, I go through the daily attendance logs and tally how many visitors we had in total, and how the attendance statistics break down (member vs. non-member / senior vs. adult vs. child vs. student / how many guest passes were used for admission, etc.) I also am able to report where our visitors are from by tallying up zip codes and states as well as the many different factors that influenced their decision to visit the JMM.
It has been fascinating learning about the reasons why people visit the JMM. Comments include “relative of someone who worshipped at Lloyd St. Synagogue or B’nai Israel Synagogue,” or “Lives/used to live in the neighborhood and always wanted to visit the museum.” Mostly, however, the responses to “How did you hear about the JMM?” involve more expected sources, such as Google searches, listings and ads in local publications or information provided to tourists, and the Groupon and Living Social promotions we recently offered. Collecting this information is important for several reasons, especially in terms of helping us figure out which marketing strategies are the most effective. This data also helps inform program development as it helps us learn about what types of audiences we are already reaching and which groups require new marketing strategies.
Gathering and calculating visitor information for scheduled groups works a little differently. Generally, we have an idea of how many people to expect from because the groups’ organizers give us a headcount in advance. However, inevitably, the actual number of people who arrive on the day of the tour is somewhat different from the expected number. For that reason, we make sure to count how many are actually present on the tour and write it down in the admission log. We also distribute a brief evaluation form to teachers to fill out while they are at the museum with their school groups, so that we can collect accurate information about the group (are they a Title I school? Which school district are they from?), as well as receive immediate feedback on our own performance. All of this information is also totaled at the end of each month, along with the information about our walk-in visitors, program attendance, and outreach numbers. Gathering accurate information about our visitors and analyzing this data to discern specific trends about visitation to the JMM enables our staff to measure our success in fulfilling our mission. This information also helps us in our efforts to secure grant funding that, in turn, provides us with the necessary support to implement programs and exhibits that continue to draw in new audiences.
Tracking Success Through Our Educational Programs
Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education
The JMM’s educational enrichment programs offer students and teachers the chance to participate in hands-on active discovery and experiential learning activities that they would otherwise not be exposed to in their classrooms. The Museum’s education programs align with the Maryland State’s curriculum in social studies and English language arts goals and standards for students and teachers in grades K-12. The Museum closely tracks the annual attendance of students, parents and teachers taking part in our education programs both on and off-site. Our staff compiles reports that break down the visitation by grade level and school district. These reports serve as useful tools for learning the extent to which our educational resources are utilized. We also monitor which schools schedule repeat visits from year to year, another indicator of the positive impact of our school services.
The Museum performs evaluation based on outcome. The evaluation process is critical for Museum professionals and educators in order to evaluate the value of the Museum environment as a place of productive learning. We are specifically concerned that our school visitors gain a basic knowledge of fundamental Jewish traditions and values, a grounding in how Jewish history has evolved in the State of Maryland, and an appreciation of a minority experience within a multicultural context.
Systematic evaluation – a key component of all Museum programs, ensures that these outcomes are achieved. JMM staff solicits evaluation forms from all teachers who participate in on- and off-site programs. These evaluation forms provide critical feedback about the quality of the program, how well they align with curricular standards, and whether or not the programs meet intended objectives. The JMM staff also observes programs to evaluate their effectiveness. Programs are regularly refined based on the content of these evaluations and observations.
We are fortunate to receive grant support for many of our educational initiatives and we are committed to providing all donors with timely reports that summarize our progress on specific projects as well as evaluation data that we have gathered from surveys and meetings with teachers. We are proud to report on each year’s accomplishments as well as the lessons we have learned while implementing each initiative and how we plan on using evaluation results to improve our performance in the upcoming year.
- We have served 600 more students and teachers through on-site school visits in comparison to a similar time period from last year (July 1-April 30).
- Our education staff has developed new educational resources and activities in connection with the exhibits, Zap, Pow Bam and The Synagogue Speaks!
- Our partnership initiative with Baltimore City schools continues to grow – we have added two new schools this year: Patterson Park Charter School and City Springs Elementary/Middle School.
- We have also developed a partnership with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum to provide joint field trip opportunities for visiting school groups.
We look forward to continue our efforts at tracking and reporting on future success of our educational programs.