Performance Counts: Strathmore’ Museum Shop Around

Posted on November 11th, 2016 by

This month’s Performance Counts is by Tracie Guy-Decker, Associate Director of Projects, Planning and Finance and Manager of Esther’s Place, the JMM Museum Shop.

The JMM Shop

The JMM Shop

Those of us who have strong affiliations with and affinity for an individual museum—whether as staff, volunteer or visitors—like to believe that our museum is one-of-a-kind. In our minds and hearts, it is a snowflake, truly unique and special. And we’re not wrong. Every museum is unique and special in its own way. It is also—whether intentionally or not—part of an international franchise with a recognized brand.

Museum shops enjoy a similar umbrella brand in many consumers’ minds. As a part of their museum experience, shoppers visit museum stores to take home a part of what they saw and learned. As a stand-alone brand, the Museum Store is known for uncommon and interesting finds. It is a destination for the discerning shopper and especially as we start to approach December, for the gift-giver in search of the perfect item.

One of our sister-franchisees, Strathmore, has been capitalizing on the strength of the Museum Store umbrella brand for more than a quarter century with their annual Museum Shop Around.

The Strathmore Mansion

The Strathmore Mansion

This four-day event brings together loads of special-snowflake shopping experiences under one roof. And though this is their 27th year doing it, they’ve never done it quite like they will in 2016: this year, Esther’s Place: The JMM Shop will have a space!

You can support JMM—and all of the wonderful participating museums—by coming by Strathmore between Thursday, November 10 and Sunday, November 13. There’s a small entry fee to get in (much like a craft show), but that gets you access to 18 different museum stores, all in one trip!

The Strathmore Museum Shop Around was introduced to JMM staff by our colleague Joanna Church, who participated with a previous employer (another sister franchisee). Joanna, Devan and I have had a great time selecting just the right products to take with us. We’ve done our best to select key highlights that will excite, entertain and tempt our customers—whether they are shopping for loved ones or themselves!

This event is a great opportunity for us to find new customers and sales for Esther’s Place. Just as importantly, it helps us to gain exposure and visibility for JMM to a group of people who may or may not know we exist.

Setting up "Esther's Place" at Strathmore Mansion

Setting up “Esther’s Place” at Strathmore Mansion

Our products for sale at Strathmore will include fine Judaica from designers like Michael Aram and Jonathan Adler. We will also feature home goods, children’s gifts, jewelry, books and tchotchkies. In fact, if you come by JMM this weekend, you may notice that Esther’s Place seems to have a little less of a selection than usual—we want to make sure we make you proud in Rockville!

Other Museums who will be represented include the National Archives Foundation, International Spy Museum, Just Imagine!, The Shop at Imagination Station, National Geographic and the White House Historical Association (another first-time attendee). See the full list of participating museum stores here.

Whether you’re interested in doing some Chanukah (or Christmas) shopping or just want to see what’s available, I highly recommend making the drive. Most participating shops offer a discount while they’re at Strathmore (we will be offering 10% off), and there are raffle prizes and other fun add-ons. Look for us on the second floor when you get to the mansion!

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Modernizing the JMM: Behind the Scenes

Posted on October 14th, 2016 by

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland we are dedicated to preserving the past.  We have a great appreciation for classic artifacts.  But we are drawing the line on “antiques” when it comes to our electronic infrastructure.

Because we have grown steadily but slowly from our early days as the Jewish Historical Society, our business operations were patched together as needs arose (and budgets allowed). When we needed software to track memberships, we found one (actually, it was a module of the software we were already using to track our collections). When we wanted better software to track donations, we bought the best we could afford. When we wanted to be able to offer online ticketing, we found yet another third party software. We needed a way to process transactions at the front desk. We owned a cash register already. We made do.  As recently as a year ago, if a visitor wanted to buy their admission with a credit card, we had to send them into the Gift Shop to complete their transaction.

The net result of this patchwork process was that the Museum found itself in a situation where we had a host of solutions which all worked, but didn’t work together. When we wanted to learn more about a member or donor—so that we could make sure we were inviting them to engage in the most appropriate ways—we had to look them up in multiple places to get a full picture. In order to report on attendance data or fundraising progress or basic metrics like average revenue per visitor, JMM staff were spending a great deal of energy tabulating, calculating and second-guessing manual reports.

The new "daily sales screen"

The new “daily sales screen”

About a year ago, I began the search for a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system that would allow us to maintain a single “database of record.” My goal was to find a system would allow us to see an individual’s membership history, giving history, and event attendance all in the same place. I wanted to find a software that would allow us to create reports both at regular intervals and on the fly so that the management and the Board can make informed decisions about strategy and business operations.

I interviewed a number of systems. Some did a great job at tracking donations, but had weak front desk and ticketing solutions. Others were amazing ticketing solutions, but didn’t serve the membership needs. Still others did both fundraising and membership, but couldn’t help with some of our other revenue sources, such as facility rental and group sales. In the end, we found a product called Altru, produced by Blackbaud, the same company that built the CRM used by our colleagues at the Associated.

At the end of last month, Altru went live.

Altru does (almost) everything that we need, including:

– a robust system of membership tracking that will allow us to create a nuanced renewal process that provides members with opportunities to renew online;

– a comprehensive (if slightly slower) front desk operation that accommodates all of our various admissions fees, member discounts, special programs and tours;

– an e-commerce solution for tickets, memberships and gifts that integrates with our website, and for which Blackbaud maintains the security, ensuring that our customers are as safe as possible;

– a module for group sales that will allow us to track reservations, special requests, amounts owed, and even contracts;

– a point-of-sale solution for Esther’s Place that will allow members and other special categories to receive their discounts automatically (or to renew their memberships right there in the gift shop!); and

– the capability to export data in a very report-friendly way. This will allow us to overlay external data (e.g. weather or Ravens home games) with data on our admissions, membership or fundraising.

The daily events calendar

The daily events calendar

What’s more, because Altru is cloud-based, we are able to take it on the road to events where we might want to sell merchandise (e.g. the annual JCC Block Party or the upcoming Strathmore Shop Around where we’ll be selling merchandise from Esther’s Place). (Sadly, one thing it doesn’t do is online merchandise sales. We are investigating other options to allow you to browse and select Esther’s Place merchandise from home.)

We began the implementation back in May as members of a cohort of four museums and/or cultural institutions who were adopting the software at the same time. We started processing transactions through Altru in the second week of September. During those nearly five months, there were regular webinar calls and lots of homework for JMM staff. We needed to articulate our business rules and then configure the software to match those rules. The implementation required between five and fifteen staff hours per week, and we’re not done. We are still ironing out kinks, and discovering new scenarios we didn’t anticipate.

All of this time investment will pay off over the coming months and years as the JMM develops more and more (accurate) data about our extended family (members, donors, visitors).

As we continue to ferret out the bugs in the new system, we hope you’ll be patient with us—it will get so much better! If you have any questions about how Altru works, why we went with the solution we chose, or what it will allow us to do, please feel free to reach out to me about it.

Front desk volunteer Betsey Kahn poses with the new touch screen system!

Front desk volunteer Betsey Kahn poses with the new touch screen system!

In the meantime, I hope I’ll see you at the new touchscreen at our front desk!

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Performance Counts: Ten Years of the Summer Teachers Institute

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by

If you ask the education department at the JMM, they will tell you that the end of the summer is officially over after the Summer Teachers Institute (STI) takes place in early August.  For the past 10 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Baltimore Jewish Council have partnered in planning this annual event. We just finished up another successful program, Holocaust Remembrance Through the Arts, the 10th Annual Summer Teachers Institute in early August.

A lot of planning goes into this program each year.  While initially conceived in 2006 as a two day program, our annual Summer Teachers Institute has expanded to encompass three full days. The planning staff from the JMM and BJC meets throughout the year to conceptualize and develop the program.  It takes quite a bit of phone calls and meetings to organize this event. This year the program took place at Beth El Congregation, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the JMM.

Summer Teachers Institute 2016

This year’s program with 43 people in attendance was one of our largest in recent years.  While we did engage repeat participants, the majority of registrants (29) were first time attendees. We appreciated having the opportunity to introduce the JMM to so many educators, many of whom indicated an interest in returning with their students.

The following is a breakdown of attendance:

19 public schools (14 Baltimore City, 3 Baltimore County, 1 Harford County, 1 Frederick County)

7 Catholic school

1 Independent school

3 college professors (Towson)

2 retired Baltimore City teachers

1 homeschool teacher

4 Jewish congregational school

2 students (1 college, 1 middle school who attended with her mother)

4 community leaders (including two JMM volunteers)

Total: 43 participants

The Summer Teacher’s Institute has been such an important education initiative and professional development opportunity for educators over the past 10 years and it is interesting to see just how this program has impacted teachers and the community over the past ten years.

Total Number of Teachers Participating in STI for the past 10 years – 429

Total Number of Presenters Participating in STI for the past 10 years – 86

Total Number of Teachers Teaching in Public School Programs over the span 10 years – 220

Total number of Teachers who Teach in Parochial Schools over the span of 10 years – 64 (50- archdiocese; 14-Jewish)

Total Number of non-k-12 educators who attended the program in the past 10 years – 145  (Including university professionals, agencies, funders, private schools, homeschools etc.)

Summer Teachers Institute 2010

A further breakdown of teachers by district:

Archdiocese – 50

Jewish Schools – 14

Baltimore City – 102

Baltimore County – 46
Harford County – 21

Howard County – 10

Frederick County – 8

Carroll County -15

Garrett County -1

Cecil – 2

Prince Georges County 7

Montgomery – 2

Calvert County – 1

Anne Arundel County -5

Summer Teachers Institute 2006

A closer look over the past 10 years indicates that we have partnered with many agencies and organizations to ensure the success of this important program including:

Claims Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

AEGON

Robert H. & Ryda Levi Center for Community Relations

Center for Jewish Education

Jewish Community Center

Red Cross of Central Maryland

Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University 

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation  

Chizuk Amuno

Beth Tfiloh

Centropa

Anti-Defamation League

Hillel at Goucher College

The Shoah Foundation

Beth El Congregation

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Maryland State Department of Education

Echoes & Reflections

The Jan Karski Foundation

We are especially grateful to our program sponsors, Judy and Jerry Macks and the Klein Sandler Family Fund for their sustained generosity and support of this important education initiative.Evaluation of the Summer Teacher’s Institute is crucial and every year we ask teachers for their feedback.Many teachers receive continuing education credits through MSDE through written reflections outlining how they will incorporate workshop content into their lessons. A review of these reflections provides a window for understanding its impact on participants in terms of increasing their confidence in teaching the Holocaust and other challenging topics as well as on their own personal growth. In the words of one participant:

“So many stories go untold. We have such a responsibility to share these stories, these people, with this generation. I am so grateful for the work done to restore these memories and tireless effort to prevent future genocide. I only hope my effort of partnership through education helps that cause.”

Summer Teachers Institute 2015

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