The Florence Nightingale Museum is a small charity. We are an ACE accredited museum and member of the Association of Independent Museums and CFG.
Since my arrival two and a half years ago, we have steadily grown visitor numbers from c30,000 to c55,000 per annum, and in turn improved our operating position, gradually increasing our reserves. Before my arrival the museum was losing money and it could have been questioned whether we were a going concern, but careful management of finance, a vastly improved visitor and retail offer and a more commercially aware schools offer has seen us emerge as a highly respected visitor attraction. Given our location (which we are planning to change in the future) it has been difficult to further diversify our income, but we have also added small income streams with image licensing and donations. Furthermore, we have also steadily built links with the nursing sector, to support both project development and audience growth, with our audience demographic now including regional, national and international visitors.
2020 is Nightingale's bicentenary and we've steadily developed partnerships with a number of organisations to celebrate this. We secured some funding for our plans from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, but also invested c£75k in an onsite exhibition ourselves, believing this would 'pay back' as other investments have, aided by reasonable expectations that 2020 would be a bumper year. This feeling was enhanced when the World Health Organisation named 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in Nightingale's honour. The museum cannot afford a fundraising/sponsorship position so we do struggle to compete with others in this way.
The timing for the Corona pandemic could not have been more challenging for us. Our events and exhibitions programme was launched on 5 March 2020, achieving global publicity that would normally have seen increased footfall and associated spend in our award-winning shop. Instead, we were closed less than one week later, whilst the intervening period saw visitors drop as low as 3 per day. Ironically we are facing very real threats to our future at the time that Nightingale's message about hygiene and handwashing is most relevant.
We face costs of c30k per month to keep our small team of staff employed (as we await detail regarding the government’s 80% support package), but also the usual costs associated with operating a business eg utilities, IT etc. March, April and May would usually be busy times in our calendar as the tourist season begins, followed by the Easter holidays and International Nurses Day in May. These help cover the quieter winter months. We are therefore losing substantial income whilst still facing all our costs. The museum has tried to be fair to staff so we have employed people on contracts that do not include such measures as 'zero hours'. We were about to shift to being a 'London Living Wage Employer', but have stalled this along with pay increases etc.
Small independent museums in London already face challenges as people expect them to be free of charge and we recognise the tourist market and wide economy will be unsettled for some time, resulting in a downturn in visitors and secondary spend. We do have online material available for visitors but it will be challenging to monetise this, and make it known within what is now a crowded market for virtual engagement.
Thank you to David Green for sharing his museum’s experience – if you have questions for David please get in touch with him. Share your organisation’s experiences now with CFG at email@example.com and please add your voice to the campaign #EveryDayCounts.
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