A newly released report suggests that a feeling of purpose is the most valuable emotion to foster when building greater public support for campaigns.

The conclusion is one of many drawn from the ‘Pleasure, Connection and Purpose’ report, the research for which was undertaken over summer 2022 by behavioural research and insights consultancy M.E.L.

Commissioned by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) and Art Fund, the report investigates which emotions drive public support for museums, why certain emotions are more powerful than others, and how museums might use these emotions to channel support amongst their communities.

The report suggests that there are three groups of emotions that museums evoke in their audience; Pleasure, Connection and Purpose.

The report reads: “The public had the strongest emotional response to museums’ campaigns for support when they felt strong personal emotions of purpose such as duty, responsibility, fulfilment or empowerment.”

The results of this feeling led to visitors becoming a Friend or community champion or to make large or regular donations to museums.

But, the report warns, this grouping of emotions were also the hardest to achieve.

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A chart from the 'Pleasure, Connection and Purpose' report

Not only were these feelings often only felt by a minority of visitors to any one site, but these feelings are difficult for museums to foster spontaneously, and “need a much deeper understanding of what matters to supporters”.

Practical recommendations made in the report for achieving a sense of purpose include: “Be clear in communicating the benefit to the community”, and “give people a tangible sense of how donations of any size make a difference, rather than focusing on what a large sum of money can do.”

Lisa Ollerhead, AIM Director and Sarah Philp Director of Programme and Policy, Art Fund write in the report: “Now more than ever, we need to better understand how museums can leverage emotions to build greater public support. That understanding should help museums, funders and sector support organisations make a more compelling case to the public, and to policymakers, for that support.”

The full report is available online here.

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