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Mass Observation Archive
Mass Observation Archive (MOA) (2013)
This case study showcases how archive services might encourage financial contributions from 'friends' by targeting membership fees or donations towards specific activities or costs.
The Mass Observation Archive Trust is a registered charity (No. 270218) whose aims are 'to hold the papers of the social research organisation, Mass Observation (1937-present day) at the University of Sussex. The trust is responsible for the care of the material and for ensuring the best possible access for research.'
The MOA has eight trustees who are responsible for overseeing the trust but the collection is managed within University of Sussex Special Collections. There are three staff posts funded by the Mass Observation Archive Trust.
The Friends scheme was set up in 1991 when there were concerns over the Trust's ability to remain self-financing. There are currently around 90 friends, most of whom have either been a Mass Observation respondent or have researched in the Mass Observation Archive.
Unlike many Friends groups, the Friends of Mass Observation Archive does not have specific membership fees but has a suggested donation of £20. In return Friends receive a newsletter on the work of the MOA.
As the MOA Trust is a registered charity in its own right, the Friends scheme does not have a separate governance structure, and its development is overseen by the MOA trustees and co-ordinated by the Mass Observation Project Officer.
In the year ending 30 Sep 2012, The Mass Observation Trust earned around £133,000 and spent £59,000. The majority of the Trust's income is from drawn from intellectual property and fees. Only £2,059 was from Friends membership donations with an additional £264 in gift aid.
Budget and funding sources
As MOA is a registered charity, all monies raised through Friends are directly part of MOA's income and is recorded directly in their accounts and published annual report. The 2011/12 figures represent a slight reduction in Friends income from the previous five years, where the average was £2,624.
Friends can pay their donation via cheques or electronic bank transfer and donations can be made to Mass Observation via the Charities Aid Foundation website.
Challenges and opportunities
Whilst most Friends do pay at the suggested donation level of £20, the number of members is static and fairly low. Interest in Mass Observation has increased recently with more publications drawing on the archive and its 75th anniversary celebrations, so there is the potential to increase membership of the Friends.
A successful mini campaign to purchase some 1939 Mass-Observation directive replies made available for sale on the open market, suggested that there is an appetite for Friends to donate to more targeted activity to support MOA.
While Friends receive a newsletter, there is an issue around identifying appropriate benefits for Friends. At one point members received promotional merchandise (notebooks and pencils) but this initiative was not felt to have any particular positive impact on membership numbers. There was a discount for Friends attending the 75th anniversary conference, but with potential Friends located across the UK and overseas, there is a concern about the value of focusing benefits too much around geographical proximity to the collection, for example a Friends event programme.
Mass Observation Archive will move later in 2013, along with the University of Sussex Special Collections into The Keep, a new history centre developed in partnership between East Sussex County Council, Brighton & Hove City Council and the University of Sussex. Therefore fundraising by and through the Friends of the Mass Observation Archive will need to be developed in the context of this new partnership, any wider fundraising initiatives for The Keep, as well as the work of University of Sussex own fundraising team.
Responding to the challenges and opportunities
The Mass Observation Project Officer has put together a fundraising strategy that includes revisiting the role of the Friends. Rather than asking for a general donation, the new initiative will look at targeting fundraising support; for 2013-14 they will be asking Friends to support specific educational resources or outreach work. Friends will be able to keep abreast of the progress of these campaigns through updates via a new fundraising newsletter.
Currently the main motivation to become a Friend is that an individual has either been a respondent or a researcher. The profile of the Friends needs to be raised with these target audiences, but also more generally.
The impact of the new targeted donations programme will be used to consider how to match interested donors to particular campaigns.
Find out more about the Mass Observation Archive and their Friends Group.
Contact: Kirsty Pattrick Mass Observation Project Officer.
This case study complements The National Archives guidance note 'Using Friends Groups to support fundraising'.