This year’s AAM Annual Meeting & MusueumExpo in St Louis, MO, affirmed that AAM is leading a dedicated effort to push museums to think hard about their role in society and in their communities—and then to act decisively to confront very real social issues. Museums have long been among the most trusted institutions in our country. Yet museum attendance has been flat or slowly declining for many years, even as the percentage of Americans with college degrees has steadily increased.

AAM wants to face these questions of museum relevance and social impact head-on by providing insights from across disciplines. The sessions offered at this year’s Annual Meeting that focused on diversity, equity, empathy, accessibility and inclusion reflected that priority.

Schultz & Williams has for many years been helping our museum and other cultural clients confront the issue of relevance and its impact on fundraising, marketing and strategic planning. We believe that successful resource development depends on understanding your constituents’ needs, telling your story of community impact, and building relationships with donors and members that truly engage them in your mission and vision.

AAM believes that, for museums, this means finding ways to align mission and vision with the immediate challenges facing their communities. According to AAM President Laura Lott, these challenges include racism, discrimination, immigration, religious expression and sexual orientation, among others. These issues are not easy or comfortable to address, but they do provide an opportunity for museums to leverage their trustworthiness as they go beyond their traditional collections and experience-based framework in order to establish their significance.

Helping our clients build meaningful connections with their constituents is what S&W is all about. For our clients, challenging the status quo will increasingly be critical to their success in reaching new audiences, building support and achieving long-term relevance in their communities.