Objectives Introduction Planning Prerequisites for planning Planning via aims and objectives Planning cycles Budgeting Conclusion For further reading Self-evaluation quiz Answers to self-evaluation quiz 


At the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • state the advantages of planning and budgeting, and be aware of the relationship between the two processes;

  • describe the prerequisites for effective planning;

  • describe the steps involved in planning via aims and objectives;

  • differentiate between strategic and operational planning;

  • describe the budgetary process in terms of planning, controlling and reviewing income and expenditure, and the achievement of objectives; and

  • use appropriate procedures to frame a budget for a small museum or gallery.


Planning and budgeting are essential for the effective and efficient use of resources in running a museum, gallery or library. Best use is made of these processes if they are in balance.

While budgeting should not determine the planning process, neither should unrealistic visions be pursued without any consideration of economic feasibility. Although each topic is treated separately below, in practice neither is carried out in isolation from the other.


Someone once said that if you don’t know where you are going, then don’t be surprised if you don’t know when you’ve reached your destination. Most of us would not dream of trying to drive to a new place, in a direction we had not previously travelled, without using a road map. There are occasions when we don’t mind ambling along from place to place. When on a business trip, however, with limited time and a tight budget, it would be extremely rare for anyone to set off on a journey knowing neither the destination nor the route.

Unfortunately it is the case that in some museums, galleries and libraries, despite the best intentions

of the people associated with the organisation, there are no maps to steer by. Such groups are often characterised by a sense of malaise, of being overwhelmed with so much to do that they don’t know where to start. Frequently they don’t. These groups often appear either to have lost their way or to have no sense of direction.

Planning would be of great benefit, giving them a focus and mechanisms by which to achieve their goals.

Definition of museum planning

Museum planning has been defined as being a professional response to challenges:

... the study and practice of facilitating the preservation and interpretation of material culture by ordering all those components that comprise a museum into a constructed or renovated whole that can achieve its functions with optimal efficiency. (Lord & Lord, 1991)

This may sound very high-powered and formal, but at its simplest level it involves developing a map to guide a museum along a path—whether it be a short-term activity, a major development project over several years or an annual program of activities. Planning is a process which can be learnt by all members of an organisation and used to great effect.

Plans try to anticipate opportunities and obstructions along the route, and attempt to provide a defined and trouble-free path which is still able to cope with the unexpected.

Why plan?

The goals of museum planning have been defined by Lord & Lord, 1991, as:

• to provide space and facilities that are both aesthetically pleasing and effective in preserving and interpreting museum collections for museum visitors;

• to establish and/or maintain an institution which can perform these functions efficiently; and

• to provide an organisation with the opportunity to anticipate and be prepared for likely future events. This reduces the stress of having to cope with the unanticipated.

Examples of planning in museums

It is difficult to answer the question, ‘What sorts of plans are used in museums, galleries and libraries, and how detailed should they be?’ While not every minor, routine activity warrants formal planning, clearly those activities which are complex in terms of personnel, resources, and the scale or time involved require careful planning.

Plans vary in scale and comprehensiveness. They can range from those required for an individual activity or function to a comprehensive plan for the whole organisation or a master plan integrating complex components of a major project.

Examples of plans include:

  • long-term strategic plans;

  • annual or semi-annual operational plans;

  • master plans;

  • project plans—often entailing a feasibility study component;

  • collections management plans;

  • conservation plans;

  • safety and security plans;

  • disaster plans; and

  • information management plans.

At their simplest, plans set priorities and identify sequences of events and resources that may be utilised to achieve objectives.

Prerequisites for planning

Museums, galleries and libraries cannot really start to plan any activity until they have at least the basics of a policy framework for their organisation. This framework should include a mission statement, which sets out the purpose or goals of the organisation, as well as policies, which act as guidelines for decision-making. Once this framework is in place, plans can be developed to help the organisation achieve its objectives.

Planning via aims and objectives

This approach involves determining a set of achievable objectives, placing them in order of priority, and focusing on achieving them. To arrive at this stage requires a number of steps. These include:

  • exploring visions;
  • carrying out a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats—SWOT—analysis;
  • reviewing the result of the SWOT analysis against the mission statement;
  • setting priorities; and • defining objectives.

Dreaming the impossible dream— exploring visions

In many ways the hardest step in museum, gallery or library planning is the first: the identification of visions. For complex museum projects, it may be desirable to bring in external expertise for guidance. Nowadays many local government authorities have staff trained to act as facilitators for these sorts of sessions. For larger projects, a museum planning consultant may be needed.

Keep your visions realistic. If you aim too high, you may fail. It is better to work toward a realistic level of stability than an overambitious program of development and change.

Visions are best developed by allowing everyone to come up with ideas and recording them on paper or whiteboard. At this stage the ideas should be encouraged to flow freely, without any critical analysis, and usually results in a variety of good ideas. Everyone has a say, and group or individual imagination is not hindered.

SWOT analysis

Once a list of visions has been established, it should be put aside temporarily while you go to the next step in the process. Rather than a critical look at the visions, the organisation and its environment are put under the microscope first.

The methodology of a SWOT analysis involves looking closely at the elements of the environment in which the organisation currently operates. In some cases, the analysis must take into account the possibility of changes in the organisational environment and the associated impacts of such changes.

During a SWOT analysis you identify the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Again, an outside facilitator may be of use in this process.

The product of this process will be pieces of paper or a whiteboard full of lists of factors under various headings. The likely factors are numerous and varied, but would be expected to include, among others, considerations of the building— security, suitability, ease of maintenance, space, the environment and so on—personnel; and finances and possibly even the political and economic environments.

There are no golden rules here. Each organisation and location is different. The significance of factors will vary because of the unique character of each institution and its associated environment. Some factors may in fact emerge under a couple of headings. Funding, for example, may appear under both the Threats and Opportunities headings.

Outside factors likely to affect your museum, gallery or library—either directly or indirectly— should also be considered. Examples which might emerge include:

  • a major industry closing or a new one being established;

  • development of a new State or regional tourism strategy;

  • emergence of an indigenous artists’ collective;

  • changes in the local population base, such as an increase in the number of people born elsewhere or overseas; and

  • changes in the local economy resulting from upturns or downturns in regional exports.

Identifying realistic, not idealistic, options

While museum visions need not be realistic, decisions about which visions to pursue must be.

On completion of the SWOT analysis, the wish list— the visions—should be revisited and critically assessed, to identify which of the idealistic visions can be reclassified into a subset if achievable options. 

The SWOT analysis provides the factors against which the visions list may be compared and subsequently pruned. Factors such as available funds, personnel and projected demand often weigh-in heavily at this stage.

In addition to fulfilling this function, a SWOT analysis may also identify the need for further information or for more critical assessment. You may decide you need a feasibility study.

Achieving the achievable dream—assigning priorities

The achievable options must then be measured against the organisation’s statement of purpose and its policies, to determine priorities. In reality, factors of internal and external political nature often come into play at this stage.

If a decision is taken to embark in a direction contrary to the aims of the organisation, then it must be asked whether the organisation’s aims are out of date or whether those making the decision are out of line. Obviously such decisions should not be taken lightly—they challenge the fundamental reasons for the organisation’s existence, and require input from the whole organisation.

A challenge for readers

Now that you understand the theory of a SWOT analysis, consider how you would apply this process to a museum situation. Use your own situation, or pick several factors from the environmental and outside factors listed above. Do a SWOT analysis. Note how each factor may have a negative and/or positive impact on your museum, and how it might provide opportunities for, or constraints to, museum operations.

Next, consider the following list of options identified as visions worth considering—add more if you like. Try prioritising them into a realistically achievable list measured against your SWOT analysis of environmental factors.

A new storage facility to house a collection of watercolours of great significance to the local community.

Development of a collection strength based around a long-established and distinct local industry which is about to be closed down.

The establishment of a conservation workshop equipped to handle large objects.

Modification of the environment of an exhibition gallery to meet loan requirements from a major collecting institution.

A simple but large-scale conservation project that will need input from volunteers, working under a conservator’s supervision; the project entails cleaning a collection of items used at the nearby factory, and requires the specialised knowledge of former operators.

Defining objectives

The final stage in the overall process of ‘Planning via aims and objectives’ is to formalise the assigned priorities into a set of objectives. Objectives should be framed in terms of achievable and measurable outcomes. They should, therefore, be expressed in terms that are definite, not vague; and it should be easy for everyone to recognise the point at which the objective has been reached.

These objectives should then be used to provide the focus for the museum, gallery or library. Knowing what you hope to achieve provides a focus. Resources, personnel and finances can be allocated and steps taken on the path to achieving the first objective.

Planning cycles

Regardless of whether any major new projects are under consideration, it is worthwhile undertaking organisational-level planning in regular cycles based on two, sometimes three, time-scales.

Longer-term planning for the general directions and major thrusts that an organisation sets out to achieve over an extended period is best covered by a strategic plan. Shorter-term organisation of projects and programs is best described using an operational plan that usually covers one or two years. A series of operational plans effectively acts as a subset for the achievement of the broader strategic goals.

Both types of plan must be monitored and reassessed by reference to the goals and objectives; and both should be subject to regular review.

Goals can be said to be the endpoint for which we aim, and objectives are the list of measurable achievements that provide milestones along the way.

When all the objectives have been achieved, we know the goals have been reached.

The need to identify clearly defined and measurable objectives cannot be overemphasised. Without milestones it is all too easy to lose one’s way and not know whether a goal has been reached!

Strategic planning

A strategic plan outlines the organisation’s long- term aspirations and goals. Without this plan, it is easy to concentrate on short-term objectives and consequently might constrain future development options.

Strategic plans have defined time-frames, and identify major goals and the staging of processes for their achievement. They may cover several years, in some cases 5 to 10 or more. They should not be inflexible and should be reviewed say, every three to five years, to take into account achieved goals and to consider changes in the museum’s operating environment.

Strategic plans must present a broad overview and be holistic in scope. All aspects of the museum, gallery or library and its operational environment must be considered.

Different strategic plans vary greatly in their complexity. At its simplest, the strategic plan should include a list of strategic objectives, a summary of the key resources required to achieve them, and a staged time-line for their achievement. It should be entirely consistent with the museum’s mission statement.

Operational plans

Operational plans are smaller-scale and are usually more detailed than strategic plans. They may cover a period of one to two years. They should consist of realistic, achievable and measurable objectives—lists of things that can and will be achieved.

Operational plans detail the resources that will be committed to achieving objectives. They should encompass ongoing activities or programs as well as fixed-term activities or projects, which in an operational plan must be consistent with the strategic plan and the mission statement. Museums, galleries and libraries should have clear, annual budgets consistent with, and based on, their operational plans.

Operational plans should be set and reviewed at least annually, with a focus on the achievement— or otherwise—of objectives. This review process provides an indication of progress toward the achievement of longer-term goals outlined in the strategic plan. At the same time the realisation of objectives achieved is a source of satisfaction, with obvious implications for morale and future activities. The review process may also provide early warnings—changes in the operational environment, for instance. These should be noted and contingency plans formulated. Amended objectives may be necessary.


Budgeting is the process of planning income and expenditure for a specific time or project. It is an essential component of the planning process.

Measurement of actual income and expenditure against that projected in a budget provides key indicators, as well as warnings, for the achievement of objectives.

The variations in income and expenditure for small museums are almost as diverse as the museums themselves, which range from those fully attached to a parent body, such as local government, to those relying entirely on their own efforts to survive. The former may benefit from assistance in the areas of building, ground maintenance and administrative support. The independent museum normally has to rely on income derived from admission fees, sales, fund-raising, rent and grants. Sponsorship may also be a factor.

Expenditure is more complex. Outgoings can be grouped into various categories, but not all will appear in each year’s budget, as changes in plans and objectives vary. Yet some expenses will be incurred every year, the only variable being the amount.

Expenditure categories for small museums

Many expenditure items are fixed expenses and must be allowed for each year. Other items relate to programs that are not necessarily ongoing. Outlined below are expenditure categories that should be considered when framing a budget.

Maintenance of building and grounds, general expenses

  • heating and cooling
  • security
  • cleaning
  • spraying, mowing
  • insurance
  • pest control
  • health and safety issues—guard rails, fire prevention
  • electricity—power, lighting requirements
  • repairs

Publicity and marketing

  • regular advertising in chosen publications
  • special-occasion advertising—newspapers, radio and posters
  • direct contact—phone and mail
  • guide sheets
  • education packages
  • signage
  • publications
  • preparation of brochures
  • membership of tourist associations

Volunteer services

  • information dissemination—phone, information sheets, booklets and tours
  • tea, coffee
  • social events, thank-yous
  • skills training

Museum services

  • display maintenance, repair, cleaning
  • conservation of displayed objects
  • conservation of stored objects
  • documentation of incoming objects for collection display development
  • acquisition of required objects
  • repair and restoration of objects in the collection, as appropriate
  • development and maintenance of storage area
  • development of a reference library


  • phone
  • postage
  • photocopying
  • stationary
  • computer hardware and software

A typical income and expenditure statement

During a period of development, a typical budget for a progressive, independent museum with annual visitor numbers of about 6,000 might be structured as follows:

Income $

Admissions                         8,500

Shop sales                           4,500

Fund-raising                      2,000      

Rent                                     2,000

Interest                                  500

Grant—Rotary                   1,000

Grant—MAGP                   6,000

Grant—contributions      3,000


Budget planning

Review past budgets. Take into account strategic and operational plans. Consider initiatives alongside income and expenditure.

When framing a budget it is essential to take into account past budgets, and to examine the relationship between the budgetary performance and the achievement of objectives. For example, Were the objectives achieved? If not, why not? Was the failure to achieve the year’s program related to availability of money? If this was the case what—if anything—can be done about it?

The review process may result in either a realignment of priorities or the reassessment of the proposed expenditure and sources of income.

As most of the income in small museums tends to be used in its day-to-day running, framing the budget may have to link some aspects of a program to specific fund-raising efforts.

The budget must take into account both the strategic and operational plans, with money allocated to projects described in those documents. There is an intimate relationship between planning and budgeting: budgetary constraints must be considered when objectives are set and, conversely, objectives of the organisation must be taken into account when framing the budget. Finding the correct balance between planning and budgeting is critical if an organisation is to have a realistic chance of achieving its objectives.

It is wise to build some flexibility into the budget, if possible. Despite the best plans and intentions, costs do blow out and anticipated revenue may not match that projected in the budget. In addition, unanticipated opportunities may arise, which you should take advantage of. Having a contingency allocation set aside would be of obvious benefit in both these instances.

Budget planning should also take into account the experiences of past years with respect to both income generation and expenditure. For a small museum or gallery which depends on admission fees and shop sales for most of its funding, there will be obvious peaks and troughs throughout the year, corresponding to school holidays and tourist patterns. By being aware of these patterns,

expenditure may be moderated, for example, in anticipation of an upcoming period of low income generation. It is important to monitor attendance figures, especially for institutions to which admission is by donation only. By analysing the income per visitor via the donation box and in relation to shop sales, strategies can be adopted to maximise returns in each of these areas. Monitoring attendances also provides valuable information which may be used as part of a package aimed at attracting sponsorship.

As well as considering the aspects mentioned above, it is also important when going through this planning process to examine initiatives in areas such as alternative funding sources. Is there the opportunity to seek corporate sponsorship? What grant sources are available that may be of assistance for particular projects? Both government and non-government sectors should be targeted. It is worthwhile contacting groups such as Museums Australia, the Heritage Councils and the Departments of Tourism, as well as local government agencies, for advice on funding sources.

Control process

During the financial year it is important to monitor expenditure and income. While it is acknowledged that money allocated for a period of 12 months will not be spent in equal amounts each month, it is useful to monitor the relationship between the period over which money has been spent and the corresponding proportion of the budget that has been spent. This may then prevent a blow-out in the budget.

Likewise it is important to monitor projected sources of income. Are visitor numbers and takings at the door sufficient to match the projected income? How successful have the fund-raising efforts been so far? By looking at both sides of the ledger, it may be possible to alter programs to take into account changed circumstances.

Monitoring and adjustment are important aspects of the budgetary process, especially for organisations which do not have a guaranteed annual income.

Review process

Reviewing the budget is not just an activity that takes place as the end of the financial year approaches. It is ongoing, and an inevitable part of the processes associated with monitoring income and expenditure during the year. The review process should examine the following aspects of budgetary performance projected expenditure against that actually spent; projected income against that actually received; and the relationship between budgetary performance and the achievement of programs.

The outcomes of this review will influence the framing of the next budget, as well as operational and strategic plans. It is a time to evaluate overall strategies in light of performance. Any changes
in circumstances must be taken into account at this stage.


Funding is often very restricted in small museums and collecting institutions, and it is therefore very important that the best use is made of available funds. Planning and budgeting will help you to do this.

Planning and budgeting also are vital steps to be taken toward providing proper care for museum, gallery and library collections. Without forward planning it is very easy for all available resources to be used in day-to-day operations. And if the day-to- day operations swallow up all the resources, expensive problems can be developing quietly in the background. It is wise to encourage the allocation of at least a portion of the budget to conservation.

The focus of spending on conservation should be directed to identifying what the problems are, fixing them and slowing down deterioration of the collections. Improving the conditions and the environment in storage and display areas will be of greater benefit in the long term than treatments applied to objects which are then returned to inappropriate storage or display environments.

For further reading

Lord, G.D. & Lord, B.L., 1991, The Manual of Museum Planning, HMSO, London.

Self-evaluation quiz

Question 1.

Which of the following statements are false?

 a)  Planning and budgeting have nothing to do with each other.

b)  Planning and budgeting should be balanced for the best results.

c)  Budgeting determines the planning process.

d)  Museum planning is a specialised area and cannot be done without expert knowledge and training.

e)  Organisations don’t need to plan or budget— these are just activities designed to fill in time.


Question 2.

What are the prerequisites for planning?

a) Have a statement of purpose for the organisation.

b) Carry out a SWOT analysis.

c) Have policies in place to provide a framework for decision-making.

d) Know what your budget will be for the next 10 years.


Question 3.

The steps involved in planning via aims and objectives are:

a)  work out all your broad aims and divide them up into detailed objectives;

b)  write down everyone’s ideas on a whiteboard and be sure not to be critical;

c)  carry out a SWOT analysis, review its result against the mission statement, define objectives;

d)  explore visions, carry out a SWOT analysis, review its result against the mission statement, set priorities and define objectives.


Question 4.

A SWOT analysis looks at:

a)  the elements of the environment in which an organisation operates;

b)  the visions of the people in the organisation;

c)  what the organisation needs;

 d)  the strengths and weaknesses of, and the opportunities for and threats to, a particular organisation.


Question 5.

Which of the following statements apply to a strategic plan?

a)  It is a plan which details the resources that will be committed to the achievement of objectives.

b)  It is a plan which outlines the long-term aspirations and goals for an organisation.

c)  It should identify major goals and the staging of processes that will lead to their achievement.

d)  It is a plan that identifies, in detail, the conservation program for the next year.

e)  All aspects of the organisation and its operating environment must be considered in the plan.


Question 6.

Which of the following statements are true?

a)  Budgeting is the process of planning income and expenditure for a specific time-period or project.

b)  When framing a budget it is essential to take into account past budgets and to examine the relationship between the budgetary performance and the achievement of objectives.

c)  Finding the correct balance between planning and budgeting is completely unnecessary for any organisation.

d) Budgets, once developed, must be completely rigid. Changing them is irresponsible.

e) During the financial year it is important to monitor expenditure and income.

Answers to self-evaluation quiz 

Question 1.

Answer: a), c), d) and e) are all false. Planning and budgeting are complementary parts of a management approach essential for the effective and efficient use of resources in running a museum, gallery or library. Best use is made of these processes only if they are in balance. To maintain this balance, budgeting should not determine the planning process, neither should unrealistic visions be pursued without any consideration of economic feasibility. Planning can be learnt by all members of an organisation. Planning and budgeting are necessary processes for the most effective use of resources and to provide the organisation with a focus for their operations.

Question 2.

Answer: a) and c). Planning can take place without knowing your budget exactly. You may plan for programs that require you to look for alternative funds which are not part of your usual funding. A SWOT analysis is part of the planning process—you don’t need to complete it before you commence planning.

Question 3.

Answer: d) lists the steps involved, in the order in which they should take place.

Question 4.

Answer: a) and d). A SWOT analysis provides the factors against which the visions can be compared; it does not examine these visions. It may identify needs, but it does not set out to examine the needs of the organisation.

Question 5.

Answer: b), c) and e). The other statements refer to plans that are more specific and narrower in focus than the strategic plan.

Question 6.

Answer: a), b) and e) are true, c) and d) are false. Finding the correct balance between planning and budgeting is critical if an organisation is to have a realistic chance of achieving its objectives. It is wise to build some flexibility into the budget if possible. Despite the best of plans and intentions, costs do blow out and anticipated revenue may not match that projected in the budget. Unanticipated opportunities may also arise, which you should take advantage of. Having a contingency allocation set aside would be of obvious benefit in both these instances.