Diversifying revenue streams

Diversifying revenue streams

By Sara Lock


This collection features snippets of case studies by Mark Robinson and offers inspiration for developing new sources of income.

Funding for arts, culture and heritage organisations is changing. Standstill grants and reducing subsidy are forcing organisations to get more creative with their business models.

Commercially savvy models are on the rise. Organisations are creating new revenue streams and enhancing visitor experience in the process. Some are transforming the cities they operate in and welcoming new audiences as well as income.

Options for generating revenue can feel limited. Strangely, at the same time, they can also seem endless and overwhelming. Sometimes knowing how or where to begin is the biggest challenge.

This collection provides snippets of inspiration and links to detailed business model case studies. You’ll also find a tool to help you explore new revenue streams.

Earned income and visitor experience: a powerful duo

Looking at earned income streams as an integral part of your business model can have a positive impact on your audiences as well as your revenue.

A creative retail or catering offer that sits neatly within your vision and mission could attract new audiences or enhance visitor experience.

The following case studies demonstrate how revenue streams and audience development can work together to transform your overall offer.

The income may only be small to begin with but the long-term impact has the potential to snowball.

Case Study #1 - Ministry of Stories: monster retail

Ministry of Stories runs a writing and mentoring centre in Hoxton, East London. Inspired by 826 Valencia in San Francisco, it combines writing programmes with a ‘shop front’ to attract children and young people.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies sells monster-related products from t-shirts and notebooks to jars of sweets and stories with names such as ‘Creeping Dread’ and ‘Escalating Panic’. Profit from the shop goes into Ministry of Stories’ work via a trading company.

Profit from the shop is currently less than 10% of overall turnover but it has potential to grow. The organisation has already sold the shop brand to quality high street retailers such as Liberty and Selfridges.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is very much part of Ministry of Stories’ brand. It suggests a child and young person-centred approach, a fun and entrepreneurial spirit and a literal place on the high street. The aspiration is that the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies brand can be licensed and spread through partnerships.

Ministry of Stories Business Model Case Study by Mark Robinson

Case Study #2 - Beamish: catering for visitor experience

Beamish is “the living museum of the North”. It opened as an open air museum in 1970 and now includes a reconstructed 1900s town, 1940s farm, and a 1900 colliery including pit, tramway and pit village. A 1950s area is being developed.

Beamish’s earned income streams are designed to be integral to the visitor experience. The fish and chip shop and bakery, for instance, are not simply about catering. They are about encouraging a more resonant emotional connection to the history depicted. In the bakery visitors can watch delicious bread, cakes and biscuits being made using Edwardian recipes and buy freshly-baked treats to take home.

This approach has attracted more purchases and ultimately revenue income, with income from trading up by 16%.

Beamish Business Model Case Study by Mark Robinson

Increasing assets and placemaking: looking outwards

When trying to build new revenue streams the natural starting point may be to look inwards. What are the spaces, skills or resources you could use or transform to generate revenue?

But what if you looked outwards?

The following case studies demonstrate business models that are ambitious and outward-looking. These are organisations who are transforming their finances and the communities in which they operate.

If you feel like you’ve exhausted internal options, maybe it’s time to expand your asset-base. That may mean looking outwards and thinking bigger.

Download the collection to read on:
Diversifying revenue streams (PDF)

Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2017