Survey: Seeking Certainty – impact of the cost of living crisis

Survey: Seeking Certainty – impact of the cost of living crisis



A summary of the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) survey of its members on the impact of the cost of living crisis.

Nearly a third of AIM members completed our recent survey on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

AIM’s September survey of the independent sector highlighted the difficulties facing museums as inflation and energy prices surge whilst visitor numbers continue to lag behind projections.

Around a third of our institutional membership responded to the survey, significantly outstripping January’s survey on the impact of Omicron.

Whilst resilience and reserves are supporting some museums through this tempestuous economic period in the short-term, the survey underscores a need by many for support that can provide medium to long-term respite and certainty.

Key findings included

  • 14 respondents reported being at risk of insolvency, two imminently.
  • 70% of organisations reported still having three or more months of unrestricted reserves.
  • About half of museums found visitors and income over summer were either similar to projections or up to 29% below. Just under a third had visitor figures and income significantly below projections.
  • Half of responding museums believed they can absorb cost-of-living pressures in the short- but not long-term.
  • Energy costs were the main pressure (70% of organisations) but around a third to half also reported pressures on staff costs, core activities, and capital project costs.
  • On average, organisations reported that energy bills were just over 20% of income, with rises of about 45% expected in the next 6-12 months. However, this average masks a massive range, with 34 organisations reporting they expect rises of over 90%. There are also significant differences in cash amounts, which range from the hundreds to high six figures. The average sustainable proportion of energy bills against income is expected to be around 38%.
  • About half of organisations were still in fixed contracts, with around a third of these ending in the next six months.
  • 90% of organisations were planning actions to tackle cost pressures, with the most common steps being trying to increase income, using reserves, reducing energy consumption, and reducing costs such as L&D.
  • 40% of organisations have or plan to scale down activity including reducing public offer, reducing events, or delaying or cancelling gallery refreshes and capital projects. Just over a third of organisations did not think increasing income would be possible given economy-wide pressures.
  • About one in six is planning restructure or redundancies.
  • About half of organisations are expecting visitors and income to be below projections to the end of March 2023 (however, a sizeable part of the sample did report regular closure over the winter months).
  • The kind of support most wanted is funding support with energy bills specifically – it should be noted that many responses were received before full details were announced of the recent package.
  • Organisations are also seeking core funding, project funding, and maintenance funding. About 20% of organisations would like support for staff wellbeing and for reducing energy consumption.

Read the summary findings on the impact of the cost of living crisis (PDF)

Survey results presentation

AIM Director Lisa Ollerhead presented the findings of the survey in an online webinar. Watch a recording of the webinar below to hear a summary of the survey results as well as the details of what AIM is doing with the findings.

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Resource type: Research | Published: 2023