Time was, most self-respecting museums and arts organisations managed to function quite happily without metrics, SMART objectives, stated outputs and outcomes, negotiated targets or any other of the raft of reductive, public accounting-speak quantifiers latterly invented. Or did they?

We may not have used the jargon, but over the years most successful enterprises, be they largely interested in profit, art, learning or the social good, have been good at quantifying what they want to achieve, whose needs and desires they can satisfy, and how much they can invest in meeting those needs.

Whatever we call them, setting and communicating clear aims and measuring progress are essential to effective planning.

But sometimes, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, surrounded as we are by multiple sources of data, stakeholder reporting requirements – which can be at odds with our internal ones – and overlapping plans and policies which all include targets for audiences and public engagement. Here are some top tips to help you out of the woods.

Top tips for setting and monitoring audience-related goals

  1. Link your targets to your mission and strategic aims
  2. Prioritise: only count what really matters to the strategy
  3. Define success, then find the data to describe it (don’t start with the data)
  4. Make sure your audience plans and targets are integrated into your overall business plan
  5. Targets set for funders should be determined by your strategy and not the other way round
  6. Less is more: choose the right number of metrics for your organisation, that can be tracked and communicated within resources
  7. Use secondary data or recycled information wherever possible; collecting primary data should be the last resort

Top tips for setting metrics

This list of measurables is far from exhaustive but suggests some examples in useful areas. We will be adding more tools, examples and reports to help:


  • Ideally this is measured in terms of visitors, rather than visits
  • Number or people or household reached within your catchment area
  • Demographic breakdown of your audience, relative to local demographics
  • New audiences attending, new audiences returning


  • Repeat attendance/ frequency of engagement
  • Churn
  • Customer satisfaction ratings
  • Feedback collected consistently over time


  • Sales targets broken down by the most useful unit for your strategy – e.g. by week and show rather than by day
  • Secondary Spend: café, shop etc.

Return on investment

  • Ticket/ Secondary income divided by marketing spend
  • Income/ visitors per £1 of subsidy or other investment
  • Economic impact (using tailored tool)

Target groups and segments

  • Increases in engagement by specific groups (it is important to establish that those within a group have a genuinely shared need of your organisation – e.g. families have common and specific needs - cultural, age, interest, local area)
  • Increases in engagement/ income from identified market segments

Online and Social media


  • Number and type of people reached through your partners and collaborators; this kind of information may be particularly useful to organisations who present their work

Other public impacts

  • Learning, community resource, extent to which valued in local community, profile and media presence