Community Engagement Assessment Resources

Critical Issues Checklist

Public Perception

Mission & Planning
  • Do staff and governing authority members have a clear, shared understanding of the museum’s mission?
  • Is the mission one that the museum has the ability and resources to fulfill?
  • Is the mission, vision and planning of the museum oriented toward public service?
  • If there is a current plan, is it being used to address the museum’s major challenges, and is it guiding the museum’s actions?
Audience, Attendance, Public Relations and Marketing
  • Does the museum have a clear understanding of its target audience and of the competition for this audience?
  • Is the museum making good use of its resources to promote goods and services?
  • Does the museum have clear and appropriate goals for attendance?
  • Does the museum have a marketing plan that effectively supports these goals?
  • Does the museum clearly identify its target audience and take appropriate steps to serve its needs?
  • Is the museum gathering information about its audience and visitors and using it to evaluate performance and guide its planning?

Public Experience

Content, Ideas and Concepts
  • Does the museum have a clear, mission-driven plan for the content it presents to its audience?
Visitor Services
  • Is the museum providing the best visitor experience it can given the scope of its resources?
  • Is the museum creating a safe and accessible environment for visitors?
Exhibitions and Programs
  • Are the educational goals of the museum clearly articulated and appropriate to its mission, audiences and resources?
  • Do the exhibits and programs serve the needs of the museum’s audience?

Public Involvement

Community Participation
  • Does the museum have a clear understanding of its role in the community?
  • Is the community active in and supportive of the museum?
Human Resources
  • Does staff have a clear understanding of their jobs?
  • Is staff training and performance directed at serving the needs of the museum’s audience and community?
Financial Resources
  • Is the museum in good financial health?
  • Will its financial position and planning meet current and future needs?
  • Are appropriate resources directed towards serving the museum’s audience and community as well as marketing and publicizing the museum’s services?
  • What new or expanded sources of income, earned and unearned, might the museum explore? 

Report Writing Guide

Each section below presents a set of guiding statements/questions to consider. Respond only to points that are most relevant to the institution. Be sure to provide an analysis of the museum’s strengths and weaknesses. For each section, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. How is or isn’t it working well?  
  2. How is it meeting best practices?
  3. What would you recommend?
Offer constructive criticism along with suggestions for resolution. Benchmark the institution’s current state 

of affairs in regards to national standards and best practices. 

Title Page (1 page)

Include institution name, city, state; assessment type;  visit dates; and peer reviewer’s name, title, institution.

Table of Contents (Optional; 1 page)

Executive Summary (1 page) 

Provide a broad summary of the report including background information, significant observations, identified strengths, areas needing improvement and key recommendations.

Introduction (1/2 page)

Define MAP and its benefits. State the circumstances  of your site visit—dates of the visit and with whom you met (attach a copy of longer agendas in the appendix). List the museum’s goals for the assessment and any notable changes since the completion of their application and self-study workbook.

Brief Institutional History (1/2 page)

Provide the institution’s historical and physical context.  Include a brief description of the museum’s current situation and important elements from its past (e.g., date founded, museum’s purpose, overview of exhibitions/collections, program highlights, etc.).

Audiences and Community (3-4 pages)

Provide an overview of the organization’s current/ target audience(s) and community. Describe how the museum does/does not address their needs and how  they are evaluating those needs. Evaluate the institution’s mission statement for clarity of purpose. Give a sense of how the museum’s mission responds to the needs of the audience(s)/community and whether or not those strategies are articulated in a written plan. Evaluate any plans that are in place and provide recommendations for how the museum can further strengthen its mission and planning.

Public Perception (3-4 pages)

Evaluate the museum’s interpretation of public perception. How does the museum demonstrate a clear understanding of its audiences and of the competition for these audiences? Address the museum’s strategies for gathering/collecting information about its image within the community and how it is using this data to inform its practices. Provide an overview of the community (i.e. population size, demographics, other cultural organizations, etc.) and identify tools/mechanisms used to gather such data. Be sure to address public relations and marketing strategies employed by the museum. Evaluate how they appeal to and serve the public. Offer suggestions and guidance in areas not meeting best practices.

Public Involvement (3-4 pages)

Describe the ways in which the community engages  with the museum (i.e. volunteers, board members, financial sponsors, focus group participants, etc.). Provide a summary of the institution’s collaborative relationships and the nature of those relations—benefits, barriers, etc. Evaluate the composition and functioning of the governing authority as it relates to its commitment to the mission, understanding of and interaction with the community, and oversight of the organization. Evaluate the institution’s financial /human resources. Reflect on the organization’s financial sustainability and priorities. Offer suggestions and guidance in areas not meeting best practices

Public Experience (3-4 pages)

Describe the different ways in which the organization  engages with its public (i.e. programs, exhibits, events, publications, etc.). What does the planning process entail throughout conception, development, publicity, implementation and evaluation? What visitor services concerns are/are not taken into consideration (i.e. special needs, amenities, learning styles, etc.)? Are any advisory groups involved in the planning process? How are programs and exhibits being developed with different target audiences in mind? How have programmatic efforts been successful in meeting educational, attendance and financial goals? What are your recommendations for improvement?

Summary (1 page)

Summarize the major observations and recommendations of the report. 

Recommendations (1-2 pages)

Provide a prioritized (if possible) list of all recommendations cited throughout the report. 

Resources (1-2 pages)

Support your recommendations by providing a list of  relevant books, articles, organizations, websites, etc., that you think will assist the organization in executing its plans.

Appendices (as needed)

Include sample documents or printed resources that  support information you have provided in the report.

AVERAGE REPORT LENGTH: 15-25 pages double spaced; 12-20 pages single spaced

Organizing & Writing the Report:

  • Organize your site-visit notes upon your return.
  • Re-familiarize yourself with the Self-Study Workbook and documentation.
  • Focus the report—organize your notes and thoughts within the designated headings.
  • Consider your intended audience(s) for the report as identified by the museum—staff, governing authority, donors and potential funders, community leaders and other stakeholders.
  • Don’t assume—provide enough detail for those not privy to the MAP process, but be concise.
  • Be cognizant of tone—the use of euphemisms and colloquial language can be misinterpreted.
  • Provide a balanced presentation of strengths and weaknesses of the institution.

Submitting the Report:

  • Reports should be created and submitted as a Word  document.
  • Double-check all facts and proofread the text carefully.
  • Send your report to the MAP office and not the museum. MAP staff reviews all reports before sending to the museum.
  • Be timely. Reports should be e-mailed to the MAP office within four weeks of the site visit.
If you have any questions or need additional resources, please contact MAP staff at 202-289-9118 or map@