The Secret to Running a Great Membership Upgrade Campaign

Art Gallery of Ontario at Dusk

Make Upgrading a Priority, Not an Afterthought


The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) first engaged AMS in 1995. Since that time the partnership has incorporated 23 years of Membership Renewal, Lapsed Reactivation and Acquisition telemarketing, multiple Capital Campaigns, Corporate Membership Campaigns, and multiple years of Annual Fund calling incorporating Renewals and Upgrades, Lapsed Re-acquisition, and Acquisition campaigns. Using ALCHEMY, AMS seamlessly orchestrates calling leads over multiple programs in any given year to maximize revenue across all streams. Together, the AGO and AMS have developed a program that places the needs of the Member/Donor first and delivers a positive museum experience to all.


The Art Gallery of Ontario

In 2016, the AGO approached us to launch a 3-month test Step-Up Membership Campaign by phone which would be measured against efforts by email and by mail. Six months prior to their expiration date we called members with an opportunity to upgrade to the next level of membership. The upgrade went into effect immediately and expired 18 months later.  If the member chose not to upgrade, they were given a chance to renew their membership in advance.


Incorporating a high-touch telephone campaign: The AGO and AMS partnered collaboratively to identify the best strategy for membership upgrades.  Telemarketing works for upgrading because it allows visitors to actively engage in the conversation.  It gives us an opportunity use the member’s favorite exhibits and events to branch further into the patron’s areas of interest to build their affinity for the Art Gallery.  

The membership team was a gold mine: The AGO membership team is filled with people with extensive knowledge of past, current and upcoming exhibits. We conducted interviews with the team to tailor the conversations to the interests and lifestyles of the members.

Building a case for support:  We built the case for support by integrating the historical information gathered from the membership team, the history of the individual members and the community initiatives that the AGO had implemented to build rapport and make the case to upgrade from a basic membership to a philanthropic membership.


In 2017, AMS representatives renewed 22% of the members we spoke with. Of those, 30% upgraded their membership.  If we take a closer look we can break those numbers down even further:

  • 40% of Family/Dual members upgraded

  • 35% of Contributing members upgraded

  • 26% of Individuals upgraded

  • 11% of students upgraded

Based on the success of the test campaign, the step-up outreach is an ongoing activity that has been incorporated into the renewal process of all AGO members

AGO Frank Gehry 2.jpg


Located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city of 5.9 million, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO’s collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art such as Untilled by Pierre Huyghe to European masterpieces such as Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of The Innocents; from the vast collection by the Group of Seven to works by established and emerging Indigenous Canadian artists; with a photography collection that tracks the impact of the medium with deep holdings of works by artists such as Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus; and with focused collections in Gothic boxwood miniatures and Western and Central African art. Drawing on this collection—as well as collaborations with museums around the world—the AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. A major expansion designed by Frank Gehry in 2008 with lead support from the family of Ken Thomson makes the AGO a highly-photographed architectural landmark.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

Case StudyRuth Egherman