HeritageRail President Mark Ray presents his thoughts on what this crisis means for our member organizations

Following his letter, scroll down for more information and contributions from fellow HeritageRail members and check your organization’s inbox for the most recent e-blasts of information.


Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

When Mr. Paine wrote those words, the United States was fighting for its existence.  We had recently declared our independence from England and the fight was not going well.  We again are in fight for our lives.  Not from a foreign invader or a terrorist group but from the disease.  A disease that is going to change the way we live forever.  Yes, we are in a battle for survival.  Once the carnage of the virus is behind us, we must pick up the pieces and rebuild.  Right now, we must focus on survival.

It should come as no surprise that our Spring Symposium scheduled for April is canceled.  We had considered a delay but no one can predict when this virus outbreak will be behind us.  The Fall Conference is also canceled.  This was a tougher decision but we think an honest one.  Once you can reopen your doors, all of you will be focused on making up lost revenue.  Special events will fill your schedules and it is important to the Alliance that all of your focus on healing your organizations both physically and financially.

The American Alliance of Museums is leading an effort to secure relief funding for non-profits.  We signed onto a letter yesterday providing our endorsement in support of this initiative. We will keep you posted on this effort.  Also, the Small Business Administration is providing low-interest loans as part of a coronavirus disaster loan program.  Interest rates range from 3.75% for private-owned organizations to 2.75% for non-profits. Up to $2 million dollars is available per company.  We are also looking to conduct webinars to share more information with you.

The Alliance is also looking at reducing membership dues for this year.  The Finance Committee is reviewing our budget to remove all spending except what is needed to perform our core functions.  Our goal is to reduce our required income and pass those savings onto you in the form of reduced dues for this year. We are also considering a longer grace period since cash flow will be an issue as well.

I encourage all of you to use this time to make your recovery plans.  The 3rd and 4th quarter should be strong for us.  Even still, we need to pack the second half of the year with as many revenue-producing activities as possible.  Consider ways to cut costs which means bare-bones staffing and curtailing any activities funded by your visitation. Also, over-communicate with all your staff and employees regarding the situation. Be fair with them, they deserve it.

Are You a Small or Mid-Sized Employer?

The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) recently announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave to their employees. More information on this relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is available HERE.

“How to Captivate, Connect and Communicate with Your Audience During Coronavirus,”

If you missed Cuseum’s webinar, a recording is available for download HERE

Four Ways Museums Can Successfully Leverage Digital Content and Channels during Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As museums remain closed down physically, it is essential that they explore digital tools like as a means of capturing the attention of their audiences and retaining interest in anticipation of the day the doors will open again. The following article explores four types of digital experiences that museums can implement in the coming days and weeks.  Various types of museums are covered, including museums that do not have living collections:  Leveraging Digital Content.  For a relatable example, click on this excerpt from from the NY Transit Museum:  News & Notes

A PDF of recommendations from the American Alliance of Museums

The spread of COVID-19 and State responses are affecting our members in different ways.  Those in heavily infected areas with State-mandated shut-downs for indefinite periods of time will feel a greater impact and longer recovery time than those in less infected areas where quarantine is still a recommendation or will end on a specific date.

Regardless of your location or the extent to which the virus spreads into your area, you will still need to manage the impact the economy has on your organization, and it is in your best interest to make every effort to be as proactive as possible with your planning, rather than reactive.

The attached document by the American Alliance of Museums contains potential scenarios based on trends and potentially disruptive events resulting from those trends. The thought is that by creating several stories about how things may play out, we can identify how we might adapt to changing circumstances, focus attention on critical indicators, and identify and minimize the attendant risks.  Although the scenarios are not based on railway museums, there may be takeaways you can adapt to your organization.  Note:  The full scenarios referenced in the summary begin on Page 7, and references to Alliance are to the American Alliance of Museums.

If you have strategic plans or suggestions to share with the membership that is working for you, or, just as importantly, that has not worked, please e-mail us with your suggestions so we can share with the rest of the group!  Your experiences are valuable learning tools!



Sample Letter:  From the California State Railroad Museum to its Donors

The following is a letter from the California State Railroad Museum to its supporters. Feel free to use this as inspiration for your own organization’s development and outreach efforts during this time.

As much as we would love to be full steam ahead for the start of the excursion train season, the California State Railroad Museum Foundation is, like all other non-profit organizations across the state, in a waiting game to find out when our new normal will begin.  We’re all anxious for the day that we can once again take in the sights and sounds of the Museum and then safely board one of the historic train cars and see the beauty of the Old Sacramento Waterfront with loved ones. You may not know it, but when you buy a ticket and take a ride on the Sacramento Southern Railroad or make a purchase in our museum store, you are helping to fund programs of the California State Railroad Museum and Foundation.  These are our primary fundraising avenues and due to the shutdown caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, we are experiencing major funding shortfalls.  We are very fortunate to be supported by hundreds of dedicated volunteers that lead museum tours, provide high-quality interpretation, maintain our locomotives and passenger cars, and keep our railroad operations on track. With a volunteer core dominated by those in the most affected age group, our internal village has dwindled, and we need our greater community to help.  Your support is critically needed so please consider making an additional donation today which will support our programs, help get our operations back on track, and create lasting family memories for our railroad fans. You can donate online or by sending a check to: Development Office, California State Railroad Museum Foundation, 106 K Street, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95814.On behalf of the entire team at the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, we thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you soon in the museum and out on the rails.

With Sincere Appreciation,
Cheryl Marcell
President and CEO

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