ACM Reciprocal Network Policy Guide
Welcome! Whether your museum is thinking about joining the ACM Reciprocal Network or is one of the 200 museums already participating in the Reciprocal Network, this guide will help answer any questions you may have. The Reciprocal Network is a voluntary group of over 200 ACM member museums open across the U.S. and Canada that reciprocate discounted admission to one another's members that hold family memberhsips. Participating in the ACM Reciprocal Network adds value to a membership at your museum, especially for families who like to travel.
A museum is eligible for the ACM Reciprocal Network if it meets the following criteria:
- An open ACM member museum in good standing, located in the United States or Canada.
- Organized as a public or private nonprofit.
- Pays a $250 Reciprocal Network annual fee in addition to ACM membership dues.
- Offers a family membership priced at $125 or more.
- Agrees to the terms of the program by signing and returning the ACM Reciprocal Contract.
Reciprocal Network Policies:
- The ACM Reciprocal Network offers 50% off general admission for up to six (6) people (including the card holder, who needs to be present). Additional visitors will need to pay the current admission price.
- There are no local restrictions, allowing families to benefit from reduced admission at any location.
- Family memberships with Reciprocal Benefits need to be sold at a price of $125 or more.
- Membership cards with ACM Reciprocal Network benefits issued need to have the ACM logo.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. The reciprocal policy says that it includes up to 6 people. It does not specify that these must be family members. Does this mean that the reciprocal admission policy of 50% off general admission will apply to any 6 people in the visitor's party, regardless of whether they are family or simply friends of the membership cardholder?
A. Yes, that’s correct. In developing the new admission policies, ACM reflected on the challenges reported by frontline staff and families and created an admission policy that would be simple for both the staff and families. How does one check to see if people in the group are family members? Is the baby sitter part of the household? And family size differs. This policy is the result of those considerations.
Q. Our museum’s premium membership includes only four family members. May my museum choose to admit less than 6 people
A. While each museum may determine the benefits of its own membership categories (namely, the number of admissions per membership), the Reciprocal Network admission rules require your museum to admit up to six (6) people in a group that meets the following criteria:
- The membership card they present has a valid ACM Reciprocal logo.
- The name of at least one adult member is printed on cards and present with the group (ID may be requested).
- The expiration date is printed on the card and has not passed.
Keep in mind that your museum will receive 50% of the general admission as revenue for the visit.
Q. Several other museums in my area would like to offer free admission to one another's museums. Will ACM allow this network among the museums participating in the ACM program?
A. Any agreements your museum enters into with other museums to create local inclusion networks, whether they are with museums participating in the ACM Reciprocal /Network or not, are outside of ACM’s administrative purview. ACM will not mediate these agreements or intervene should problems arise. Further, these local networks must be clearly named to avoid confusion with the ACM program and may not in any way involve the use of the ACM name or Reciprocal logo. Museums must understand that creating local networks will increase complexity and misunderstandings.
Q. Our local library would like to purchase a family membership with ACM Reciprocal benefits. Or, may we donate a family membership with ACM Reciprocal benefits to our local library?
A. No. The ACM Reciprocal Network has always been intended to provide a benefit to families while traveling on vacation and visiting out of town relatives. It was never meant to provide free admission to all museums within a given community. Most if not all museums provide free admission on specially designated days. While donating a membership card for check out at the local library is laudable, membership cards borrowed from a library extend admission benefits only to the museum that issued the card.
Q. Are there any other programs offering free/reduced admission?
A. Yes. ACM has partnered with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to offer Museums for All, a signature access program that encourages families of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum habits. Participating museums offer individual admission fees ranging from free to $3.00 USD to individuals and families presenting an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
For more information on this initiative, please visit the Museums for All website.
Q. Are there any special provisions for offering discounted memberships, for example we currently offer a two-year membership for $250, but offer $20 off on occasion.
A. Any multiple-year membership must be priced so that the yearly membership price is $125 or greater – just as we do not allow sales on memberships during holidays or Groupon offerings that would bring the yearly price below the minimum required by the policy.
Q. What were the old Reciprocal Program policies and why did they change?
A. Prior to April 1, 2013, members received free admission for up to four (4) family members from the same household. Museums were able to create mutual admission restrictions with other local museums.
Over the years, the number of children’s museums has grown, as has the number of museums participating in the program. Since all museums that participate in the program are nonprofit organizations and depend on the support of the public to continue their missions of providing safe places for children to learn through play in spaces designed solely for them and their families, the policies of the previous program became unsustainable for many.
In regards to admission restrictions, the number of local restrictions among museums in close proximity to one another was increasing. Museums sought restrictions because the sheer number of free admissions became difficult to absorb, especially for museums in an area with many participating museums and between museums of dramatically different sizes. Some smaller museums reported so many free visits they had no paying visitors on a given day. In addition, local restrictions were complicated and difficult for families to understand and front line staff to implement.
After careful consideration, ACM and its Board of Directors revised the program policies to simplify the program and resolve the inequity in the program as more museums join the program.