The Challenge

A digital strategy for 2021 to increase visitor and volunteer numbers at the Ashburton History Museum

Stop, look and listen - The Ashburton History Museum working with VU Online
Stop, Look and Listen!

Ashburton History Museum is the hidden gem in the heart of the south Devon countryside. Staffed by volunteers, their aim for 2021 is to reopen safely following the pandemic, improve visitor and volunteer numbers, and consolidate their cultural contribution to Ashburton and the south Devon area.

Ashburton History Museum needed a customer focussed digital team to carry out research and provide a digital strategy. They chose VU to conduct the work because research is an existing and important part of our project lifecycle but rarely offered by agencies of a similar scale in the south Devon area.

VU leveraged a handful of service offerings to create a bespoke package for the Ashburton History Museum and delivered a Digital Strategy for 2021.


We started with a workshop to understand perceptions of customers and set targets for a digital strategy. During the workshop we agreed the targets for the season should be 5 new volunteers and a 20% increase in visitor numbers.

Post It artifacts from the workshop with VU

Post-It artifacts from the 2 hour online Workshop with Ashburton History Museum and VU

The online workshop included Trustees and representatives from South West Museum Development who together with VU, workshopped an understanding of customer segmentation based on historical data and experience. The workshop also surfaced visitors’ likely digital preferences and donation expectations.

Survey and data

VU took the workshop model and benchmarked it against the Museums Audience Report – The Audience Agency (2018) using a customer survey to test our hypothesis. We set a target of 40 respondents for the survey which was co-created in Google Forms and seeded by museum volunteers across their Facebook network.

“I must admit we are all very excited, the whole exercise has exceeded our expectations immeasurably, thanks to your excellent work”

The survey ran for about a week and produced over 130 responses with help from the Ashburton community. From this data we were able to confirm that our demographic was similar to the benchmark segmentation with the exception of Young Creatives: 16 – 24 years whose numbers were 84% less than expected.

With a larger dataset than expected, VU discovered that digital attitudes were fairly conservative with some segments relying on non-digital means for information. Interest in volunteering was higher than expected with some 38.6% of respondents expressing interest.

Digital strategy report

The final 20 page digital strategy allowed VU to evidence the need for a website to convert Older Learners to become volunteers and show Families the practicalities of planning a visit. A website will provide a formal outlet for collection information for History Enthusiasts and Cultural Tourists. The delivered Digital Strategy also included a week-by-week marketing calendar for 2021 showing what needs to be done, when and through which digital channels.



Volunteer leads


Survey respondents


New mailing list subscribers


Confirmed significant events that drive visitors to Ashburton

With an enhanced understanding of visitors, the Trustees at the Ashburton History Museum are pushing forward with a simple strategy that leverages freely available platforms to reach their targets for 2021.

They’ve likely smashed their first target of recruiting new volunteers and have uncovered a wealth of volunteer types they might not have expected such as photographers and other local history specialists.

The Trustees have established which channels of communication will likely yield results and even discovered a need for some offline marketing too. The mailing list has grown and they now have a foundation to seek funding to build their own website.

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identifying customer needs

Customer Needs

Identifying customer needs become clear with exploration. A stand-alone Customer Persona Workshop delivers evidence-informed personas, identifies customer roles and helps you understand their behaviours and motivations.

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