Spotlight on: Low-income households

Results from April 2024 Panel Research

In April 2024, 306 UK Heritage Pulse panel members responded to a survey which asked organisations to share how they think the heritage sector engages with people from low-income households or backgrounds. Note: ‘low-income households’ were not strictly defined.

Depending on the type of organisation they work for, respondents were given different questions.

127 (42%) of organisations who responded charge for admission or to take part in activities, and were asked a series of follow up questions about the range of concessions they offer to low-income households and other visitor types.

41% of organisations offer concessions for low-income households

127 respondents charge for admission and/or to take part in their activities.

41% of organisations who charge some form of admission or ticket price offer concessions for low-income households. 57% of organisations with a turnover of over £1 million offer this.

“We’d need sponsorship to be able to tailor an offer specifically for low income families. We’re more likely to offer discounts to schools from disadvantaged areas so they can access our learning programme.”

Respondent

In comparison, 65% offer concessions for people according to life stage, such as for students or over 60s.

Of those who do not offer concessions for people from low-income households, 27% are considering doing so in the future. 75% of organisations with a turnover of less than 1 million are not considering introducing such concessions.

Reaching low-income households is a priority but few organisations currently track levels of engagement

Of all respondents who work for organisations which directly engage with the public, 63% say that reaching people from low-income households is a priority.

Just under half (49%) of organisations have staff or volunteers who are trained in engaging people from a wide range of backgrounds, including low-income audiences.

However, only 27% of these organisations currently track or report on how engaged people from low-income households are with what they have to offer.

People from low-income households make up less than 10% of visitors at a quarter of organisations

A quarter of organisations (24%) estimate that 10% or less of their visitors come from low-income households, while half (50%) estimate this figure at 30% or less. Only 14% estimate that 80% or more come from a low-income household.

Organisations rely on a range of data sources to provide this estimate, from the breakdown of ticket types sold, visitor surveys and popularity of free events aimed at disadvantaged communities.

Others rely on an understanding of the demographic of their local population, personal knowledge of their visitors or estimation.

“We have about 100 members and know most of them personally.”

Respondent

“It is a guesstimate. However we have data from general visitor surveys so can track postcode data, and then for specific community run initiatives these are targeted directly at particular low-income groups.”

Respondent

“Box office ticket types – specific category for Low income benefit recipient.”

Respondent

Organisations feel they could do more but many feel they are a welcoming place for people from low-income households

51% of respondents, when asked to choose between statements saying that they already engage with a good volume of people from low-income households or could do more, said that they could do more to engage people from low income households. 22% said they were happy with the level of engagement.

A third of respondents (32%) are consciously trying to target, reach and engage people from low-income households, while 52% say they welcome low-income households as they would anyone else.

25% feel that people from low-income households are not being engaged as meaningfully as others.

“We have recently engaged with over 500+ individuals participating in a heritage project funded through the [The National Lottery Heritage Fund]. We purposely engaged with those most vulnerable and on low income as we wanted to capture their heritage stories. I believe it’s about how you communicate with individuals and how welcome you make them feel, that’s key to engagement.”

Respondent

Majority of respondents feel the sector is not engaging well with people from low-income households

Of the organisations who engage directly with the public, 33% say they feel well equipped to reach and engage people from low-income households. However, only 7% think the heritage sector overall is doing this well.

On a scale of 0 to 5, how equipped do you feel your organisation is to reach and engage people from low income households?

Gauge showing the distribution of those who picked numbers 0 - 5.
0 = 2.9%. 
1 = 12.7%. 
2 = 13.7%. 
3 = 33.8%. 
4 = 25.5%.
5 = 7.4%.
N/A = 3.9%.
🔍 Click the chart to zoom in.

Of those who do not engage directly with the public, 10% think the sector is engaging well with people from low-income households.

Only a third of all respondents are satisfied with the representation of people from low income households or backgrounds in their workforce or volunteer base.

Respondents said that key barriers to engaging more with low-income households are finance or resources, and lack of infrastructure

Through an open question, respondents told us the challenges in increasing engagement with low-income households:

“I think there is much will to engage with people from low-income households, but heritage organisations lack the resources to lower the barriers to entry.”

Respondent

“We are an affluent small village with no public transport, so it is hard for most people on low income to get to us. We do not charge for our usual offer nor for special events, so ticket cost does not hinder anyone from coming. We do gratefully receive donations.”

Respondent

“I don’t think finances/income is the blocker, it is more to do with awareness, reach, and overcoming the sense of ‘heritage is not for people like me’.”

Respondent

“Providing free activities and funding childcare costs for those volunteers providing/coordinating such activities has been critical to enable organisations I work with to engage people from low-income households.”

Respondent

Organisations also shared how they are engaging with volunteers and interns from a low-income background:

“There is evidence that volunteers have been lost because of not getting help with the travel and expenses involved in volunteering. In terms of visitors more could be done with ‘free entry days’, particularly for small voluntary projects (i.e. not just the major sites).”

Respondent

“We are in the process of creating an internship that aims to support people with less opportunities to gain experience in the textile industry. We hope to provide paid internships with paid accommodation and paid expenses.”

Respondent

“We have run a number of initiatives to diversify our workforce and volunteer base and had less success with volunteers. We have had funded posts that support entry into heritage/horticulture. There is so much more to do on an organisational culture level, so people feel welcome. Heritage tends to be full of trained professionals and specialists and this can be a barrier to entry.”

Respondent

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