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FAQs

Who is a Friends of the Smithsonian Member?

When you become a Friends of the Smithsonian Member, you join a national group of generous individuals whose contributions help facilitate important scientific research, outreach, exhibitions, and scholarship across all Smithsonian museums and programs. Much more than a magazine subscription, your Friends of the Smithsonian Membership opens up a special relationship with the Smithsonian with a number of exclusive benefits and the satisfaction of knowing that you are directly supporting our nation’s most cherished treasure - the Smithsonian Institution.

I assume that the Smithsonian receives full funding from the federal government. Why does the Institution need my support?

The Smithsonian receives only a portion of its funding from the federal government. About a third of the funds necessary to carry out its world-class programs come from private support, including Friends of the Smithsonian Members.

Many Smithsonian programs could not continue without their help: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s work to better understand our rain forests; the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s work to preserve living culture; and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s efforts to reach communities nationwide. In addition, the cost of your Friends of the Smithsonian Membership, minus the value of your tangible benefits such as your magazine subscription, is a charitable donation to the Smithsonian, and is therefore tax-deductible.

I live outside of the Washington, DC area and would not be able to enjoy any of the benefits or attend any events there. Why should I join?

The vast majority of Friends of the Smithsonian Members live throughout the country, outside of the Washington, DC region, and benefit greatly from their involvement with the Smithsonian. Smithsonian Affiliate museums can be found in 39 states, as well as in Panama and Puerto Rico, and Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions criss-cross the country, taking the museum experience to Americans nationwide.

No matter where you call home, as a Friends of the Smithsonian Member you will enjoy a discount through the Smithsonian’s Gift Catalogue, at Smithsonian stores throughout the US, and online at www.SmithsonianStore.com. Friends of the Smithsonian Members receive Smithsonian magazine, the annual engagement calendar, and other fascinating publications. A portion of your Friends of the Smithsonian Membership is also tax-deductible.

You can customize your benefit choices to reflect your particular interests. And, if you don’t live in the Washington, DC area, but travel there occasionally, you might time your travel to coincide with an exciting membership event.

How can I support the Smithsonian on my limited income?

The contributions of every Smithsonian member are valued and collectively support the Institution’s unique and cherished place in our cultural heritage. To make their contributions more manageable, many of our members opt to pay automatically over a number of months on their credit cards.

Why are there so many Smithsonian memberships?

The Smithsonian offers many membership options to reflect the varied tastes and interests of its supporters. Individuals can directly support the activities of a particular, beloved museum through a membership. Institution-wide memberships – Friends of the Smithsonian, Resident Associates, and National Associates – each offer different, valuable benefits.

What is the difference between a National Associate Membership, a Resident Associate Membership, and a Friends of the Smithsonian Membership?

The Friends of the Smithsonian Membership allows you to make a donation to the Smithsonian. When you join the Smithsonian at an advanced level, you will enjoy exclusive opportunities to learn, explore, and grow with the Institution, in addition to benefits such as:

  • The Smithsonian engagement calendar
  • A year’s subscription to Smithsonian magazine
  • Access to educational programs, events and publications
  • The maximum member discount – 20% – in Smithsonian museum stores, and 10% discounts for other museum purchases

The Resident Associate Membership is primarily for people in the Washington, DC area who want to participate in a wide range of educational programs presented there.

The National Associate Membership is essentially a subscription to Smithsonian magazine. National Associate Membership also includes 10% discounts in Smithsonian shops, IMAX® theaters, and the Smithsonian Catalogue.

Can I transfer my National or Resident Associate Membership to a Friends of the Smithsonian Membership?

Yes; National and Resident Associates members may transfer to the Friends of the Smithsonian with enhanced benefits. Simply call 800-931-3226 or email us at membership@si.edu, and we’ll contact the Associates office to transfer your remaining dues for extra months in the Friends of the Smithsonian program.

Why should I upgrade to a Friends of the Smithsonian Membership?

Increasing costs and shrinking budgets have forced the Smithsonian to cut back on important programs and curtail vital research. Your Friends of the Smithsonian Membership will make possible many vital projects that the Institution’s limited resources could not otherwise fund. Yet such projects – masterpiece restoration, traveling exhibitions, scientific expeditions, historical research and regional education programs – are essential to the Smithsonian’s work. Only through increased private support can the Institution continue its cutting-edge research and develop the astonishing exhibitions for which it is known worldwide. When you upgrade to a Friends of the Smithsonian Membership, you will enjoy additional benefits that make your involvement with the Smithsonian even more rewarding. Moreover, your increased contribution places you among a group of individuals who are deeply committed to furthering the important goals of your National Museum. Finally, your increased dues payment means that a higher portion of your contribution is tax-deductible.

Why is the expiration date on my Smithsonian Magazine different from the expiration date on my membership card?

In order to make sure that you receive all of your benefits as soon as possible, we start the membership immediately after we receive payment. However, because the mailing list for the magazine must be prepared almost two months in advance, subscriptions almost always start two months later. You will receive a full-year subscription to the magazine, but your last issue will be sent two months after your Friends of the Smithsonian Membership expiration date.

To ensure that you don’t miss a single issue, you must renew your membership before the expiration date on your card, rather than the expiration date on your magazine wrapper.

Is my Friends of the Smithsonian Membership tax-deductible?

The amount of your Friends of the Smithsonian Membership dues, minus the fair market value of your benefits, such as your Smithsonian magazine subscription, is tax-deductible. You may customize your benefit choices to increase the tax-deductibility of your contribution, if you wish. Over and above to their dues, many Friends of the Smithsonian Members make additional gifts which are 100% tax-deductible.

Why am I receiving two copies of Smithsonian magazine?

The most common reason for a member to receive two issues of a magazine is the member has been signed up for more than one Smithsonian membership – usually a Friends of the Smithsonian Membership and a National Associates membership. However, magazine subscriptions can also be generated from Resident Associate memberships and Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum memberships.

Above your name on the brown wrapper is a series of letters and numbers that indicate where the magazine originated. If you have received two magazines by mistake, look above your name and see if the numbers are different or if they are the same. If they are different, you have been signed up under two different memberships.

To receive only one magazine, please contact the Friends of the Smithsonian Customer Service Team at 800-931-3226 or email us at membership@si.edu and a team member will resolve the problem as soon as possible. When you call or email please provide the following information from both magazine labels: Your full name and address as it appears on each label, the number and expiration date.

The magazine number is located above your name and address and the expiration month and year is listed to the right.

Please understand that because the magazine mailing list is pulled months in advance you will receive one more set of duplicate magazines before the change takes place.

How do I make an address change?

Please call 800-931-3226 or email us at membership@si.edu to change your address or other contact information for your membership record.

Why did Contributing Membership change its name to Friends of the Smithsonian?

This significant change, launched in response to valuable feedback from loyal members, is designed to underscore the essential relationship you have with the Smithsonian and to offer you the very best membership experience.

In 2009, we surveyed our members about what it is they hope for in their involvement with the Smithsonian. During an in-depth evaluation of the Contributing Membership program, we assessed how we can be the most responsible stewards of our members’ generosity in shaping the Smithsonian’s future. To that end, in October 2009, the benefits and giving levels of membership were revised and streamlined under the new name, Friends of the Smithsonian. The James Smithson Society retained its name, but now consists of four giving circles ranging from $2,500-$20,000, each named in honor of exemplary leaders in the Smithsonian’s history.

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