The Villa, owned by FAI, faces a difficult challenge: maintaining a high-quality cultural offering while guaranteeing the economic sustainability of the property.
To continue providing a high-quality cultural offering while at the same time preserving the economic sustainability of the property. This is the tradeoff and the managerial dilemma facing Villa Necchi Campiglio, the splendid villa built in the heart of Milan in 1930 by the architect Piero Portaluppi. For the past 25 years the Villa has been owned by the National Trust for Italy (FAI). Many cultural institutions share the same tradeoff as the Villa: they all need to keep ticket sales and visitor numbers high enough to justify their existence and to cover all the costs of maintaining and running the property. But in the case of the Villa Necchi Campiglio house-museum, the situation is even more pressing, because much of the money collected at this property serves to support others. If this financial support were to shrink, many other FAI properties would risk closure or would have to cut back on their cultural activities for lack of financial resources.
To deal with this dilemma, Villa management must optimally exploit the unique characteristics of the property, (organizational, structural, historical-artistic), with special focus on leveraging the prime location in the center of Milan.
The numbers in the case
Company: Villa Necchi Campiglio (owned by FAI)
Year founded: 1930 (property of FAI since 1995)
Network: in the Network of House Museum of Milan since 2008
Visitors (2019): 74,159
Budget (2019): 2,186,000 euro
Note: free entrance to the park, fee required to access to the Villa (except for FAI members)
In 2019, Villa Necchi saw a record 74,000 visitors (nearly three times the national average, which is no more than 27,000). This represents an average increase of 8% in the past four years (more than double the average of +3.5% for Italy). Extremely respectable numbers, even compared to Lombardy or Milan alone.
With regard to the segmentation of visitors, for some time now the Villa has attracted nearly the entire range of so-called “consumers of culture”: from univore consumers who are interested in a specific offering, (whether it be more intellectual or more consumeristic) to omnivore consumers (primarily Millennials and tourists), who want to use the spaces of the property as venues for organizing private or commercial events, company presentations or parties. And let’s not forget occasional visitors (who pay an entry fee) and repeat visitors, members who are fond of the Villa and the FAI project. In addition to visitors, other key targets are companies, public institutions, associations and private citizens that rent rooms in the Villa for special events such as wedding receptions, conventions, conferences, meeting, catering and birthdays.
The Villa has an overall budget of 2,186,000 euro, with most revenues coming from rents, which represent 63% of the total. Breaking down that number, most rent comes from company events (85%), and only a limited number of private events (15%). However, the rooms in the Villa can only be rented on days and at times when the property is closed to the public, so as to guarantee that visitors and FAI members have regular access to the garden, the home, and cafeteria and the bookshop.
FAI membership is another substantial stream of revenues for the management and sustainability of the Villa. In fact, member signups at the Villa’s office are a source of income for the property. That along with a modest rise in state funding to museums in recent years ensures steady funding for the Villa.
As for costs, which total 1,268,000 euro, the most substantial items are personnel and maintenance. Villa Necchi has a property manager, a security guard, five professional guides, two gardeners and three staff members who work in the bookshop and handle events in the Villa.
These data must be interpreted in light of the distinctive economic-administrative characteristics of the FAI, owner of Villa Necchi Campiglio. Many of the revenues generated by Villa Necchi serve to support other assets. To cover a part of the collaborative outlay, the Villa has become part of a cultural network, source of complementary income and economic profitability. This is the Network of House Museums of Milan, which in addition to Villa Necchi Campiglio includes three other historic house museums, all of which are located in the center of Milan.
In light of the unique intrinsic features of the property, highly regarded within the landscape of museums in Italy and Lombardy, to continue to ensure a high-level cultural offering, together with economic sustainability, Villa management must keep the following short- to medium-term considerations in mind: