Answers to frequently asked questions about membership.

Membership FAQs

Who is a Friends of the Smithsonian Member?

Friends of the Smithsonian Members are a national group of generous individuals whose donations help Smithsonian conservation and preservation efforts of our nation’s history and art, conduct groundbreaking scientific research, and provide educational outreach to students of all ages, all across the country. As a member of the Friends of the Smithsonian, you will receive benefits, including the Smithsonian magazine, that will help deepen your relationship with the Smithsonian. Beyond the benefits, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are directly supporting America’s greatest cultural treasure – the Smithsonian.

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 donor are valued and collectively support the Smithsonian’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 different membership programs and ways to donate? 

The Smithsonian is a diverse organization with 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo.  As an organization we know that people have interests at the Smithsonian that are as varied as our organization. This gives our donors the greatest flexibility in choosing where they would like to direct their philanthropic support at the Smithsonian. We offer membership giving opportunities that are tailored to your individual interests, while at the same time providing the Smithsonian with the philanthropic support that fulfills and enhances our mission. 

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

The Smithsonian has a number of different types of membership programs. The different types of programs allow the public to choose a membership that supports a specific area of interest or level of support.

As a member of the Friends of the Smithsonian, you provide important unrestricted funding. These funds are used by Smithsonian leadership to provide support across the Smithsonian for exhibitions, research, and educational outreach efforts. In addition to the increased benefits of membership, including specially chosen publications and event invitations, Friends of the Smithsonian members also receive an increased tax deduction.

The National Associate Membership is essentially a subscription to Smithsonian magazine. National Associate Membership also includes one-time 10% discount in Smithsonian shops, IMAX® theaters, and the Smithsonian Catalog.

Smithsonian Associate members help to bridge the gap between the program expenses and ticket revenues of The Smithsonian Associate programming. Smithsonian Associate membership offers a subscription to Smithsonian Associate, the monthly listing of programs and events in the Washington, DC area, and discounts on those programs and events you choose to attend.

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

Yes; National and Smithsonian 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 appropriate office to transfer your remaining dues to begin a Friends of the Smithsonian membership.

Why should I become a Friends of the Smithsonian Member?

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 Smithsonian’s limited resources could not otherwise fund. Yet such projects – art 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 Smithsonian 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.

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 in accordance with IRS regulations, 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.

Do you exchange donor names and addresses with other organizations?

On occasion, some Smithsonian programs may rent or exchange select member name and address information with other similar non-profit organizations.  While you will frequently be provided an opportunity to opt-out, you may also request at any time that the Smithsonian not share information with such third parties. 

If you do not wish your name and address to be exchanged, please notify Member Services at 800-931-3226 (toll free) or by email at membership@si.edu. You only need notify us once of your preference that we not exchange your information—this preference is kept on file indefinitely.

Why am I receiving two copies of Smithsonian magazine?

You may be receiving multiple Smithsonian magazines because you have more than one subscription. You may have more than one Smithsonian membership where the Smithsonian magazine is a benefit. (For example: a Friends of the Smithsonian and Smithsonian Associates membership.) You may also be receiving the magazine from a source from outside of the Smithsonian.

If you are receiving multiple magazines by mistake, please look above your name on the label and see if the numbers are different or if they are the same. This information will help us identify where the multiple magazines are coming from.

To reduce the number of magazines you are receiving,  please contact the Friends of the Smithsonian Customer Service Team at 800-931-3226 or email us at membership@si.edu. Please provide the following information from both the magazine labels: Your full name and address as it appears on each label, the number and expiration date.

Please understand that because the magazine address list is pulled ahead of mailing, you may 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.