Get creative for board fundraising engagement

For those of us who have served on arts boards, or have been staff in an organization with a board, we all know the typical responses to the idea of fundraising: fear, rejection, refusal, discomfort… Yet your board’s primary responsibilities to the organization are fiscal oversight and making deeper connections into the community that include contacts with deep pockets.

So how do you get your board engaged in fundraising without running up against a wall of refusal, or worse yet, setting up for failure?

One creative way is to tap their contacts without them feeling pushed to cold call for donations. Consider creating a list of businesses in your area that are currently NOT supporters of the organization.  Group them into business categories and put them on big paper sheets that you can tape around the room.  At the board meeting, put up the lists and give each board member a sheet of colored dots, recording who got what color.  Then ask your board to take 10 minutes and put a colored dot next to every business that they have any association with… a contact, have done business there, family connection, etc.  At some point, have them detail for you the specific contact name and title for you to write to.  Once done, you’ll have a list of board contacts at these businesses.

Now, have your staff prepare introductory letters written from the board member to the contact at the business that they know, explaining that they are on the board of this arts organization and how they value the work it does and its contribution to the local economy, education and more.  When completed, contact the board member to stop by the office and sign the letters, adding a short personal note if they wish.  Then send the letters.

About a week later, the board member should call those contacts to verify they received the letter and invite them to come see a show at your venue.  Give them a couple comp tickets and the board member should followup after to see if they’d be interested in supporting the organization, as they do, through a sponsorship, a donation, a company volunteer program or other possibilities.

So, during this process, you have helped that board member through the beginnings of making connections with potential donor businesses and made in roads with personal connections.  Hopefully the result will be increased business contributions and support.

This is just one idea for board fundraising engagement.  Obviously the possibilities are endless.  Build on this idea for other possible ways to utilize their support.  And remember, every board member should be a donor as well.  They should be giving at a level that is significant to them and their budget.  No one can comfortably explain their investment in your organization if they aren’t actually investing in it themselves.

Disappearing is one act your arts organization should avoid

“Out of sight is out of mind” as the old adage goes. This is especially true now, in our digital age where social media posts fly by and news cycles last minutes instead of days.

It is important to keep your organization in the minds of your patrons, even between your events, or between your seasons.  As soon as you stop communicating, even for a short period, it’s as if you vanished from the public sphere.  If you were to ask your patrons what your organization is up to a few weeks after your season has ended, what might they say?  Or what event or show is coming up next?  As media splashes onto the eyes and ears of the public constantly, it washes away things formerly seen or heard, even if the patron cares about the other details more.

So what do you do to keep your organization present in the zeitgeist of your community?

It’s really pretty simple.  You communicate, with fun and frequency.

Between projects or seasons, you need to have regular social media postings, blog posts, email newsletters and even press releases going out about what you are up to, how you are working toward the next project, and more.  How can you share insider information with your followers to excite them about things to come?  Consider doing a feature story or series of posts about the costume staff and their advance work on upcoming shows.  What about changes in your organization’s methods and procedures that patrons might find of interest?  Might some upcoming guest performers offer a blog post about their excitement and preparation for things to come?  Of course, coverage of special events and fundraisers is great content as well.  Include pictures and videos where possible, and keep it all coming.

For the most loyal and invested patrons, they will find plenty of detail and interest to dig into.  For those less attached but still wanting to know what’s coming up, they can scan the content or even just look at a well crafted subject or headline giving them enough to remember you’re still out there working on the next thing to entertain and enlighten them.

Bottom line,  your communication system needs to remain active and engaged with your digital community even if the rest of the company is taking some down time, or only working behind the scenes.  Don’t let your loyal patrons or community forget you.  Keep up the fun and anticipation of what’s coming next!

 

Are you penalizing your patrons for making your life easier?

As we work with various clients, coming to us from various other systems, we see numerous former cases of patrons being charged high fees when they buy their tickets online.

Many ticketing systems don’t give you, the customer, the ability to set what fees you want to charge to your patrons.  They often try to make this sound like you get to their system for “free,” since the patron is paying their high fees.  But also it usually means that your organization has no option of how you want to apply fees to patron ticket orders. Thankfully, the Arts People system allows you to set fees in a number of ways; per ticket, per order, box office vs online vs door sales, per subscription package, with a maximum per order, etc.

We also see cases where clients have set up to charge higher fees for online buyers vs box office buyers.  While the industry has taught us that this makes sense, due to the fact that so many systems started out as online only, so the fees your organization had been paying to use the system also linked to online orders.  But now this model is contrary to the goal of online ticket sales, which is to provide convenience to your patrons and to alleviate workload from your staff in your box office.  By shopping online, printing their tickets at home, the patron is making things easier for your organization, so why not give them an incentive to do so?  Orders processed on the phone or in person are where you’re spending the time and money to serve them personally, so it makes more sense that they should pay a small fee to help cover those staff and office expenses.

Box Office

All the above, of course, is provided for your consideration based on your circumstances and only if you wish to offset your costs by charging fees to your patrons.  Many organizations charge no fees on top of ticket purchases.  They embed costs in their ticket prices, or they simple absorb the costs knowing that it’s simply a budget item as part of a performing arts organization’s expenses.  Just as we have seen online shopping go more and more to free shipping, the performing arts industry has also been moving more and more to not adding fees on top of ticket purchases in order to attract more customers, to keep them happy, and to keep them coming back.  Just one of the benefits of the Arts People system is that it gives you the control and options you need, and we’re here to help you set things up as you wish.

Fees are a strategic element in the overall structure of your income budgeting and in the image you are projecting to the public.  These are important choices for you to consider, and therefore it’s important that you have a system that supports you in making them.  CONTACT US if you have any questions.