Don’t let burnout drag your organization down

SETC Southeastern Theatre ConferenceThis week is the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) in Mobile, AL and as I was thinking about the theatres that participate in this fun event each year, my mind went to ways that our system can help these organizations.  One of the biggest challenges any non-profit arts organization faces is employee and volunteer burnout, and one of the best ways to combat it is through automation and organization.

The Arts People system was designed from the beginning for performing arts organizations.  It was designed by and for people working in this industry and has a huge number of combined years of experience behind the staff, all working to help these groups to thrive.

A key to helping organizations like yours to keep a handle on the business end of things, and to free up your staff to work on the creative things they love, is a system that is efficient.  You need to be able to sell your tickets, hopefully with patrons making use of the self serve simplicity of online purchase.  You need to be able to work the fundraising side of your ledger sheet, developing lasting relationships with your loyal patrons and donors.  You need fast and accurate reporting for up to the moment information and feedback on your marketing efforts to make quick decisions when needed.  You need all these things and more in a single integrated system that staff and volunteers can learn quickly and utilized cleanly so as to not make a mess of your CRM data for future mining and reference.

“Our online sales increased from 10% to 62%. [Arts People] has made my job ten times easier, and I feel like our entire organization crossed over into the 21st century!” – Keri Larsen, Ticket Office Mgr – Cache Valley Center for the Arts

Arts People is the system so many theatres and other performing arts organizations choose, and return to, because it helps with all these things.  Clients report it helping them alleviate staff stress and burnout because now they have hours freed up in their day to help their patrons and work on important things without getting bogged down in details.  They tell us how in the first year a huge percentage of sales moved to online, alleviating box office burden.  They tell us how patrons love it.

Arts People was highly recommended to us and has never disappointed. From their excellent, easy-to-use software to their hands-on personal tech support, this company continues to serve our theatre very well.“ – Sue Ellen Gerrells, Artistic Director – South City Theatre – Pelham, AL (SETC, AACT Member)

When you look for a system to handle your ticketing, marketing, fundraising, reporting, volunteer management, class enrollments and more, make sure it works fluidly, efficiently, is familiar in terminology and appearance and ready to help your team to succeed.  We’d be happy to consult with you on your specific needs.  We can give you a demonstration or even customize a test system just for you to help you see how our system can change your operation for the better.

Soon your staff will be smiling, stress reduced, burnout averted, patrons happy, with your work focused back on the creation of your art.  Let us help.


How will performing arts charities weather the new tax plan?

Tax PlanningThe new tax plan from Donald Trump and the GOP has drastically changed the landscape for fundraisers in charity arts organizations.  By altering the standard deduction, supposedly in an effort to make individuals tax preparation much simpler, it has also created a new paradigm that does not well encourage individuals to make donations that they can later write off on their taxes.  Here’s why.

In the past, by making donations to charitable organizations, an individual was able to deduct those donations from their taxable income thereby lowering their tax liability overall at the federal and often state level.  So if you donated $500 to charity, you would remove $500 from your taxable income and then the portion of that that you would have paid to taxes as income was removed.  This was a large contributing factor encouraging the giving of money to charities that you support.

Now, with the standard deduction being much higher, it creates far less need to itemize deductions for most individuals on their tax return. Instead they can just take the standard deduction without having to have made any itemizable payments, such as those to charities.  Only in the event of a relatively high level of income will an individual or family need to itemize on their tax return.  Due to this there is far less incentive to come up with tax-deductible expenses in order to reduce tax liability.

This could mean that many individuals may choose not to contribute to charities and instead keep that money for themselves, since they’ll get the standard tax deduction anyway.  Without tax deductibility being an encouraging factor in donating, what will be the new strategy for charities, including performing arts organizations, to encourage donations?

Alternatively, could the increased standard deduction put some more money in the pockets of donors who want to support you, and lead to increased giving?  This article seems to think so.

Hopefully many donors will want to financially support the work that you do despite this change.  It remains the strongest reason a person may choose to donate. They love what you do.  They want to support your work. If you can also make especially clear that your organization cannot survive without contributed income, and not only on earned income from things like ticket sales and education program fees alone, you can help them to understand why their donations are critical to your survival.

Granting organizations and corporate support will play an even more important role with the sizable risk of individual giving declining.  However, their income sources could be affected also by the new tax plan.  The down line support that they provide could change as the effects ripple out over time, and of course now there is talk of Trump wanting to cut funding to the NEA and other arts and humanities funders.

Increased prices may be required as well.  If an arts organization has survived on a balance of 50% earned income from sales with a 50% contributed income level to balance the budget, the percentage balance may need to shift to higher on the earned income side.  Of course depending on your patrons, this could reduce sales as prices are increased resulting in bigger problems in the end.

What does YOUR organization plan to do in this shaky and changing fundraising environment?  How will your message shift?  What combination of tactics do you feel are needed or are planned to maintain your bottom line?

Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike – Marketing Director, Arts People

Arts organization consultant
Former Board Member Portland Area Theatre Alliance
Former Audience Development Director & Board Member Bag&Baggage Productions

Boosting Corporate Philanthropy Through Digital Fundraising

Digital fundraising makes it possible for anyone to donate from anywhere with an internet connection — which also makes soliciting donations a more competitive field. Organizations supporting worthy causes pull donors from all angles.

Maybe it’s time to get more creative with your digital fundraising by exploring ways to supplement your traditional donations.

How about local businesses? You might already secure sponsorships for certain shows or offer corporate gift certificate options, but there’s a whole world of corporate philanthropy waiting in the digital fundraising space.

In this post, we’ll focus on four smart ways to increase your revenue from corporate philanthropy through your digital fundraising strategy:

  1. Get smart with your donor database.
  2. Promote matched donations at checkout.
  3. Optimize your confirmation messages.
  4. Get attention on social media.

If you’re ready to tap into the gift of corporate philanthropy, keep reading!


 1. Get smart with your donor database.

As any fundraising institution knows, a donation solicitation is only as effective as it is targeted. That is, when asking for donations, the more about your donors you know, the better your chances are of receiving a check in return.

When narrowing in on your corporate philanthropy efforts, a comprehensive donor database is your secret weapon. Here are the key data points to include in your donor profiles:

  • Employer: Some companies are more charitable than others. If a donor’s employer offers a corporate matching gift program or regularly donates to nonprofits, you now have a connection to that source of revenue through your donor.
  • Job title: C-level employees, business owners, and board members all have a say in their company’s charitable giving philosophy. If your donor cares about your organization, so will their business.
  • Past giving: Whether to your organization or others, past giving is a great indication of future giving. Previous involvement in corporate philanthropy, from matching gift requests to group volunteering, is important to have on record.

Once you’ve identified donors with key corporate connections, it’s time to reach out to them. Your CRM or communication software should allow you to segment and sort your donor lists based on employment information.

Make sure to reference the specifics of the corporate philanthropy or sponsorship programs you’re asking donors to participate in, linking them to resources or databases if necessary.

This business-related information doesn’t just help you identify donors with connections to corporate giving programs — it can also help your message actually make it to the person you want it to.

People are much more likely to respond to emails, phone calls, or requests for in-person meetings from people they already know, particularly business owners that often receive requests for corporate-related charitable giving. Keeping historical employment information can reveal profitable connections between prospective major donors and current donors.

Of course, this level of targeting relies on a clean, accurate donor database. You can’t reach out to donors encouraging them to participate in their employer’s corporate matching gift program if you don’t know whether they work for a company that offers one!


2. Promote matched donations at checkout.

Your donor database is one place to look for corporate giving revenue, but it’s not the only place. What about those donors who aren’t in your database yet?

At a basic level, you should always post information about matching gifts, sponsorships, and other corporate philanthropy programs publicly on your website. Linking to this information on your social media pages is another way to ensure it has a wide reach.

But one of the best places to feature corporate philanthropy information is at checkout.

Think about it: patrons who are actively buying a ticket are obviously interested in supporting your organization. Why not show them another way they can do so?

Here are a few creative ways to work matching gifts into your checkout process:

  • Install a matching gift database plugin so shoppers can interactively search their employer’s corporate giving program in real time.
  • During the end-of-year holidays, emphasize the charitable spirit and the way to make a donation go further than usual (and the tax benefits of charitable giving).
  • Encourage the giving of gift donations.

By placing this information right at checkout, you encourage giving at the moment that your supporters are most excited about.

If you need a little help setting up a website that offers attractive sponsorship opportunities to companies, check out Double the Donation’s guide to the top nonprofit website design companies for recommendations.

Remember that online checkout doesn’t always happen at home! Make sure your checkout forms are mobile-optimized so they display properly on your patrons’ mobile phones and any POS stations your staff members use to sell tickets or memberships on the floor.


3. Optimize your confirmation messages.

Whether a patron reserves a ticket, purchases a t-shirt, or makes a donation, your system will automatically deliver a copy of their receipt to their email inbox.

With the ability to customize those automatic emails comes an incredible opportunity to encourage participation in corporate philanthropy programs!

Check out how the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation incorporated matching gift information into their donation confirmation email:

The great thing about a confirmation message is its timing. Right after a purchase or a donation, the recipient is excited about what’s to come, and they’ll be looking for the confirmation email.

Corporate philanthropy makes gifts go further at no extra cost to the donor. That’s the kind of message that a supporter is receptive to right after spending or donating some of their own money.

Something important to keep in mind when including a solicitation in a confirmation email is tone. The first thing you should say no matter what comes afterward is “thank you.” From there, it’s all about a clean, quick transition.

That transition will depend greatly on the kind of message you’re appending to the “thank you.” If you need a little inspiration, here are a few tips for a few common confirmation email types:

  • Ticket reservation: “Before you arrive, take a look and see if your employer would match a donation to the theater!”
  • Merchandise purchase: “Did you know you could support the theater with a donation, and your employer might even match the amount? Follow this link to our corporate giving page for more information!”
  • Donation confirmation: “Before you forget, save a copy of your receipt for taxes, and request a matching gift form from your employer. Not sure if your employer offers a corporate giving program? Find out by typing your company name into the plugin below!”
  • Volunteer application: “Does your employer offer volunteer grants? Find out and learn more below!”
  • Special event registration: “Check up on your employer’s corporate giving status before you show up!”
  • Membership program sign-up: “What if your employer could match your commitment to the theater? See if your donations are eligible to be matched using the corporate giving database plugin in this email!”

If you need a little more guidance, start with these useful templates from Fundraising Letters, then personalize to your organization!


4. Get attention on social media.

We’ve already covered the benefits of spreading the word about corporate philanthropy on social media. But it’s not always individual donors whose attention you’re trying to get.

In fact, corporate social media accounts are always interested in the good publicity that comes along with partnering with a charitable cause.

If you look at it that way, your social media presence is actually a bargaining chip for corporate partnerships. Look at what you have to offer:

  • Sponsored shows: For the most traditional type of corporate sponsorship, a business covers some or all of the cost of a show or exhibit in exchange for their logo on your marketing materials, including social media profiles.
  • Social takeover: A social media representative from the sponsoring company “takes over” your social media for a day, sharing stories and pictures to your audience from their perspective.
  • Fundraising events: Companies can sponsor fundraising events, either by helping with setup costs or donating auction items for specialized events like online charity auctions.
  • Employee volunteers: Employees from a corporate sponsor can man the box office, hand out programs, escort visitors to their seats, and sell merchandise. Pictures of employees helping out while wearing branded shirts are easy to share on social media.
  • Charity packages: Want to open up to low-income families for a night for free or a reduced rate? You need someone to cover the costs, and a corporation has the incentive to fund this kind of charitable cause.

As a beloved institution in your community, you have an engaged audience that companies would love access to. Use that access to your advantage!

Asking for donations over and over can exhaust even your most loyal supporters. But corporate philanthropy doesn’t require your donors to dip back into their own pockets to support the institutions they love.

By promoting corporate philanthropy across your digital space, you can actualize your supporters’ charitable spirit at no more cost to them!


Our thanks to Adam Weinger for sharing this special blog post.

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.

White Paper – Create a powerful and efficient Volunteer workforce

Non-profit organizations, certainly including performing arts groups, rely heavily on a well organized and satisfied volunteer workforce. In many cases, running that portion of your operation should be given as much importance and attention as management of the staff, since often they do just as much work overall. The success of your volunteer coordination starts at the top and works its way down.

In this white paper we’ll walk you through a recognized structure to your volunteer workforce that will help ensure that your volunteers are honored, happy, and managed in a way that benefits both them and your organization.

Request a download link for this white paper:

Note that you will have 10 minutes to download your requested document from the email received.


White paper written by

Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is the Marketing Director, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. His work with clients has helped them to increase their revenue while streamlining their box office and back office operations.

Arts People, software for the performing arts, serves theatres, music and dance groups, choirs and opera, high school, college and university programs, performing arts center facilities and more.


Make Giving Tuesday count for your chosen charities

Giving Tuesday has become a very real “thing” along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is a day where we emphasize the need to give to the charity organizations that matter to each of us.

The fact that most charities rely heavily on individual giving from people like you and me, along with grants, corporate sponsorship, and in the case of performing arts, ticket and other sales, can be seen as a wonderful thing. If we think about it, it’s easy to recognize how this benefits our community. The deep connections forged between the charity organizations and the individuals within the community helps lift up those charities that community members really believe in. Not unlike a business succeeding because its products or services are loved, a charity that survives well based on the support of its community is a testament to the great work that charity is doing FOR its community. If the people didn’t believe in its mission and its methods, it simply wouldn’t survive.

So as we focus at this time on our gratitude for all the things that touch and enrich our lives, let’s remember and be thankful for the charities that do great work. Some are benevolent. Some are creative. They bring happiness, support, relief, joy, comfort and are worthy of our gifts too. Choose the charities that you believe in most and give as much as you can to support the work that they do. It takes us all to make a rich and caring community. We must support each other all we can.

The Arts People system charges no fees for use of its donation processing and tracking system, along with membership functionality. Only standard credit card processing rates apply. Donation options can easily be featured on your website, Facebook page, in email messages and more. Contact your support rep for any assistance in launching your web page or other fundraising campaigns, or contact us for a free demo of the system. We’d be happy to speak with you.

Up-sell gift and donation options at your holiday show

Strike while the iron is hot, as my mother used to say to me.  Take the opportunity when it presents itself!  We all know that the holiday time is when many performing arts organizations make their most ticket sales and donation transactions.  It’s the season of giving!  (…and shopping for giving, and donating, and stressing over the perfect gift.)

So how can we maximize our patron interactions to boost our holiday income opportunities AND also help them to reduce the stress of holiday gift giving.


Take the opportunity while guests are at your venue, enjoying the holiday presentation, to sell them on some simple gift giving ideas via your organization, WHILE THEY ARE THERE!  If you send out an email reminder of their upcoming performance, mention in it that special gift offers will be available as well!  Here’s some ideas:

Create some holiday gift and donation opportunities that provide benefits and discounts:

  1. Create a holiday gift pass or package of shows that you offer to attendees at the theatre at an extra special discount, but ONLY if they buy it that night during intermission.
  2. Offer gift certificates.
  3. Offer a holiday donation option that provides some special incentives such as a pair of free wildcard tickets for any upcoming show of the season.  The patron can donate, support your organization, get an end of year tax write off, AND they get a pair of tickets for themselves or to use as a gift.
  4. Create stylish and fun t-shirts or other branded goods from your organization or that tie into your season to offer at special pricing if purchased that night.

With all the above opportunities, you want to emphasize how they can make the buyer’s life easier by getting some holiday shopping out of the way. Remind them how much fun they have at your performances and what could be better than giving that type of enjoyment to others.  Remind them how a donation at the end of the year helps support your organization and can be deducted off their upcoming taxes. And lastly, it’s critical to promote these things during your well presented curtain speech communicating that these special offers are available only if they do their transaction during intermission.  Have people waiting in the lobby to help the guests with their orders.

Have a great holiday season of sales and fundraising!

The Arts People system provides tools to easily setup and manage all the above efforts including full pass and package functionality, online pass and gift certificate redemption over multiple orders, donation tracking, membership details and automated discounts, even automated emailed ticket reminders that you can customize as you wish.  Contact us at if you’d like more information or a free personal demo.

Your performances – gifts for your business partner’s employees

It’s the giving season again, and there’s another way your business partners and sponsor organizations can support you!

Gift Certificates, and gift passes!

Talk to those businesses and organizations who already support you and share with them a great way to provide a holiday bonus gift to their employees… the gift of an experience with their spouse or entire family.

The organization can purchase gift certificates in any amount they wish to give to each employee.  The employee can then use that amount toward any ticket purchase of their choice of show or event that you offer.

Passes can work similarly, if you have a pass that’s valid for the remaining shows of your season.  The organization can purchase them in any quantity to provide tickets to their choice of upcoming shows.

The financial purchase helps support your organization, AND it may result in more people discovering your organization to come back in the future as a loyal patron.  Once you have a number of organizations are on board, then you can promote it to other businesses that you’ve been hoping to connect with, telling them of other businesses that are taking advantage already.

The Arts People system offers both gift certificate and pass functionality where any unredeemed portion remains in the system to be used later. It makes it tremendously easy for the person to use and enjoy their gift.

The holidays are not just about giving, but also about support, encouragement, joy.  These gift options help to foster all three.  Give it a try!

Press Release: Alex Blouin joins our Client Services Team

Alex shares her deep knowledge of arts administration from north California

Dateline: Portland, OR

Alex Blouin headshotThe Arts People software company welcomes Alex Blouin to their Client Services team. Alex will assist clients remotely from her north California location and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and abilities in theatre administration, having been a performer, box office agent, director, marketing coordinator and more.

Alex is a graduate of Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Blue Lake CA, where she studied Clown, movement, dance, melodrama and Commedia Dell’Arte. She has since performed across the country, including New York, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Seattle, Baltimore, and Washington DC. Her favorite role to date is Emilie du Châtelet…

Download full release in PDF format



Press Release: Tim Curtis joins the Client Services Team

As a client, Tim Curtis joins us from Riverfront Playhouse

Dateline: Portland, OR

Tim Curtis“I have been with the Riverfront Playhouse since 2007 when I answered an email looking for Males to play zombies in the premiere of Night of the Living Dead – The Musical. The email stated no lines just a lot of moaning and groaning, the show opens Friday! I thought this is perfect for me. They lied, there was a song.”

As has become a common theme for many Arts People Client Services team members, Tim joins having been a client and already an advanced user of the system. With the knowledge he brings having used the system for years, Tim’s path to “fluency” as a client services support provider is much shorter than if he had to learn the system from scratch. Client Services Manager Russ Gage mentions, “Additionally, he knows the challenges that our clients face intimately, having worked directly with patrons and interfacing with the system…


Opening night banner

It’s opening night! Are you using it as the audience development opportunity it is?

I’ve worked with many performing arts organizations over the years and have helped them build their audiences through the strategic use of opening night, not as a money maker, but as an investment. This applies to those organizations who are running a show over at least a few weeks, as it will help build the audience of that run, and hopefully build your reputation within your greater community.

First, considering that opening night is when the critics are invited to attend, you want as many people in that audience as possible, and especially people who love your organization, who understand the niche and style of your work, and will be boisterous in their enjoyment of the show.

Second, for opening night you want a crowd that will enjoy the performance to such a degree that they will talk about it, to everyone they know, all over town.

Third, it’s great to utilize the exciting nature of opening night, when the audience tends to dress up, enjoy the show as part of a larger evening, indulge in wine, bring flowers and more, to also invite influencers to join in the festivities.  The mayor, business leaders in the area, other arts organizations leaders, key donors and others.  This is the night to make them feel special and to expose them to the most exciting evening at the theatre.

All these things point to the key aspect… Give them all a personal invitation, and tickets for FREE.  Play up the excitement and exclusivity of this event and in receiving an invitation.  Hone your opening night invitation list before each show.  This is a powerful tool for developing your audience and your organization within your community. It builds your brand and creates buzz.  Change up the list regularly.  You don’t want the receiving of an invitation to become old hat to anyone either.  Keep all those people on your marketing list, but any who have not attended after receiving 2 or more invitations should be removed from the invite list, and others should be rotated or giving individual consideration.  If someone does attend, and always is an advocate for you, then by all means keep inviting them!

Some organizations use the Arts People promo pass system to build their invite list, then send out an email en masse communicating their personal invitation and unique code that is valid for 2 tickets to opening night.  Seating is first come, first served.  The recipient then can follow a link in the email to that specific performance, select their seats and during checkout enter their special code to bring their total due to $0. They then finish off their order and print their tickets, making the RSVP process simple!

Whether you use this type of method or go for a more formal invitation process with phone RSVP, you want to make the guests feel very special, using your invite list as a very strategic tool.  Some companies will include all actors they have cast for the season as a way of honoring their work with you.  Pad your list with more people than the venue can hold, knowing that many on the list will not attend. You really want every seat filled for opening night.  This is what will help create the energy needed to propel your show forward with strong buzz in the community.

Obviously, make sure your show is of the highest quality.  Preview performances can happen before opening night (no critics until opening!) often at a discounted price, in order to help the cast and director polish the show and make any adjustments so that on opening you have a show that is outstanding.  Prepare a press packet for any critics that will be attending, with press release, playbill, high quality photos for their use, bios of the actors, even background on the creator of the play or featured material, etc.  Be as professional as possible in every aspect of the production, performance and presentation of the evening.  The board should be in attendance, dressed formally, with name tags, ready to schmooze the guests.  Staff should also be dressed and facilitating an exceptional evening at the theatre. Put your best foot forward in all aspects so that those attending experience a truly exceptional evening and performance.

Opening night is about a grand presentation of the new show to your audience and to your community.  Use that opportunity to wow the movers and shakers of your area and send them out to spread the word far and wide.  It will benefit you in added sales for that show, as well as build your audiences over time.

Patrick Spike – Marketing Director – Arts People
Board Member of PATA (Portland Area Theatre Alliance)
Former Audience Development Director and Board Member of Bag&Baggage Productions, among others.