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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.

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.

Easy!

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 sales@arts-people.com if you’d like more information or a free personal demo.

Added income and revenue - get creative

Generate extra income in creative ways

As a performing arts organization, we know that balancing income and expenses can be a tricky thing.  Generating income also generally must fall into methods in line with your non-profit published mission in order to avoid any scrutiny from the IRS and the public.  But there may just be ways to add a chunk of extra income to your bottom line using methods that are easily within reach.

For those considering the Arts People system for their ticketing, fundraising, marketing, database/CRM needs, the low costs of our system can often be offset by these means!

We’re creative people… let’s get to it!

Here’s some ideas:

  1. In selling your season package, have you considered that adding just an extra 25 or 50 package sales might bring in an extra $5000-10000 annually.  Get your board involved, encourage your patrons to help you promote the packages, hold an annual season announcement event with a super special discount for attendees and get it done!
  2. Add options for season packages.  If you currently sell a traditional subscription package, consider adding flex passes for more patron options and see how it increases your package sales.  You could possibly add an additional $2500-5000 through this method.
  3. The print at home ticket design of the Arts People system allows you to customize the layout.  Consider selling space on the ticket for a local business to print a coupon, or a sponsorship logo.  This can be done creatively on a show by show basis, or for the entire season for more money, or both!  Charge for that space and bring in an extra $2500-5000 or more annually.
  4. If you’re not booking sponsors of each production, you should.  Exclusive single sponsor, or a few sponsors together for each show could bring in $15000 a year.
  5. What about a sponsorship specifically for your online buying experience.  Sell an online season sponsorship and place the sponsor logo with a link to their business info on your Arts People customize-able public pages for an annual amount of $3000-4000.  “Online transactions brought to you by….”  Businesses love this type of exposure.  You could do smaller levels of this also by having individual sponsors of the different transaction types… tickets, donations, membership, retail, passes, subscriptions, class enrollment, etc. Each path in the Arts People system has system messages where sponsor info credit could be displayed. Additionally, the confirmation emails can also be customized with text and images!
  6. Make sure you’re asking ticket buyers online to add a donation.  The checkout screen has a customize-able area for a donation pitch. Use it!  Encourage ticket buyers to add a small donation to their ticket purchase and bring in an extra $1000-2000 a year.

The above methods, if all successful, total between$29000 and $41000 yearly.  Think that would help the bottom line?  Get creative with your options and see the bottom line come up!  This, along with added sales due to the easy to use online purchase process of the Arts People system, and you’ll find it can actually make you money, and be completely paid for in the process.

 

Patrick Spike - Marketing Director

Arts People’s staff, deeply rooted in the arts

Arts People, from its very beginning, looked to experienced arts creators and administrators to staff its ranks.  We wanted to make sure that the people who would be guiding the development of our product, designed specifically for the very particular needs of the performing arts, would know how to give it the power and flexibility required for the industry.  In addition, the client services team and other members have also frequently come from backgrounds that include arts participation. In this way, we have a staff supporting the product and our clients that absolutely comprehend and appreciate the intricate and unique challenges and strategies that the arts present. We work with you to get the most out of your live data, and develop relationships over time with your ticket buyers and donors.

We don’t target sporting arenas or other non-arts venues as many other systems do.  We don’t look to venture capital and investors with dollar signs as their primary motivator who might want to steer the product in a more profit driven direction.  Arts People was created and has thrived with the idea that we are here to uplift and support the performing arts, as powerful and valuable pieces of the communities in which they exist, to shine brightly on our society and to enrich our lives – through both hearts and minds.

Here are some examples of staff members participating in the arts:

Patrick Spike – Marketing Director, former Product Manager, and System Expert, Scappoose, OR – Over 30 years as director, performer, administrator, marketer and consultant for community to Katie on stageprofessional theatre and other non-profit arts organizations. In the Fall Spike will be performing with Bag&Baggage Productions in OR, and in the Spring directing at Ferndale Repertory Theatre in CA. patrickspike.com

Katie Behrens – Client Services Representative, Portland, OR -Professional improviser with Curious Comedy Theatre and others for 9 years, acting, writing, directing, producing, teaching.

Patrick Kelly – Client Services Representative, San Diego, CA – Found his love for the Theatrical Arts in Middle school nearly 20 years ago.  He has worked as a professional actor, director, technical director, musician and general arts administrator for the past 10 years, with a major project underway currently.

Russ Gage – Director of Client Services, Portland, OR – Film festival programmer and producer for over 20 years including San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, Portland International Film Festival, Northwest Filmmakers Film Festival, and founder of QDoc ~ the Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival.
Cari Palazzolo – Administrative Assistant, Portland, OR – Musician, Digital Designer, and Visual Artist for 18 years, producing, performing, educating, managing. caripalazzolo.com

Sam Valenti – Junior Developer, Kona, HI – Currently Sam is producing Waimea Community Theatre’s Production of Pippin. Previously Sam was Managing Director of Aloha Performing Arts Company as well as more artistic endeavors on the stage.

The Arts People system includes ticketing, fundraising, marketing, CRM / database and other full function features for the performing arts.  Our best in industry client services team works one on one with our clients to make sure they are fully supported and can succeed using their system. If you have any questions about the system’s capabilities or would like to see a personalized demo, please contact us right away.  Our no pressure sales consultants will work with you to see if our system is a good fit for your organization.

Admit one - free tickets

Give away FREE tickets to high school students

A theatre I’ve worked with over the years built a very successful program that had clear benefits both for high school students, as well as for the theatre itself, by giving away tickets to the students… for FREE.

Called originally their “10 for 1” program, this is how it worked.

First, they would collect donations from individuals, businesses and granters to support the program.  For every $10 dollars donated, they would then give away a free ticket to a high school student in their area.

Usher with empty seatsIn their case, they were performing in venues that had plenty of seats, where they rarely sold out. So the seats they gave away for a given performance likely would have gone empty without the high school students occupying them.  With this in mind, this program would likely not work well for performing arts groups that do not have the extra inventory.

Obviously for the students, this was a wonderful offer, especially since the arts programs in their own schools had been cut back to the bone.  Their theatre programs were mostly extra curricular in nature, and the school did not have funding to bring theatre, English or humanities (or any) students to shows on field trip type of arrangements.

For a few years the theatre struggled to facilitate the students coming to the theatre.  They tried to work with the principals of the schools, with the school districts and even with the individual teachers.  They also tried advertising in the school newspapers, and tried placing posters on the grounds.  They even tried booking school buses on a weekend to bring the students from a meeting place at the school Each of those efforts proved mostly ineffectual, relied on overworked school personnel, or were taking too much manpower to be sustainable.  The board of directors discussed ideas and finally decided to try using social media to spread the word.  Instead of requiring a reservation, they communicated that students could just come to the theatre, show their active student ID, and get a ticket as long as seats were available.  The word spread via social media from student to student, parent to parent, was shared on the school pages and others, and it finally worked.  Students began taking advantage of program more and more, to the happiness of the theatre board and staff.

As for the funding, the donations that came in required really no special handling.  Again, since the inventory was readily available, the funding simply went into the general operating budget, helping the theatre to fund their season productions and everyone wins.

grantsThe program is imminently fund-able by granters and sponsors, since it falls under the category of arts education, and helps the schools with their clear desire to include the arts in the lives of their students.  They would do occasional asks of their patrons to contribute, would have businesses help underwrite the program, and grantors who favor arts education loved to help.  A paddle raise at their gala event also would add to the funding as well.  If they ever needed evidence of the effect of the program, they could call up the ticket counts in their Arts People system, flagged with a comp ticket code.

The theatre also prepared a study guide with accompanying teacher lesson plans in pdf form for those who might want to use them for a specific show. Unfortunately they found that in most cases the teachers didn’t have the budget to even photocopy them.  So for organizations who might want to try this type of program, you may need to take some of the funding that comes in to help the teachers with these.  In some cases the students were also given a coupon code on a flyer to take home to their patrons that would give them a discount off tickets to the show, creating some additional sales revenue, and possible new patrons for the theatre.

High school students, seeing outstanding theatre for free, gaining an appreciation of the art form, or encouraging their existing passion for it, and the theatre gaining much needed capital toward funding their season expenses.  The program has been a huge success!

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director for 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. www.patrickspike.com.   He is the former Audience Development Director for Bag&Baggage Productions, and is a current board member of PATA – The Portland Area Theatre Alliance.

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.

Flex pass tickets

White paper: Make your life simpler using the power and flexibility of passes

Arts People led the industry in the development of powerful, multi-functional and flexible pass capabilities.  Our clients use them with great success for season package sales of different types, for comp ticket fulfillment, for sponsor ticket benefits, board cultivation of donors and much more.

Learn how passes can be used in a variety of ways to benefit your patrons experience with your organization, and also to alleviate staff handling and headaches of various ticket packages and fulfillment.

Patrons and staff both love the way pass holders can easily redeem their tickets, self-serve online or via your box office, and at the same time result in less seat inventory going wasted.  They are a powerful tool for every performing arts organization to meet their needs.

 

Request a download link for this white paper:

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

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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. www.patrickspike.com

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.

 

Good data?

The vital importance of maintaining clean data

Your database of persons and organizations who have purchased tickets, made donations, provided grants, sponsored events, signed up for your email or postal mailing lists, or just expressed interest is vitally important to the success of your goals.  Maintaining this data in a clean form, without duplication, is extremely important as well, in order to maintain good relations with your patrons and to move them up the De-duping your dataladder of engagement.

Fully integrated patron management systems with all the pieces of ticketing, fundraising, marketing built in, such as the Arts People system, should provide tools for you to maintain your clean live data.  But, the tools vary widely as to their user-friendliness, ease of use, automation and overall effectiveness.

The trouble with many systems

Many systems offer duplication cleanup tools that are extremely cumbersome.  I was recently assisting a friend at a community non-profit organization with record cleanup of their Sales Force database and I was quite frankly shocked at how time consuming and cumbersome the process was. I had to conduct various searches to find the potential duplicates to begin with, not really knowing if I was actually finding all the records.  Then I had to painstakingly look into each match one by one and specify how I wanted the pair to merge.  It took at least several minutes per pair to conduct the process.  It was days of work to clean up as many records as I had time for, without completing the task by a long shot. I truly don’t know how most organizations using a system like this can hope to keep their data clean at all, and unfortunately duplicate data leads directly to patron dissatisfaction when they receive duplicate mailings, have miscommunication from the staff about their contributions or worse.

The above scenario is just one example of how over-complication is something that most arts organizations simple have to avoid.  We understand our clients at Arts People.  As with so many non-profits, staff numbers are small and people are doing various jobs throughout their day. They just don’t have the time for a laborious process of trying to keep their data clean.

Arts People provides a better solution

As I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 30 years, I can  honestly say that I’ve never seen a duplication detection and merge process system that works as efficiently and easily as the Merge screen in Arts People. Duplicates are identified within minutes of data being entered or updated. Exactly duplicates are merged automatically!  Partial matches are presented to the user side by side where they can make a decision as to merge them keeping the record details on right or left, or connecting them together as members of the same household.  If there’s a question, users can click on the address or phone to trigger a whitepages.com search to help them identify current information for those records.  They can also click directly into one of the patron records to check the entered date, update date and more to help them now which record is newer and more likely to be the correct data.  Also, the system itself helps prevent duplication via the email address login process, enabling patrons online to link to their existing data. Clients are trained by their assigned client services representative to spend a few minutes each day or week to review and process any duplicates, keeping their data absolutely clean.

Don’t let your data cost you sales, donations or patron relationships. Make sure you’re using a system that is capable and easy enough to use that you can easily maintain your data, clean of duplication, and show your patrons that you care enough about them to communicate with them correctly and efficiently.

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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. www.patrickspike.com

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.

 

Sustaining members our heros

Recurring donations for sustainability and building patron loyalty

Contributed income generally runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50% of the operating budget of a performing arts organization, with the remainder being made up of earned income.  This contributed income comes in the form of donations, grants, sponsorships and other similar gifts.  As we all know, the ask is often the hardest part. In standard donation programs you must ask patrons to donate over and over again, each year, or two or three times a year. This can be come laborious, tedious and you run the risk of alienating your donors from all the requests for donation.

recurring donation

Recurring donations have become a very nice alternative to the regular task of asking for one donation after another. By converting donors to an automatically recurring donation program, the donor gets to spread their gift out over the year with small transactions every month or quarter, or even automating their yearly gift.  The Arts People system, as one example, offers these three recurrence frequency options for your donors.  While it can be a significant thing to ask a donor to contribute $120 all at once, asking for $10 per month can be both more comfortable for the person asking, and also for donors to accept.

Recurring donations can be open ended, where they continue to recur time after time until the patron communicates with you to stop.  Or they can specify an ending date upon which they want the recurrence to stop.  In Arts People these choices are simple to setup by the donor themselves online, or in your office as you begin their recurring donation, or at any time to schedule or immediately stop the recurrence.

Recurring donations also play well into Membership structure in the Arts People system.  When a donor begins their recurring gift, if that gift applies toward membership the system will automatically calculate how much they will donate by the expire date and then set their membership to the appropriate level.  So if your membership is based annually, with a yearly expire date for all members, their $10 monthly recurrence might run for 7 months.  This 7 month calculation will the apply $70 toward membership levels. They might earn a silver level.  However if your membership is rolling where each member has their own expire date based on the anniversary of their membership start, they will have $120 apply toward levels, giving them a gold level membership.

Many organizations with recurring contribution option will promote it with enhanced benefits both to the donor and to the charity, referring to it as a “sustaining membership” or some specific label to imply to the donors that this helps their organization more than one time donations. With it perhaps the donor receives some extra perks, such as a pair of free tickets along with the standard member ticket discount.  Working to drive donors toward this option can be very beneficial as donors contribute more over time with their recurring gift, and you need less asks to the donors through their giving history, only needing to thank them periodically and sending an end of year summary for their tax purposes. The Arts People system automatically notifies the donor of each recurrence being processed and the system makes it easy for you to acknowledge and thank the donors and provide them a tax receipt.

If you want to learn more about how the Arts People system can help increase your fundraising success through recurring contributions and other means, contact us for a consultation and free demonstration.

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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. www.patrickspike.com

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.  

Three words for every performing arts organization – Know Your Niche


I regularly speak to performing arts organizations that try to do all and be all to their community.  The result?

  • They struggle to find their audience.
  • They burn out, barely hang on, and slowly decline.
  • They wonder why the community doesn’t come out en masse to support them.

Ask yourself…

  1. “What would your loyal patrons say draws them to you and keeps them coming back?”
  2. “If you surveyed patrons who have attended only one of your events in the past but have not returned. What would be the reason?”
  3. “Of patrons who attend other arts organizations but have chosen NOT to attend yours, what caused them to make that choice?”
  4. “Of all the people working with your organization, what would they say is your artistic focus, that also makes them want to work with you?  Would they have an immediate and concise answer?”

If you don’t have a clear idea of what the above responses would be, it’s probably time to hone your niche.

It’s a pretty commonly held concept that no single arts organization can be all things to all people. Otherwise said, we can’t please everyone all the time. It’s also can be said that when we think of a region or population area that “has a great arts scene” or “is culturally rich” that one contributing factor is that there’s a great variety of cultural or arts options available; that there is something for everyone. So we obviously value diversity in arts options, which also translates to a variety of arts organizations.  We love choices; different audiences, different tastes, different interests.

 

Now, let’s imagine.  If one organization were to try to be that variety for their community, and if they hope to achieve it with a degree of quality and consistency, some of the challenges might be

  1. How to attract talent interested in doing your work. While an artist might be interested in one project in your season, they might find no interest in the rest. How do you build and cultivate relationships with a core group of artists and technicians when their interests vary one project to the next?
  2. Audiences also may be divided over your work. They might be drawn to buy tickets to one show that peaks their interests. If they enjoy it they may want to come back. But the next show isn’t their taste at all and then they are disappointed, alienated, and often won’t be back.

So what does this mean for developing relationships with both the artists who create the work, and audiences who want to come see it?  Generally will mean that you’re working to gather talent and audience for each of your projects individually, with greater challenges developing a loyal group interested in your work as a whole.  

So is the model of trying to do something for everyone within a single arts organization sustainable? I think if we look historically at these types of organizations, and to the groups trying to please their community with palatable shows that offend no one and try to please everyone, that this just isn’t the case. These groups struggle year after year in their marketing and communications, their ticketing and fundraising, and to sustain without much growth, and often with a gradual decline in their attendance. Without loyalty in your audience, they are also much more at risk of catastrophe if specific projects miss the mark for audience satisfaction.  A single ticket audience is far less forgiving than the audience that enjoys your body of work over time.

 

So, what is the alternative? It is to find and hone your niche and stick to it.

What is it your organization is really about?  What is the type of work that the collective members of your organization agree on as their primary interest?  Do you focus on classical theatre with a fresh approach?  Do you focus on contemporary dance, including a commitment to new work each season?  Is it non-narrative musical performance art, or tried and true standards done remarkably well?  Dig deep. Find what it is that excites you as a group and that you are accomplished at creating.  Make the big decision and agree to stick to it and do it better than anyone else in your area.  Become the experts on that particular form.  You may find that some of your members don’t agree.  If so, it may be time for them to move on as you clarify what your niche is.  

 

Once that is decided, and the quality and passion shows through, you will work to find the audience who loves it as well.  Artists interested in that pursuit will seek you out.  News will spread and reach other organizations that are passionate about that type of work.  You’ll be able to better cultivate relationships and build loyalty in your audience, graduate them to donor support, membership and greater participation.

You must stick to the work you love, so the passion comes through with every project, every performance, every moment.  Communicate this clearly in every message.  Those who love that work will find you, and will be as passionate about it as you are.  They will be your advocates, your army, your cheering section.  

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Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is Marketing Director of Arts People, with the company for over 10 years. He has 30 years in performing arts administration, marketing and creation. www.patrickspike.com