department integration
Jan24

A new model for audience development


It started with a simple question: “If we’re working so hard to get new audiences, why haven’t audiences grown?”

New Wolsey Theatre was curious. Looking at their data, they found that they attract many new ticket bookers each year, but many of them were not returning to the theatre after their first visit, 75% of first-timers in 2014-15.

Because so many new audiences were not returning each year, New Wolsey Theatre still wasn’t seeing a net gain in total audience numbers.


Posted January 24, 2017







Oct17

Annual operating budget up 32% in 5 seasons



Photo: Joseph Mills

After a poor year for earned revenue in 2012*, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (LTO) had rebounded and was experiencing a growth spurt. In 2013, Director of Marketing Danyel Siler had turned her attention to single tickets. Her hard work had paid off, but season tickets were still a challenge.

“Season tickets were steadily declining,” she said. “The season ticket campaign had been done the same way for years, maybe even decades. And we blamed the fall on the trend that subs were declining everywhere. Our executive director, artistic director, and I all knew something needed to change, but we didn’t know what.”

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma hired TRG in March of 2014 for a best practices consultancy which began with an analysis of income trends, data stewardship, and current marketing practices.


Posted October 17, 2016







Oct04

At TRG Arts, we talk a lot about patron loyalty – and for good reason. Data tells us that the more loyal a patron is to our organization, the more revenue they provide and the less it costs to keep them.

Over the last year, I’ve watched Performing Arts Fort Worth (PAFW), the organization that owns and operates Bass Hall and presents Fort Worth’s Broadway series, grow subscription revenue by $1.2 million—a 53% increase. Part of the revenue increase was because they added a show, but they also grew their subscriber base by 1,289 subscribers, a 26% increase.

Impressive results, but the truly cool story is the retention effort that happened afterwards.

Patron loyalty was viewed by many in the organization as marketing’s responsibility. Other people understood it was important, but weren’t actively involved. We wanted – we needed – to tap into the experience of front-of-house and box office staff to actively support patron loyalty efforts. The patron experience starts long before the performance begins. It starts at the time a patron buys a ticket, and continues through travel to the venue, parking their car, getting to their seat, seeing the show, enjoying intermission, and as they leave and travel home. (And, then it extends beyond the venue again when the organization follows up.)


Posted October 4, 2016







Jun21

Jill Robinson at the 2016 League of American Orchestras conferenceA patron’s loyalty is built step-by-step with each interaction with your organization. Each purchase and each donation is an indicator of the affinity that patrons feel for the organization. The problem in the evolution of patrons often occurs in the hand-off between marketing and development.

In this session, presented in 2016 at the League of American Orchestras Conference, Jill Robinson and Lindsay Anderson discussed patron segmentation strategies and proven practices for closing the gap between subscribers and donors.


Posted June 21, 2016







Apr21


Photo by opensource.com via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Quick quiz: Over the last 3-5 years, has your annual operating budget:

·        Grown?

·        Stood still?

·        Declined?

And, if it’s grown, has it exceeded the standard inflation rate of 3%, or merely kept pace?

 

Executive directors likely know the answer.

 

Finance directors always know the answer.

 

And departmental leaders almost never know the answer.

 

Yet, the growth (or lack thereof) of your organization’s annual budget is everybody’s business and is a clear signal not only of how healthy your organization has been, but how innovative you can afford to be in the near future.


Posted April 21, 2016







Apr07

 Keri Mesropov,
VP of Client Services
 Jim DeGood, 
Director of Client Services

Think audience development is marketing’s job? Think again. All departments play a critical role in retaining and cultivating loyal patron relationships.

Marketing gets people in the door and cultivates them to membership or subscribership. However, a patron’s loyalty builds with each interaction they have with youfrom the first time they consider buying a single ticket, to renewing their annual fund gift—and in absolutely every interaction in between. Patron services, artistic staff, development, and executive leaders all must align their objectives with that of patron loyalty in order to make a patron-centered business model work.

Join Keri Mesropov and Jim DeGood from TRG’s expert consulting team to learn today’s best practices for creating lasting patron relationships, across departmental silos.  


Posted April 7, 2016







Mar31

 Trisha Kirk
Director of Marketing,
Guthrie Theater
Danielle St.Germain-Gordon
Director of Development,
Guthrie Theater

Creative placemaking. Community engagement. Mobile beaconing. Customer relationship management.

If there’s one thing the arts industry has no shortage of, it’s buzzwords. What makes buzzwords so enticing? Behind each is the promise of the next best practices for the arts, the next strategy or tactic that could help organizations succeed sustainably.

We submit, for your consideration, this one: “integrated loyalty development.”

Like most buzzwords, the words somewhat obscure the meaning. Put simply, it’s aligning all departments in an organization around the cultivation of loyal patron relationships. It describes the magic that happens when organizations move beyond transactions and “just trying to make goal” for event after event. Instead, integration means investing in and being accountable to fostering their patrons’ passion for the arts, in all areas of their business.


Posted March 31, 2016







Feb23

“I came expecting math class and I got philosophy class.”

A few weeks ago we hosted an Executive Summit, where 12 leaders from different genres and geographical locations gathered at the TRG Arts Center for Results in Colorado Springs. We began hosting these gatherings several years ago, and each one provides a snapshot of how leadership issues are changing over time.

Executive Summit at the TRG Arts Center for Results
The January 2016 Executive Summit

TRG’s reputation as data geeks preceded us, as you might guess from the first line of this post which is a direct quote from one of the participants. The executives came ready to talk about donation and ticket income, attendance numbers, and per capita revenue. But, instead of solely discussing data-guided revenue strategies, participants in the two-day session found themselves moving out of the day-to-day. Instead, we asked them to think broadly about leadership and its impact.


Posted February 23, 2016







Feb18

This post is the final in a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his travels across the U.S. and Canada to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here>>


Image by Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Those of you who are regular followers of this blog know that I’ve been writing a series on my learnings from a fellowship sabbatical journey last summer. 

I wanted to finish the series by writing about the impact that this time to learn has had on my organization, Phoenix Theatre. I can’t do that without dedicating this post to the foundation that both devised that program and is investing in non-profit leaders with their incredible philanthropy--the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. 

I am told that Virginia G. Piper, while alive, made it a point to meet personally with the leadership of the organizations she funded, which were many. She asked each of those leaders the same question:  “If I give your organization money, will you commit to staying on and stewarding my gift over the next five years?” It’s a fascinating idea upon which to base funding, especially considering the problem of turnover and leadership burnout in nonprofit organizations. She’s asking, “If I invest in you, will you invest it back into your organization and this community?” It is with that philosophy I imagine the fellowship program was born. The Piper Fellowship program “acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities to retool, refresh and renew.”


Posted February 18, 2016







Jan11


Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
Think audience development is marketing’s job? Think again. All departments play a critical role in retaining and cultivating patron relationships. In order to make a patron-centered business model work, all departments—including ticketing and patron services, artistic staff, development, and executive leaders—must align their objectives with that of patron loyalty. 

In this session, presented at the 2016 Chamber Music America conference in New York City, both executives and staff members will reexamine how they lead and collaborate on initiatives that create lasting patron relationships. TRG's VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson looked at how cross-departmental campaigns build loyalty, how a sales orientation in the patron services department can bolster marketing-development collaboration, and how artistic programming can also factor into loyalty-building.

Posted January 11, 2016







Nov03

Putting your patrons at the center grows your revenues beyond what marketing or development could do alone. In this session presented at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation's Art of Change Workshop, participants learned the tangible benefits of casting off a siloed business model in favor of one that treats your patrons holistically, from their ticket-buying to their philanthropy. TRG's Vice President of Client Service Keri Mesropov examined how leading toward an integrated organization requires strong change management skills, but the payoff can be big loyalty gains. How can executives (and aspiring executives) break down the traditional silos between artistic, marketing and development to put your patrons at the center of revenue growth?


Posted November 3, 2015







Nov03

Photo by James Jordan (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A year and a half ago I was invited to join TRG’s bi-annual Executive Summit in Colorado Springs. Taking the time away is always difficult but I decided to take two days to make the journey. I was grateful to reconnect with and be re-introduced to many things I already knew and some I didn’t. The session was a good reminder of what I should be focusing on. The distractions of running an organization tend to take you down distant trails into the wilderness.

There was one thing that really grabbed my attention. TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson reported on work that they had done with the Guthrie Theater, examining loyalty as it related to genres of programming. The genre breakdowns were pretty typical, i.e. blockbuster musicals, dramas, new works, Shakespeare, etc. There were also no surprises that blockbuster programs generated the most revenue, had the highest price point, and, of course, the highest attrition rate. Like pouring water into a funnel, most of the blockbuster patrons had flushed through and right back out again.


Posted November 3, 2015







Oct21

This post is part of a series of collaborations with Doug Borwick and is cross-posted to his Engaging Matters blog on Arts Journal.

Photo by Neo Wang (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Arts Journal blogger Doug Borwick recently wrote a post on the role of marketing and development departments that captured my attention. In the following quote he summarizes an issue that I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

In the nonprofit world, marketing and development have been viewed as two different disciplines. Marketing has focused on messages to external publics and sales. Development has focused on messages to external publics and contributed income–grants and donations…

Do you see what I just did? It’s an old professor thing to set up a question in the listener’s mind. “So, if they both begin with ‘messages to external publics,’ aren’t they pretty closely related?” Bingo.

Marketing and development are closely related. But there are differences. In strict transactional terms, marketing departments largely manage Business (arts organization) to Consumer (patron) relationships. On the other hand, development department work is both “B-to-C” (where the consumer is in the form of donors/members) and “B-to-B” (Business to Business, where the organization is managing relationships and income from foundations, sponsors and other funding agencies). Talk to any marketing or development professional and they’ll tell you: the work is different in managing these different kinds of relationships and revenue streams.


Posted October 21, 2015







Oct13

This is the fifth video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing.

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #5: % of subscriber-donors

Is renewal rate the best measurement of loyalty? While it shows how many subscribers or members arts organizations are retaining, it doesn’t indicate if patrons are growing in their loyalty. In this video, Keri Mesropov of TRG Arts explains why renewal rate can be deceptive and the metric arts organizations should consider tracking alongside it.


Posted October 13, 2015







Sep24

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University recently released their latest report, which focuses specifically on marketing related metrics. This is the third report NCAR has released examining the health of arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. from a wide range of data sources.

Recently, I’ve seen researchers beginning to measure the impact of developing patron relationships and focus on the data that will quantify relationships. This is a great sign of things to come for the arts industry. In our own research at TRG, we’ve seen that measuring relationships in an integrated and holistic way can help organizations better understand patrons and impact revenue. Transactions that may seem unrelated when measured by different departments can actually indicate loyal relationships. The whole picture matters in each individual patron record, as it does when measuring the impact of patron-generated revenue across an organization.


Posted September 24, 2015







Sep17

This post is part of a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here.

Image by opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I've now visited with executive, marketing, and development leaders from over 11 different organizations in eight cities. I have learned many amazing and remarkable things my colleagues are implementing across North America, but my attention keeps returning to one thing. Every organization has the same structure: unanimously in our institutions, marketing and sales are one team.

Here's the dilemma:  Marketing is actually a resource for the entire organization, not just for generating ticket sales.


Posted September 17, 2015







Sep15

This is the first video in our series on the 6 metrics that arts leaders should be tracking and managing

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #1: Patron-generated revenue

Forget earned and contributed revenue. Thinking about revenue generated by patrons vs. other sources may help your arts organization far more. In this video, Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts explains why categorizing revenue only as earned or contributed can create siloes within organizations and how to calculate the amount and percentage of patron-generated revenue.


Posted September 15, 2015







Aug20

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

The world is changing. Whether your theatre operates in the U.K., U.S., Australia, or on the moon, the last decade has demanded that we transform the way we do business.

Public policy, economic and demographic changes are causing the entire sector to recognize the importance of our relationships with patrons and how we manage them.

Today, your patrons can be doing more. They can be cultivated to support your organization in ways that they currently aren’t. As you contemplate your organization’s future sustainability and how patrons can be a part of it, consider making their loyalty a priority.


Posted August 20, 2015







Jul29

This post is part in a series by TRG and Piper Foundation Fellow Vincent VanVleet where he’ll report on his discoveries as he travels the country to research the impact of patron loyalty. Read more of his posts here.

Photo by Erik Schepers (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Are you investing in your audience?

You might read that question and think, “What a silly question—of course we’re investing in our audience.” But, really and truly—lip service about the value of your audience is not enough.

Put another way: Are you spending money on keeping your audience happy and serving them well?


Posted July 29, 2015







May05


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in
One Thousand Pieces by
 Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg.
Categorizing arts patrons simply as ticket buyers, subscribers, or donors can hide the total value of the investments they make with an arts organization. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago tracked patterns of patron investment holistically, across those categories. What they found led them to cultivate audiences in a completely new ways.

Chief Marketing and Development Officer Bill Melamed of Hubbard Street and ‎Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts presented this session at the 2015 Do Good Data Conference, detailing how audiences are engaging differently with Hubbard Street nearly two years later. This is a story about the important role data plays in centering an organization around patron loyalty, and how Hubbard Street acted on that data. 

Posted May 5, 2015







Apr16


Photo by Ryan Dickey (CC BY 2.0)

Let’s face it: sometimes it seems like marketing and development couldn’t be more different. Their communication styles are different, their immediate goals are different, and they use different short-term metrics for success. They might work in the same building, but all too often it feels like they come from two different planets.

At many organizations, single ticket buyers and subscribers “belong” to marketing and donors “belong” to development. It’s true that one department or the other may advance a patron relationship at each stage of its evolution. However, both departments aim to deepen patron relationships, despite the difference in their approaches.

Without an upgrade strategy that involves both departments, marketing and development can miss their best opportunities to deepen patron relationships with the organization. Marketing and development may come from two different planets, but they should be empowered to put their unique styles and approaches to work developing patrons from first-time attendees to major donors.


Posted April 16, 2015







Mar12

Donation successes at Ordway Center, Des Moines Performing Arts and Arena Stage


Why Box Office Asks Work

Collaborating cross-departmentally to grow loyalty is essential to long-term revenue growth. However, in many organizations, the box office isn’t integrated into development campaigns. TRG Arts sees development, marketing and the box office as deeply intertwined. A healthy development department depends on marketing to deliver donor-ready patrons. The box office regularly interacts directly with patrons and so can make asks that are both appropriate in the moment and that do a great deal to deepen loyalty. For example, a telefunding follow-up call to a first-time single ticket buyer may push the new patron relationship too far, while an invitation to add on a donation during a purchase may seem more natural.

TRG research shows that no matter the size of the gift, the effects of donating on loyalty and overall lifetime value can be tremendous, turning short-term revenue into long-term opportunity. Most major donors are cultivated from lower giving levels, rather than entering the organization as brand new high-level donors. Given this fact, campaigns where a front-line sales team like the box office asks for a lower-level gift make sense—and also make money.


Posted March 12, 2014







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