TRG Insights

Search or browse our knowledge center for TRG insights and solutions that work for arts and entertainment organizations of all genres and sizes.

Most recent posts:


This post is part of the Customer, Client, Collaborator Series in conjunction with Doug Borwick and ArtsEngaged on developing relationships with both new communities and existing stakeholders through artistic programming, marketing and fundraising, community engagement and public policy. (Cross-post can be found at Engaging Matters.) 

Chris McLeod

As a strategic arts marketing consultant I spend a lot of time speaking with (and oftentimes consoling) arts organizations of all sizes across the country about one thing – building audiences while retaining current ones. Nearly all share the same challenges of trying to reach cross-sections of people who are categorized by everything from neighborhoods, race, culture, and income, to age (those pesky Millennials have proven to be a tricky bunch). What I tell all of them is that in order to reach one group of “whomevers” while retaining another group of “whomevers” you need to start with one thing: Learn what matters to people when they are not sitting in your performance hall.

This is how and where the need to deepen relationships with current stakeholders while building new relationships with new audiences affects what needs to change about the future of how arts organizations do their work. Organizations will need to go from the mindset of “We just need to get them [audiences] here and the work/performance will do the rest” to building relationships based on a deep ongoing understanding of what matters to audiences’ everyday lives, outside of who they are as arts patrons.

Posted May 4, 2016


Karen Gahl-Mills

I had an interesting conversation with a smart colleague today, on the topic of the role of cultural organizations in civic affairs.  We were talking about the current, polarized state of public discourse and what role, if any, arts organizations should play by bringing residents together to celebrate differences and share views.  He asked something simple yet profound – “Yeah, but what if I just want to run my ballet company and dance?  Can’t I just do that?”

His question stuck with me, as it gets to the crux of our agency’s approach to grantmaking and why we think we, as public funders, have the responsibility to address topics of public value and community engagement. 

Posted April 27, 2016


Photo by 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


Amelia Northrup-Simpson

Do you treat arts patrons like customers, clients, or collaborators?

In the first post in this series, Doug Borwick laid out this important question. Let’s re-cap the definitions of each:

  • The exchange with a customer is largely arms-length. We provide something, they buy it. End of story.
  • With a client there is a relationship, but they still come to us for the "product" we create and are selling. We may tailor it to their particular interests but we are in charge of the "supply." 
  • A collaborator is a partner, suggesting mutual benefit and of participation.

If our job as arts managers is to bring artists and audiences together, these definitions become very important. The spectrum from customer to collaborator indicates how deeply we allow the connection to artists to go.

Posted April 20, 2016