arts management
arts management
Dec04

Smart investments drive high returns. Stephen Skrypec outlines three points to consider during the budget planning process for 2019. 


Posted December 4, 2018



Oct24


In Episode 5, Courageous Leadership, Fred and Jill discuss how important it is to align the values of an organization with the way people who carry out the mission of the work. Seeking out feedback is central to this. And, creating a culture where everyone, starting with senior leadership, is accountable for receiving feedback to understand whether they are enriching the lives of the people that their work touches. Courageous leaders help their organizations thrive by engaging in feedback conversations with their staff and patrons and then acting on it.

Posted October 24, 2018



Oct17


In episode 4 of TRG’s Loyalty as a Linchpin series, Fred and Jill break open the employee side of loyalty. They discuss what it takes to build a company culture where you get the most out of everyone on your team. Fred and Jill poke at the challenges of measuring how your people contribute by looking only at financial outcomes and twice-annual performance management reviews. And, what it takes to make the shift to an organization where People Do.

Posted October 17, 2018



Jun19

 
 Eric Nelson
Client Development Officer

I recently rejoined TRG Arts team in the newly created role of Client Engagement Officer (having been on staff previously as a Senior Consultant). Having been a consultant, and now on the Client Development team, gives me a unique perspective on how I can work with I recently rejoined TRG Arts, 
having been a Senior Consultant from 2007 to 2009. In my newly created role, Client Engagement Officer, I strategize with potential, former, and current clients regarding how they can achieve deeper patron engagement and realize greater revenue growth.

Posted June 19, 2018



Jan22

Jill Robinson
President & CEO

At the close of 2017, the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) published a report The Burden of Rising Expenses: The Bottom Line in the Arts. 

The report looked at financial data of over 4,800 US arts organizations between 2013 and 2016, and raised the question "Are organizations bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses?"

Jill's latest essay examines the findings alongside what we see in our work at TRG Arts: sustainability continues to be hard work for arts and cultural organizations. 


Posted January 22, 2018



Jan16

There was a moment during dinner when one of the executives started singing.

 
 David Seals 
Director of Client Development


It often happens, sharing great food and wine together, that we ask our Executive Summit attendees to describe one of the most meaningful (or hilariously bad) arts experiences of their lives. We ask the question because, after a day of data-driven conversation about success metrics, leadership, and management—it’s important to remember why we all got into this business.

We don’t sell widgets. The art is The Why.


Posted January 16, 2018



Dec14


It is the end of another year and time to celebrate the time that has passed and accomplishments that have been made. 2017 has been whirlwind of a yearwith so many highlights that we at TRG Arts will remember for years to come. Check out the highlights and most popular content of 2017 

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • Subscriptions and case studies featuring the success our clients are seeing with this tried-and-true loyalty model continues to inspire conversation.
  • The importance of data hygiene and the notion that “Data doesn’t do. People do,” when making decisions and activating on data analysis is a basic point that still needs our industries attention.
  • The evolution of pricing best practices that move beyond dynamic pricing and moving organizations to think more about demand management.

 

 


Posted December 14, 2017



Jul20

Long Wharf Theatre: 80% increase in new subscriptions in one year

In August 2015, Long Wharf Theatre (LWT) was worried about their subscriptions. Over the last four seasons, they’d seen a 23% decrease in subscription renewals and 8% decrease in new subscriptions. 


Posted July 20, 2017



Jun20

Why do we present art?

It’s crucial that every staff member at an arts organization understand this question. In 2016, we’d undertaken a project to diversify our audiences called “Democratizing Our Stages.” As part of that and in preparation for artistic planning for the 2017-18 season, I did an exercise with our staff that was designed to connect myself and my staff with The Cultch’s “why.” 


Posted June 20, 2017



Jun16

You’ve got a CRM system. You’ve got reports galore. But how can you use data to affect change at your theatre? DataArts has partnered with field experts to create a new series of free online courses teaching essential data skills for arts leaders. In this session, TRG Arts will present a brief preview from Connecting the Dots: Audience Data Essentials, a course they co-created with DataArts. Attendees will leave the session with 4 basic metrics to track at their own theatre, plus ideas about how these courses can serve as a valuable resource for their own learning, or as a professional development tool for their staff. 

Posted June 16, 2017



Mar09

Audience Data Essentials


Announcing a new online course from DataArts and The Results Group for the Arts (TRG Arts)! Would you like to better engage audiences? This course is designed to help arts leaders use data to build loyalty and increase revenue. 

You'll learn about:

  • Types of audience data and data capture techniques 
  • Setting goals and measuring progress with key audience metrics 
  • Segmenting your audience to more effectively engage constituents

 Who should take this course? 

  •  Anyone looking for an introduction to audience data capture and analysis, and audience segmentation. 
  • Arts leaders seeking to increase their comfort with key metrics related to marketing, patron loyalty, and patron revenue generation.

Posted March 9, 2017



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



Dec13

The story of 3 arts organizations


Subscriptions succeed in 2016

Despite widespread reports of the subscription’s decline, these loyalty programs continue to generate a large amount of revenue for performing arts organizations. Knowing what we know about audiences in 2016, what strategies are proven to help the subscription succeed? TRG Arts is proud to bring you the stories of three arts organizations that have defied conventional wisdom by growing subscriptions:

  • The performing arts center with an already-strong subscription base…whose focused campaign has grown new subscription revenue by 36% over the last two years.
  • The theater that was selling more and more small packages each season…which upgraded 20% of their small package subscribers to full packages.
  • The orchestra whose subscriptions had been in decline for years…whose upgrade and renewal rates are now the best they’ve been in recent memory.

Their secret? A simple, radical idea: when you commit to selling subscriptions, arts lovers will subscribe.


Posted December 13, 2016



Dec05

Photo by Corey Balazowich (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In 2015, the consulting firm Oliver Wyman released a research study in partnership with the League of American Orchestras that grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go. The central question of their work: is the existing subscription model for symphony orchestras still viable? In the age of Netflix, Amazon, and Uber, does it need a small tweak, a substantial jump start, or a complete-and-total-tear-down-and-rebuild to remain a worthwhile offering?

The study illuminated a few key findings for the orchestra sector:

  • Subscription audiences are declining, not due to dissatisfaction with their experience, or to competitive forces in entertainment. Instead, they’re losing interest in programming (both how seasons are structured, and with classical music overall), and most of all patrons are dissatisfied with subscription products as they currently exist.

Posted December 5, 2016



Oct18


Your annual fund campaign doesn't have to be business as usual. Get the secrets your peers use to reach results that go beyond expectations, and find out how to easily implement them now! You'll walk away inspired and equipped to raise funds in new, exciting, and engaging ways that will leave your supporters asking what else they can do to help.

TRG Arts is collaborating with Blackbaud Arts and Cultural Group to bring you valuable tips and strategies with our new on-demand webinar series: Ignite. Click through to watch the next video in the series.

Posted October 18, 2016



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



Oct17

David Seals

A few weeks ago, Ben Cameron led an online workshop with TRG Arts for arts executives from around the world. In it, he dropped this truth bomb: "Positive financial results give you artistic freedom... Manage with excellence so you can program with courage."

His statement unearths a profound disconnect about fueling change in the arts industry—we want to see change without paying for it. If we’re not careful, the car will stall out, pointed in the right direction, out of gas.


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



Sep13

This post is cross-posted on the National Center for Arts Research blog.

 Jill Robinson, 
President & CEO, TRG Arts

 “How do we stack up?”

Everyone is curious about how their arts organization compares with others like them. There’s really not been a good place to find that information, though.

Until now.

Recently, our partners at the National Center for Arts Research launched the NCAR Dashboard. It uses data from DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) to explore how organizations from a variety of sizes and artistic disciplines perform on a variety of standardized financial and operational indicators, called KIPI’s. Even better, it allows you to compare your organization to others in its own size category and artistic genre.


Posted September 13, 2016



Aug23


Photo: Chris Devers via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cue the Dies Irae—it’s August. This time of year brings single ticket on-sale day for many performing arts organizations, also known as the day of reckoning. Do the titles that your organization programmed actually resonate with your community? Your single ticket sales will tell you loud and clear.

It’s extremely difficult to program a “perfect” season. Lots of factors play into artistic programming decisions. We have identified nine for our upcoming online workshop on data-driven artistic planning:

  • Artistic or program availability
  • Time of year (holiday, renewal season, etc)
  • Artistic director’s/curator’s vision
  • Requests from donors/board
  • Artistic needs for the ensemble
  • Audience opinion
  • Commercial appeal/demand
  • Community engagement potential
  • Appeal to specific demographic segment
  • And, of course, mission

Posted August 23, 2016



Jul25

 Keri Mesropov, 
VP of Client Services, TRG Arts

ALERT: Arts administrators in your area have been overtaken by a new obsession. Believed to be a relative of the mania induced by Pokémon Go, symptoms include an insatiable desire to find brand new patrons for your organization.

If you’re not obsessed with new audiences, you are really behind the trend. You’re missing out on spending hours and big bucks curating and searching for those you don’t have and yet, want with delirious desire. Some might judge you in quiet. To you, I say:

Good. Bravo. Standing O. You may be on to something.

Yes, we will always need new people to buy tickets to our art in order to ask them back and ask them to commit more through a membership, a subscription and one day, a philanthropic donation. It’s the evolution of an arts patron.

But, before we go spending beyond our means to find new fish for our pond, let’s explore a few facts.


Posted July 25, 2016



Jul18

We think of legacy as something finite—the thing, within measure and boundary, that someone leaves behind.

Sometimes it is—a building, a cherished heirloom, a constellation of memories.

And sometimes, among the things that are left behind is a seed, small but powerful.

In the case of our founder and friend Rick Lester, his legacy feels less finite, more expansive. It’s impossible to believe that this month marks three years since he passed unexpectedly while riding the Courage Classic in to support Denver’s Children’s Hospital in the mountains of Colorado. Yet, he started a company that continues to innovate and grow beyond what he’d built. And he’s left more than an office and group of inspired, intellectually curious people.

He also left us a seed.


Posted July 18, 2016



Jul14

This is the second in a series of two blog posts by TRG and Spektrix, where we examine the role that the box office plays in retaining patrons and providing great service. This series goes beyond discussing ticket sales and focuses on the four key elements of any successful modern box offices; proper data capture, enhancing the customer experience, playing an active role in retaining existing customers, and upgrading customer purchases to increase basket size or organizational investment.

In the last post, we covered the basic actions that will help you lay the foundation for your organization’s new strategies. In this post we’ll cover some more advanced tactics.


Posted July 14, 2016



Jul11

Annual fund success: more donors, bigger gifts, more often

41% increase in annual fund upgrades

 

Photo by Taylor Ford
When Kansas City Repertory Theatre began its Capacity Building Consulting partnership with TRG Arts in January 2014, increasing patron revenue, both earned and contributed, was the top priority.

TRG conducted an initial Baseline Assessment, which analyzed patron, pricing, and revenue data to identify key issues at KC Rep. Among them were aligning resources with revenue opportunities and focusing on building loyalty in addition to prospecting. The assessment identified the annual fund as an opportunity for growth. After a large influx of new lower-level donors in the 2011-12 season due to a one-time experiment with telefunding, donors and revenue had dropped off and stayed flat.


Posted July 11, 2016



Jun27

Record-breaking Nutcracker: $1.3 million increase in two years, breaking $8 million for the first time

 

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

“What’s the big deal about a ballet company having a successful Nutcracker?” you may be asking yourself. “We all know that holiday programming practically sells itself.”

It’s true that holiday programming attracts a large audience and has huge revenue potential. It also means that the stakes are high. Holiday events often make or break an organization’s revenue budget. In many cases, holiday programming can account for over 50% of annual earned income so even a one percent achievement over goalor an equally “small” misscan add up to big dollars.


Posted June 27, 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



Jun14

Turn up the heat on the holidays


Forget about Independence Day. Start thinking about Black Friday.

If not, you could be missing out on your biggest opportunity of next season.

The holiday season starts NOW for arts managers. Don’t let the heat of summer lull you into thinking holiday shows sell themselves—there’s a lot to do. It’s time to dust off and refresh your marketing plan for The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, your holiday concert, or whatever hot ticket event you have this December.

In this free one-hour webinar you’ll hear from arts marketers like you who have maximized their holiday programming and gone on to break revenue records. Just when these arts administrators thought their perennial programming couldn’t garner any more, new highs were reached. These experts as well as the consultants from TRG will share the newest best practices for turning up the heat on the holidays.


Posted June 14, 2016



Jun08

In the National Center for Arts Research’s Edition 3 report on the health of the U.S. arts and cultural sector, we include insights on trends as well as updates on seven performance indices key to assessing organizational health, all related to earned revenue, marketing and participation. If we look across two of these indices – Response to Marketing and People per Offering – together they tell a story about supply, demand, and the tension between marketing and engagement. 

Response to Marketing

Overall, marketing expenses per attendee trended upward over time but the rate of increase fell just shy of the rate of inflation.  This means that the average organization spent nearly the same on marketing to attract each attendee in 2013 as in 2010 in inflation-adjusted figures. A closer examination, however, reveals different realities for different arts and cultural sectors.


Posted June 8, 2016



Jun02

This is a co-authored piece by Spektrix and TRG Arts.

Does your organization need a box office anymore?

Well, yes. But the question is understandable.

Certainly the roles and responsibilities of box office staff have changed. As more patrons elect to buy online, the box office has evolved. Staff are no longer just order takers, but frontline for fundraising, marketing, sales and customer experience.

This shift has come at a time when there’s more data than ever about customers and their activities. Organizations are using data about customers to provide personalized service and more patrons hold this as an expectation. Some organizations (Seattle Repertory Theatre and Phoenix Theatre, for example) have even embraced patron services office models, where staff manage portfolios of customers, giving everyone a personal concierge experience.


Posted June 2, 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



Mar07

Photo: Marlon Malabanan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If your work involves promoting the next performance or production, you already know there’s never a shortage of things you can do or places to advertise. However, no matter how hard we work, we’re limited by staff time and our own budget. So how we spend that time and budget matters.

When you’re facing a long list of tasks or advertising opportunities, your first instinct might be to prioritize the list in order of urgency and importance. However, this approach assumes that everything on your list is worth doing. I recommend dividing your list into two: a to-do list and a “stop doing” list.


Posted March 7, 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



Jan06

Single tickets up 59%, gifts up 125%

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC) was stable throughout the recession. However, the company saw a dip in patron-generated revenue in the 2011–12 season, attributed to changes in their entertainment landscape, including the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets. With flat annual fund donations and declining single tickets and subscriptions, Royal MTC prioritized reversing patron decline and revenue losses.

Royal MTC relied heavily on their subscriber base, which was one of the largest among Canadian regional theatres. Even with strong renewal rates, subscriber decline is inevitable without strong campaigns to attract new subscribers. In Royal MTC’s case, the subscriber audience far outweighed the single ticket audience, which meant they often did not have the sheer number of leads necessary to fuel successful subscriber acquisition campaigns. That, coupled with a low volume of individual donors, created a patron loyalty challenge at Royal MTC.


Posted January 6, 2016



Dec16

Like most people who work at TRG, I love data. One of my favorite activities near the end of the year is to open up Google Analytics and see which blog posts, case studies, and other content were most popular with our readers.

The top content from our blog reflects the topics which we see getting the most attention in our industry today. Some topline observations:

  • The topic of subscription and the evolution of the arts business model continues to inspire research and dialogue.
  • We see more interest every day in data and how arts professionals can use it to make decisions.
  • We’re hearing and thinking more about the relationship between marketing and other departments and how organizations can build patron loyalty collaboratively.
  • The topic of pricing and its impact on patrons seemed to be more often discussed this year as organizations balance revenue and accessibility.

Find below the eight most-read insights from TRG this year. We thank you, our readers, for continuing to read, share and respond to our content this year!


Posted December 16, 2015



Dec02

Photo: Some rights reserved by Troy B Thompson

Two months ago, Jill Robinson and Amelia Nothrup-Simpson of TRG Arts and I (OK: the commercial–of ArtsEngaged) began exploring the fact that almost every important facet of arts administration is (or should be) rooted in developing and maintaining relationships with external constituencies, what I would call “communities.” This post brings that series to a close. However, see the note at the end about what the future holds.

In the meantime, the following is an excerpt from my second book, Engage Now! A Guide to Making the Arts Indispensable that can serve as a benediction for the series.


Posted December 2, 2015



Nov18

Photo: opensource.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I recently delivered a keynote at the Conferencia Anual de Marketing de las Artes (Annual Conference on Marketing the Arts) in Madrid and Barcelona, hosted by Spanish consulting firm Asimetrica. The focus of this year’s convening was “Cambio de Mentalidad,” about changing mentalities about marketing, and audiences, in the arts. Speakers were from many countries, and had many different perspectives. But one that arose consistently was a fixation that arts managers from all over the world shared.

They were obsessed with new audiences.


Posted November 18, 2015



Nov11

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

Photo: Some rights reserved by J B Foster

Can’t wait to see where I’m going with this, can you?

As I understand it, fracking is a technique to get at hydrocarbon reserves that have been untapped by traditional extraction methods. My concern in this post is not with any environmental hazards of fracking but with the potential to get more out of something by using new methods. The old approaches left a lot of oil (etc.) in the ground, apparently.

Over the last few years I’ve come to understand that traditional, self-focused arts marketing efforts are only successful in reaching those who know they want to be reached. (“Getting the word out” is only effective in reaching those waiting to hear it.) My principal woodshed tutor has been Trevor O’Donnell (Marketing the Arts to Death), but he is not alone. What I have learned is that more consumer-centered marketing can reach people who are not waiting for the word. There are more out there who might buy tickets if it were demonstrated to them that doing so might be uplifting, enjoyable, even–dare we say it?–entertaining.


Posted November 11, 2015



Nov04

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: Dean Hochman (CC BY 2.0)

A year or two ago a mentor introduced me to the concept of “polarity management.” It sounds like just another business buzzword, but—stick with me—it gave a name to something that I and many of us have experienced and struggled with.

The concept is this: every challenge you encounter, in business and in life, is either:

- a problem you need to solve, or

- an ongoing “polarity” you need to manage well

A polarity is made up of two interdependent factors that are at odds with each other. While a problem has a correct solution or a set of independent solutions, a polarity is an ongoing challenge where you will need to continuously address and manage both solutions.


Posted November 4, 2015



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



Oct14

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

Photo: Some rights reserved by greeblie

This is part of a series of blog posts in conjunction with TRG Arts on the interrelationships among marketing, development, fundraising, and community engagement. The point of the series is that they are all rooted in relationship building and maintenance.

Today we’re talking about definitions. Oh great! But if all of these things are related, we’ve got to be able to understand how they are similar and how they differ. That’s what definitions are for. Plus, what can you expect from someone who spent three decades as a college professor? And that is actually a critical point.

I am not nor have I ever been an on-the-ground professional in marketing or fundraising. Being aware of that, my level of humility in talking about these subjects is very high. What I do have experience in is analyzing words, differentiating among related concepts, and crafting definitions that clarify them. That requires theoretical thinking time–a luxury not available to the people doing the “real work” in the trenches.


Posted October 14, 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



Oct08

This guest post by Zannie Voss of the National Center for Arts Research is cross-posted to the NCAR blog.

There is a conversation growing nationally around data-informed decision-making in arts and cultural organizations. The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) stands firmly in the belief that using data to inform managerial decisions is a critical factor in the sustainability and transformation of the arts and cultural field as a whole. It isn’t about data for the sake of data, it’s about the end-goal of healthier organizations that have stable and expanded resources to dedicate to pursuit of mission. TRG, one of NCAR’s partners, has been a leading advocate for this type of analysis for many years and the organizations TRG serves have benefitted as a result.

There is no “one size fits all” performance measure. Instead, metrics for organizational health are as varied as the field itself. So this begs the question: What are the metrics that matter?


Posted October 8, 2015



Oct06

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

By “them,” we mean your patrons. When we consider how arts organizations lose patrons, it’s not the long-time, committed patrons that are most likely to leave. Your most at-risk patrons are those new audience members and visitors that you worked so hard to attract in the first place. TRG’s Director of Consulting Jim DeGood explains how to measure your risk:

Measure What Matters: 6 Metrics Arts Leaders Should Track

Metric #4: New audience churn rate

Churn. Attrition. Turnover. Call it what you will; the fact is, you’re losing new patrons. With few exceptions, arts organization over-prospect for new audiences and under-retain them. In this video, Jim DeGood of TRG Arts explains why retention matters, how to measure your risk, and a simple 4-step process for retention that you can implement at your own organization.


Posted October 6, 2015



Sep30

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

Photo: Some rights reserved by Mark Cartwright

Three years ago I published a post titled The Farmer and the Cowman in which I acknowledged an epiphany about the relationship between arts marketing and community engagement. In the past six months I have, on several occasions, been re-confronted with the truth of their close relationship (when both are being done well). This was really driven home to me in the highly flattering (and most embarrassing) post written by Trevor O’Donnell Taking a Cheap Shot at Community Engagement.

In April I met with Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts and we began hatching a plot. Beginning with some cross-posting on our blogs we would explore the relationships between our respective areas of expertise. This post is my introduction to that effort.


Posted September 30, 2015



Sep29

This is the third 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 #3: Data capture rate

If we want to cultivate an arts patron, we’ve got to know their history with our organization first. That starts by collecting their contact information. In this video, David Seals of TRG Arts explains why capturing contact information can mean serious revenue gain—or lost opportunity. He’ll also review what contact information you should collect and tips for collecting it at the point of sale.


Posted September 29, 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



Sep22

This is the second 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 #2: Active patron participation

Active patrons are the patrons an arts organization serves today. But will they still be there tomorrow? It depends on how YOU cultivate them.

In this video, Jill Robinson of TRG Arts discusses how and why to measure active patron participation at performing arts organizations and museums. She also explains the concept of an “upgrade”—the next step for every patron to grow their loyalty.


Posted September 22, 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



Sep11


 Photo by Gavin Brogan (CC BY 2.0)

There are a lot of metrics that an arts organization could track in an effort to be successful and sustainable. With today’s robust CRM systems, there’s no shortage of data on arts patrons and their buying and donating behavior.

The truth is, what gets measured gets managed.

When you decide to track a metric and make changes in your work to move that number up or down, you’re giving that metric power. That means your organization sets its priorities as an institution by what you collectively decide  to measure.


Posted September 11, 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



Jul28



 Stephen Skrypec
Head of Sales and Marketing
New Wolsey Theatre
Lindsay Anderson
VP of Client Development
TRG Arts

“Our patrons won’t pay that…”

“Everyone wants to sit in this section…”

Our assumptions about what our audiences will and won’t want or do can stop us from pricing to optimize revenue for our organizations. But we don’t really know until we look at the data. Ignoring what patron data tells us about pricing can lead arts organizations to leave money on the table—money that could be sustaining their mission.

At The New Wolsey Theatre in the U.K., small changes to pricing strategy resulted in big revenue increases. In just nine months, the company reported a 31% increase in box office gross—without selling more tickets. In this free webinar, New Wolsey’s Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec and TRG’s VP of Client Development Lindsay Anderson shared how the theatre updated daily practices and challenged prior assumptions about audiences, leading to their success. Learn how arts organizations, whether in the U.S., U.K., or elsewhere, can use pricing to drive patron behavior and revenue.

Click through to read more and view the video.


Posted July 28, 2015



Jul06

31% one-season increase in box office gross

Photo by Mike Kwasniak.

In 2014, the New Wolsey Theatre was re-examining its financial picture, focusing on its earned vs. contributed income streams. Like many theatres in the United Kingdom, government funding still accounted for a significant proportion of their revenue. Over the three years prior, they had received moderate funding cuts totaling approximately £50,000 (around $79,000 U.S.).

 

Located in Ipswich, Great Britain, the midsized regional theatre produces a spring and autumn season, as well as a Christmas show, with a mixture of both home produced and touring product. Many of the productions were selling well, which left Head of Sales and Marketing Stephen Skrypec wondering what the theatre could do to grow earned income.

 

Stephen: We’d become as efficient as we could in the rest of the business; the only place to reduce spending was in artistic and we really didn’t want to do that. For earned revenue, I had done standard things I felt I could do—making sure there were more tickets available at the top price and making sure every single seat was sold when it could be sold. I’d gotten to the point where I’d done all I thought I could do to maximize revenue. What do I do now?


Posted July 6, 2015



Jun18

Humana Festival audienceMany organizations track data on pricing, audience retention, and audience response to different types of artistic programming. But what happens when an organization looks at these categories together, holistically? That’s what Actors Theatre of Louisville did. What they found led them to begin to manage demand, cultivate audiences, and approach the strategic planning process in a completely new ways.

This is a story about how data can re-focus an organization around audiences, and how Actors Theatre of Louisville is acting on that data. Managing Director Jennifer Bielstein and ‎Jim DeGood of TRG Arts gave this presentation at the 2015 Theatre Communications Group, detailing how Actors Theatre of Louisville has translated data findings into a plan, how leadership is re-aligning around data and audience loyalty, and some initial results from their efforts.


Posted June 18, 2015



Jun17

This is the first in a series of posts 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 artistic programming on patron loyalty.

Image by Tnarik Innael (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you had three months off from your job to research anything about the arts management field, what topic would you choose? It’s a fun question to think about, and I am fortunate enough to have this opportunity.   

I am privileged to have been chosen as a Virginia G. Piper Fellow just a few short months ago and subsequently as a concurrent fellow with TRG Arts, with a focus on researching the link between artistic programming and patron loyalty.  The Virginia G. Piper Trust “acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities to retool, refresh, and renew to senior leaders who have been in their roles for 10 or more years.” The fellowship allows non-profit executives, who spend much of their career invested in training staff, time away on sabbatical to invest in their own learning and development, in the hopes that they can bring that knowledge back to the organizations they lead.  TRG has been similarly dedicated for years to training leaders of non-profit arts organizations with emphasis on advancing the field, and has started a fellowship program to spotlight the research I’ll be doing. 

I have been in non-profit management for 17 years, having left the production side of the business because I wanted to be part of something much larger than myself.  It has been a humbling and exciting experience to work with such talented artists and administrators alike.  After a long tenure as general manager of Phoenix Theatre, I was thrust into my post as managing director in 2011 at the height of the economic crisis. I had to find a path forward for our organization.  Like many, we were swimming in a sea of red ink while at the height of a multi-million dollar capital campaign to build a new theatre. The project had started before the recession hit, but was too far along to back out without setting the organization back two decades.  I knew cutting our way to financial success was never going to work.  Previous leadership had already tried that approach and, as we figured out, you can only cut so far.  My gut instinct told me to “lean in” during the “bad” years, so I evaluated our situation and what needed to happen to swim upstream of the crisis and get ahead. 


Posted June 17, 2015



May13

Loyalty, Collaboration, and Community in Philadelphia

Wednesday, May 13 at 2 EDT/11 PDT


You may know the buying and donating patterns of your own audience. But do you know how they engage with the other arts organizations in your community? And does that mean you’re in competition with them or have opportunities to collaborate?

Seventeen arts and cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area set out to find the answers to those very questions. The study they commissioned investigated the buying and donating behavior of nearly 1 million arts audience and visitor households over seven years, with interesting findings about community engagement and audience loyalty. Researchers profiled how loyal patrons were to each individual organization and tracked patterns of loyalty across the community.

Click through to read more and view the video.


Posted May 13, 2015



May08

"Loyalty takes time." That was the key point that Jill Robinson, President & CEO of TRG Arts, put forth in a discussion of young donors at the 2015 Opera America Conference in Washington, DC. The panel's premise was that, with opera audiences growing older, companies must focus their attention on new generations of support. While development departments may have mastered the appeal to traditionalists and baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials are looking for something else. Attendees at this standing-room only session learned what the data says about these patrons, what matters to next gen donors, and how opera companies can engage them. 


Posted May 8, 2015



May05

Photo by opensource.com (CC BY 2.0)

At the beginning of this year, the NEA came out with a report on why people attend the arts. This study struck a chord with me, because it momentarily put aside the question of whether arts attendance is growing or shrinking and instead focuses on why people actually come to the arts in the first place. The study found that 83% of arts participants value “being devoted and loyal.” This aligns with TRG’s own research, which suggests that it’s no longer enough to know whether you're hitting attendance goals. The question has evolved from "Are audiences growing?" to "Are audiences growing more loyal?"

The NEA report suggests some ways to overcome barriers to arts participation, among them community engagement. Decision makers and funders in our field seem to be thinking more in recent years about what makes an arts community healthy, and how to measure engagement across communities.

We recently did a study with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance which studied how audiences interact with different arts organizations across a community. (Full study here.) Spanning 7 years and studying nearly 1 million arts audience households from 17 arts and cultural institutions, this study looked in-depth at loyalty within organizations and engagement across the community.


Posted May 5, 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



Apr24

Photo by Sheila Sund (CC BY 2.0)
Do you thrive on structure and planning? Or relish the more spontaneous aspects of your work? These opposing principles were the focus of a session entitled "Chaos, Order, and Innovation" at the 2015 Colorado Creative Industries Summit in Fort Collins, CO. Being a successful arts entrepreneur means balancing a dedication to strategic planning with a matched excitement for improvising and deviating from traditional structure.  Amelia Northrup-Simpson of TRG Arts and Laura Kakolewski of Americans for the Arts led a workshop session exploring what it means to live with some ratio of order-to-chaos in our work, how we react to complexity and ambiguity, and how improvisation and iteration can lead to innovation.


Posted April 24, 2015



Apr01


Photo by Hsing Wei (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Data isn’t about numbers. It’s about people. When analyzed, data tells stories about people and their actions. Right now, in your database, a story exists about the decisions that people in your organization make. And, a story exists for every patron, which chronicles their relationship with your organization.

Having all those stories recorded in your database means that you don’t have to guess at what patrons are doing, or the impact that your decisions have made. TRG started as a consulting firm committed to building sustainable patron revenue for arts and cultural institutions. In order to get results for our clients, we found that we had to stop guessing at the right strategies and start using data to drive our counsel, which was a novel concept back in the ‘90’s.

In order to tell an accurate and truthful story, the data that you have must be complete and clean. At the organizational level, you may find it challenging to collect, manage, and effectively apply transactional data. Within the past twelve months we’ve found ourselves in conversations with the Cultural Data Project, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Center for Arts Research, and a host of other research and CRM vendors who perform data analytics services. In our conversations all parties acknowledged that, while challenges exist, effective data management is both achievable and is rising in organizational value. 


Posted April 1, 2015



Mar30


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

TRG's President & CEO Jill Robinson presented during TCG's Audience (R)Evolution in Kansas City on why research indicates that subscriptions still sustain arts organizations.

Watch it here. (Fourth video on the page.)

Audience (R)Evolution is a multi-year program designed by Theatre Communications Group and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to study, promote and support successful audience engagement and community development models across the country. This initiative, now moving into its second round of activity, encompasses four phases: research and assessment; convenings; grantmaking; and widespread dissemination of audience engagement models that work.


Posted March 30, 2015



Mar18

11% per capita revenue increase



The Allen Elizabethan Theatre. Featured is the set of
OSF’s 2013 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
In 2011, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) faced a crisis. During a performance of Measure for Measure in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, staff members heard an odd noise. They discovered a large crack one of the main ceiling beams in the theatre. As a result, the Angus Bowmer Theatre, one of OSF’s three venues, had to close for repair just as summer (the most in-demand time at the festival) was beginning. The marketing team decided to refund tickets if patrons did not want to attend shows in the other venues, as a part of OSF’s ongoing commitment to excellent customer service. The refunds contributed to a 27% drop in single ticket units and an 8% drop in overall admission revenue.

“Throughout the crisis, customer experience was our main concern. We based virtually every decision we made on how it would affect our patrons’ long-term relationship with OSF,” Mallory Pierce, OSF’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said.

Historically, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was financially and organizationally strong. Sound budgeting and fiscal management procedures combined with generally strong attendance enabled the organization to grow even during the Great Recession with performances regularly sold at greater than 80% capacity.

Posted March 18, 2015



Mar06


Photo by bixentro (CC BY 2.0)

This season at Dallas Theater Center (DTC), a great love story unfolded; however, it was not presented on the stage. During a recent TRG Executive Summit, Managing Director Heather Kitchen shared a tale of romance which both inspired and invoked a bit of envy from the other participants. It was the story of her data manager and the two departments that loved her.

How was this data manager able to make such an impact on DTC? She is part of a larger organizational culture that believes in data and its power as an enabler. Once everyone in the organization is aligned around the need for quality patron data the real work can begin. The next question is: what can leaders DO to enable successful data-driven Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and precision targeted marketing in their organizations? In the Summit, we usually talk through an assortment of enablers, but consistently the topic of having a dedicated data manager leads to the liveliest discussions.

When we got to that point in this past Summit, Heather raised her hand. With a big smile on her face.


Posted March 6, 2015



Feb23

Number of annual fund gifts up 51%, revenue up 28%


Addison (LeRoy McClain, left) clashes with his brother
Frank (Shane Taylor) over their family’s future as their
aunt Dorcas (Stephanie Berry) intervenes in the
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s world premiere
production of Safe House by playwright and
Cincinnati native Keith Josef Adkins. 
Photo by Sandy Underwood.
By the end of the 2011-2012 season, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park had been slowly losing audiences for the last seven years. Although revenue had grown by 12%, admissions were down 18%.  

Believing patrons preferred more flexibility than a fixed seat subscription package offers, the Playhouse had expanded their focus on selling more Build Your Own (BYO) subscriptions and prospecting for new single ticket buyers. The BYO subscriptions were popular, but subscribers renewed at much lower rates. Total subscription units had dropped 30% since the 2008-09 season.

In turn, subscription declines had diminished the number of patrons likely to give to the annual fund. Declines in loyalty contributed to a 21% decline in donors who gave under $2,500 over the last five years. Although overall annual fund revenue was only down 1.7%, overall donor households had declined by 19%.

Posted February 23, 2015



Feb13

Why subscriptions still sustain the arts and ways to rescue your subscription program 



President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Thanks to everyone who attended this webinar. Click through to view slides and the recording.

Let’s face it; the subscription has been uncool for years. While disruptive technologies and changing arts consumer behavior have transformed the way arts managers see their business model, the subscription has declined and stagnated. “Subscriptions are dead” is now conventional wisdom in our industry. 

But, if subscriptions were truly dead, wouldn’t they have just disappeared by now? Inconveniently, subscriptions incentivize loyalty and provide sustainable revenue that's difficult to find elsewhere in any audience-centered business model. Many organizations that have tried to innovate in this area have found themselves in a state of subscription emergency. 


Posted February 13, 2015



Jan22

New research reveals key data for developing museum and performing arts audiences

Produced by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance with support from TRG Arts

 

2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the NumbersThe 2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the Numbers examines the financial transactions (including ticket sales, memberships and donations) of almost a million Greater Philadelphia households, using seven years of data from 17 major cultural attractions in the region. One of the key findings of the report is that, despite the sector’s focus on developing new audiences, the erosion of current audience loyalty represents one of the most significant financial risks for cultural groups. 

The study found that less than 3% of patrons generated over 62% of total patron revenue. However, spending by this small but powerful group of patrons declined 12% throughout the study, driven by a decline in primarily donor activity/revenue.

“While expanding audiences remains critical for the long term,” said Cultural Alliance Vice President John McInerney, “Retention and engagement of current audiences may be the most important strategy for an organization’s bottom line.”


Posted January 22, 2015



Nov20

Tuesday, November 18 at 2 EDT/11 PDT

Edit: Thanks to everyone who attended this chat! Click through to read the transcript.


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Let’s talk turkey! Does your audience development strategy promote loyalty? The best loyalty programs go beyond just offering subscriptions or memberships. They consider each patron’s right next step to further their relationship to the organization.

Learn how industry colleagues are developing loyalty at their organizations and get re-inspired about your own loyalty strategy. In this hour-long Twitter chat with President & CEO Jill Robinson (@jrobinsontrg) and moderator Amelia Northrup-Simpson (@TRGArts), we'll discuss topics like subscriptions and memberships, the loyalty business model, and how to cultivate patrons from newcomer to advocate. Bring your own favorite audience development ideas and burning questions to share!


Posted November 20, 2014



Nov04

Two months ago, I watched this TED talk by Dan Pallotta and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

The back story is this: Pallotta's AIDS and breast cancer walks raised $581 million dollars for those causes quickly, in large part because he used a sizable portion (40%) of their income to advertise for and invest in the event to make it an amazing experience for participants. Because of the percentage of the income he spent on these administrative costs, he was virtually crucified in the media. At the same time, investing in those things is what allowed him to raise so much money for those causes in the first place. In his TED talk and two books (here and here) on nonprofit administration, Pallotta questions the way we think about administration and overhead costs for nonprofits.

Pallotta’s experience was with health and human services organizations, but it parallels and exposes the way we in the arts think about spending and income. The attitudes we have about mission vs. administrative expenses are pervasive… among donors, nonprofit industry teachers and experts—even among the artists themselves.

And, Pallotta argues, those attitudes can undermine the causes these organizations stand for.


Posted November 4, 2014



Oct24


Senior Consultant
Anita Hansen
Today's database, ticketing, and CRM systems can tell administrators nearly everything they could possibly want to know about patrons. More data isn't necessarily helpful, though. Studying everything can distract administrators from the metrics on which they need to focus to grow audiences and revenue. 


In this 90-minute intensive presented at the 2014 Arts Reach National Arts Marketing, Development & Ticketing Conference, Anita Hansen explained how organizations can stop studying every metric and focus on the most critical indicators of growth and sustainability. You’ll learn how to find TRG's five most actionable Thrive Metrics in your own data, what they say about your organization’s health, and how to act on the data to engage and cultivate patrons.


Posted October 24, 2014



Oct09

heart made from two pound notes
Photo by Rob Jewitt via flickr

I recently started teaching a graduate-level arts marketing course. When I was first handed the materials from the last time the course was offered, I immediately began sorting through to determine what would be useful to students learning the basics of arts marketing.

Something was missing, though. The only time the previous class had addressed money was toward the end of the course to discuss budgeting.

While managing a budget is an important skill, the role of revenue is a much larger part of an arts marketer’s job.

The way I see it, an arts marketer has two basic objectives:

Objective #1: Bring the arts and audiences together

Objective #2: Take responsibility for marketing revenue goals


Posted October 9, 2014



Aug21


Image by Bart Everson via flickr
under CC BY 2.0

Earlier this summer, TRG convened a two-day meeting of chief arts executives here in Colorado Springs. In our session we discussed the importance of alignment between artistic leadership, executive leadership, and the board if an organization is to develop sustainable revenues from patrons.

Before the organization makes a strategic plan or begins implementing it, leadership must be on the same page about the current realities their organization faces. There are many factors that can affect the organization’s ease in sustaining itself, including:

  • Art form: Realities in presenting chamber music are different than those in commercial Broadway.
  • Market: Birmingham, AL is a different community than San Francisco or Vail, CO.
  • Current operational practices: Are they the practices required in 2014?
  • Current patron behavior: How loyal are patrons today?  How do they respond to programming initiatives, and WHO responds?
  • Programming and venues: The “what” and the “where” that may pique audience interest—or deter them.

One participant in our session looked at the list and asked a provocative question. “Where’s mission?”

Her question sparked my interest. What exactly is the role of mission when it comes to an organization’s sustainability?


Posted August 21, 2014



Jun19

Love the ones you're with--opportunity lies with existing patronsWhat happens when data analysis shows that some things you’re doing really well are also impeding future success? If you’re the Guthrie Theater looking at TRG’s loyalty and root cause analysis, you galvanize your whole team around keeping patrons and growing their ongoing support. In this workshop, TRG’s President & CEO Jill Robinson shared the metrics and patron behavior findings that alerted Guthrie and informed change. Trish Kirk, Guthrie’s Director of Marketing & Audience Development, described choices, actions, and new practices Guthrie has undertaken. Learn from Guthrie's experience how putting patron loyalty first can help sustain your theater. 

Posted June 19, 2014



Jun05


President & CEO
Jill Robinson

Every organization has critical and very accessible database information that provides indicators of growth and sustainability. Jill Robinson, President and CEO of TRG Arts, presented TRG's most actionable Thrive Metrics at ArtsPride New Jersey's Thrive Conference at Princeton University. This presentation will tell you how to find these data points and what the research says about using data to stimulate engagement and nurture relationships with patrons. 

Want more information about the most important metrics you can study? Read Jill's recent blog post, Data that Matters: 3 Metrics to Grow Audience Relationships.


Posted June 5, 2014



Apr02

Photo by Martin Deutsch via flickr
Earlier this month I participated in “Where Next BC: Adapting to Changes in the Arts,” a convening at Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, British Columbia. This change-focused convening was hosted by a dozen funders and supporters of the arts and cultural sector in BC, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Canada Council for the Arts.
 

I found the convening to be both revealing and encouraging in that the discussions were designed to be framed by, as the program read, “humility and honest self-assessment.” 

Change requires honest self-assessment in a frame of personal and professional humility. Whether it’s “innovative,” “adaptive,” or just plain good, old-fashioned CHANGE—it is hard to do well. In most arts organizations, change is even harder to accept, especially when generations of standard ways of operating are challenged.


Posted April 2, 2014



Mar20

To develop donors and cultivate patron love that lasts, you have to start with a visitor’s first paid admission. In this webinar, learn from two decades of arts patron research what it takes to make donors—and keep them. 

With each ticket sale or donation transaction, you gain important information that can help you develop lasting relationships with your patrons. The patron loyalty experts at TRG Arts, a consulting firm, say the process of meeting patrons is like a love story. 

This one-hour webinar with TRG's VP of Strategic Communications Joanne Steller will cover transactions that are turning points in your patron relationships and specific cultivation tactics that will help your donors fall in love with your organization. 

Grab your marketing, ticket office, and development colleagues to watch this informative webinar – because you all have a role to play in building donor relationships.

Posted March 20, 2014



Nov05

Glass half empty or half full?
Photo via flickr

Our live chat last week with the Foundation Center (see transcript) raised an alarming question: In this time of year when patrons are thinking about us, are we thinking about our relationships with them? 

The holidays are just around the corner. Huge numbers of patrons will be seeking tickets for holiday programming and making decisions about yearend giving.

In an ideal world, arts staff teams would already be implementing strategy to forge bonds with the people they’ll interact with during the holiday peak period. One can wish, but there’s too much evidence to suggest that most marketing, development and box office teams aren’t even talking to one another. Everyone’s busy. There’s no time. Two dozen deadlines are looming. The number of reasons for not focusing here is paralyzing.

That’s why the questions we answered in real time during last week’s chat were so provocative. They reiterated the busy state of arts management today and spotlighted a looming loss: 

You’re about to miss what might be your best patron cultivation opportunity all year. 


Posted November 5, 2013



Sep06

TRG Arts has been busy teaching this summer on the road and on the web. We’ve rounded up our most recent insights from last month below, in case you missed anything:

The Art of the Upgrade

President Jill Robinson gave a webinar hosted by Blackbaud last week about increasing patrons’ investment in and loyalty to arts organizations through upgrading.

“The best way to increase loyalty is to ask the patron to take the right next step with you. That’s what we call upgrading,” Jill said. “That right next step is different for each patron. And the right next step is informed by information in your database.”

The most recent version of this webinar is now available here.

Slides from the presentation:
 

Posted September 6, 2013



Aug15

This presentation was given by Anita Hansen of TRG Arts and Charlie Wade, consultant and former director of marketing, Atlanta Symphony at the 2013 Association of California Symphony Orchestras Conference.

Description: 

Talk about a changing universe! What does the future hold if subscriptions are truly a thing of the past? Current thinking postulates that a long-term decline in audience commitment is inevitable. A meteoric shower of “one-time” promotions and discounts – crowdsourcing, Goldstar, Fill-A-Seat, Living Social – has captivated the general public and given us options for filling our venues. But is this solution sustainable? Let’s assess the situation and determine if belief in accepted prevailing societal trends will lead to an ever-downward spiral to obscurity. Identify the “hidden” and unique performance assets you already possess to cultivate patron loyalty and grow participation. Perhaps there’s a way to re-create a winning game with new awareness of how to play.


Posted August 15, 2013



Jul21

This interview with Will Lester was originally published on Matt Lehrman's blog Audience Wanted on Arts Journal.


Vice President of Network
Programs Will Lester
Will Lester is Vice President of Network Programs at TRG Arts, a data-driven consulting firm specializing in pricing and patron loyalty. TRG also has the distinction of managing 20 community data networks throughout the U.S. While the networks began as a way for arts organizations to share lists of patron contact information to cross-promote events, they’re now growing into a robust arts community resource, allowing for research on audience buying patterns, demographics and more.

Posted July 21, 2013



Jun27

Photo via flickr.
Photo via flickr.
What in the heck do the words "audience engagement” mean?  

I recently attended the Theatre Communication Group (TCG) Annual Conference in Dallas, where a major focus of discussion was that very topic. For three days, I listened to panelists, questioned participants, and considered the discussions. I met many bright managers who passionately explained how they are trying to bridge the perceived gap separating potential audiences from their theater companies. I regret to report that no one could offer a concrete definition of the term “audience engagement”.  

It seems to me that two separate meanings and means of measuring success are intertwined in the use of the term:

    • One meaning addresses an organizational need to sell more tickets, as measured by sales volume and earned revenues.  

    • The other is code for addressing organizational or community dissatisfaction with the composition of the audience already in attendance.  Everyone knows we live in a multicultural world. If our audiences are measured as “highly educated, wealthy older white people,” organizational relevance becomes difficult to manage on any level. 

Posted June 27, 2013



May28

Is your organization’s pricing strategy focused only on the cost of admission? Developed in just one department?  This 90-minute workshop, presented at the Arts Reach Canada Conference in May 2013, was designed to show leadership teams how much more there is to consider and to gain. High-impact pricing generates positive perception, improved patron loyalty, and greater revenue for every admission or seat sold.  


Posted May 28, 2013



May22

"Data has changed everything", Rick Lester, CEO of TRG Arts, said in a recent interview with Southern Methodist University's National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). "Data has allowed us to replace guesswork and the customary wisdom of how arts organizations are supposed to function with knowledgewith fact, instead of opinion." 
 

TRG Arts been a consulting partner with NCAR since its launch earlier this year.  Rick also serves as a distinguished visiting professor at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.

 Watch the 2-minute video below and read NCAR's full post here.


Posted May 22, 2013



Apr03

Sharon Gersten Luckman.
Photo by Paul Kolnik.
TRG President Jill Robinson and I recently hosted an online webinar entitled “Make Time to Make Money.”  Our central thesis was the need for arts managers to stop trying to do everything and focus on those strategies that can truly move the institutional needle of success. 

Based on considerable feedback, one of my closing remarks apparently hit a nerve for many participants when I admonished the group to “Be Brave.”  Because organizational and industry needs are so great (and feel more dire with each passing week), insignificant or incremental change simply will not get the job done.

It was in that context that I received an invitation to attend a celebration honoring Sharon Gersten Luckman who is retiring as Executive Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  When reading the invitation, it hit me.  Sharon is the perfect example of what I had in mind when describing bravery on the front lines of arts management.  

Posted April 3, 2013



Nov14

Photo via flickr
The billion dollar campaign that won the presidency on Election Day was the ultimate direct marketing strategy.  The outcome provides part lesson, part forecast about our future in marketing and raising money for the arts.

Big Data is not the future – it is now.  

In 2004, political consultant Joe Trippi reinvented politics by applying a few crazy ideas learned from a consulting gig in Silicon Valley.  Governor Howard Dean used websites and elementary data tools to collect contact information about voters, volunteers and solicited donations on-line. These guys started a revolution.

In 2008, the Obama campaign built a massive database of some 13 million supporters and their email addresses.  When connected with new social media tools and a barrage of emails, then-Senator Obama raised a half a billion dollars from small donations and went on to win his first term in office.

Posted November 14, 2012



 

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