community networks

On August 29, Data Center 2.0 will launch. Based on feedback from superusers during beta testing, here are our top three favorite new features: 

  1. A New Interactive Dashboard: snapshots of your patron data that allows you to quickly manage your campaigns and organizational health.
  2. New Campaigns Module: a better organizational structure to easily monitor all your marketing and fundraising campaigns in one place, with statistics about each list.
  3. New Interface: a modern design with improved navigation and an intuitive user experience, that is now mobile-friendly!    
Over the years, Data Center has helped organizations like New York City Ballet, Delaware Theatre Company, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra attain their marketing and fundraising goals. 

Posted August 14, 2018


What happens when communities come together around data? As membership leaders consider how to best attract new visitors and members, information on how the wider community engages with arts and cultural organizations becomes particularly relevant. Learn how leaders in the membership field leverage shared data to find the highest-ROI prospects an how trading patron data makes the entire arts ecosystem stronger. Presented originally at the 2017 American Museum Membership Conference, join experts from Jazz at Lincoln Center, MOHAI, and TRG Arts to discuss and discover the power of community data. 

Posted November 15, 2017


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


Photo by (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


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


TRG direct marketing tools find new prospects, 

track response for blockbuster mail campaign

The situation:

Becoming Van Gogh at Denver Art MuseumIn October 2012, Denver Art Museum (DAM) opened Becoming Van Gogh for a limited run in Denver only. The exhibit brought together for the first time various works by Van Gogh and those artists who influenced him. With such a unique exhibit and popular subject matter, the staff of DAM knew that the exhibit would be a smash hit.

Molly Wink, Director of Membership & Amenities, was especially interested in leveraging the would-be success of this exhibit and the consequent influx of new patrons into lasting patron relationships, especially via her direct mail campaign.

Posted September 18, 2013


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


Two decades of arts consumer study has led the consulting firm TRG Arts to conclude that 2013 is the year choral organizations must frame their marketing efforts around The Patron. Knowing who buys your tickets and subscribe and contributes, when and how much is the best way to inform how you package, price, and promote your programs.  The best part: it’s a matter of focus. Every organization can use the information and skills they have to market better.  In this three-hour workshop presented at the 2013 Chorus America conference, Joanne Steller and Amelia Northrup-Simpson shared best marketing practices that are patron-based, time-proven and updated for the digital age. You’ll learn strategic ideas on building lasting loyalty and revenue that can sustain your organization.

Posted June 20, 2013


Picture yourself as a master gardener in the arts and entertainment flower mart. Imagine a place where you can go to do what you do so well – even better.

Our friends at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council this week provided a five-minute realization of this imagery. It comes in a delightful, insightful video by David Seals and Monica Meinert of the Council’s Loud and Clear Productions.

Posted May 8, 2012


In 2012, TRG bloggers are taking a fresh look at data and trends that inform risks worth taking, best practices worth hanging onto, and assumptions worth challenging – each in time for action to be taken.
Competition for patron’s dollars is a subject that’s back in the industry dialog again, sometimes with negative overtones. Can we really still think that sharing a marketplace with other successful arts and entertainment organizations is a bad thing? Even with foundations willing to invest in collaborations? I find that disturbing, especially in view of the opportunities being mined daily by members of community collaborations nationwide.

Posted February 13, 2012


A collection of TRG's presentations from the 2011 NAMP conference.

Posted November 17, 2011


In this presentation from the 2011 NAMP Conference, Will Lester demonstrates why every night is opening night is for someone. Learn who's coming to your arts events--it's not necessary who you'd think. This was presented at the Lightning Rounds of Research.

Posted November 17, 2011


Photo: Fernando de Sousa via Flickr
How well do you know your audiences…really? Before the curtain goes up you can undoubtedly pick out that valued donor or long-time subscriber in your audience. Or, at every exhibition opening, you probably know the faces and names of the most important and dedicated members attending. But who are all the rest of the people coming through your doors? Are the majority of people who have been to your organization before, or are they new? And are they new to the arts or just new to you?

The team at TRG Arts was curious about this too. What we found is that, in a given season, about 50% of the people coming to your arts events are people you have seen before. The other 50% are new to the organization, although maybe not to the arts. Subscribers, members and other regular attendees actually only comprise about 37% of the typical database. Another 14% are “reactivated” patrons—patrons who have some sort of buying history, but haven’t bought in the last two years.

Posted October 4, 2011


Opening nights are fun. They also are hard work. Months of planning result in huge organizational resources being focused on the celebrations that mark the beginning of a new season or production. These are important rituals of organizational renewal. 

The latest research from TRG puts a patron-oriented spin on this subject. It’s telling us that opening night is happening all year long for big numbers of patrons in the audience. How so? Our just-completed internal pilot research on patron origination found: 

Half of the study group’s ticket buyers had a first-time ticket-buying experience – their own personal opening night – during the season.  

Posted April 12, 2011


Both houses of Congress are back in session and their work on budget resolutions will determine whether and how much federal funding will go to important American arts institutions, including the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, and National Public Radio. At the state level, arts agencies are up against a rapidly devolving scenario of proposed measures that would radically restructure or eliminate them. All of us who care deeply about sustaining arts and culture in America are looking for the best ways and means of advocating for government support. The need for ever-better practices will not end with the current threat of cuts or this round of budget debate. Making the case for public funding for the arts has become an ongoing imperative. 

In late January, I attended the Biennial Conference of The Broadway League, the trade organization that represents the interests of those engaged in the business of theatre. The primary topic for this Washington, DC conference was advocacy. The immediate League goal was to meet with the very members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives who now are determining the fate of funding for America’s arts and culture.  

Posted March 1, 2011


As I was reviewing data for this post, two significant contributions to the national dialogue on arts and culture sparked a lot of online discussion. The publication of the National Arts Index by Americans for the Arts and comments made by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman raised compelling questions about the nature of supply of and demand for arts organizations, arts venues, and forms of expression. The consumer trends we see in transaction data offer additional perspective to consider on the demand side of this ongoing conversation, which is provocative and timely. We hope it will continue. 

When I was a new young marketing director, my boss at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra began my orientation with a number of helpful observations about the new job and the field I was about to enter. One key ‘fact’ really pulled me up short. The target market for a symphony orchestra, Managing Director Steve Monder stated, was very different than my prior experiences as a marketer in the theme park industry. Supporters of the typical symphony orchestra accounted for no more than 2% to 3% of the population in any community. To succeed as a new marketing director, I would have to quickly learn an entirely new skill set. I would have to efficiently find a very small target market.  

Posted February 14, 2011


Last year I added a new quip to my repertoire of answers for use during the inevitable Q&A sessions during conference season. At virtually every gathering, someone would ask about possible solutions to the increased numbers of single ticket buyers making purchase decisions later and later in the sales cycle. America’s recent economic downturn, it seems, was making this worrisome long term trend even more problematic.

I’ve heard this complaint for more than three decades. It was never supported by data or quantified over time. So, my quip seems equally unhinged from reality: If late-buying keeps increasing then any day now we’ll have patrons buying their tickets a month after the performance takes place.

An opportunity for TRG to explore the issue of late ticket-buying presented itself recently. The source data came from Southern California’s LA STAGE Arts Census. Specifically, we examined single ticket purchase patterns for more than 1.5 million households, about half of the total LA data warehouse. We were specifically looking for changes in the time between purchase date and date of performance. Our study period was 2006 through 2010.

Posted January 31, 2011


For the past decade, TRG has partnered with arts and culture communities to develop and manage shared patron data services.These community databases, often called cooperatives or coops for short, are typically built to help organizations save money through shared services. Coops also develop new patronage and revenues using smarter and more efficient communication tools.This new generation of community databases has become America’s largest single repository of information about arts and culture consumers and their behavior. Savvy arts leaders across the country are learning new ways to use coops as a resource to advance the arts agenda in their communities. Specifically, they want to match arts consumers with voter registration files. Why? Facts win cases when advocating before public officials and voters. In this post, we offer our thoughts to the current online dialog on advocacy nationwide, including on the Americans for the Arts blog and its green paper, The Future of the Public Voice in Arts Advocacy.

The mid-term elections in the U.S. are only six months away, but already forces of all sorts are lining up to make the case for the candidates they want – or, this year especially, don’t want. Points of view on must-win issues at the federal, state and local level vary wildly among Democrats, the GOP, Tea Party, incumbents and those positioning themselves as government “outsiders” Making a case that will win over politicians and voters is a lot like direct marketing success. It requires putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

Posted May 12, 2010


I have resisted the idea of creating a blog for some time. Who has the time? More importantly, would anyone want to read it? Well, I still don’t have the time – but, I am committed to making a serious effort. Will anyone care enough to read? Only time will tell. You found it. If you like it, tell your colleagues. If not – well, keep your knowledge just between us. 

No. Wait. That’s wrong. That sort of attitude is much too 20th Century. If you don’t like it, respond. Write back. Tell me when, where and why I’m full of horse hockey. You’ll have at least one reader. Me. And, I promise to make the attempt to make it better next time. 

What do I plan to write about? I have a few ideas. Mainly, I plan to focus on best practice marketing and fundraising in the world of arts and culture. Those of us at TRG spend our days working with some of the brightest folk on the planet. What I hope to do is provide a platform to share these great new ideas or trends. 

Posted April 2, 2010


A patron behavior study for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, published as part of the Engage 2020 Research Into Action Report in September 2009.

Posted September 21, 2009


Philadelphia Opera Market Patron Research and Study, a synopsis of findings from the patron behavior and attitudinal study of audiences for seven opera companies, commissioned by Opera America and produced by TRG with Shugoll Research, June 10, 2008.

Posted June 13, 2008

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