Jill Robinson

Jill Robinson

If so many arts leaders believe that marketing and development departments working together will generate better patronage results, why are so few organizations actually doing it?

To be sure, there are ample tactical examples of successful cross-departmental collaboration on campaigns. And, a few industry leaders are engaging in organization-wide patron development: Arts Club Theatre Company and 5th Avenue Theatre are two I admire.

But integrated patron management is far from being a mainstream practice. Perhaps it’s because true marketing-development collaboration requires change and new ways of doing things that most organizations find impossibly difficult—especially on top of everything else that’s necessary to keep the art on our stages and in our exhibit halls.

Look beyond the challenges toward a starting point.

Marketing and development need a bridge linking their often siloed departments. A couple of management initiatives and tools can build that bridge.

1. Integrated patron reporting. Most arts managers see their season as a string of single-ticket revenue targets, an exhibition with a visitor goal to hit, or an annual fund effort to bring in donations. It’s easy to miss individual patrons’ passion for your art when you are looking at them through the singular lens of individual campaigns.

Take this sample patron history. At first, you’ll mostly likely see it as it’s usually reported, along departmental campaign lines:

To marketing, this patron is a big-time subscriber:

But does marketing know, as the box office likely sees on their screen, that this patron has also been buying extra tickets?

And when development views this campaign history, is this same active subscriber considered only a lapsed donor?

Individual department reports fog the lens. That’s why the best first step toward productive development-marketing collaboration is good information.

The aggregated view of our sample patron shows a very engaged loyalist whose investments overall have been growing and consistent for three straight years.

Integrated patron histories like this example add up to form behavior patterns that groups of patrons have in common. Those shared patterns are a source of information that can empower integrated campaigns, especially among patrons whose loyalty is on the rise and with whom an organization’s greatest opportunity exists.

2. Collaborative budgeting. When push comes to shove at budget time, executives tend to abandon big picture goals and send marketing and development officers back to their respective desks to chase individual revenue objectives. That sets up internal conflict between departments for the investments of the organizations’ patrons.

When marketing and development compete for patronage, nobody wins. It’s an operational bias and approach that is limiting retention and growth of a loyal patron base.

Instead, contemplate how your organization could start budgeting for patrons like the one described above. Instead of budgeting separately for single ticket, subscription, and annual fund revenues, consider creating a small number of integrated goals.

For example, create a budget line for Subscriber-Donors. To start, track the current percentage of subscribers who are also donors, and budget to increase the proportion of them and their integrated revenue. As you work together to discover the possibilities within your own organization, you’ll create a path to achieve and track greater results.

Understanding and analyzing patron loyalty fuels results. 

When you get down to the individual patron level—what they buy, how they give, and how much they spend—it is easier to see individual patrons’ love of the art form and how it translates into value for your organization.

Having information on all patrons at the individual household level can illuminate steps you might take to deepen loyalty for both individuals and groups of patrons.

Put loyalty analysis tools like integrated patron analysis in front of marketing and development collaborators and watch how quickly and effectively working together can be. The payoff is longer, stronger patron relationships and sustaining investments.

Join Jill, along with arts marketers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Museum of Women in the Arts, for a session at the NAMP Conference on how to focus in on loyalty for improved revenue. “Stop Marketing to the Masses & Start Cultivating the Loyalists” is Sunday, November 11 at 10:30 a.m.

6 Responses to “What Marketing-Development Collaboration Really Needs”

  1. Mary Cahalane says:

    Glad to read this! Silos are death, and I saw so many of them in my years working in theater. Patrons/donors don’t see themselves as one or the other. They don’t consider the money spent on tickets as separate and apart from outright donations. They see themselves as involved. And that’s how they should be seen!

  2. Sara Leonard says:

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful post! I think you are so right that marketing and development often operate too separately from one another. If we take this a step further, do you think that marketing and development (once they’ve taken up this practice) could work together to integrate this information with programming to begin to help the whole organization consider audience as central to the work it does? If so, how? In addition to the departments you mention being silo-ed, I think our arts organizations too often have a tendency to sweep both marketing and development into a corner marked “necessary evils,” rather than fully integrating into a cohesive whole. I’d love to know your thoughts!

    • Ultimately, yes, Sara – full integration of departments would be very powerful. We have seen glimpses of how so over the years, notably in symphony Pops programming, where organization-wide collaboration has generated programs that are well-suited and well-received by targeted audiences. Underscore “glimpses,” however. Collaboration is not the norm – it can be and our work and study continues to help focus organizations there.

  3. Mary Trudel says:

    Dear Jill –
    Thanks for reminding us that marketing and development are playing for the same team! Sharing information is key and the most successful groups we’ve studied often have cross departmental teams if not actually combining marketing/development and customer service into one unified department such as “external affairs” at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

    We believe that every attendee has the potential to become a fan, every fan and advocate and every advocate a patron. We’ll be highlighting a couple of standout groups at our Joining Forces: Take Marketing and Fundraising Efforts to the Bank on Sunday afternoon at 1:45 at NAMP. Hope to see you there!

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