Giving Back While Filling Theater Seats

Posted by Justin Karr (with Ben Cohen) On October - 6 - 2011

Justin Karr

Givenik, a service affiliated with Jujamcyn Theaters, connects charities and Broadway theatergoers. When theatergoers buy tickets through, they elect to contribute five percent of the ticket sale to a charity of their choice. Charities benefit through revenue earned on ticket sales. Broadway shows benefit through the attention and goodwill generated when Givenik is promoted to a charity’s supporters.

For Givenik to be successful, it must appeal to all three audiences: charities, shows, and theatergoers. Charities must agree to participate in Givenik and promote it to their supporters. Shows must agree to sacrifice a portion of their ticket revenue. Theatergoers must be aware of the service and what shows and charities are available on it. Social media is particularly well-suited for solving problems like ours by enabling us to connect all three audiences in a cost-effective way.

We primarily use Facebook and Twitter with a Givenik brand user. Our principle strategy is to connect charities, shows and their supporters to us and to each other via service posts.

Show fans become charity fans, charity fans become show fans, and everybody becomes Givenik fans. There is nothing fancy here; this is Social Media 101.

We try to remain engaged in the chatter in both the nonprofit and Broadway worlds and contribute to the conversation wherever we can. Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Evans

A colleague emailed me the other day and wrote “I gave a donation to an arts organization via (insert any popular online social fundraising site here). Does the organization get my information? I never got a thank you.”


Although it is possible that a fundraising site wouldn’t share the information of a donor to an organization, it’s really unlikely, and with this specific online social site, I know that they DO share the donor information.

So the organization didn’t get back to their donor(s) to thank them. I see this happen a lot with donations through newer technology channels. I’ve seen statistics for something like 71% of nonprofits (not just arts organizations) don’t send any sort of thank you (email or otherwise) to online donors. Wow! Read the rest of this entry »

Why Your Silent Auction Sucks & Why You Should Hold It Anyway

Posted by Sherry Truhlar On October - 5 - 2011

Sherry Truhlar

This post is for you if you’re one of the thousands of arts organizations holding a fundraising gala with a silent auction component.

Statistics show that you’re failing miserably.

National averages of silent auctions show a 50%-60% return. That means for every $100 item on the table, you’re selling it for $50 to $60. Sooooo sad.

And once we figure in the costs to produce the auction – hours spent procuring goods, preparing displays, buying services – your returns fall further.

So should you bag the idea?

For organizations already holding a silent auction, continuing to offer it is likely in your best interest. Here’s why.

1.  With targeted changes, you can improve returns.
An audit of our clients found that when returns are average, it’s most often due to poor marketing. Simple changes can have a profound effect.

For instance, one of our clients raised an additional $44 per item once we employed aggressive onsite marketing tactics. With 82 silent items, they earned an additional $3600!

Incorporate both pre-gala and onsite marketing strategies for the best results. At a minimum rewrite your descriptions, use vertical displays, and incorporate a sensory experience. Read the rest of this entry »

How Strong is Your Social Net? (Part 1)

Posted by Mary Trudel On October - 5 - 2011

Mary Trudel

At last year’s NAMP Conference in San Jose – near the heart of Silicon Valley – my partner, Rory MacPherson, and I announced a national survey to gather input on how arts organizations and collaboratives are faring in the dynamic digital communications landscape.

Responding to input from arts organizations and regional arts collaboratives that are striving to get the most out of the latest digital communications tools and social media, we wanted to take a national snapshot of how arts groups are doing with adoption and integration of new social media platforms into their overall marketing outreach.

We decided to conduct a research project to collect hard data on how groups are managing messaging alignment, resource allocation, and how well they perceive their digital communications and social media efforts are working.

It seemed to us that even those who are leading the field and getting outstanding results are not completely sure they’re communicating consistently, clearly and compellingly, wonder if they are connecting authentically with patrons and fans, and are concerned about how to sustain and improve the effectiveness of what they’re doing. And universally, arts organizations reported struggling to measure the return on investment of their digital efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

Musical Taste is Socially Transmitted

Posted by Christy Farnbauch On October - 5 - 2011

Christy Farnbauch

The Jazz Arts Group (JAG) in Columbus, OH, along with its national research partners recently completed a two-year study focused on the attitudes of current and potential jazz ticket buyers throughout the U.S. and in Central Ohio.

The research process involved a variety of research methods, including a music listening study, electronic and print surveys, and a literature review. The Jazz Audiences Initiative (JAI), launched in November 2009, was designed to study fundamental questions about how and why people engage with jazz. The main goal was to learn new ways for engaging audiences, and infusing the art form with new energy.

Once all the data was distilled, the following key findings emerged:

1.    Tastes in music are socially transmitted.
2.    Across western-based art forms, jazz still draws a relatively diverse audience.
3.    Consumption of jazz is artist-driven.
4.    Music preferences are shaped by local programming.
5.    Younger buyers have categorically more eclectic tastes in music.
6.    There are many musical pathways into jazz.
7.    Jazz buyers strongly prefer informal settings. Read the rest of this entry »

Winning by Losing

Posted by David Dombrosky On October - 5 - 2011

David Dombrosky

For years now, we have been talking about the latest tools and the best practices for incorporating these tools into our marketing and communications strategies. Of course, this is a necessary conversation in which we need to continually engage, but there is a corollary discussion that also needs to take place regularly.

As technology advances and communication-based behaviors adapt to these advances, arts marketers find themselves adding new tactics to their marketing strategies in order to stay current in meeting audience expectations. So the corollary discussion that we need to have is, “If we need to add new tactics to keep pace with changing technology and patron behavior, then which older tactics can we afford to lose?”

During the past five years of leading online technology workshops for arts managers, one of the most frequent concerns expressed by participants has been the ever-increasing workload. We’ve added social media to our plates, as well as mobile applications, broadcast emails, SMS campaigns, and more. But what have we taken away? Read the rest of this entry »

Stop (Over) Using Social Media. Start Being Social.

Posted by Brian Reich On October - 5 - 2011

Brian Reich

Everyone talks about the transformational power of digital and social media, the contribution that technology and the Internet are having on our society – but for all the changes and advancements, most of the important things about our society seem to be largely operating as they have for a long time.

The promise of new technology is scale, reach, and efficiency. Just because we can move faster doesn’t mean that work should take priority over developing relationships and providing value to our audiences.

We have prioritized telling a quick story that suggests progress over investing in long-term impact that changes the world and drives people towards deeper commitments to organizations. We have become too accustomed to measuring success based on the size or popularity of an organization and not the value that a community of supporters places on the work that groups are doing.

As long as groups continue to focus on the wrong opportunities, our efforts to address serious issues will continue to stumble. Read the rest of this entry »

Are Subscriptions Dead? Maybe Not (Part 2)

Posted by Chad Bauman On October - 5 - 2011

Chad Bauman

In Part 1, Chad discussed how Arena Stage conducted research to determine if subscriptions still worked for their organization. Below, and in Part 3, he discusses some of the tactical changes Arena Stage has made as a result of that work:

Simplified Pricing.
Our previous subscription pricing strategies were incredibly complicated. I remember spending hours poring over pricing strategy, and at the end thinking that one would have to be a CPA to understand how our pricing model worked. We decided that in order to create an effective value proposition, subscription pricing would have to be clear and easy to understand.

We worked for weeks to develop a simple pricing structure that could be messaged easily, such as “buy 6 plays, get 2 plays free.” The new pricing structure allowed us to easily communicate a value proposition and to eliminate complicated order sheets, replacing them with order forms that could be filled out easily.

Clear, concise and transparent pricing was pivotal to effectively communicating the value of a subscription. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Your Arts Programming Usable?

Posted by Ian David Moss On October - 5 - 2011

Ian David Moss

At Fractured Atlas, we’re in the process of rolling out a few new technology products that have been in the pipeline for the past year or so. One of these is, which is the hosted version of the ATHENA open-source ticketing and CRM platform that was released earlier this year.

Another is a calendar and rental engine add-on to our performing arts space databases in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area that will allow visitors to the site to reserve and pay for space directly online.

For both of these resources, we felt it was important to get feedback from actual users before proceeding with a full launch. So we engaged in a round of what’s called usability testing.

Usability testing differs from focus groups in that it involves the observation of participants as they actually use the product. So, rather than have people sit around a room and talk about (for example) how they might react to a new feature or what challenges they face in their daily work, you have people sitting in front of a computer and trying to navigate a website’s capabilities while staff members look over their shoulders and take notes. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Social Media Rules to Live By

Posted by Ceci Dadisman On October - 5 - 2011

1.  Be Authentic
The point of social media is not to bang people over the head with announcements about your performances. It is a way to communicate and engage people on a personal level. People can tell when someone is not being authentic.

You know when you are at a networking event and there is a skeevy salesperson there that everyone steers clear of because they don’t want to be pitched to? Don’t be that person on social media.

If you’ve ever read my blog or seen me speak live, you know about my 80/20 rule for social media. Ideally, 80% of your posts should be engagement and 20% should be broadcasting. In short, 80% of what you are saying on social media should not be about the show you are about to do or the event that you want to sell tickets to.

Here are some things to think about to help you be more authentic: Read the rest of this entry »

A New Concept for Marketers?: Context War

Posted by Laura Kakolewski On October - 5 - 2011

Laura Kakolewski

If you want your brand want to win this war or survive this global phenomenon, it is time to relocate from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley.

Many of you have probably heard of Gary Vaynerchuk, video blogging sensation and social media savant. I can’t help but be attracted to Vaynerchuk’s notorious high level of energy as he discusses the shift from creating brand content to creating CONTEXT in his new video:

Let’s sum up Vaynerchuk : last week, Google+ grew 1269%, Facebook expanded its platform, and “Word of Mouth” became the buzz words in the marketing world again. Read the rest of this entry »

Guess Who’s Coming to Your Arts Events?

Posted by Will Lester On October - 4 - 2011
Will Lester

Will Lester

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Want to Win Audiences Online? Try Putting Them First.

Posted by David Dombrosky On October - 4 - 2011

David Dombrosky

During last year’s Arts Marketing Blog Salon, I stated that an individual or organization’s motivation for using social media is a primary factor in forecasting whether or not their efforts will be successful. This remains true, but even those who are truly motivated to engage their audiences can derail themselves with their approach to content.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a number of performing arts presenters, agents, and artists at the Performing Arts Exchange about their web strategies, use of social media, and engagement with mobile audiences. Throughout the course of these conversations, I noticed two important strategic elements for those experiencing success with social media.

Consider your content choices from the audience’s point-of-view.  
One of the most common issues I find in social media practice is that people often select content based on what they want to share. For example, one of the agents I spoke to at the conference had created a Facebook page with performing arts presenters as its intended audience. I noticed that a predominant number of the posts on the page were announcements for where her artists would be performing in the near future. When I asked her how this information is useful to presenters visiting the agency’s page, she was confused by the question. From her perspective, it was a no-brainer that anyone coming to the page would want to know this information. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Ways to Put Social Media in Its Place

Posted by Amelia Northrup On October - 4 - 2011

Graphic: Mike Licht via Flickr

Having written about social media and its application in arts marketing for the last few years, I’ve become aware of a disconnect. I’ve written about specific social media tools and tactics, but I realize that I haven’t addressed how it fits in with overall marketing strategy, and within the media mix.

Think about the campaigns that have delivered the most revenue. For many organizations, subscription or membership campaigns are the lifeblood of their revenue each year (a good example of this came from TRG Arts client Arena Stage recently).

Direct-response renewal campaigns usually produce the highest sales volume as well as the highest marketing return-on-investment (ROI). On the other hand, social media has eluded our efforts to assign value to it since its inception. Social media is hard to track ROI on and even harder to monetize. On top of that, it’s nearly impossible to track social media users because doing so falls outside of the proprietary systems designed to protect their privacy.

You will not, repeat, NOT hear my colleagues and me advocating for abandoning your social media efforts. However, we do ask you to consider the question: Looking at your marketing strategy holistically, how does social media complement your most effective marketing campaigns? Read the rest of this entry »

How Can I Turn a NO into a YES?

Posted by Sam Horn On October - 4 - 2011

Sam Horn

During a recent Win Buy-In: Get Anyone Intrigued in Anything in 60 Seconds workshop I gave in Europe, a participant raised his hand and asked, “What can we do if we anticipate our decision-maker is going to say no? Do you have a way to turn that into a yes?”

Me: “Certainly. What do you have in mind?”

Participant: “Well, my son is on a traveling soccer team. We just hired a professional player to coach his team and we need to raise money for his salary.”

Me: “So, how are you planning to do that?’

Participant: “Well, we’re going to approach our local bookstore, but we know the owner gets hit up for donations all the time.”

Me: “Good for you. You’re already half way to winning buy-in because you’ve already put yourself in the shoes of your decision-maker and read his mind. Make it easy for him to say yes.”

Me: “Ironically, the key to getting a yes is to ask yourself, ‘Why will they say no?’” Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.