Audience-centric marketing and fundraising ideas...


A theater uses the psychology of spending to draw subscribers

Eliza Bent, American Theatre Magazine, 4/11 issue

Remember the old riddle: Which is lighter, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead? Here's another: Which is cheaper, $25 a month or $300 a year? Both are equal, duh. But don't feathers and double-digit dollars seem lighter and less?  [Though] Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre offers traditional subscriptions (at $300 a year) it also sells something called the ACTPass.  Theatregoers pay $25 a month to see whatever they like at ACT, depending on seat availability. The 35-55 set makes up the majority of ACTPass holders, but empty-nesters make up a considerable portion of ACTPass members as well. "It's liberation!" [executive director Gian-Carlo] Scandiuzzi cries. "It has changed the way people think about going to plays. We hear, 'This is great because now I come for free.' Of course, when you add it up, the ACTPass costs the same as a year's subscription, but the perception is that they come for free [because] patrons don't have a financial transaction at the theatre. They flash their pass and enjoy the show for what it is. Even if they don't care for the show, they still won't feel as though they've wasted what's in their wallet." ACTPass has a high retention rate -- out of the current 647 pass-holders fewer than 10 have chosen to deactivate their accounts. Unlike a traditional subscription that gets renewed (or cancelled) annually, an ACTPass (like Netflix) continues indefinitely with an automatic credit card charge. So what's next?  They imagine a future in which the ACTPass is a mobile application that combines a calendar of what's showing in the theatre's four various spaces with proof of ACT membership -- turning ACT's plastic card enviro-chic and taking it one step further into the digital age.


An orchestra shares any surplus revenue with its loyal patrons

Diane Ragsdale, blog Jumper, 4/4/11

A patron loyalty program developed by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem in the early twentieth century is unlike any current model I have yet encountered. The BCB presents an annual festival over multiple weekends [and gives] patrons the opportunity to book first according to the number of years they have supported BCB with an annual minimum pledge.  The Guarantee pledge is made in advance but is not payable until after the Festival. Importantly, Guarantors are not asked to pay the entire amount pledged, but are only "assessed" a percentage, which is based on the actual deficit resulting from annual operations. Approximately one third of the Guarantors opt to pay the full pledge amount rather than the lower assessment amount. The number of Guarantors who do not honor their commitment is negligible.   The part I find particularly compelling is that by assessing Guarantors at an amount lower than they have pledged, BCB essentially 'redistributes' back to them any surplus donations at the end of its season. It's clear that demand exceeding capacity (most years) has been a key to the success of this model. I wonder if there is a way to modify this idea for a nonprofit arts organization facing the opposite problem: a tough-to-sell show. Could patrons that buy early be provided with an incentive to try to help fill seats to such shows by offering modest 'consumer surplus rebates' if a show that is not expected to sell out does better than anticipated?   No doubt some are thinking, "But if the tough-to-sell show starts to take off at the box would be lowering prices and leaving money on the table - that makes no sense!" It makes no sense if one's only motive is to maximize profits. But perhaps it's not entirely lunatic if one's primary motive is to create greater social value and develop a loyal, invested, fan base.


The regional art market targets second-home owners and tourists

Daniel Grant, The Huffington Post, 3/29/11

"All politics is local," the old politician said, and perhaps all art is, too. Walter Gonske of Taos, New Mexico found that out when he placed his paintings of the American Southwest in [a] gallery in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  There were no sales.  Eventually, a few he had painted of the coast of California and included palm trees and commercial fishing boats, "which could be from the area," sold in Hilton Head, "but no adobes." All of this led him to the conclusion that "works sell best if they're of the area where the gallery is. Paintings of New Mexico and Colorado sell in New Mexico and Colorado." Vacationers and second home owners are a major source of collecting for a great many artists who paint or sculpt regional scenes.  The predominant realm of sales is realism that clearly conveys a sense of a particular place, or corresponds with the collector's feelings about the place. At times, buyers go to great lengths, sometimes commissioning artists to paint a specific bridge or dune. Carol Turner, a painter in Albany, New York, who takes period trips to Cape Cod in order to take photographs and "get immersed in the light and the smells" that will be turned into paintings for a Cape Cod gallery, stated that she doesn't like commissions but has taken some: "There was one person who wanted a painting of a certain bay in Truro, with a certain boat, with high tide at a certain time." At the end, she felt lucky the person eventually bought the work, because the painting seemed to be more about the buyer's personal memories than her artistic vision.


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FROM TC: I wonder if this next idea would work at a nonprofit arts venue...


Churches install credit card kiosks to facilitate donations

The Kansas City Star, 3/31/11

Long ago, people gave God parts of their livelihood -- goats, sheep, wheat and barley. Much later, they began plopping money into collection plates.  Now, some churchgoers are swiping their bank cards at machines that look a bit like ATMs.  "It's easier," says John Muscianes, who attends New Covenant Community Church in Fresno, Calif. "I don't have to write a check. It's convenient."  SecureGive has been selling giving kiosk units since 2007, but sales have taken off only in the past year. About 325 churches nationwide use them.  "A lot of people just don't carry checkbooks," says SecureGive's Stuart Baker. "We're moving into a cashless society. From a practical standpoint, it allows people to do what they already want to do -- give."  Prompted by on-screen instructions, congregants swipe their bank cards and punch in some numbers. After they're done, a receipt spits out.  [New Convenant parishioner] Quincey Hollman says using the unit fits her lifestyle.  She uses her debit card rather than cash and pays bills online.  Hollman adds she's grateful her donation is recorded on her monthly bank statement.  So far, New Covenant's giving kiosk is averaging about a dozen users on Sundays.  In Visalia, Calif., Gateway Church has been providing a giving kiosk unit for nearly three years. Officials say they're pleased with the results.  Gateway's congregation can also use the unit to pay for church events that charge fees.  "People are used to swiping a card," says the church's finance director, Chris Williams. 

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