Commentary: We need to do 'remedial work' to bring Millennials to the arts

Michael Kaiser, The Huffington Post, 4/4/11

One of the major new initiatives I announced for the Kennedy Center's 2011-2012 season was a project aimed at bringing "20 somethings" into the theater.  We in the arts face a major problem: we now have an entire generation of young people who do not go to theater, concerts, dance performances or operas. If we don't address this problem we will not have the subscribers, single ticket buyers, donors, volunteers and board members we need to sustain our organizations in twenty years as the members of this group hit their 40s and 50s. The arts have survived and grown in this nation because there is always a new group of middle aged people who replace their parents as our supporters. But the current group of twenty-year-olds (deemed the Millennials) does not have any experiences with us. Will they be there for us when we need them? The goal of our Millennials project is to do remedial work; to bring a group of Millennials into our theaters often enough that they build a habit of arts participation.  We are attempting to attract this group with targeted marketing, ticket pricing incentives, and especially repertory that is attractive to them but also stretches their comfort zones. We also hope to develop enough projects that allow them to interact with artists and art forms and to participate in art making.  We cannot do this alone. Our hope is that every major arts organization will join in this fight.


Response #1: The Kennedy Center's Millennials Project is insulting

Maura Lafferty, Là ci darem la mano blog, 4/9/11

Michael Kaiser: I have a bone to pick with you. The Millennials Project is, simply put, insulting. The illustrations you use and conclusions you draw from them are neither indicative of my generation, nor even remotely useful to any other arts administrator or really anyone who cares about the 21-40 demographic.  It is, in fact, my belief that the opposite is true:

·         Millennials are willing to spend money on entertainment options that we value

·         Millennials are more educated and smarter than your generation gives us credit for, and we are tired of being underestimated

·         There is very little room or welcome in traditional ("boomer" if you will) organizations for Millennials, which is the barrier keeping us away or forcing us to go somewhere else

·         Millennials care about authentic, meaningful experiences

·         Millennials make decisions based on where they can expect the highest value for the investment of their time, discretionary spending, and energy

·         As Liz Maestri pointed out, Millennials grew up in a time of unprecedented arts education. Between the Tiger Mothers, the hippies and the child advocates, the number of kids with at least one year of music education in the 21-40 demographic is pretty damn impressive.

·         The difference with Millennials is that this level of education, authenticity, and the values we grew up with is that we like to do things ourselves.


Response #2: Millennials are already engaged in arts, right under your nose

David J. Loehr, 2AM Theatre blog, 4/5/11

I have a question for Mr. Kaiser.  Is he aware of the brilliant art being made by people who work in his own building?  Better yet, art that plays regularly to houses filled with twenty-somethings.  For those who might not know, the longest continuously running performance at the Kennedy Center is an interactive murder mystery called Shear Madness. It's a fun show -- but no one would confuse it for high art. I know several cast members who rotate in and out of the show, and in between, they go off and make brilliant art elsewhere. That's right. The Kennedy Center is inadvertently supporting a flourishing of theatre art elsewhere in D.C.  What kind of art is this that's attracting twenty-something crowds?  Shakespeare. Commedia dell'arte. Classically inspired work as well as new plays, new devised works.  Mr. Kaiser, why not go upstairs and ask them about their other theatre work, see what's coming up and when. And then, if you like their work, bring it into your building. Welcome their current audiences and, at the same time, expose their work to your own audiences.  They're already on your payroll, sir, and they're making the real art elsewhere.  The Kennedy Center is -- or should be -- more than a monument. It could do so much more than host concerts and touring shows. It's up to those in responsible arts positions to help make that shift, to do more than maintain.


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Commentary: New study of why and how Millennial donors give

Beth Kanter, Kanter's Posterous blog, 4/7/11

While the Millennial generation has often been characterized as always online, or texting addicts, the Millennial Donor Report discovers  that the key motivators to giving are trust, being asked by a friend, and how much they care about the cause.  Some Key Findings:

·         84% of Millennials said they are most likely to donate when they fully trust an organization, and 90% said they would stop giving if they do not trust an organization.

·         85% of Millennials are motivated to give by a compelling mission or cause, and 56% by a personal connection or trust in the leadership of the organization. Only 2% of Millennials were motivated to give by celebrity endorsements.

·         93% of surveyed Millennials gave to nonprofit organizations in 2010, with 10% giving $1,000 or more during the course of the year, but the bulk of giving was distributed in small increments to many organizations. 58% of respondents said their single largest gift was less than $150.

·         57% of Millennials gave in response to a personal ask and 49% gave online. However, when Millennials were asked how they prefer to give, online giving took the top spot, being identified by 58% of respondents, with personal requests dropping to 48%.

·         71% of respondents get information about nonprofit organizations through web searches, 62% want to receive information by email, and 56% get information from peers. 33% of Millennials said they use Facebook to gather information on an organization.

·         On an organization's website, 70% of Millennials want to find information about the organization's mission/history, and 56% want to learn about the org's financial condition.

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