Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone -- it's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League and I'm back for this Wednesday's Off Stage Conversations. Apologies for missing last week. I've been pretty sick. (Bronchitis is no one's friend.)

A Look at How You Ask For Money

As artists and as those working in arts organizations, we ask for money a lot. We raise money through galas, grant writing, and the general ask in a curtain speech. But I think we as a community could do much better at targeting our asks. Sophie Hudson has a great piece in the Guardian about how to approach baby boomers for legacy gifts, citing how folks living longer and having uncertainty for their children and grandchildren will effect their giving. It's a very specific kind of ask to be smart about, but it opens up a good question of how we approach all our potential donors.

One of the ways we could be better about this is to make room for smaller donors. In the past year, I got an ask from an arts organization (that I personally really love) asking me for $1,000. That's about half my monthly income and more than my rent. I was flabbergasted and rather disappointed that they didn't think to target their ask. If they had asked me for $10, I probably would have given it. Compare that to the Obama campaign, who consistently asked me for $6 and ended up getting over $100 in $6 increments.

And even though the infrastructure for the Obama campaign is hard to replicate in a small non-profit, we can still find ways to target smaller donors, instead of treating them the same way as we do larger donors. Crowd funding is a great way to do this -- but even then, the projects that get funded are the ones that really give back to their small donors. My personal favorite kickstarter campaign ever was Travis Bedard's one for Messenger #4. I donated $10 to a production that I never got a chance to see because it was in another state, but I got a haiku. And I value that haiku far more than I would ever value my name in a program. I see so many crowd funding campaigns that ignore the potential of gaining donors via great perks and it makes me sad, because there is so much potential wasted. And perks should start low, as the majority of donors give $10-$25.

I understand that targeting asks takes time -- if you need to do a broad appeal, then focus on your story -- why is this art important. And preferably in a positive way. Kate Powers' Kickstarter for Rehabilitation Through the Arts that was featured on Mondays are Dark (due to Amazon's ineptness) really focuses on what this program does for the participants. And I donated my $10, mainly because I've been following her story on how transformative this work really is.

(Now let us see who comes to me with a $10 ask...and then I'll know who is reading the blog.)

Speaking of Telling Your Story

Howard Sherman has a great piece on advertising and how we should focus on what the story of the play is about in selling the play. How often do you take a good look at your advertising and check to see if it really reflects the play? I've heard a great story about a theatre class that thought a intelligent drama about the price of warfare was a children's show simply because that's the story they got from the poster. It's always good to check in with people who aren't in depths of the process with you to see if your advertising is getting the right message across. And even if you're doing Hamlet, you can't assume that everyone knows exactly what they're getting into.

What Arts Organizations Can Learn from Public Radio

Technology in the arts has a piece on what arts organizations can learn from public radio. Note... donor perks are one of the things they talk about.

National New Play Exchange

The National New Play Network (currently headed by Nan Barnett) has announced that they've gone a significant grant to build a New Play Exchange. The lit manager for Undermain Theatre weighs in on how this could transform the field.

Practical Social Media Advice

Why You Shouldn't Post to Facebook via Hootsuite

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