Performing Arts –– Why is Marketing More Important than Fundraising?

Working with performing arts clients, I frequently observe a competitive tension between the marketing and development departments. Instead of an esprit de corps, I see yin and yang. If these two departments can’t play in the sandbox together, it will eventually show up at the board level–and even more disastrously, at the donor and patron level.

So what’s causing the rift? It’s largely due to the finite resources available in these

organizations, coupled with the sizeable growth goals each department is tasked to achieve. The problem with this “us versus them” attitude is that it hurts the organization, deeply, and it’s absolutely avoidable.

Many institutions choose the wrong course. To avoid the pain, they place marketing as the alpha and development second in command, sacrificing contributed revenue opportunities and strategies for a perceived increase in ticket sales. This eventually chokes off both efforts. But how can the relationship be synergistic when the goals for each department are so aggressive?

Step one: understand and accept the balance between the two departments and create a productive environment that helps both thrive.

The ticket buyer is not the primary customer; the other department is the primary customer. You’re both in the “acquire, retain, upgrade” business, right? The development office should keep in mind the large majority of donors are also ticket buyers, and should therefore greatly respect the marketing process.

Step two: acknowledge that marketing’s success is also development’s success.

Marketing has to be focused in the proper area – namely, subscriber growth.  If the marketing department successfully creates a pathway for patrons – from single ticket buyer, to a multi-ticket buyer, to a subscriber, then they are creating patrons. Patrons, who are not only good for frequent concert attendance, but also good for making philanthropic contributions. Once converted to a donor, we know that the value of a patron increases, as does their lifetime value. 

Step three: acknowledge that development’s success is also marketing’s success.

So, when do we convert a subscriber into a donor? While conventional wisdom says three years, RSC rejects that premise; we find it most effective to convert them almost immediately. Since a new subscriber has not fully defined their role, it becomes paramount to get an entry-level gift right away. This allows your organization to tell its story from the very beginning of the patron relationship and to reinforce it over time. By starting early, you’re able to share your mission and worth, and turn what would otherwise be purely an ‘entertainment option’ into a highly-valued, prized organization, worthy of support. 

If marketing and development want a harmonious relationship, they must look at each other as their single largest customer. Then, together, they can accomplish their larger mission: serving their community.

RSC can help integrate your organization’s development and marketing planning strategies to build a successful fundraising program. If you would like to learn more about how RSC successfully helps arts and cultural organizations reach their fundraising goals, call us at 317.300.4443 or visit our website.

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