Performing Arts Fundraising: How to Target Life-Long Supporters | npENGAGE

Performing Arts Fundraising: How to Target Life-Long Supporters

By on Jun 2, 2017


Example of Arts Fundraising Ideas

Almost every arts organization would say that audience development is vital to their long term viability. As a result, most are investing a significant amount of their budgets to bring in new patrons—some upwards of $500 per new ticket buyer including advertising, promotions, and discounts*. And they are willing to do this with the hope that these new ticket buyers will become life-long supporters.

With the high cost of acquiring a new supporter, it becomes even more important to retain them so you can realize the benefits of this initial investment. This can be challenging given the realities of limited marketing budgets and our media-saturated society where it can be hard to stay top of mind.

As a result, organizations have difficulty trying to cultivate audience members. It gets easier with time as visitors attend more shows, share more about their interests through their buying and giving behavior, but that can take months or even years. To make matters worse, high-value consumers are fickle and need immediate attention in order to stay engaged.  Some studies say that 72% of single ticket buyers do not return so you must act quickly. Arts and cultural organizations are left wondering:

  • Who should we focus on because they have the potential to become long-term patrons?
  • How can we cultivate patrons to maximize support without any giving history?
  • How do we know who has the potential to become our next VIP?
  • Now that they are here, how do we keep them coming back?

Our two-fold answer is pretty straightforward: not all patrons are equal in terms of relationship potential and to earn their loyalty, you have to talk to them like you know who they are.

Fortunately, there is a way to help you target your marketing and arts fundraising resources and begin fostering relationships with potential donors. Blackbaud’s Target Analytics has worked with arts and cultural organizations to leverage our proprietary data sources to help them understand their audience member’s interests and ability to spend or give more.

This insight can help increase revenue, increase donations, and increase the lifetime value of each person that sees a performance and thereby maximizes the investment you’ve made to get them into your seats.

Increase Revenue

In the past, increasing revenue was mainly a function of how many tickets or subscriptions were sold or renewed. Although that is still an obvious metric to track, there is an emerging conversation about a different, more comprehensive way of approaching earned revenue.

One of my favorites has been pioneered by the National Center for Arts Research. It’s called the Program Revenue per Attendee and includes all revenue earned when someone walks through your doors (including ticket sales, gift shop and concession, tuition for classes offered, etc.) It does a good job in recognizing the true impact and opportunity of an attendee.

Consider this: if your program revenue per attendee is $34.33 (the average program revenue per attendee of PACs in 2013), it is probably easier and more cost effective to increase spending per attendee through add-on or upgrades than to acquire a new attendee. If you know who has the ability to spend more, you can market these add-ons in a targeted manner. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average high-income person spends over $8,200 on entertainment each year. By targeting those patrons with higher capacity, you can make sure your organization is getting a piece of the pie.

Increase Donations

There are two basic ways to increase donations from your audience:

  • Identify those who might be likely to give and convert them
  • Upgrade their giving

External data can help you do both by identifying audience members who are giving to other nonprofits in meaningful ways and those with strong discretionary spending abilities so you can upgrade them.

Although our findings vary by organization, we have found that on average, up to 40% of audiences can be top prospects for significant contributory giving. If you can communicate to prospects with a message that resonates with their mission-based interest, they are more likely to support your organization.

These prospects are actively giving significant gifts to other organizations and they are in your audience pool waiting to be found.

Target Analytics has performed research across thousands of nonprofit organizations and the data shows that most are leaving a lot of money on the table. According to our research, the average organization is missing out on over $3.7 million in annual fund donors and major gift donors. I would suggest that this amount is even larger for most arts and cultural organizations because of the steady stream of new supporters that attend. By knowing the capacity of your supporters, you can maximize their value to you.

Maximize Lifetime Value

In marketing and fundraising, customer lifetime value (CLTV or often DLTV), is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer discounted its current value. Although you can get pretty sophisticated with this KPI, in its most basic form, it is the profit that you obtain from entire relationship donors have with your organization. With the right insight, your organization can improve this value by targeting the right people with the right message.

Here are just a few ways that external insight can help improve the lifetime value of supporters:

  • By knowing who is charitable, you can connect with donor passions and encourage them to give in addition to enjoying performances
  • By knowing their discretionary spending ability, you can share add-on opportunities or exclusive VIP experiences and increase their total spend
  • By knowing who is not likely to give or unable to spend more, you can minimize your investment in unprofitable segments
  • You can quickly ramp up spending or giving to its optimal level
  • You can use your limited resources more strategically by proactively focusing staff time on the most valuable people in your audience

There is a fundraising adage that says that all fundraising begins with a relationship. In my opinion, this is what external data insight can help with—building meaningful supporter relationships more quickly. Our data can help you understand an audience member’s interest and capacity and this allows you to communicate in the most appropriate way to deepen their connection with you. This personal approach to arts fundraising will allow you to implement unique, differentiated strategies for each type of supporter in your audience. This can lead to higher earned revenue per attendee, higher donations, and a dramatically higher lifetime value.

If you’d like to learn more arts fundraising and analytics, check out these resources:

  • Data Analytics: Our archive of information on analytics solutions specifically for arts and cultural organizations
  • All Access Pass: The go-to resource for Arts and Cultural Organizations where you’ll find webinars, data sheets, customer testimonials, and more

Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance  The 2014 Patron Loyalty Study: Loyalty By the Numbers *Findings based on Blackbaud research.


Chuck Turner is a principal solutions engineer dedicated to helping healthcare organizations. He has been part of Blackbaud’s Analytics team since 2005. Previously, Chuck was partner in a marketing firm specializing in branding, marketing, and direct response fundraising for non-profits. He currently helps healthcare clients leverage data and technology to help them better impact their mission. As a solution engineer, he works with high-touch modeling, wealth screening, patient fundraising programs, and fundraiser performance management to help clients become more effective and efficient in their programs. Chuck holds a B.A. from the University of South Carolina and a Certificate of Non-Profit Management from University of Illinois.

Comments (2)

  • Camille - Easy Fundraisers says:

    This makes a lot of sense. It takes money to make money; we need to truly invest in those with the most potential giving power and make use of the tools that will help us identify that audience. Thanks so much for posting!

    • kudakwashe says:

      I think in fundraising its not easy that youll just get money from a donar without giving a proper information on what is it you want to use the money .. does the money you want make money or not .

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