Monthly Archives: April 2010

Arts business structure and audience development…an evolution!

I had the pleasure of meeting in person one of my twitter friends, Misha Penton, during her visit to Boulder, CO this week.  Misha is a mezzo soprano from Houston, TX that formed her own “Opera, Classical Vocal Music & Multidisciplinary Performance Arts” ensemble company. This mouthful became Divergence Vocal Theater.

After many tweeted conversations about audience development, Misha informed me that her company is not a non-profit, but functions on a project by project basis under the fiscal agent The Field in New York.  The Field is:

Founded by artists for artists, The Field has been dedicated to providing impactful services to thousands of performing artists in New York City and beyond since 1986. From fostering creative exploration to stewarding innovative fundraising strategies, we are delighted to help artists reach their fullest potential.

I have been seeing similar agencies and formats around the country being created to help artists meet their needs without them having to incorporate.  We in Boulder have our Boulder County Arts Alliance.

During our dinner conversation, we began discussing the typical non-profit business structure. There were specific questions that came up:

  1. Is this structure resilient enough to meet the challenges of our current modern world?
  2. Does the larger non-profit structure create a barrier between artists and audience?
  3. Is there too much “red tape” involved for every decision to be made?
  4. And, is there too much talk and not enough action in a non-profit structure?
  5. Does the non-profit business structure need to evolve?
  6. Is the non-profit structure comfortable for the new generations (GenX and GenY)?

Misha admitted how easy it is to implement new ideas and engage with her audience without having to consult a board every time they wanted a new idea to be brought to light.   With having a fiscal agent, she was still able to do the standard fund raising necessary for her projects.  She contracts the ensemble members for each project.  Each project can be what it wants to be.  Collaborations can be formed easily.  It sounds like this could be a very viable way for artists to function.  However, there was one drawback mentioned.  Certain funding foundations do not recognize this hybrid business structure as worthy for funding.  They require non-profit status or they require the agent to be in state.

The arts world is exploring new business structures.  What is making me sit up and take notice is the fact that these new ventures make audience development more central to their strategic plans.  They have to work with their audience and build relationships to be successful, and the very structure itself gives artists the ability and opportunity to be artists with the audience instead of simply in front of the audience.

In relation to audience development, these artists are also branching out venue wise, embracing social media technology, and interacting with their audience in fascinating ways.  They are blazing new trails in a blink of an eye.  The majority are smaller ensemble organizations that are more mobile and have the ability to be more one-on-one with their fans.  Misha and I likened this structure to how bands are currently functioning and promoting themselves.  Could it then be possible for these artists to obtain followings that could potentially catapult them into “rock star” status?  The arts world could certainly use this type of recognition.  Right now these artists and projects are being covered in the news and spread around the internet (very buzz worthy). Obtaining an audience seems to become easier and easier over time for these artists.

Perhaps the arts world in general needs to evolve or continue to explore the current evolution that is in process as a community. Perhaps we need to begin advocating for more support of these independent yet collaborative artists to obtain equal grounds for  funding.

I did mention that certain organizations do need the non-profit structure, and it can work quite well if properly managed, but one-size business structure does not fit all, and it would be good if we as a community would support and embrace these branch outs and jump on the evolution band wagon.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

New Services!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!  Special: $25/hour through the month of April.

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

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Filed under arts advocacy, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, Fundraising

Audience development brings out the best in volunteers

This week I am working on an event and helping to fill in as the volunteer coordinator.  Figuring I would put the word out in various places for our opportunities, I posted:

  1. In local papers
  2. On Volunteer Connections Websites
  3. Twitter
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Facebook
  6. By sending out emails
  7. By spreading the word in person

Can you guess where I had the most success?  I found the majority of volunteers through using Facebook and emails.  The people on the email list and on Facebook were the people that were most connected to the dancers and the artistic director of the event.  The people that want to volunteer the most are the ones that want to help their friends and family.  My friends and family weren’t as interested when I asked in person the people that I knew, the volunteers are all friends and family of the people in the performance.

You can obtain volunteers from the outside sources, but they may not want to remain a volunteer for the long haul unless you start using audience development (relationship building) to get to know them.  Part of audience development is learning about your supporters.  For new volunteers, you will want to ask them basic questions to learn more about their preferences and reasons for volunteering:

  1. What are their strengths and skills?
  2. Do they like working with people?
  3. What do they enjoy doing?
  4. What job would they rather not do?
  5. Why are they volunteering?
  6. What ways do they want to be contacted?
  7. What days and times can they volunteer?
  8. What types of jobs have they had in the past?

I could go on with a few other questions, but I hope you are starting to get the picture here.  Audience development makes volunteering all about the volunteer, not just about what the organization wants and needs.  If you were to place a volunteer in the wrong position, you will lose the volunteer.  If you do not relate to them in ways that are best for them, you will lose them.  If you do not find out why they are volunteering, you will lose a priceless opportunity to figure out their reasons and possibly their goals for helping you.  You might find out that they are volunteering because of a friend, or they are also an artist, or that they want to give back and they chose your organization since it speaks to them.  Getting to know the volunteer and placing them in the right position will make them more comfortable.  Building relationships with your volunteers will also help uncover the passion behind the volunteering.  Once a relationship is built, they are more likely to be put in the first category of this blog, friends and family.  Audience development will bring out the best in your volunteers and get them excited about volunteering again.

Overall, finding volunteers can be a great deal easier if you ask the people that care.  Once you find the people that care and want to volunteer, get to know them as people (not just as your worker for the day).  You will most likely find out that they are special in many ways and that their qualities will be just what you are looking for!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

New Services!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!  Special: $25/hour through the month of April.

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

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Filed under arts management, Audience Development, Volunteer Management, volunteering

The creative must get creative with Audience Development

Today I have been thinking about the current situation for the arts.  There have been many funding cuts and many organizations that are sinking or have gone under.  However, I have also seen the flip-side.  There are organizations that are thriving in this economy.  I hear about their sold out shows, their successful fundraisers.  So why are some organizations failing and some thriving?  To me it seems that some creatives are getting creative and some are not.  This is the stuff that Michael Kaiser is preaching, to get creative, and it would be good if we examined his advice in more detail by considering the audience development perspective.

When I scan for audience development news, I find that usually what is getting reported are new and clever ways to engage with patrons and fans.  I am finding participation avenues for their audience members that creates more passion.  I am seeing creative collaborations.  These ideas are what grabs the  printed and tweeted attention around the globe.  These organizations are being talked about, and the world can view their success.

I am not citing specifics for a reason.  To me, each and every artist or organization has the potential to be one of these success stories.  We are creative people after all.   It is time for each of us to stop lamenting about the cuts and to start envisioning creative solutions.

What can we learn from these organizations?

  1. Despite the news of funding cuts, they continue to go for it – they continue to plan projects that get everyone excited and get them noticed.
  2. If a certain way of old is not working anymore, they reevaluate and look at new ways of finding support.
  3. They plan and implement these new ideas, blazing new trails along the way.
  4. They remain positive and pass this energy on to everyone that is a part of the organization – Board, staff, volunteers, donors, audience…
  5. They celebrate the successes along the way, creating  more positive energy.
  6. They get help when needed.  If they are not strong in a particular area, they will find someone who is, all the while being grateful.
  7. They invite the audience along for the ride.
  8. They make connections within the community.
  9. They collaborate and collaborate often.
  10. They care about their art and the people surrounding their art worlds.

In a nutshell, these organizations have built an energetic community surrounding their art, their programs and their ideas.  Plus, they offer art and programs that are original and buzz worthy.  It’s the type of energy that is infectious, you can’t help wanting to be a part of it once you get word of it!

The choice is ours.  I am seeing the fight for more funding for the arts, protests against closings and budget cuts.  This is good and will bring awareness that we do value the arts, but what I rather see are more organizations building a positive energy that can’t help but see successful results despite whatever the economy throws us.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

New Services!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!  Special: $25/hour through the month of April.

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

Leave a comment

Filed under arts advocacy, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development

Audience development – Reach out to parents for younger audiences, just a thought…

I had a quick thought today I wanted to share.  Most artists and arts organizations are attempting to target younger audiences by catering to the younger audiences.  However, when I think about my own personal life and the life of many people that are into the arts, the reason we became involved in the arts was due to the fact that our parents exposed us to fabulous art.

If this is the case, perhaps in order to obtain a younger audience, we really need to build relationships with the parents and teach them how beneficial the arts are for their children.  When the parents are educated about the arts, then it is more likely that their children will be educated as well.

It reminds me of  the current military ads.  A strange example, but bear with me.  The military realized that the problems for recruiting were not the fact that they weren’t reaching their target demographic, but that the parents, especially mothers, were not on board.  The recent ads target the mothers.

Another example would be the cereal industry.  Some of the cereals that are targeted for kids now have ads for the parents to assure them that despite the sugary appearance of their cereals, they are nutritious (so to speak).

Programming for kids is always a good idea to include, but perhaps we need to start reaching out to parents more in general and work on building solid relationships with them.  We can inform them of the wonders of the arts for their children.   Just a thought!

PS  What are you currently doing to reach out to parents?   Please feel free to comment and share with us!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
http://www.buildmyaudience.com
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

New Services!

Hourly Phone Sessions – Do you have a question about audience development or need feedback or advice on a project or challenge?  ADS can help!  Special: $25/hour through the month of April.

Donate to the Audience Development Specialists Grant Fund!

YouTube Gallery – Do you have an amazing way you use YouTube to promote your art?  Let ADS know, and you might see your YouTube highlighted on our new gallery!

1 Comment

Filed under arts advocacy, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development