Daily Archives: April 20, 2010

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 Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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