Category Archives: Arts funding

Is audience development for the arts the answer?

I have noticed that when I post tweets about arts organizations that are going bankrupt, I always tag it #auddev needed.  I know some people are questioning this and feel it better to attribute the downfall of these organizations to simply bad management.  Why would I continue to shout out about audience development?

To me, audience development is not just a method or technique of arts management, but an entire philosophy about how to run a business today.  In an age where crowdsourcing and social media are popular, the days of us dictating art are no longer valid.  Our business models of producing, marketing and fundraising without thoughts of our audiences are unraveling.  It is not wise to fall back on old business practices, and instead, it is better to be creative, engaging and involving with the people around us.

Some of us believe that the invention of the light bulb changed the arts from inclusive to entitled.  Elitism crept in to the point that the (benchmark) arts are not perceived as for everyone.  All of a sudden, the masses are not supporting the arts, and we have tiny niche markets that have developed due to this, well, development.

Audience development, true audience development, can change the way an arts business functions due to one very big reason.  Audience development is inclusive and focuses on partnering with audiences.  It is a team philosophy that not only includes everyone on your staff, all your volunteers, donors and sponsors, but it also includes your audiences.  This means that everyone will be on the same page working to support your business.

For producing and marketing, this is far different than simply placing an ad that professes (from your spinning marketing team) that your show is “something for everyone!” “spectacular!” “other marketing byte here!”  Instead, when partnering with your audiences, you can incorporate their perspective beforehand instead of attempting to sell something that they might not enjoy in ways that will be ignored.  A flop from the start is rather expensive to work with.  Wouldn’t it be better to produce something that has more promise?

In regard to fundraising, your audiences will help you to raise the money since they are a part of your team.  Your board members and staff will now have added energy to keep them going too. Everyone that is a part of your team will be helping to raise money for your business.  This team mentality for fundraising makes more sense than the “we are great, give us money,” shouted by a few people, views of old.  Plus, with all the people power combined, you can brainstorm new ways of asking for money.  Let’s face it, annual campaign letters have become trite and disposable.  You need to turn some heads and inspire some hearts!

I do hear one concern which I will quickly address. I am not saying that the audiences are now in charge.  You still have artistic license and the ability to create your own strategic plans.  The difference is, you will no longer be creating in the dark after knowing your audiences.  With this philosophy, you will be able to take more risks and produce new work that will have more of a chance of being successful. Your programming, marketing and fundraising can become fresh again.

If you are squeamish about this new way of producing art, and you rather be the sole creator without any feedback, perhaps use audience development to build the right audiences that will enjoy your art – find the best audiences for you!  Please do use audience development for your marketing and fundraising though in any case since you still need a team for support.

So, is audience development the answer? It does sound like audience development can promise the moon and the stars, and in a sense, it can.  With hard work and determination to build relationships and build your team of community support, I see a brighter future for the arts despite the light bulb.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

My eBook

New eBook!  The How of  Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

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Filed under Arts funding, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, fund raising, Fundraising

Entitlement and arts audience development

Last Friday I blogged about some of the reasons why arts organizations succeed and some reasons why they are failing.  I hinted at the big elephant in the room, but for this Monday Moment, I will come out and declare it!

One of the biggest reasons arts organizations are failing is due to the feelings of entitlement.  We have gone through centuries of feeling that the arts are supposed to be supported, and in many cases have rested on this laurel.  We have forgotten how to do the good old fashioned work that results in successful arts businesses.

I am not meaning that we have become artistically lazy, although in some cases, we could cut back on offerings to ensure that each program is a true winner in terms of quality.  In regard to how we are running our businesses, we have become a little lazy.  Boards are not raising as much money.  Staff are falling back on measures that do not offer top quality customer service.  Individual artists have turned to complaining that they have to do the work.  Our marketing is lazy since we create the same tired marketing in the same tired ways that no longer get results.  The creativity for fundraising has almost gone out the window.  We mostly continue with the same old events, annual asks, etc.

We are artists.  Most of the arts administrators are artists as well.  Instead of feeling entitled, maybe it is time to finally use our artistic savvy and roll up our sleeves to become creative again.  It is time to connect again with our patrons on all levels.  It is time for the artists and arts administrators to act as a team again where we all work at audience development.  It is time for all of us to learn new ways of selling an event instead of relying on our tired ads, same old marketing copy and misplaced energy and money on other energy-less efforts.

Many organizations do have the amount of staff needed to turn everything around.  They also have the amount of money to reallocate to new efforts.  The fact that older, established, and well staffed organizations are going bankrupt means that they are, or had been, suffering from entitlement issues.

If you really want a well functioning arts business, you have to do the work.  For the smaller organizations and individual artists, this also means building a team of volunteers to help you do the work.  No one has to do all the work alone.  Everyone can build a team to work with.

We are entering the age where authenticity is going to be attractive, especially since there are more people on this planet that are clamoring for attention.  In many locations, we are saturated with arts offerings.  The competition is fierce for audience, for grants, for donations, for sponsorships…

So, if you want to be successful in this atmosphere, entitlement is not the way to go.  Good old fashioned hard work and audience development is!

PS  This is a general observation, and I am happy to report that there are some artists and organizations that are working hard, being creative, and seeing some fantastic results!

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

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

Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

My eBook

New eBook!  The How of  Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

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Filed under Arts, Arts funding, arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development, Fundraising

Audience development diversity, but at what cost?

Let’s pretend it is Welcome Wednesday just for this moment.  Due to my workload, I was not able to post my guest blog that was scheduled.

On Monday I found the following article:

Portland introduces new diversity goals for local arts and culture groups seeking public funds http://bit.ly/zgoefv.

This article has caused a bit of discussion.  Mainly, most of us are in favor of promoting diversity, but forcing diversity in this fashion might be a little too extreme.  My colleague Drew McManus over at his blog Adaptistration found a thoughtful comment on Joe Patti’s Butts in the Seats blog (love the blog, but hate the name).  Mainly Patti declares the need for the guidelines of this program to be more clearly stated, and that simply taking action for more inclusion may not transfer to true inclusion.  I recommend reading his thoughts.

Again, due to being busy this week, I have not been able to put my own thoughts into words, but my friend and colleague, Amy Wratchford did a fantastic job of formatting a very thorough rebuttal.  My thoughts echo this line of thinking.   Please welcome Amy as our guest blogger, and let us know what you think by replying.

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Amywratchford’s blog

Misguided Means to Unintended Ends: Portland’s arts diversification plan

This article came across my Twitter stream this afternoon and immediately piqued my interest.  On the surface, a city like Portland linking funding for arts organizations to racial diversification of their boards, staff, contractors, and eventually audience sounds like an innovative and progressive idea.  Diversification of voices around the table is a good thing and we should all invite a variety of voices to the conversation.  However, linking vital public funding to blanket benchmarks can’t be healthy.  While I understand this policy is still in its infancy and “years from completion,” the information covered in the article is plenty to make me wary.

Here are some of my concerns:

  • Arts organizations, their missions and their audiences, are as diverse as the city itself.  Suggesting that every organization should be striving for the same benchmarks goes against the very reason they are distinct organizations in the first place.
  • What about organizations that are not producing work that speaks to a large and diverse audience?  We, as an industry, have decried funders dictating programming for decades.  Is it OK here because diversity for diversity’s sake is seen as a good end result?  There should be room in a vibrant arts ecosystem for niche companies and each of those will serve a different audience.  You can’t force an audience to be interested in a type of programming and you shouldn’t force an organization serving a distinct audience to turn from its mission in order to secure public funds.
  • Requiring a certain level of spending (30% of their budget is the “ideal” mentioned in the article) on communities of color is misguided.  How would this play out?
    • Do the Mayor and City Commissioners understand that each dollar an arts organization spends is already stretched to the limit and that few companies can simply divert funds in this way?
    • Does this mean a forced quota for staff, artists, and contractors?  What happened to allowing companies to hire the best person for the job, regardless of ethnicity?
    • Throwing marketing money at underserved communities may be the antithesis of actual engagement of these communities
  • Why just enforce ethnic diversity?  I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a direct correlation between the gender split of the staff and boards of Portland’s arts organizations and the population of the city as a whole.  What about gay voices at the table?  The disabled community?  Religious beliefs?  Socio-economic status?  Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes and each organization daily contends with reaching out to those audiences who could be interested in their work.

Instead of making arts organizations jump through ever more hoops to reach benchmarks unrelated to their mission, how about some of these ideas:

  • Rewarding organizations for diving deep into the communities to which a company’s programming speaks?
  • Judge an organization on their dedication to fulfilling their mission and the steps they take to engage and broaden their audience in ways that make sense for them?
  • Celebrate diversity in all its forms within the arts community

I applaud the Portland city leadership for looking for ways to encourage diversity.  I just fear they are heading down a path that will be detrimental for all involved.  As always, I’d love to know what you think.  Please continue this conversation in the comments below. [:O)]

Amy Wratchford is managing director of the American Shakespeare Center.  As the company’s chief administrative and financial officer, Amy oversees finance, marketing, development, and other business management functions for the ASC.  Before joining the ASC, Amy served as managing director of Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta, a theatre dedicated to supporting women artists, forging community partnerships, and developing new work.  Previously, she worked in a number of capacities in theatre in New York City, including producer, director, and actor.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in Acting from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and a master’s in fine arts degree in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College.

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Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

FacebookTwitterLinkedin

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

Join us for our next webinar:
March 16th – Noon ET

Working with Mobile Technology to Develop Your Audience
With the rapid adoption of web-enabled cell phones, smartphones and tablet computers, what options are available to arts professionals who want to engage their audiences via mobile devices? How can artists and organizations implement these options cost effectively without taking focus away from the art?

        

Shoshana Fanizza, Audience Development Specialists
Co-hosted with David Dombrosky, Chief Marketing Officer, InstantEncore
Co-produced with David Weuste, Rosebrook Classical

To Register: Click Here! 

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Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.

My eBook

New eBook!  The How of  Audience Development for the Arts: Learn the Basics, Create Your Plan

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Filed under Arts funding, arts management, Audience Development