What do fiscal cliffs and landfills have to do with audience development for the arts? Quite a lot actually. Allow me to explain.
The priorities in America and possibly the world are all mixed up these days. When countries are being run by greed for power and money, what is really important in life is not being funded. The arts, in my opinion, are important to our lives. We would be living life in the dark without the arts. There would be no color in our world, no design,creative sciences or inventiveness, no music, no plays, movies and television shows, no historical reference, no spark to our lives. How am I certain that the arts are one of the vital ingredients for humanity? Because of the Landfill Harmonic:
A country that has no means, but has the human spirit to create is making instruments out of remnants from the landfill. The arts are a basic need, a basic desire that has to be filled. This video showcases that the arts are a priority in our lives.
If the arts were to be a part of the fall off due to the fiscal cliff, we would still find a way to create and perform. However, think about what we could do if we finally got our priorities in life straight. What would the world look like if the greed for power and money were gone? There wouldn’t be a fiscal cliff and there probably would be the means for funding of the arts more fully. We as a human race tend to take the arts for granted. It’s only when the arts are gone from our lives that we find that we need to sift through the rubble, the garbage, to find a way to express ourselves again.
This taking the arts for granted can be flipped on its head too. We as artists tend to take our audiences for granted. I hope non-profits of all kinds will take a moment to ponder this point too.
We are taking our audiences for granted. We assume that if we create, the audiences will be there. You can call this the Field of Dreams Syndrome. We take it for granted that the right people will show up and start to support us, and then we fall flat with doing the work to build the relationships to create the support that we need.
For example, I receive donation asks from a variety of organizations. I might have given in the past, I might not have. The organizations that are targeting me based on who I have given to in the past have not started a relationship with me. They are asking without knowing who I really am as a person. I rarely give to these random asks. The ones I have given to the past are organizations that caught my attention through a variety of avenues, such as tabling at an outreach event. I have at least spoken to a representative, gone to a show, or volunteered for their cause. I gave to these organizations since a relation has been established.
I only choose to continue to give if the relationship continues. Many organizations at this point will take me for granted and continue to ask without any personal contact with me. The only organizations I continue to give to at this point are the ones that treat me like an individual person and not just a number on their mailing list. They make sure to thank me and contact me to keep me in the loop before asking for another donation. They send me updates on how my money is being used. They may call me to thank me personally. I did receive a call from a board member on one of these organizations. I only gave $25 that year too. Wow!
To tie this random post up into a nice gift with a big red bow for the holidays, you can trace back to the initial thought. We have our priorities mixed up. Instead of taking the road of hard work and thoughtfulness for others, we are taking the path of laziness and greed for money and power. People will not see the value of our art and organizations until we start valuing people as individuals. The world will not see the arts as a priority until they see the arts become more a part of the world in ways that are helpful and supportive to their communities. Perhaps if we started acting as individuals and support the people in our lives through solid two-way relationships, we can start adding a positive voice to the collective for a better, common sensed, prioritized world.
If you ever wondered why getting the arts funded has been so darn challenging, now you know.
PS These thoughts are my own humble opinion. Feel free to challenge, add, and consider your own thoughts and post as a reply!
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Audience Development Specialists
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
Although we are not a non-profit, if you would like to support ADS to continue our work, you can donate here.