Fundraising is about more than just accepting donations. As American educator Randy Pausch once said: “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” In the theatre world, perhaps no one deserves more gratitude than your loyal patrons and donors. The people who support your work are a critical element in your theatre’s success, as both creative motivators and financial supporters!

You make ask yourself – if they’re already happy with my theatre’s work, why would I need to thank them? Well… 

Why Thanking Your Donors is Important

It demonstrates your awareness of their importance.

Thanking your donors shows you care about them, too – and that you know you couldn’t keep your doors open without them. By thanking them, you’re demonstrating their value to you – making them feel crucial to the cause.

It constantly reminds them of your theatre, mission, and brand. 

The more often you’re able to communicate with your donors, the more visible you are to them.  Your gratitude, in short, reminds them that they still care about your theatre – which is great news to you. Additionally, thanking them will always be a happy encounter, thus helping them to associate positivity with your brand. 

It increases their motivation to donate again.

If your guests feel seen, heard, and appreciated, they’re far more likely to continue giving to the cause or visiting your programming. This, in turn, helps you to continue your mission. 

So now you know why you should thank your patrons … but how should you do it? On The Stage offers a few ideas. 

Unique Ways to Thank Your Donors

Utilize Personalized Communication 

The most meaningful (albeit simple) way to show patron appreciation is by, well, just saying thank you with intention. A few ways to do so:

  • Phone call – Call patrons who have recently donated and thank them personally. 
  • Personalized text – Same idea, but via text. This could be good for patrons who are incredibly busy at work or don’t love phone calls. (Looking at you, millennials!) 
  • Email – Alongside automated emails thanking patrons for donations, add a personalized message that proves there are real people behind the screen.
  • Hand-written notes – While they are more time-consuming, hand-written notes will likely make a bigger impact; it shows you took the time to sit down and put some energy into your than you. 
  • Face-to-face conversation – If you want to bring out the big guns, suggest a lunch or coffee (on you) with your biggest donors. 

Show Appreciation on Your Website

Your theatre’s website serves a lot of purposes – it’s a digital hub for communications, your fundraising home base, and a platform to promote your work and sell merchandise. But it can also be a valuable piece of real estate to showcase patrons you appreciate. 

Consider creating a ‘supporters’ page on your site, highlighting your donors and, if possible, letting them and other website visitors know where, exactly, that money went. If you have a newsletter, show program, or blog, consider thanking them there, too. 

Give Shoutouts on Social Media

A variety of successful brands often do once-a-week donor shoutouts on their social media pages. Appreciation posts are great ways to diversify your posting schedule while potentially branching out with your follower list and helping donors feel appreciated. 

If you have the time or resources, consider creating a donor thank-you video to post on socials as well, or to play before your shows or other programming. This leaves an emotional impact on your patrons, as well as a lasting impression on all who see it. 

Acknowledge Donors During Events

Before or after your shows, during other programming events, and at fundraisers, take the time to call out major donors by name and thank them. Invite them to stand up and be recognized by all attendees or speak on behalf of their experience with your organization. This adds yet another level of personalization to your relationship. 

Share Exclusive Incentives 

Providing incentives and rewards to loyal donors never hurts – sweetening the pot will ensure more returns. Consider the following:

  • Free merchandise after a certain level of donation
  • Preferred seating at shows 
  • Backstage tours or other behind-the-scenes goodies 
  • Mentions/shoutouts/free ads in your show program
  • Discounted rates for tickets/swag/food/drink 
  • Social media shoutouts and partnerships  

Pay It Forward

Your loyal patrons clearly care about the success of your business, so why not give back to the other causes they care about?

If your theatre has volunteer days, consider asking patrons about their favorite nonprofits or charities, and spending some volunteer hours there. Not only will this show patrons you care, but it also acts as a way to strengthen your entire cast as a group and as philanthropic individuals. 

If you can swing it financially, donate proceeds from shows to patrons’ nonprofits of choice, or make donations during the holidays under their names. 

Host a Patron Appreciation Event

Just about everyone enjoys dressing up, going to a fun event, and getting thanked by people they’ve helped. So … why not host an annual, bi-annual, or monthly donor appreciation event for those who support your fundraising efforts? Utilize the talents of your team with live performances. Pair up with community partners to get great deals on food and drink. Use the event to promote new showcases coming up, and to secure even more donations. 

Reward Loyalty

Develop a loyalty program that directly rewards patrons who visit your theatre time and time again. Ensure your program offers enough value that patrons want to use it – with the aforementioned freebies, or discounts on bulk ticket buys. 

Referral programs are another great way to incentivize the promotion of your program while also helping your patrons. With a ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,’ mentality, both you and your patrons are excelling with cross-promotion. A win-win! 

Ask for Patrons’ Input

Feeling appreciated is a great start – but why not also help your patrons feel valued as creative partners? Check in with patrons as you’re planning your upcoming season or summer programming. Pick their brains on questions surrounding shows to pick, costuming or set choices, dates for specific events, or other creative decisions. While your choices are the end-all-be-all, it doesn’t hurt to see what would most excite patrons.

Donor Management with On The Stage

Now that you’ve found a variety of ways to retain and appreciate your patrons w, you’ll likely need best-in-class donor management software to keep track of it all. This is where On The Stage comes in.

With On The Stage’s Fundraising Suite, users can:

  • Launch fundraising campaigns
  • Track one-time and ongoing donations
  • Manage and grow donors
  • Access reports, and more

As it specifically relates to donor management, the software maximizes your fundraising efforts by tracking your supporters. You can:

  • Easily identify high-value customers with auto-updating lifetime value reports
  • Maintain recurring donations year-to-year
  • Develop strategies for outreach with automated email communications. 

See for yourself how a well-equipped donor database can change the game for your organization and create tremendous opportunities for your program. Book a personalized demo today to get started.

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