The power of community collaboration can’t be understated – because two minds are always greater than one, right? As a theatre professional, you probably find yourself collaborating a lot in your day-to-day – with team members, actors, crew members, and the like. But what about taking that culture of collaboration even further?

Certain members of your community can be a goldmine of inspiration and assistance as you work to elevate your theatre and its offerings. The best way to access this inspiration and assistance is by partnering with local businesses and businesspeople to help you on your mission. 

On The Stage presents why partnering with local businesses is beneficial and how to get started. 

Benefits of Partnering with Local Businesses

The benefits of partnerships and collaborations are easy to name, no matter the industry. For theatres, a few of the many pros of teaming up with individuals and businesses in your community include:

  • More buzz, brand awareness, and community recognition of your theatre with advanced exposure at local businesses 
  • Greater opportunities for business sponsorships and expanded networking opportunities, thus padding your bottom line
  • Higher quality productions, costumes, props, and tech thanks to in-kind and financial donations
  • Greater opportunities for ad sales in your show program via partners and their clients 
  • A more cohesive and connected community, with a greater understanding and appreciation of those around us 
  • A greater likelihood of attracting new patrons thanks to the built-in customer base of your business partner 
  • Expanded geographical reach as it pertains to top-of-mind awareness of your theatre
  • A stronger sense of credibility within your community; if this well-known business trusts your theatre, their patrons and others in the community will, too
  • Access to a wealth of new expertise, products, and services 

If that isn’t enough to sell you on partnering with local businesses, we’re not sure what to tell you. But if you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of approaching and engaging businesses in your area, On The Stage can help. 

Strategies for Engaging Local Businesses

How to Start

So, you know why partnerships are great – but how do you get started on the process of choosing which businesses to partner with? 

A few tips to consider:

  • Take stock of the businesses in your area and decide which can best meet your needs. Ask yourself what are your most pressing concerns that spurred you to seek a partnership? What qualities and criteria would support your values and goals? Make sure that the people you approach can help fulfill those needs. 
  • Come up with ideas for making your partnership mutually beneficial – what can you offer to these businesses? Work on an elevator pitch that’s succinct yet informational, touting the benefits your business partner would get. 
  • Look at businesses that have already partnered with creative organizations in your area. How did those partnerships go? Were there any hiccups? How could you rectify those for the future? 

Who to Target

The beauty of community partnerships is that you don’t just have to team up with those with business models just like yours. A variety of companies in industries across the board can help make your dreams a reality. A few considerations include:

  • Area schools, camps, and programs centered around students or another key demographic you’re looking to target 
  • Nonprofits and charitable organizations with human service missions 
  • Arts and culture organizations, from other theatres to art galleries and independent cinemas 
  • Any media outlets – local newspapers, magazines, TV channels, online social groups, and bloggers
  • Banks and other commercial entities that may have the capital you need 
  • Restaurants, bars, and retail shops with substantial foot traffic and the demographic you’re looking to target 

Strategies for Business Partner Engagements

Now that you’ve got your business partners on the hook, it’s time to create events and strategies that not only benefit your theatre but keep your business partners engaged and satisfied. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing: 

Host an Open House

Let potential business partners get a feel for what you have to offer by hosting an open house. Be prepared with informational pamphlets, Q&A sessions, talking points, and elevator pitches. This is a great chance to have home-field advantage, allowing you to share your organization’s great work, take stock of the partnerships you can have, and engage with them to solicit interest. 

Attend Trade Shows and Networking Events 

Take the pressure off yourself and attend local business trade shows and networking events. Consider joining a leadership committee or a chamber of commerce council to get to know the movers and shakers in your community. Friendships can turn into partnerships, after all. 

Host After-School or Summer Programming 

Summer programming is a win for everyone involved – it brings cultural enrichment to the community, a padded bottom line to your theatre, brand awareness, and the chance to make connections with businesses in your area. Consider having sponsors for your camp, branded merchandise, donated concessions, or catered lunches. These are all great ways to tap community partners and get people engaged in what you have to offer, even if the ‘off-months.’

Open Up Your Theatre for a Community Production 

If you are typically a school-centric program or immersive theatre, try switching things up with a community-wide production. This opens up not only your pool of actors and crew members but also your pool of sponsors, partners, patrons, and potential advertisers. Make sure you’re highly publicizing this community production and partnering up with as many local businesses as possible to make it a success. 

Throw a Charity Event 

Whether it’s a fun run, neighborhood leaf pick-up, swanky gala, polar plunge, bake sale, or car wash, hosting charity events and asking businesses to chip in or partner up is a pretty hard deal to say no to. Not only are you raising funds for an important cause, but your business partners can also get positive exposure for helping out. Win-win! 

Some Additional Pro Tips: 

  • In searching for a good community partner, find out which companies/businesses/shops your ideal patrons frequently visit. Go for those first. 
  • Approach partnership discussions prepared and with a set plan, but don’t be afraid of some pushback and negotiations. Flexibility is key. 
  • Media partnerships are among the easiest and most measurable avenues for increasing community engagement, so don’t count out newspapers and TV stations. 
  • Don’t be intimidated by large corporations, as most have public service initiatives and are looking for opportunities to invest back into their communities. 
  • On the flip side of the coin, linking up with small businesses/grassroots organizations can deeply strengthen the fabric of your community and can be mutually beneficial in major ways. 
  • Keep in mind your ethical standards before jumping into a partnership. Ensure the people you’re approaching have cultural, social, and ethical alignment with you and your theatre. If not, your reputation can be hurt in the long run. 

In short, creating and maintaining partnerships is key to the success of your theatre – as long as you’re keeping track of defined objectives, monitoring key performance indicators, and ensuring both parties are satisfied.

If you’re ready to elevate your theatre experience and nab some excellent community partnerships this season, On The Stage (OTS) can help. OTS empowers thousands of organizations with ticketing, box office, marketing, fundraising, and reporting tools in one robust platform – for free. Book a personalized demo today to get started.

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