Running a theatre, no matter the size, has a variety of moving parts to manage. Perfecting the costumes. Nailing the sound and lighting cues. Casting the perfect leads. Marketing your upcoming show. Raising enough funds to improve the experience for everyone. But one part that often gets pushed to the wayside is the cultivation and nurturing of theatre patron relationships. After all, one of the most vital functions of a theatre or performing arts organization is its relations with audience members. 

Having these strong relationships with patrons has a variety of benefits – some of which are financial. After all, you probably know that a variety of organizations rely heavily upon contributed revenue and donations … many of which come from patrons themselves. 

In short, relationships are everything when it comes to the theatre. So, a goal for and and every organization should be to build strong community connections to gain more donors and get more funding. If you’re not sure how to start when it comes to understanding and nurturing patron relationships, On The Stage can help. 

Understand Donor Relationships

The key to successful fundraising in theatre and a variety of other industries is developing and maintaining personal relationships with your donors. But where to start? How can you understand donor relationships before jumping in? 

A good tip to think about on the journey is that major donors are typically giving to organizations with which they share an emotional connection. A patron making a large donation needs that strong relationship before pulling the proverbial trigger. 

Alongside creating a strong impression at the jump, all donor relationships need maintenance. 

Creating that connection isn’t a one-off activity, it’s a long-term commitment that benefits both parties. So, remember to thank patrons quickly after their first donation. Best practices say gifts should be acknowledged within 48 hours. This acknowledgment should be personal and give the donor specifics on how the money will be used in your program. A thank you is paramount at the primary stage of a donor relationship and will keep momentum going in the future. 

It’s also important to understand that all donor relations are important, even the smaller ones because you never know how a relationship can develop in the long run. After all, a donor who gives $100 a year could end up leaving a significant amount to the organization in their will. 

Finding the right donors is also integral to securing consistent capital. When searching for major donors, use your community networks to find people passionate about the performing arts who can share your mission. Remember that after securing donors, you can segment them for your own organizational purposes; separating your donors into different categories by factors such as gift amount, location, age, and more helps you target your communication and avoid overwhelming any one group with outreach that isn’t suitable for them. 

Nurturing Donor Relationships

Once you’ve found your donors, segmented them, and received a primary donation, the work isn’t done. You’ll need to continue to nurture those relationships in a variety of ways. Some ideas include: 

Focus on two-way communication

The last thing a donor wants is a flurry of automated, non-personal messages in their inbox right after they donate to you. Instead, send personal acknowledgments for all gifts and ensure donors know they continue to make a difference after the primary donation.

Alongside that, ensure you’re keeping up with donors on a regular basis. Either by updating them on your theatre, showing what their money has gone toward, or inviting them to fundraisers or networking events. 

Show donor impact

A donor is far more likely to give again if they see a concrete impact made with their funds. If you organize your donations well enough, you’ll be able to show direct donor impact to individual patrons. 

One great way to alleviate the stress of choosing where a donor’s money will go is by asking them directly. Perhaps they want more accessible seating, better lighting and sound equipment, or better-set pieces. You can use their capital to make it happen – securing more donations in the future. 

Exemplify gratitude

We’ve already told you how important it is to show gratitude to your donors, but it bears repeating. Consider personalized gifts for each donor, depending on their interests, occupation, or other personal information. The more you know about your donor, the better your thank you will land. 

Survey your donors 

When it comes to donor relationships, you can’t be the one that’s doing all the talking. Sometimes we creatives need to listen instead. 

A great way to make a donor feel valued is by asking for their feedback. Surveying donors about your theatre, its offerings, and its future is a great opportunity to build stronger relationships while getting useful opinions to make your organization’s outreach even better. 

Act on donor feedback 

Listening to your donors when it comes to feedback is only part one of the plan. If a donor takes the time to respond to surveys or give you helpful constructive criticism, make sure to act on that feedback if it’s appropriate. After putting those feedback lines into action, give credit where credit is due; donors enjoy being listened to, and it will make them feel valued by you and your organization. 

Monitor donor retention rates

The more donations you get, the harder it will be to keep track of retention rates. Make sure you’re utilizing a program that’s able to give you the data you need as it relates to donors. Critical information you need from the hard data includes finding and targeting lapsed donors and calculating the rate of one-time donors versus continued donors. 

Provide unique, enriching experiences

Maintaining patron satisfaction is not just about putting on a great show. This means that providing value to your patrons can include enriching experiences both on and off the stage.

Consider donor mixers, fundraisers, get-togethers, and networking events where patrons can be acknowledged for their work, and you can get one-on-one time to keep those relationships strong. 

On The Stage Donor Management Tools

If you’re ready to create stronger and longer-lasting relationships with donors, On The Stage (OTS) can help with its myriad donor management tools. With OTS, you can collect and manage donor information for insights and ongoing engagement and maximize your fundraising efforts by tracking your supporters with an easy-to-use, intuitive donor management system. OTS’ system offers a variety of perks, including: 

  • Contact Records: You can efficiently track buyers, donors, and imported contacts in a single management system with detailed views and reporting.
  • Editable Fields: These editable fields give you the flexibility to record what is most important to your organization.
  • Automated Updates: OTS’ tools automatically update donation and purchase information for each customer.
  • Detailed Tracking: You’ll be able to keep track of purchases, donor activities, and conversation histories to better target and engage your patrons.
  • Donor Engagement: You can nurture your donor relationships and build loyalty with ongoing communications with templated emails that incorporate Broadway best practices to maximize your efforts.
  • Reports and Insights: With accessible reports, you can quickly analyze your donor activity, identify trends, and understand donation habits.
  • Lifetime Value Reports: With these auto-updating reports, you can easily identify high-value supporters.
  • Data Imports: For maximum convenience, you can easily import your contact data into OTS to centralize your records. 

On The Stage can be your trusted partner in cultivating and nurturing patron and donor relationships. Book a personalized demo today to start your journey and learn more. 

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