Misc. Tips

I have assembled a small collection of ideas related to marketing and constituent relations. Thought I would share some of them today. I am not including donor benefits today because they could go on forever.

Volunteer Relations
April is National Volunteer Month so it is always nice to show your volunteers that you appreciate them. Some organizations I have come across have:

-Had volunteer dinners with entertainment and awards.
-Had a Holiday party where the volunteers were invited to bring an ornament to decorate the tree. This publicly exhibited how strong the volunteer corps was and how involved they were since few people ever saw more than a handful of them at one time.
-Annually nominated a volunteer of the year for a United Way recognition dinner and then noted the fact in the volunteer newsletter.
-A couple places I worked required the entire cast and crew to help strike the set at the end of the run. The volunteer guild would make a big pot of spaghetti or chili or bring a 4 foot subs for dinner. This let the volunteers rub elbows with the cast and also allowed the strike to move along on schedule.

Marketing/Public Relations

For Resubscriptions some organizations have:
-Had resubscription dinners with buffet/heavy hors d’oeuvres, sometimes with a concert/one act play as added incentive.
-Taped cards with Hershey Kisses attached the seats of season subscribers. The cards said “X Theatre Loves Their Subscribers! Exclusive Subscriber Ticket Sales End X.” This showed the subscribers they were appreciated and created a buzz among non-subscribers wondering what it was about. A curtain speech explained it all. (Have to credit Lisa Jones at the Carolina Ballet with this one. I adopted it from her. Works fairly well.)

For Public Awareness/Relations Some Organizations Can:
-Do short, pointed curtain speeches and be available at intermission for questions/comments.
-Speak at Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club meetings. Offer special business packages.
-Hold backstage tours, playtalks and advanced discussions about themes in shows.
-Give discounts on tickets for people who bring food donations for the local Food Bank.
-Have free First Monday play readings taking advantage of the theatre being dark
-Set up special “get you to the theatre on time” seating and menus with restaurants
-Have pre-show orientation talks in a room off a lobby or restaurant (promoting dinner, talk and show packages)
-Approach a local bookstore about having staff do talks about shows, costuming, lighting design, opera, etc or with significance to a best seller. In return, book store will put up window display promoting a performance with props, posters and perhaps a dress form. (Actually started this process with a Barnes and Noble and got agreement but my employment contract ran out before it came to be.)
-Similarly, approach churches (they are groups of people who go to events regularly as a family unit after all) to do talks about topics of interest. (I met an executive director with an art history background who spoke at evening church talks on the fact that some of the implications in The DaVinci Code that famous people belonged to secret societies were based on fabricated forgeries a la The Hitler Diaries)
-Encourage actors/directors/technicians/musicians, etc to blog. I mentioned the benefits and pitfalls of which I discussed at the end of this earlier entry and the beginning of this one. Just today, I came across these guidelines Groove Networks sets for employee blogs.

-One policy I never was in the position to institute once I formulated it–No disparaging remarks about patrons on the job. One place I worked not only discussed the stupid things people said or asked, they posted a running list on the box office door. I believe this type of thing creates a hostile work environment which subtly insinuates itself into customer care.

Customers are indeed idiots. I should know, I am one. Everyone has an off day. When you deal with a couple hundred people each day, there are bound to be a few having their off day (as well as the chronic idiots). One easy solution to this is the old money in a jar routine whenever someone complains about a patron. Then take the jar to a bar after hours and use it to buy beer and pizza and complain your heart out there.

Anyone else have some tips they have found useful? Some of the things I have done and come across have been sort of corny, but they were successful. I would really be interested in knowing what people have done. I will compile a list and post it as a resource people can consult when they need inspiration.
Clicking on “Joe” at the end of the entry will let you email me.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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