The “You Didn’t Pay Enough Last Time” Approach To Fundraising

Nod to for posting David Rohde’s examination of how viewing new ticket buyers as donors immediately after their attendance experience is extremely detrimental to arts organizations. He specifically addresses how the Metropolitan Opera’s use of telemarketing in this manner is leading to its demise, but they are not the first or last arts organization to employ this approach.

There have been others who have written about what it says when I person who has just seen a production for the first time gets a call or email asking for a donation or to become a subscriber a day or two later. However, I don’t recall anyone invoking quite this perspective:

From the patron standpoint, the problem here is three-fold. First, name another product or service that announces after it’s won a new customer that they underbilled you and you’re not welcome back until you fork over more dough for the first time.

He goes on to say that Metropolitan Opera ought to be playing up the benefits it has over its Broadway neighbors:

The Met’s goal with any new patron should have been to get them to tell five friends about how exciting it was to attend the opera and bring them all the next time….

The seating in the theater is more comfortable than in the typical Broadway theater, where the audience rows are often jammed up against each other. There’s no chance of missing the story in an opera because of the English titles on the seatbacks in front of you, compared to Broadway’s blasting of amplification that often seems disconnected from whoever’s singing or speaking on stage.

And the opera intermissions are longer and can be more of a party, especially at the upper balcony/bar level that inevitably attracts a fun crowd on La Bohème nights, compared to the rushed crush of bodies in a Broadway intermission that always ends in a mad scramble back to the seats for Act 2.

Rodhe’s overarching point is that relationship building is what will enable organizations to endure through the next crisis that may emerge and telemarketers just aren’t equipped to create those relationships.

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 ( 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. (

I am currently the 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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