TimeLine Theatre Company, Chicago

By Trudel | MacPherson / March 20, 2013

Are Digital Communications and Social Media Delivering Fundraising Results at TimeLine Theatre?

TimeLine Theatre

That is one of the questions we ask as we continue to research the impact and effectiveness of various social media experiments.  Our national data indicates that fundraising is the toughest nut for arts organizations to crack using social media and digital communications and more than 24% of our respondents reported they were not getting any results at all.

Kickstarter/Indiegogo style campaigns are growing in popularity but have heavy time and resource demands. We believe that before undertaking an external Kickstarter type campaign – with attendant commissions and timetables — arts organizations should consider “do it yourself” options.

We looked across the country for exemplars who had found a way to solve the fundraising challenge, powerfully engaging with audiences to convert ticket buyers into fans, fans into evangelists and evangelists into donors.  Some of the most interesting development work in the country is being done by TimeLine Theatre Company in Chicago.  TimeLine’s marketing and development team leaders, Lara Goetsch, Director of Marketing and Lydia Swift, Development Manager, forged a dynamic partnership to cultivate prospects and help advocates leverage their personal networks for the benefit of the company. 

TimeLine pioneered a cultivation tool – called TimeLine’s Cultivation Pyramid – to guide the company’s marketing and development work.  It’s based on a process that exists either formally or informally in all organizations – rooted in the idea of moving individuals up a ladder, or pyramid, of increasing support. 

Click here for a full review of the process and TimeLine’s unique approach link to:

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Mary Trudel and Rory MacPherson led a workshop at PAE 2012 in Miami

By Trudel | MacPherson / September 24, 2012
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Fundraising Strategies: Making Social Media Mission Critical

Professional Development Workshop at the Performing Arts Exchange 2012 Miami, Florida

Trudel | MacPherson principals, Rory MacPherson and Mary Trudel headlined at South Arts’ annual booking conference for East Coast presenters. Drawing on data from our national How Strong Is Your Social Net national survey, and hundreds of practitioner interviews, we explored best practices in using social media to generate contributed income. Skills and tactics highlighted ranged from crowd-funding to donor cultivation to sponsorship trades and eyeball farming.

 The PowerPoint presentation of our workshop is available here. A few highlights:

Nationally only 5% of arts groups report use of social media has delivered mission critical or major results. 70% of survey respondents report achieving either good or some results but a significant percentage – 24% — report no results.

Our workshop highlighted the importance of treating fundraising as part of a continuum of audience engagement. Noting that “You can’t ask someone to marry you on the first date,” Mary described a cultivation approach which rewards and engages prospects at every level of interest. Major donors expect tangible rewards and recognition such as building naming rights and personal attention. We suggested that every level of engagement requires a “What’s in it for me?” response. Prospects, casual donors, subscribers, regular attendees and increasingly loyal donors can be cultivated by creative use of access and prominence, moving audiences to become fans, donors and evangelists for your organization.

We discussed effective use of social media is building engagement on steroids! The best organizations understand that their greatest assets are — to use a Facebook word – their friend relationships with audiences, visitors, fans and patrons. These groups can be mobilized to help but you CANNOT make those friends in a crisis.

Friends are made on the frontlines through individual experiences that bring fans closer or push them away. We’ve reviewed 8 important elements of effective engagement which can solidify engagement and make social media mission critical for your fundraising:

1. It’s Not One Size Fits All

2. Make it Personal + Concrete + Time Sensitive

3. Connect with Values and Value Connections

4. Listen and Respond

5. Cultivate Productive Partnerships

6. Eyeball Farming Only Works with Friends

7. Measure What Matters

8. Involve the Whole Organization

We’d love to hear about your experiences making social media mission critical in fundraising. Do be in touch.

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