Georgia Shakespeare, Atlanta, GA

Georgia Shakespeare Saves Its Season with Christmas in July 48 Hour Sale; Saves the Company with a Powerful Social Media Appeal

This mid-sized Atlanta Theater weathered a recession driven perfect storm, reaching out to its community of supporters to raise $500,000 in 4 months.

Twenty five year old Georgia Shakespeare one of the leading theater companies in the South solved two problems using social media to create an outpouring of interest and support.

Christmas in July

Solving problem #1 — The company saved its season – and broke box office history — with a 48 hour Christmas in July Sale in 2010. Keeping the box office open for 48 hours straight, staff used social media to offer midnight specials – like one dollar children’s theater tickets for 4 at 4am – and pumped enthusiasm into selling out productions in its slowest time of year. The campaign was fueled by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and blog posts. It brought the company together and created excitement about current shows while pre-selling December’s A Christmas Story.

Solving problem #2 — In fall 2011, the company was pushed to near extinction by a perfect storm public and private funding falloff. Again the company turned to its social media network. On September 9th the Managing Director issued an appeal to save the company which went viral overnight attracting media coverage and reaching out to people all over the country who claimed Georgia Shakespeare as home.

Followers like NYC actor Sid Solomon asked his friends to celebrate his birthday with a contribution to Georgia Shakespeare which had given him his first acting job after College. Former Manager Director Robert Fass, now based in Los Angeles, connected with his online colleagues, asking them to support his former alma mater.

In 2 weeks between September 9th and 23rd the company raised $325,000 from 1025 people all over the U.S. – the smallest gift $3.77 the price of a beer, the largest $50,000 from a local foundation who didn’t want to see the company fold. They’re now 80% toward their goal of raising $500,000 by yearend.

Posts communicated subscribers’ and friends’ special connection to the company as patrons posted stories on “what Georgia Shakespeare means to me” and why it matters to Atlanta and live theater.

Development Manager, Donna Weber, described the effort: “When we created the Christmas in July promotion we decided to ‘Go Bigger or Go Home’ and have an event that the community couldn’t miss. We used our summer college interns to help but everyone from the managing director to the stagehands took turns manning the box office during our 48 hour sale. We broke all box office records and started an Atlanta ‘Christmas in July’ tradition other arts groups have embraced.”

Proof points:

  • Promotions fueled by social media can powerfully connect with new audiences and create community buzz around an institution and season
  • Fund raising that taps into patrons’ and friends’ sincere attachment to an institution can build momentum and reach far beyond geographic boundaries
  • Fan and supporters are an organization’s most powerful evangelists

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