Surviving the Coronavirus: 9 ways to keep revenue streams alive
Whatever projections you made regarding revenue, ticket sales or donations in 2020, those projections went out the window with the arrival of the coronavirus. The unprecedented challenges the virus has wrought include a fight for your organization's survival. Many theatres, music venues, and other event businesses will find themselves shuttered permanently when revenue dries up and cash flows are exhausted. You must deploy as many ideas as possible to survive. Let's cover 9 ways to guide your organization through the biggest threat we've collectively faced in the modern era.
1. Ask patrons to purchase gift cards
The havoc wreaked by COVID-19 will end, and your loyal patrons are anticipating the arrival of the day when "social distancing" is no longer required. Keep cash flow alive by asking patrons to support you now with the purchase of gift cards for future events. To inspire gift-giving, consider discounting the face value as a reward to buyers.
2. Refund purchases to a gift card
Canceled or postponed shows have an immediate impact on cash flow. Coupled with the pain of nonexistent ticket sales, you're now faced with processing refunds back to customers. Many organizations have a "no refunds" policy for canceled shows, but it's difficult to deliver that message to your loyal patrons. Instead, ask them if they'd consider a future credit or gift card to conserve precious cash
3. Convert ticket purchases into donations
Many of our clients with canceled events reported an unexpected surprise: their patrons refused offers for a refund and requested their money be transferred to a donation. For many customers who fully recognize the challenges you face, they are unaware this refund option exists, so don't be afraid to ask! ThunderTix users can convert ticket orders into a donation with a click of the mouse, and the generosity of patrons is recorded in the customer's record.
4. Ask for early purchases of season passes and packages
I've been bringing my family to, and meeting friends at, our local community theatre for more than a decade. Invitations to purchase season tickets normally arrive in late spring with slick brochures and forms for purchase followed by phone calls requesting my credit card. If this is the process you've followed, skip the formalities (and save the expense) and send a mass email now requesting patrons purchase today. You'll get access to funds faster with less staff time and provide ease of purchase to your customers. Inspire early purchases by implementing stepped pricing that rewards early buyers with lower ticket prices then increases prices over time.
5. Create a fundraising campaign to help laid-off staff
Few things are more painful as the head of an organization than the task of letting people go. Rely on the kindness of your patrons by creating a fundraising campaign to help your staff as they go through this stressful period. Take those donations a step further by asking your customers to make them recurring. Employ the features of your ticketing service to automate donations and send pre-created "thank you" notes.
6. Add ticket fees to future purchases
Virtually every ticketing software requires your patrons to pay a "convenience fee" when purchasing tickets online. While ThunderTix imposes no such fee, we do allow our users to add one and retain 100% of the revenue. Given the ubiquitous nature of ticket fees, customers are generally very tolerant of small charges for online convenience. Consider adding very nominal fees to ticket prices that go straight to your bottom line.
7. Ask patrons to "round up" their purchase with a small donation
Rounding up a purchase by a dollar or so is generally painless to a single customer, yet those small donations of a few cents or dollars add up. If your ticketing software includes this option, take advantage of it! Perhaps you'll experience the same generosity that one our clients did when 40% of their patrons for a holiday event opened their wallets with "round up" donations.
8. Stay involved with online video
Keep your patron base involved with your organization using online video meetings. Zoom, Go To Meeting and even Google Hangouts can be used at low-to-no-cost to stay connected with your loyal fans. Consider "meet and greets" with conductors, actors or set designers for Q&As and a behind-the-scenes peek at the work entailed to create the fantastic performances your patrons have come to appreciate. Strengthened bonds with your loyal base may elicit donations that ensure your doors reopen.
9. Put off planned projects
You collected donations for planned infrastructure projects -- new lighting or seat upholstery -- and you feel committed to stick with the plan. Don't. Remember, this is a fight for your survival. Your donors don't give a hoot that the seats behind the permanently closed doors of their beloved theatre are bright and new. They'll happily take the worn-out version when you re-open to packed audiences. And you will!
Your organization can get through this!
Facing and overcoming challenges requires creativity, discipline, and leadership. Use your skills to connect with patrons. There isn't a performing arts attendee on the planet that doesn't understand the pain your organization is facing. They feel helpless to assist. Helping them understand just how important their purchases and donations are now will enable them to give back to the arts they love. We're all looking forward to the day when the doors are open again.