Green Means Go for Performing Arts Theaters

performing arts centert

The new 'Green Means Go' series is for performing arts theaters and chronicles the latest developments in fundraising, event awareness and ticket sale technology. ThunderTix's commitment to The Arts doesn't end with a sold out performance. We want to help theaters, big and small, meet their operational goals by sharing new ideas and best practices for accepting donations and increased ticket sales.

3 Examples With 1 Thing In Common

Performing Arts theater budgets are all too often heavily reliant on donations made by patrons. The need for community support to augment a theater's budget is an on-going, day-to-day struggle. So when there is news of a fund raising success story, 'Green Means Go' will share the who, what, where, why, and most importantly, how.

First up are some very encouraging results by three different organizations who have successfully used a donation match challenge to "green light" performances and new fiscal budgets.

The arts and culture community in Detroit Michigan has just received a $19.25 million dollar windfall and that includes many Motor City theaters. According to Detroit Free Press staff writer Mark Stryker, that windfall is "no accident."

A part of that $19 million is to be used for a donation matching challenge called the Knight's Arts Challenge. The Knight Foundation has a long history of supporting The Arts, with theaters in Miami and Philadelphia already receiving substantial benefits. Stryker explains:

The remaining $9 million will create the Knight Arts Challenge, a community-wide competitive matching-grant program open to organizations, business and individual artists...the Detroit initiative will be an open competition that funnels $3 million a year for the next three years into scores of ideas that bubble up from the community.The Knight Arts Challenge begins in March. The contest has only three ground rules: the idea must be about the arts, the project has to take place in Detroit or benefit Detroiters and grant recipients have to find matching funds equal to Knight’s commitment.

The Knight's Arts Challenge website has more information including the contest rules and its method for fund raising.

Next, the Opera Theater of Saint Louis has just announced it will present three years worth of world premiere operas by American composers as a direct result of a new donation challenge. The theater has the generous support of  the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation who have set the bar high with their $1,000,000 matching contribution. The challenge is for everyone in the St. Louis area and so far $750,000 has already been raised. St. Louis Business Journal editor Greta Weiderman says The Whitaker Foundation has donated $260,000, and The National Endowment for the Arts has made a $75,000 underwriting contribution.

Lastly, results of a donation challenge not yet realized as it has only just been announced. The Westport Country Playhouse has kicked-off its aptly named 'Theater Worth Supporting' Challenge currently running between now and November 3. Generous patrons Maureen and Edwin Schlosshe are making the matching fund challenge directly to all ticket buyers in order to raise $100,000. Playhouse board of trustees chairman Michael Klingher describes the fantastic effort:

As a non-profit dedicated to not only producing high-quality theater, but serving the broader community we are fortunate to call home we must rely on charitable contributions to help us close the gap between the true costs of running The Playhouse and the revenue from ticket sales.

We bring these three recent announcements to the attention of theater owners to inspire them to try issuing a challenge of their own. Even though these examples are big headline news, with six figure dollar amounts, the strategy of a challenge applies to all fund raising efforts in any scale.

Spreading The Word

The blockbuster endowments are representative of what may seem to be a paradox, at least on the surface. The U.S. economy is still struggling from the 2008 downturn and many feel the future is uncertain. Yet donations to theaters and The Arts resulting from matching donation challenges are on the rise.

Should a performing arts theater wish to join the donation challenge trend they'll need to take a close look at the structure of their organization especially the results of past fund raising efforts. Merely sending out a postal letter simply won't due. Challenges have a competitive spirit at their core and big money won't come from generous patrons unless the challenge is well planned and made widely known.

The focus of a competitive donor challenge program starts with promotion and high visibility. The internet, specifically social media, has proven itself invaluable for spreading information like wildfire. Theaters beginning a donor matching challenge will have to have their social media skills razor sharp and fully implemented. Once that's done, it can be part of the pitch to high profile contributors, private persons and companies, to show the effort will bring the enthusiasm needed for success.

If a performing arts theater can show they have a command of the social mediums, in addition to all the traditional forms of promotions, prominent patrons of The Arts will feel especially good about their altruism. Spreading the word of a new matching donation challenge is just the start though - accepting donations is the must have follow through.

Tools To Take Donations

With a healthy matching donations contest underway, a theater or other nonprofit needs to have the ability to accept the resulting contributions. A proper ticketing software with robust tools for incorporating a donation into a performance ticket purchase is a must. Better yet that same ticketing software shouldn't include counterproductive factors like per-ticket fees - a performing arts theater needs all the help it can get!

You provide culture to the world. We provide software for the world to buy tickets

ThunderTix has easy-to-use tools for making donations part of a ticket purchase, plus we do not charge per-tickets fees. Better still we specialize in online ticket sales for theaters and nonprofits with features like reserved seating and nightly deposits. We have a prominent roster of performing arts theaters as satisfied customers and want you to consider making us part of your theater's new matching donation challenge.

We just love the idea of performing arts theaters issuing challenges and having a competitive contest between established donors and the public. Future installments of 'Green Means Go' will have more success stories and we'll be sharing information with all theaters and nonprofits on how they can succeed. We want you to share your ideas too buy writing to us or letting us know in the comments below!