Ask Me Anything Question
"We are seeing full houses but that’s not translating into donations. What are we doing wrong?"
Tony Lance’s Answer
Many nonprofit organizations have the same question. What can be done differently to get people to give? The tricky thing is, you can’t really force someone to donate—even if their wallet is already open when they are purchasing tickets. There’s a value for the experience that is unlocked by purchasing a ticket, but it takes a little bit more time and communication to convince someone of the value of donating money.
Of course, we all see the value that comes with donating. It could be funding education outreach allowing schools without a music program to attend the New York Philharmonic. It could be providing the necessary funds to make capital improvements on an aging building–maybe even making it ADA compliant. The truth of the matter is that charitable giving often makes up for half of the cost of running a nonprofit arts organization (many times it’s more than half). So even while commercial productions (like a current hit musical about one of the Founding Fathers of the United States) are being presented around the country in large houses with thousands of seats—most of those presenting organizations are nonprofits.
Does your audience know that? How would they if you aren’t telling them.
I like to use Starbucks as a prime example of how a commercial company uses their wealth and power in the communities they serve. One of their founding principles is corporate social responsibility. They leverage their leadership in the industry to provide fair treatment for employees and ethical sourcing of coffee and tea that provides jobs and builds strong communities—including funding for schools, farmer support centers, farmer loans, and forest carbon projects to build stronger farming communities for generations. They talk about this on their coffee bags, in their stores, on their website, and all over social media.
Even hit musicals on Broadway leverage their commercial gain for more than just reporting high Broadway grosses. Jersey Boys has given to music programs in New York Public Schools, Matilda (with the help of The Broadway League) provided books to school children, and Hamilton will provide 20,000 NYC students tickets to the hottest show in town.
Now, more than ever before, people want to know where their money is going. How are you conveying your organization’s contributions to the community that you are serving?