By Shelli Siebert, Executive Director, Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts
It has been an exciting year for Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts! Since we received an audience building grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in October 2016, our audience has grown by leaps and bounds. As a smaller arts organization, receiving this grant was the catalyst for us to upgrade our communications, helping us to grow our audience.
First, we hired a professional web designer to redesign our site. This enabled us to add features that we did not previously have, including an online donation portal, advanced event management capability, online ticket sales, and online summer camp registration. We spent some time getting used to our new features, and then added even more functionality to our site. Our website now has:
- A new ‘media’ section that includes a photo gallery featuring our arts and culture events
- A dedicated section for our Black Box Theater with:
- Photos, rental information and a calendar of events
- A contact form for prospective renters to inquire about date availability and reservations
- Connection to Facebook and Twitter accounts for our Black Box Theater
- A front-end submission form for local schools, churches, and community groups to add their events to our site, enabling us to function as a “community arts calendar”
An Improved Ticketing System Produces a 30% Increase in Ticket Sales
The capability to accept both donations and ticket sales through our website has been organization-changing! We are using both ThunderTix and Stripe so that all ticket sales and donations are directly deposited into our bank and simultaneously recorded into our financial management software. Reporting has become seamless and efficient.
Tracking is becoming second nature to us; we are moving in the right direction. Being able to track our ticket sales and donations is giving us the ability to know who our audience is, which will in turn allow us to build relationships with that audience.
As a result, our last two shows have produced a 30% increase in ticket sales! Our Facebook followers have increased from 400 in October 2016 to 1,451 today. We now spend more time and attention on social media, focusing on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to engage our existing audience and work to connect with potential audiences of all ages.
New Data Provides Audience Insights
In collecting additional audience data, we now know that our audience is far more diverse than we thought (happily so!) and we are committed to doing a better job of providing programming that our audience wants. We are interested in moving our first-time buyers to full engagement with us, and we know that means that we need to understand more about audience.
We are testing methods to reach our audience that we learn about in the Audience Building Roundtable meetings and in interaction with our peers. We’ve learned to study our audience data and take time to figure out the right strategy to reach our audience. We know that we will make some mistakes and we get it right, we will celebrate the victories (when those audience members return for a second, third, fourth and fifth time!)
We are a stronger organization than we were one year ago – and we still have a long way to go. We’ve learned that we need to use technology to be successful with audience building. We were so far behind in 2016 that I wondered if we would ever catch up. But we began where we were and each day we learn more, use more data, and understand more about connecting with our audience.
In addition to the game-changing audience building grant we received in late 2016, we have benefitted greatly from the opportunity to be an active member of the Audience Building Roundtable of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Each time we enter the room with our peers in the Roundtable, we come away with audience building information, opportunities for collaboration, and ideas that strengthen our organization.
Our small arts organization can learn and create a different future because of this support and we intend to keep at it!