It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Superuser!

By Laura Flusche, PhD, Executive Director, Museum of Design Atlanta

In 2017, when the Audience Building Roundtable of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation offered member organizations an opportunity to be part of a second cohort working with TRG Arts to analyze patron data, MODA jumped at the chance. We have an expansive database — we use Blackbaud’s ALTRU — but didn’t feel that we’d developed enough effective methods for analyzing that data and using it to build audience.

We uploaded the past three years of our patron data to TRG and a few months later received a superpowered report full of interesting insights about who comes to MODA, who comes back to MODA, and who does not return. The report is a wealth of information and some of the most compelling things we learned were these:

  • 48% of revenue at MODA comes from individuals. The industry standard is closer to 90%.

  • The total number of households involved at MODA increased by 31% between 2015 and 2017.

  • Between 2015 and 2017, 79% of the households involved at MODA were new to our database.

  • Membership is growing, but we have high attrition of members.

  • 1 in 3 of MODA members participates in programming at the museum.

  • 74% of visitors to MODA are Gen X or Y.

  • Over 600 households made more than one transaction at MODA in 2017.

  • We have an amazing net promoter score of 100%. (Yippee!)

Every data point we received from our patron retention report suggested opportunity, but it was clear that we couldn’t act on all of them at once, so we chose to focus our audience building efforts on the 600 households that made more than one transaction at MODA in 2017, i.e. those already closest to the museum. 

We set several goals for this project:

  • To strengthen our relationship with the 600 multi-transaction households, which we dubbed “Superusers”

  • To identify other multi-transaction households that either weren’t visible in our data because they buy tickets anonymously at the front desk of the museum or because they became Superusers in the intervening period since the patron retention analysis occurred

  • To develop ways to turn first-time visitors or program participants into Superusers by inviting them back to MODA quickly after their first experience

A team guided by our Director of Development, Aimee Chan-Lindquist, and led by our then Membership and Development Associate, Nia Mosby, and intern, Anna Slaughter, kicked off this project by searching our database to attach identities to the 600 Superusers discovered in the patron retention study and determine how those households had participated at MODA. We found that Superusers could be divided relatively neatly into categories in accordance with their participation:

  • Those who attended in-museum lectures and programs for adults

  • Those who attended kids programs  

  • Those who attended Family Free Days

  • Those who attended social discourse programs in and out of the museum

  • Those who attended Design Conversations and lectures

  • Those who came to exhibitions

Once we segmented the 600 Superusers based on their participation, we created constituent labels in our database and applied them to Superuser records. For example, if Joe Listener is a Superuser who has attended multiple Design Conversations and lectures, we label his constituent record as “Superuser - Lectures” so that any time a staff member calls up his record they get an immediate idea of what might interest Joe. We have also put an alert on his record, so that if Joe comes in the museum to see an exhibition and we are able to identify him at the front desk, whomever is making the transaction receives a notice that Joe is a Superuser who likes lectures and can engage him in conversation about what lectures and Design Conversations are coming up next. 

Once we recorded the participatory proclivities of our Superusers in our database, we moved on to another level of segmentation, dividing Superusers into the categories of members, lapsed members, or nonmembers. We then created a system that will allow us to communicate in specific and targeted ways with Superusers based on their interests AND their membership status as demonstrated in this diagram:

We recognized other opportunity in the patron retention study’s Superuser revelation as well. 

For example, we realized that MODA constituents were achieving Superuser status every single day and that we needed to create a process to identify them. So we instituted a practice by which we pull data from all transactions weekly and look for households that ascended to the Superuser realm. When we find them, we add them to our Superuser list, which has grown to 1000 as a result of this practice.

We also knew that if we could induce those who come in our door anonymously to identify themselves — for example, those who purchase exhibition tickets in our lobby —  we’d probably discover that we have many more Superusers than we presently know about. In the past there hasn’t been reason for a walk-in visitor to give us their name unless they were a MODA member. So we set out to remedy that situation and in doing so have taken an obvious but meaningful step: our team has expanded their practice of radical friendlinessby asking visitors for their names when they purchase exhibition tickets in the lobby - and we are having great success with the practice. 

In Q4 of 2018, we’re focused on continuing the practices we’ve started and taking the next steps to make our Superuser Initiativestronger. In the next months, we plan to:

  • Continue implementation of a strong communications cycle with Superuser segments

  • Develop strategies and tactics for inviting first-time MODA constituents back to the museum quickly so that they become Superusers and are rapidly integrated into our Superuser communication cycle

In Q1 of 2019, we’ll focus on strategies and tactics that will turn non-member Superusers into MODA members. 

And, in preparation for a summer 2019 fundraising campaign, we’ll develop and implement strategies to turn Superusers into donors.

We have ambitious goals for our Superuser program. Over the next 12 months, we aim to: 

  • Lower our new-to-file attrition rate from 80% to 50%. We know this is a wildly ambitious goal, but we think we can hit it because we believe that there are a lot of unrecognized Superusers amongst established constituents and some of the work of meeting that goal is recognizing them. 

  • To increase the number of identified Superusers from 1000 to 1500.

  • To increase the percentage of Superusers who are members from 13% to 35%.

  • To have 20% of Superusers accept our invitation to make a contribution to MODA.

MODA’s Board of Directors and staff are grateful to The Arthur M. Blank Foundation for funding the Audience Building Roundtable and the patron retention studies. This financial support and the professional guidance we’ve received have allowed us to develop and implement our the Superuser initiative.

We can’t wait for what’s next in the Essential Journey of Audience Building!


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