By Sicily Ledford, Dance Canvas
While at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in November 2016, which I attended on scholarship from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Georgia Repertory Theater, I learned (and was reassured) that not all millennials prefer to be reached through online platforms and social media. Although, it is worth noting that we still tend to social media outreach as an integral facet to our audience building tactic,it’s important to remember that reaching patrons through face-to-face audience building tactics can develop a more resilient, lasting relationship. Face-to-face interaction can also be useful to focus on reaching small groups of this generation of individuals at a time. Essentially, once meaningful relationships are created, patrons will tell their colleagues and friends to attend events or support the organization. This classic bring-a-friend tactic is, undoubtedly, very effective. Although this process does not yield an immediate increase in number of patrons attending events or amount of donations, it does increase the authenticity of the organization to patron relationship which, in turn, results in long term organizational health. It also increases the likelihood for donations as these patrons grow in their careers. As a part of this generation, I felt charged to share this simple, but vital and refreshing idea.
Since my return from the National Arts Marketing Project Conference, our administrative team developed a Dance Canvas Ambassador Program. Our team first met over pizza and brainstorming; this evening of discussion did not cost anything more than pizza, paper, and pencils. Our Executive Director, Angela Harris, began by leading everyone through a design thinking activity using the template that we received at an Audience Building Roundtable meeting, only stopping conversation when we realized that the restaurant was closing! We finished with a hearty list of ideas for engineering our student engagement initiatives and recruiting an energized group of inaugural Dance Canvas Ambassadors.
In light of the face-to-face and word-of-mouth concept mentioned above, this small but mighty group of young, dedicated Dance Canvas ambassadors—all patrons and volunteers—serve to connect our organization to the younger population in the metro Atlanta region. This initiative essentially serves as a way to engage college students in professional development opportunities and Dance Canvas events. Our ambassadors are inspired to complete special projects, carry out audience engagement initiatives and lead a cohort of peers from several of Dance Canvas’ partner colleges. Ambassadors are asked to volunteer for at least three Dance Canvas events including our “Introducing the Next Generation” performances.
In return, ambassadors receive these benefits!
- Free Dance Canvas T-shirt & magnet
- Free admission to all Dance Canvas shows and events
- Special invitations to private Dance Canvas events (networking opportunities)
- Access to Dance Canvas choreographers through masterclasses, workshops, and meet & greets
- Access to free professional development seminars, VIP Q&A's, and special DC Ambassador social / networking events
- Cohort of Peers from several colleges
- Mentorship and career goal assistance from the Dance Canvas staff
Currently, our partner colleges are the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University and Georgia Tech. These partnerships support the part of our mission that serves emerging artists that are college students, recent graduates,and/or of the millennial generation.
In review, our ambassador program provides volunteer support for audience building tasks and projects including,but not limited to, social media content development and targeted ticket sales.
Each of our ambassadors reached out to their peers to increase student ticket sales for our “Introducing the Next Generation” performance series in March 2017. Our group of ambassadors also led the two post-show receptions in the Ferst Center for the Arts lobby. These gatherings were an absolute hit and the post show vibe led to even more relationship cultivation as patrons could interact directly with choreographers, dancers and Dance Canvas students while enjoying free hors d'oeuvres and beverages.
The challenge that comes with having an ambassador team is the time it takes to educate and lead rather than simply delegate tasks. But I hesitate to call this a “negative.” The ambassadors are eager and quick to learn and we hope to support them in becoming leaders for our organization and for the Atlanta arts community. We encourage organizations to take the time to generate or further develop their relationships with this group of “art-zealous” patrons. It is an investment that will yield returns into the future.
We welcome you to share our Ambassador program with others using the link below.
http://www.dancecanvas.com/collegiate-alliance-ambassador-prog. We are happy to answer any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.