“Baby Come Back” to the Rialto!

By Darlene Hamilton, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications
Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University

The Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University was among five arts organizations chosen to participate in the second cohort of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable Patron Analysis: Putting Data into Action. We were thrilled to participate in the study. Each organization provided three years of data on Single Ticket Buyers (STBs), Subscribers, Members and Donors.

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.

Dad’s Garage Addresses a Primary Barrier to Attendance: Not Having Someone to Attend With!

By Lara Smith, Managing Director, Dad’s Garage

Our “Social Spaces” project addressed one of the primary reasons people don’t attend arts and cultural events: They don’t have someone to go with! We want our theatre to serve as a community gathering space, and we currently host birthday parties, game nights, volunteer appreciation events, fundraisers for other organizations, neighborhood meetings, and many other events. “Social Spaces” took this one step further and identified groups we could engage with our unique brand of arts programming, with fun events before and after our shows.

Minor Website Changes Produce Big Gains 

By Rhonda Davis, Board Member, Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA)

The Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance (SEFAA) received a scholarship grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable to attend the National Arts Marketing Project Conference on November 11-13, 2017. 

The opening keynote was “You, Your World, Your Future.” The speakers spoke about diverse cultures and how organizations need to gain understanding of different cultures in order to effectively market to diverse audiences. The main theme—in the keynote and throughout the remainder of this conference—was diversity and inclusion. 

My first session was “A/B Testing Your Way to Success.”

How do I get the most from a Google AdWords Grant? 

By Jessica Boatright & Kathleen Covington, Alliance Theatre

 “How do I get the most from a Google AdWords Grant?” 

This is an actual question I typed into Google (where else?) a couple of years ago. At the Alliance Theatre, we had applied for and received a Google Ad Grant, which meant we had up to $10,000 per month in “credit” toward Google AdWords campaigns that was ours to use. The problem was, we were hardly using it at all.

Pull Audiences like the Duck March…. or “Market like a Cockroach”

By Darlene Hamilton, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications, Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University

The Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University attended the 2017 National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee last November, thanks to the scholarship award we received from The Arthur Blank Family Foundation Audience Building Roundtable.

How to Market the Unknown…and other ways to “Tell our Story”

By Angela Harris, Executive Artistic Director, Dance Canvas

I attended the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in November 2017 on a scholarship provided by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable initiative. I have attended the NAMP conference several times in the past, and it has always been one of my favorite opportunities to gauge arts marketing trends from across the country.

The National Arts Marketing Project Conference: What Grabbed Our Organization’s Attention (Other than the Marching Ducks)

By Hollie Rivers, Georgia Ensemble Theatre

So much grabbed my attention at the National Arts Marketing Conference in Memphis in November 2017, which I attended on a scholarship provided by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable initiative.

First of all, MEMPHIS—what a city! This city was buzzing with arts and culture anywhere you looked: from the colorful mural-lined streets, marching Peabody Ducks, Beale Street blues, and barbeque EVERYWHERE.

Soul Food and Social Media Strategy

By Vanya Foote, Executive Director, Atlanta Chamber Players

In November of 2017, I attended the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, TN, thanks to a grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable. Memphis, with its history rich in music and art (and not to mention having some of the best soul food around) provided a beautiful backdrop to bring together colleagues to collaborate and discuss some of the toughest challenges that arts organizations face.

Drafting Your Fantasy Audience

By Kacie Willis, 7 Stages

In October 2017, I was sitting in a coffee shop with Sara Leonard during a consulting session that was provided through a grant from the Audience Building Roundtable of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. I was feeling pretty nervous about conceiving a marketing strategy for the production The Followers; A Retelling of the Bacchae due largely to the ambitious thematic nature of the show and perhaps my own preconceived notions about “the types of shows” that Atlanta audiences wanted to see.

The National Black Arts Festival: Communicating with our Audience

By Vikki Morrow, President & CEO

In early 2016, faced with a declining audience base, the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) looked to better understand who our audiences are, why they support us and how we are serving them.

Current Situation: Our 30th Anniversary

One of our challenges is a change in programming that NBAF implemented during the last several years, moving from a festival season to year-round programming...

JANUARY 2018 ISSUE: Georgia Symphony Orchestra Experiences 13% Increase in Ticket Sales from 2015 to 2017


By Susan Stensland, Executive Director


Now in its 67th season, the Georgia Symphony Orchestra (GSO) has many years of rich history and tradition in Cobb County and surrounding areas. The continued survival and growth of our organization is a result of the commitment and dedication of hardworking arts appreciators and volunteers who recognize the value of the musical programs that we bring to our community. Thanks to the generosity of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, we were awarded an Audience Building grant to help grow our audience and be better positioned to deepen relationships with our community members.

To stay relevant in today’s very social world, we chose to use this funding to develop an action plan to attract new ticket buyers and energize existing relationships with loyal patrons. Our planning work, with the assistance of consultant Sara Leonard (another amazing resource provided to us by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation,) identified key values of the GSO. We value being welcoming, inclusive, accessible, flexible, and collaborative. We incorporated these values in our communications and in our actual events, using the grant to fund the projects.



Empathy is a critical element of the design method of planning that we have discussed at length at Audience Building Roundtable meetings. With this in mind, we have committed to listening carefully to our ticket buyers and patrons. We know that our musical performances must be high quality, varied in nature and thoughtfully curated. We found that our patrons enjoy the GSO as a place for social gathering where they are welcomed, recognized, and appreciated. To more fully be a welcoming place, we began to incorporate unique opportunities to enhance the concert experience.

For our Musical Promenade concert, we included Pictures at an Exhibition and added a juried art exhibit to make our pre-concert lobby experience more welcoming, inclusive, and fun. This brought visual artists and their fans to a multi-faceted event. During the performance, a slide show was added with paintings that inspired the musical composition. The audience was then “flash mobbed” by the GSO chorus in the lobby during intermission as a way of further immersing the patrons in the experience. 

The America, Vol. 1, concert showcasing works of American composers, included a bluegrass band in the lobby before the performance and the Georgia Spiritual Ensemble in the lobby at intermission. The Just the Beginning concert that closed the 2016-2017 season happened to fall on Earth day, so we created an earth-themed photo booth in the lobby, and the GSO partnered with Trees Atlanta to give saplings to each of our concert attendees. Everyone loved their free gift and the collaborative atmosphere. We added a VIP option to our GSO Jazz concerts, where guests can upgrade to a reserved seating section, and attend a meet-the-musicians reception before the show.

During the 2017-2018 season, our “concert extras” continued on the themes of being welcoming, inclusive, accessible, and collaborative. We added musical performances in the lobby, a new stop-n-shoot backdrop for social media photos, a surprise visit during and after our Holiday concerts by the famous Santa from the Macy’s parades, Valentine’s Day treats, and collaborations with the Morehouse College and the Spelman College Glee Clubs, the Georgia Spiritual Ensemble, and the Uzee Brown Society of Choraliers. 

Through spring 2018, we will assess our quantitative data to determine the impact of our new strategies on our ticket numbers. Ticket sales from 2015 to 2017 increased from an average of $5,714 to $6,448 per concert, a growth of almost 13%. We hope for even more growth as we continue our implementation of new strategies. Audience response to the enhanced concert experiences has been overwhelmingly positive, energetic, and appreciated. Attendees have said that they not only look forward to the music but also to the pre-concert surprises which will be there for them!



The second part of our strategy is to incorporate our values into our communications. This summer we rolled out a new website designed to be up-to-date, user-friendly, and compatible across all mobile platforms. We purchased video equipment and have plans to create blogs, videos, and social media posts that invite our audiences to get to know our musicians, to get a glimpse into the world of the symphony and create a sense of community ownership.

We began an ongoing analysis of our web traffic and trends. Our new website has more analytical capability, which will aid in collection of online traffic. We refocused our marketing on social media platforms, making use of our new video equipment and new website. Early results are positive, with considerable increases in online activity. 

Our primary focus for social media has been on Facebook, as it reaches our target demographics and found a 16.7% growth in page likesover the past year. In the past few months, we experimented with different Facebook ad campaigns, testing the results of videos versus event sharing with photos. We found it interesting to note that men clicked on our videos more than women, at a rate of 57% -43%. Women clicked on posts and events more than men: 67% - 33%. The highest number of our fans are online from 9am-9pm on Wednesdays – Fridays. We get the most significant response from videos and are learning to strategically plan when our posts and event reminders are sent and which audiences to target. Our first video post in 2016 received 110 views. Using our new video equipment together with our new data-based initiatives founded on the study of our analytics, our current video for “From Darkness to Light” has received 5979 views. That is an increase of over 5000% which is significant for our organization's visibility.

The Georgia Symphony Orchestra is enjoying the renewed energy and excitement from the community. We are grateful to The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable for providing the tools to help us grow stronger as arts leaders and in service to the people of our region. We are happy to share our ideas with the other Roundtable members and with others in the arts and culture community.

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