It is important you build and nurture your family of supporters. These are board members, volunteers, customers, funders and donors. These are people with a stake in the future success of your organisation.
A lot is made of how much greater the economic contribution by the arts, compared to the sports sector. It may be true, however the sports sector has an enviable record of building and nurturing their family of supporters. Often from one generation to the next. Commercial brands are also good at building and nurturing their family – think Apple, Harley Davidson and various airlines.
These businesses recognise that when they build and nurture their family, those supporters will spend increasing amounts on their products and services.
Arts organisations are story telling organisations. They appeal to the emotions of their audience. Their family of supporters buy into the story first and spend money after that.
How you nurture family of supporters should not be taken for granted. We should not assume a supporter who purchased a ticket last season will do so again this season. You have to give them a reason for doing so.
Many arts organisations rely upon social media and newsletters to push out information to their family of supporters. So they should. These are effective communication channels. The challenge can be they lack personality and the personal touch. A key communication strategy must be to personalise contact with family members. Make them feel special.
Supporters have many different needs. Some want information on shows, others are keen to know how you create impact and change lives and others want to see something exclusive or different. It isn’t practical for you to understand all the needs of all your supporters. What is important is that you dont assume you know what they need. By all means ask them in surveys. Also avoid providing only a single type of information. Your marketing team should be aware of all those needs, and others, and provide a variety of information across a variety of channels.
Your family of supporters give you something and its good practice to give them something in return. They advocate for your organisation. They are your influencers. They share stories about you to others, purchase something, leave positive reviews, give up their time and share resources with you.
It is good practice to give something little back to your supporters. Access to exclusive content, discounts and special offers. These are all loved and appreciated. Equally as importantly though, your family of supporters want to know how their contribution helped create a better world.
Your family of supporters is ultimately about tapping into money, either as a ticket sale, a store purchase or a donation, however you cannot approach the process from that perspective only, Achieving the ultimate goal takes time, energy and resources.
Similarly engaging and nurturing your family of supporters is not ‘fundraising’ nor is it ‘marketing’. It is a part of both those processes and should be built into your marketing and fundraising strategies.
Everyone within your organisation has a role to play in nurturing your family of supporters. Sure you may have marketing, communication and even fundraising specialists – though if you are small that is unlikely – even if you do, it isn’t the role of just those people. Board members and employees have a role to play in sharing stories about your organisation. You don’t have to ask for money just share stories. Avoid taking your family of supporters for granted.
Volunteers are especially important as it will likely be them on the front desk in some instances, at the door during an event or working away in the background. Firstly your volunteers are part of your family of supporters. They are not there to earn a wage, they are there because they truely love who you are and what you do. They want to be a part of that. The better you treat your volunteers the more inclined they will be to share stories and encourage others to lend their support.
Customers don’t have to purchase a ticket or something from your store. They do have options, other organisations or even online. So often we don’t even collect basic customer details. We fail to ask for their name or email address, or even their post code. We look at their purchase as single transaction, unlikely to be repeated; instead of considering the value chain of each customer, and working to encourage a repeat purchase.
Engaging your family of supporters need not be difficult or expensive. Every organisation has a newsletter. Thats a good starting point. Review the content you provide. How are you using this channel to nurture your family of supporters? This strategy alone will reap benefits and cost you nothing.
Holding an online competition with an event ticket as a prize costs you nothing but encourages supporters to connect to your social media. From there you can review your social media messages and ask again, how are we nurturing and building our family of supporters?
There are many, many communication strategies available to you. You could start by engaging your employees and canvassing ideas from them on how to engage and build your family of supporters -after all they are a part of the supporter group and have a good understanding of what they would like to see.
John Coxon is founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations to remain viable and sustainable through application of The Cycle, a proven model for arts organisations. If you would like help with engaging your family of supporters reach out to John.