Ask Me Anything Question
"We’ve reached a point at our organization where opening weekends for our productions have become so full of high-level donors, corporate sponsors, and elite members of the industry that I’m worried we’re moving away from being a nonprofit and coming across as money-hungry and inaccessible to our core audience. What should we do?"
Tony Lance’s Answer
In cases like this where you have an issue of mission and accessibility coming up at odds with elite donors, high ticket prices, and the appearance of being a for-profit company, I always recommend that you go back to your mission statement. I understand how the gut reaction to making money at a nonprofit organization can sometimes feel like you’re operating more like a commercial company. But when it comes to being a successful nonprofit organization, it’s imperative to cultivate channels of earned AND given income, as long as it supports your mission.
If your mission is to provide the best dance performances in the region, while offering a safe place for students to study and explore their artistry, how are you going to support this work while keeping ticket prices reasonable and the company employed? Chances are good you’ll need to cultivate those high-level donors and corporate sponsors at a performance with limited inventory (there are only so many seats in the hall) or a gala that isn’t quite accessible to your core audience. As long as your core audience has access to a regular performance or audience engagement event, you shouldn’t feel bad about early-in-the-run inventory going to the highest bidder.
Nonprofits still need to make money to employ staff, encourage the art form to grow, and keep the lights on and mortgage paid. Just make sure you’re not in opposition to your organization’s mission and you’re effectively communicating your motives to your audience.
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JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.