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Tiffany Elliott
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Master my software

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition! When innovation inspires change


So, you’ve sat through several sales pitches and have made a decision on a new CRM. Grab that pumpkin spice latte, because you’ve made it this far and you deserve a treat.

Brace yourself though, because the fun part is about to begin as you will now be faced with decisions regarding the mapping of years of valuable contribution and/or ticketing data and if something goes wrong…..let’s just say that Tahiti is really nice and affordable nowadays.

In all seriousness, everyone on the implementation team is responsible for making your new system the best that it can be! However, we all know that convincing others to make sweeping changes across an institution is easier said than done.

Allow me to take you back in time to my very first data conversion, when I was working in the box office at a non-profit performing arts organization in Boston. Since we did not have a ticket manager on staff at the time, I was told by my supervisor that I would be a driving force to making decisions on how data would be converted into the new system. We were fortunate enough to have a brilliant implementation team made up of key stakeholders from our organization, consultants from the new system, and countless spreadsheets to help us complete our conversion.

In our first conversion mapping meeting, I was provided with a tremendous amount of freedom and was given permission to rename any previous ticketing campaigns, packages, and codes to whatever the box office wanted them to be in the new system. To me, this was very exciting.  No more did I have to stare at meaningless codes in patron’s ticket history and try to decipher what they meant! No more asking a patron on the phone if they were a donor since our ticketing system was not integrated with development!  

I promptly threw on my superhero cape and flew back to my desk eager to invent new naming conventions for our organization. My flame of excitement was quickly extinguished when another member of my organization told me that they did not want me to rename any codes, just keep them all the same within the new system. Their reasoning was, “why change something if it’s not broken?”

If I followed that bit of rational, I’d still be driving my 1998 Monte Carlo to this day. And, yes, maybe it would be running just fine, but I’d miss out on having all the cool things that those Millennials take for granted—Bluetooth, satellite radio, central air that doesn’t take 20 minutes to start really working. Back in my day, if we wanted to call someone while driving, we had to hold a Razr flip phone in our sweaty manicured hands, keep the conversation under 3 minutes, and pray for green lights. #firstworldproblems #thosewerethedays

Why do we change things that are not technically broken? 

We change because a need in our current environment cannot be met, arises. Even better, we change because something better comes along.

The box office needed a change in the codes that did not make sense to us, but my colleague needed these codes in order to do her job. We met a perfect compromise in that I was able to change the codes related to anything ticketing related and she had the ability to veto any of those changes. In the end, only five codes were left unchanged from the legacy system, and the remaining 150-200 were optimized to work best for the institution.

This change helped us identify our patrons in a more efficient and immediate way and provide them with the exceptional service that they expected with each phone call to our box office. And most excitedly, the new CRM allowed us to finally see a three-dimensional image of who our patrons were.  Where they lived, what they enjoyed doing, how much of their time and money they spent with us, and how many years they had been loyal to us.

My favorite story as a result of this institutional change is the discovery of a patron who had been a loyal subscriber for over 25 years, which is typically rewarded with VIP ticketing benefits, but due to our previous methodology in our legacy system, was never identified with the proper codes. After notifying this patron of her new benefits, she was so pleased and, as if it were kismet, explained that she kept returning to subscribe every year because of the way our institution introduced new artists and changed with the times.  

What are some institutional changes that your organization can make today?  What are some things that your staff can do in order to reach a change by compromise?


Tiffany Elliott is a Consultant for JCA who helps arts and cultural organizations master their software. Recent clients include Grand Opera House in Wilmington, DE; Jacob Burns Film Center; Canadian Museum of Nature; Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, The American Film Institute, and The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA.

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