BLOG 10th January 2022

Rewarding Relationships: Memberships and Donations

It’s January - wow! It’s been a year of ups and downs and big changes for all of us. In 2021, we set this year’s theme to be all about relationships with your audience - what makes them, what breaks them and what strengthens them. We’re on the final chapter of this journey, and we’ve arrived at an expression of ultimate loyalty - memberships and donations.

What’s the craic with memberships and donations? Well, there are a lot of them out there and everyone does them slightly differently! They need to fit your audiences’ preferences like a glove to be successful and speak to their relationship with you too. Let’s consider memberships first.

So how do you do that?

First, you need to think about what a membership will do for your organisation. Do you want one for added revenue? Is it to move people further up your loyalty ladder? Is it to increase your treasure trove of customer data? Keep these goals in mind when considering strategies around your membership scheme. There may be more than one goal for your organisation that your scheme can hit.

What about you audience?

Don’t forget the core reason why someone would join a membership scheme or donate to you…LOYALTY. That’s right! These people are your biggest fans and they want to show their support to you in a tangible way, while probably getting something nice back in return. Much like most of our relationships, we’re willing to go the extra mile for those we are closest to. Think about your membership participants and donors similarly - they like what you do and want to demonstrate this by becoming more involved. Great! Problem solved. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as this. You can’t take these people for granted and you really need to respond to what they want in a tangible way that works for them, or your schemes are going to suffer. Some questions you need to ask yourself (and them!)

Why are they supporting you? Philanthropy? Hoping for some sweet discounts? Do they like being a part of your inner circle? Do they want to get front-row seats at your next show without the queue?

Think about how you can respond to these desires in a way that works for your organisation. That might look like growing a community through your members by exclusive events, queue jump passes, discounts on tickets, special newsletters or something else that works for you. There are so many variations of membership schemes, and the sky is your limit in your creativity with this, but always keep your audience’s motivations in mind.

Next, find out what your audience’s motivations are. You could do this by some or all of the following methods:

  • Short survey
  • Poll on social media or via your newsletter
  • Look at your audience data through your CRM, ticketing system and online analytics

Once you have this info, use that to build your custom membership package, which will be tailor-made to suit your audiences.


Next, let’s think about donations.

Donations can be motivated by a variety of factors but they boil down to sheer philanthropy. Someone is giving you their hard-earned cash simply because they think what you do is so amazing that it deserves a boost. What a lovely thought!

So how do we maximise these feelings? Here are some tips:

  • Make it simple, make it smart. Have an option to add a range of donation charges straight to their basket when buying tickets. (Keep in mind - people generally pick the middle of a range of prices!)
  • Have a really strong message. People like to know what their money is going towards and they also need to feel good about how it’s going to help. Shout about this!
  • Train Box Office staff to solicit donations at point of purchase. Knowing how and when to ask is a valuable skill for the staff who interact with your audiences the most when paying for something.
  • Add a donation page to your website which clearly lays out what you do, how it impacts those in your community and how to do it. Make it emotive. Bright, cheerful graphics of images of the impact you create can help here too.
  • Specific campaigns can be more persuasive than a catch all ‘donate’ message. What is it you really need the donations for?

Remember, when it comes to donations - if you don’t ask, you don’t get! The more opportunities you can create for people to give to you in an unobtrusive, simple manner, the better.

Until March 2022, look out for more similar content about how to find out more about your audiences, tips on the type of audience data you should collect, segmentation and more. This content is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

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