Ticketing and Giving Trends Are Positives for Performing Arts

Heading into 2020, AccuList’s performing arts marketing clients can take advantage of positive trends in both fundraising and ticketing sales according to recent studies.

Performing Arts Giving Holds Steady 

While the Giving USA 2019 report released in June showed declines for many charitable giving sectors from 2016 to 2018, arts fundraising stood out by remaining relatively flat. Adjusted for inflation, giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased 11.1% between 2016 and 2017, declined 2.1% between 2017 and 2018 (though a 0.3% increase in current dollars) and ended up with a cumulative increase of 8.7% between 2016 and 2018, thanks to 2017 donations that reached the highest inflation-adjusted amount for the sector on record. Underneath the numbers are three important lessons for our performing arts clients, as fundraising counsel Alexander Haas points out in a recent post. First, a focus on high net-worth individuals via upper-level membership programs, project-related major gifts, and targeted marketing campaigns is likely to pay off, as proven by 2018’s 2.6% increase in gifts of $1,000 or more, and the fact that, of the 90% of high-net worth households giving, a quarter focused on arts donations. Second, targeted campaigns and quality donor lists are essential as fewer individuals give and a greater percentage of philanthropic revenue comes through larger gifts. Finally, online giving can be a boon to performing arts; for example, the Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report showed that online gifts represented 9.5% of overall giving to arts organizations in 2018, and the 5.8% growth in online giving to the arts outpaced other nonprofit sectors by four times. Making online giving a convenient option for donors and members is one way to offset the decline in smaller gifts.

Marketing Innovations Help Ticketing Upward Trend

An October Reportlinker market research report forecasts a 5% compound annual growth in ticket sales from sporting events, movies, concerts, and performing arts events in the 2020-2024 period. While sporting events and concerts popularity is a key driver of growth, the research also credits a number of innovative marketing strategies for pushing ticket revenue, such as flash sales, early-bird offers, access codes, public discounts and adoption of mobile applications to make tickets more readily available to consumers. The integration of analytics with online ticket platforms–to automate services, to enhance more efficient back-end operations, and to better track and monitor consumer preferences–is also seen by researchers as a positive for ticket sales growth. Meanwhile, the secondary ticket market, especially in sports, is projected to have an even higher 9% compound annual growth rate in the same period despite a rise in fraudulent activities and artist opposition. A positive on this front is the adoption of blockchain to keep track of buyers and sellers in the secondary ticket market, helping to prevent fraud by scalpers, bots and touts.

For more detail on performing arts giving trends see the Alexander Haas post.

 

Case Studies Show How Nonprofits Can Improve Donor Mail Results

As AccuList’s nonprofit fundraising clients enter their busiest direct mail season, the team thought it might be worthwhile to pass along three case studies from the CharityHowTo blog, showing some basic ways to pump direct mail performance.

The Case for Donor List Segmentation

Donor list segmentation is essential, and delivers dividends even for those starting from scratch. For example, the blog post cites the case of a new executive director at a human services organization that lacked results of historical appeals in terms of targeting and pieces sent. The executive director decided to develop a recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) segmentation and so exported the donor base and began to divide it into sections by last gift date, amount of donation (high to low) and most recent to older. In this case, the executive director broke out donors who had given a gift of $250 or more at some point; these “best” donors were going to receive the same appeal as the others, but the new executive director was also going to include a handwritten personal note with each letter and send the appeal by first-class mail. All other donors were broken out by recency, treating the 0-24 months donors as  “active” donors, and then further segmenting for those giving below $100 and those giving $100-$249.99. There was a separate segment of “lapsed” donors defined as donors who hadn’t given in the last 3 to 5 years, and even a deep lapsed segment who hadn’t given in 5 years or more. Then all segments, coded for results tracking, were mailed a personalized letter and personalized reply form. Even though just starting out, results improved in terms of total donations and efficiency, with an overall cost of just $0.04 for every dollar raised (compared with an industry average cost of $0.20 cited by the blog). Plus, the nonprofit now had proven segmentation results for use in further improvement of efficiency and targeted messaging.

The Case for Increased Mail Frequency

If you don’t ask, you won’t get, but nonprofits worried about costs and donor fatigue often err on the conservative side when deciding how frequently donors should be mailed. The blog cites the case of a homeless shelters executive director who was initially against mailing more than twice a year, even though they had some 65+ homeless people that they were supporting each day. Because they needed to raise more money, they finally tried adding two more appeals per year. Of course, the added appeals increased costs, but they also increased net revenue by 32%. The cost to raise a dollar with two appeals was $0.12, and with 4 appeals went up to $0.20, yet the overall net dollars after costs rose from $51,227 to $67,590.

The Case for Tapping Recent Donors

Research shows that donors who gave most recently are also most likely to give again. For doubters, try testing a segment of recent donors (0-3 months or 0-6 months). And of course, you will want to segment out those recent donors who give the largest amounts and offer special treatment, such as an appeal with a personal note of thanks for their gift and an indication that you’re just sending the latest appeal for their information only (even though of course you’re going to include a reply envelope). However, the case study of an environmental organization shows why hesitancy to mail a donor too soon is often misguided. The organization typically mails about 5 times a year; once someone reaches the $1,000 level, they go into a personal note stream. Results show that while the 7-month-to-one-year donors deliver the most net revenue and average gift, the next best performing segment is the recent 0-to-3-month donors in terms of net revenue and average gift!

 See the complete article for useful charts and details.

Positive Industry Trends Buoy Museum Marketing

AccuList’s museum marketing clients can take heart from a number of trends that are boosting museum appeal to visitors and donors, according to a recent report on the museum industry from ticketing solutions provider Acme Technologies.   

Demographics, Political Angst, Tech Innovations Boost Museum Interest

Demographics favor museum marketers, the report notes. The baby-boomer generation, the most populous generation still living today, is made up of the most loyal frequenters of museums and galleries among generations, while data shows the tech-savvy millennial generation, which demands stimulation and interactivity, is being wooed by modern museums’ innovative tech and design. Museum appeals are even benefiting from our contentious politics today as conflicting media, heated partisanship, and rapid social change drive the public to seek out museums as safeguards of knowledge, culture, and history. Finally, technology trends are transforming museums from halls of dusty relics to efficient institutions using novel and interactive solutions to improve visitor experiences, with digital systems integration, VR, and greater disabled accessibility for example.

New Tactics Help Museum Marketers Leverage Trends

The Acme report notes a number of tactics that will help museum marketers leverage the demographic, cultural and technological trends in their favor. For one, galleries, zoos and other foundations can integrate traditional displays with innovative tools that allow audiences to experience collections in new ways. For example, the Netherlands’ Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is using Virtual Reality to provide a unique view of the famous painter’s works, while the Cleveland Museum offers a digital map that visitors can access via their smartphones to navigate exhibits. Social media is another boon for savvy marketers. Instagrammable selfies are becoming intentional features in museum tours as an attractive souvenir that visitors create themselves. An example is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Snap + Share” show about social media, photography, and “selfie culture” influence on art. One interactive hit is an artwork that encourages visitors to snap a selfie with their head in a freezer, and tag the museum in the resulting Instagram post. Finally, museum and zoo marketers are increasing reliance on data-driven decisions. Data analytics offer insight into museum-goer trends for strategies that widen audiences and increase donations. The report cites the example of The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain, which hired data analytics provider Synergic Partners to analyze tourist visitation trends for a special Picasso exhibit. Information gathered showed the most common nationalities of visitors, and allowed the museum to better cater to their needs and expectations. For more marketing trends and examples, see the full museum industry trend report.

Brain Science, Industry Data Bolster Direct Mail Fundraising

As digital, mobile and social media expand their donor influence, some nonprofit marketers prepping for the all-important fourth-quarter may wonder about direct mail’s role as a fundraising workhorse. To underscore why it’s essential to keep direct mail in harness, AccuList can not only cite years of success as a direct mail list broker and data services provider to fundraising clients, but also the latest brain science and marketing industry data.

Science Shows Donor Brains Respond to Direct Mail

Marketing channels and technology may be changing rapidly, but the human brain hasn’t changed in size and basic construction for about 500,000+ years, and mail marketers have a brain advantage, notes a recent NonProfit PRO article by Christopher Foster, vice president of business development at Modern Postcard. Neuroscience has shown that direct mail taps two basic parts of the brain: the cerebral cortex and the amygdala-hippocampus pairing. The cerebral cortex
is where we process information, think about messaging and language, and weigh the pros and cons of decisions. Unlike the truncated messaging of digital, e-mail and social, direct mail can engage this part of the brain by describing benefits and citing the objective reasons that a nonprofit is the best choice for donor dollars. Plus, research consistently shows that people trust print/direct mail information more than digital channel info. Of course, recall and emotional engagement are key drivers, and the amygdala and hippocampus, combining long-term memory with emotional response, favor direct mail over digital, too. In fact, research shows that direct mail is 35% stronger than social media and 49% stronger than e-mail when it comes to long-term memory encoding, and 33% stronger than e-mail and social media in the engagement that drives memory encoding. Overall, direct mail’s motivation response is 20% higher than digital media, per Canada Post research.

Mail Spurs Donor Response and Retention in Omnichannel Efforts

While the volume of direct mail has decreased by about 2% each year since 2015, this has actually helped boost direct mail effectiveness by helping it stand out in the messaging blitz of the digital era. In fact, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) 2018 direct mail response rates were 9% for a house list and 5% for a prospect list, way higher than any other channels (such as e-mail, social media and paid search at 1%). As a result, mail’s median ROI is also higher than most digital channels. Direct mail, of course, works even better integrated into an omnichannel campaign, where it actually spurs digital results; for example, studies show donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than to an e-appeal. Plus, direct mail drives donor retention; for example, 70% of donors have restarted a relationship because of direct mail, per DMA data. And direct mail is efficient at retention; the Association of Fundraising Professionals reports direct mail costs $0.25 for every $1 from recurring donors.

The Right Fundraising Tactics Capitalize on Mail’s Strengths

However, direct mail’s fundraising success is certainly not a given. A recent NonProfit PRO article by Jen Linck, chief marketing officer for Corporate Giving Connection, cites some important strategies, beginning with list segmentation and targeting to avoid wasting time and resources sending costly direct mail to bad leads. We would note here that, for effective segmentation, data quality is key, which requires prospect lists from reputable sources and good hygiene of house lists (note that 20% of addresses in donor databases are out-of-date, per research). Then get creative to capture attention and drive envelope opens via tactics such as dimensional mail and a large or unconventional sized envelope, urges Linck. And make sure the direct mail pieces add value to the audience’s lives by including a special offer or a promotional gift of branded materials for everyday use, such as a notepad. But remember that content needs to tap both logical persuasion and emotional connections in donor’s brains! Because 63% of donors want to know how their donation will be used, use specific donation amounts to tell donors how they help and quantify how previous amounts donated have been used, but also inject emotional examples into the dollar results. Finally, remember that direct mail works best when it is integrated into an omnichannel campaign, so be sure to incorporate digital technology by including QR codes, short links or text keywords for use across all channels. Plus, links should direct donors to a branded, campaign-specific landing page, since 38% more donations happen when landing pages are branded and campaign-specific, and 66% of those same donors are more likely to come back and donate again. For more tips on integrating direct mail with digital fundraising, see this MobileCause infographic.

Most Nonprofits Upbeat on 2019 Fundraising Growth

The most recent survey of nonprofits and donors by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), a coalition of professional fundraising associations, finds that 60% of respondents expect to raise more money this year than they did in 2018! That’s encouraging news for AccuList’s many fundraising clients as they head into their key year-end giving campaigns.

Tax Law Impact Not As Averse As Expected

Many fundraisers feared the new tax law would undercut giving, but the survey found that only a 17% minority reported a negative impact from the tax changes, and only 16% of donors said they would change the amount or method of their gift this year because of changes to the tax law. It is true that certain continuing tax trends prove challenging for fundraisers, such as bundling or bunching, in which donors provide multiyear support but give a large donation for an itemized filing in just one tax year and then skip contributions in the following year or years. Since most nonprofits rely heavily on year-end gifts from loyal donors, the bunching is problematic. Still, only 30% of nonprofit respondents reported that some donors were bundling.

Feared Donation Drop Doesn’t Materialize

Based on various reports of reduced giving, many nonprofits were concerned about fundraising growth, yet the NRC online survey of individual donors in March of this year found 56% said they gave the same amount in 2018 as in 2017, 33% gave more, and only 11% gave less. As a result, 63% of fundraisers said their charities did raise more money in 2018 than the previous year. Overall, 73% said they met their 2018 fundraising goals. It’s no wonder most fundraisers (60%) are confident they will raise even more in 2019. Not all charities participated equally in 2018 growth, of course. Charities with budgets of $3 million to $49 million reported the most fundraising increases in 2018 over 2017 levels. And environmental and animal charities in particular were most likely to meet 2018 fundraising goals.

Multi-Channel, Multi-Contact Strategy Remains Key

Melissa Brown, author of the report and manager of the NRC, stresses that the upbeat forecast for fundraising needs to be undergirded by targeted, relevant, engaging direct mail and e-mail contacts. While most channels remained essentially flat in 2018 in terms of dollars raised compared with prior years, direct mail fundraising growth dipped slightly, with 41% of charity respondents saying they saw growth in fundraising through direct mail compared with 50% in 2017. Overall, the survey supports both the need for a multi-channel fundraising strategy and frequent contacts with donors. On average, after the first gift, organizations send about 3 more appeals by mail, an average of 4 appeals by e-mail, and invitations to events, including stewardship/recognition activities. However, both direct mail and digital communications are most effective when they go beyond dollar demands to provide meaningful connections with the mission and explanation of the impact of a gift, per the survey “One of the biggest reasons people stop giving is they feel like they’re becoming ATMs instead of being partners,” Brown warns. See the full survey 

Facebook Both Boosts and Challenges Fundraising Efforts

AccuList helps its nonprofit clients with fundraising via direct mail and events as well as digital channels, and online giving certainly has seen tremendous growth in recent years. But the latest M+R Benchmarks report shows a distinct slowdown in nonprofit online revenue. After years of steady growth (a 23% increase in 2017), online fundraisers reported just 1% growth in 2018. Exploring the why behind that drop yields some important lessons for fundraisers moving forward, especially when it comes to Facebook campaigns.

Facebook Changes the Game, But Are Nonprofits Ready?

M+R cites multiple trends underlying lower online revenue growth—from declining e-mail response, to more low-dollar mobile traffic, to falling online donor retention. But the report starts by noting how rising Facebook usage has both undercut revenue measures and signaled potential for future growth. Yes, changes to the Facebook algorithm resulted in, on average, only 7% of followers seeing any given post, but use of Facebook Fundraisers’ peer-to-peer giving really took hold for the first time in 2018. However, because of the way the donations are processed, the Facebook Fundraiser dollars were not included in M+R online revenue calculations. It’s an important missing piece for revenue growth: The Facebook Fundraiser tool for hosted fundraising now accounts for about 99% of all nonprofit revenue processed on Facebook, with nonprofits raising $1.77 through Facebook for every $100 raised through other online channels, per M+R. The impact is big for some sectors. For example, health nonprofits received $29.88 from Facebook for every $100 in direct online revenue in 2018, accounting for about 30% as much revenue as every other source of online revenue, including e-mail, web giving, monthly donors, digital ads, and search. To turn the new Facebook Fundraiser use into a bigger revenue boon, notes the M+R report, nonprofits would need to make an effort to get more individuals (the average now is 56) involved in hosting fundraisers and in attracting both more donors and higher-dollar donors (now the average per hosted fundraiser is seven donors and a modest $31 gift per donor).

Ignorance of ROI Is Far From Bliss

Another recent study pointed to a deeper issue with nonprofit Facebook efforts. The 2019 Digital Outlook Report—from care2, hjc and nten—found that nonprofits surveyed reported spending anywhere from $0 to $100,000 on Facebook and Instagram campaigns. But the majority (over 75%) answered “don’t know” when asked about any resulting revenue! Clearly, the report urges, staff need training in analytics, whether using Google or another tool, as well as calculating not only resulting donations but the value of lead generation, e-mail signups, event attendance, etc. If there is any good news from this kind of ROI blindness, it is that Facebook probably has untapped potential.

Tips for Optimizing Facebook Fundraising

CauseMic recently offered some helpful tips for fundraising with Facebook. In using Facebook Fundraiser, in order to benefit from site traffic and donor information as well as dollars, start by disabling the “donate” button and direct supporters to donate on your website rather than through Facebook. Donors will learn more about the mission and fundraisers can stay connected with them for better retention. Second, nonprofits shouldn’t focus only on the Facebook tool hosting fundraisers; they can use promoted posts and ads to grow the support base, interact with supporters, promote events, etc. When a breaking news story or emergency occurs that impacts giving, it can be incorporated into social media outreach to spread the word and raise money more quickly. Just make sure to use tracking analytics and calculate result values to avoid the ROI ignorance identified in the Digital Outlook Report noted above! Plus, make sure that Facebook is a consistent piece of a multi-channel strategy, and remember that it offers a proven response driver to multi-channel campaigns: video. Use the platform to post videos about donation impact, to host live videos, to publicize upcoming events, and to tell the organization’s story with visual/emotional resonance. Finally, pay attention to timing in planned Facebook campaigns; M+R found that nearly a quarter of all Facebook revenue is raised in the month of November.

For more on general trends in online fundraising, see the latest M+R Benchmarks.

Targeted E-mail Expands Museums’ Direct Marketing Options

While previous AccuList posts focused on direct mail strategies for our museum marketing clients, e-mail marketing is also an area where our expertise can help museums reach new members, event participants, or donors, as well as improve the performance of existing e-mail databases.

Study Museum E-mail Benchmarks and Success Stories

Evidence that e-mail can be a successful player in museums’ multi-channel campaigns comes from Constant Contact’s March 2019 e-mail statistics for house databases in the arts, culture and entertainment vertical (including museums and galleries), which show overall e-mail open rates averaging 17.54%, and click-through rates averaging 6.81% for the vertical. Those results are better than the all-industries averages of 16.74% open rate and 7.43% click-through rate, plus ahead of all but 13 of the 34 verticals tracked, and far ahead of some verticals, such as technology (e.g. web developers), automotive services, salons, retail and consulting. Marketers can also use e-mail to prospect for new members, donors and event participants. For example, marketers report success with event audience building via a series of e-mails that start with a promotion linked to ticket purchase, RSVP and/or social-sharing request, then follow up with reminders prior to the event, and finish with a post-event thanks e-mail that includes a request for an online review. Other successful e-mail series reward loyalty or re-engage dormant supporters by offering special perks (such as discounts). E-mail automation can make contact strategy even easier with programmed triggers, such as a re-engagement e-mail automatically sent six months after a last visit. For some creative inspiration, check out this nonprofit e-mail gallery and Pinterest grouping of museum e-mails.

Invest in Clean, Targeted E-mail Lists

Earning response to a house database or prospect list requires a few e-mail basics: 1) personalized, targeted messaging; 2) a brief subject line that inspires opens and engaging CAN SPAM-compliant creative content that inspires click-throughs; 3) mobile optimization of the e-mail with a clear call-to-action linked to a mobile-optimized digital landing page; and 4) an updated, clean opt-in e-mail list to avoid spam filters. As data experts, AccuList’s services especially focus on the last point. For responsive, targeted prospects, AccuList’s proprietary research has identified the top choices among opt-in e-mail rental lists (plus telemarketing and direct mail lists), including lists of museum members/donors, lists of museum mail-order buyers, and lists by type of museum and collection (download our free compilation of top list datacards). For clean, targeted house lists, AccuList points marketers toward database enhancement and hygiene, including identification of recent e-mail address changes through Electronic Change of Address (ECOA) lists, enhanced targeting by adding demographics from outside lists, and expanded e-mail reach by appending opt-in e-mails to postal records.

Pair Mobile-Optimized E-mail and Landing Pages

Every e-mail—regardless of target audience—needs a clear call-to-action linked to an online page that makes that action easy to accomplish. For fundraising e-mails, check out these best practices suggested by online fundraising software provider DonorBox: 1) include a prominent Donate Now button in the e-mail with a link to an online landing page, either one page for general donations or a page per specific project; 2) include suggested donation amounts on the landing page and tie those amounts to outcomes that show how they will improve the museum and visitors’ experiences; 3) optimize the e-mail and landing page for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets; 4) include recurring giving options on the online page for higher donor retention; 5) if appropriate include a donation “thermometer” or other graphic of progress on the donation page to encourage more donations; 6) allow for multiple secure payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in addition to credit cards; 7) and, finally, make sure the donation form and its processes are as simple, clear and quick as possible.

Combine Social Media Engagement With E-mail Targeting

E-mail can be a natural complement to social media campaigns, which is why social media networks themselves use e-mail marketing for customer retention. Museums can pair social media’s ability to engage and build brand, community and web traffic with e-mail’s advantage in delivering highly targeted and personalized messages, enhancing the power of both channels. Social media apps and forms can be used to capture new e-mail opt-in subscribers, for example. With platforms like Facebook, house e-mail data can be matched with the huge social audience to deliver demographics- and interest-targeted ads and promoted posts to existing names and lookalikes. Social media also is good at soliciting user-generated content (reviews, images, videos and posts), which can be used (with permission) in e-mails to boost response. And both social media and e-mail targets can be matched with direct mail for multi-channel power. Check out AccuList’s social media user lists, Facebook match and target options, and Digital2Direct programs combining direct mail with Facebook or e-mail lists.


Tech & Data Trends Spur 2019 Fundraising Opportunities

Despite 2019’s many challenges for nonprofit marketers, including competing for attention with political fundraising noise, trends in data analytics and technology offer good news for AccuList’s fundraising clients.

Fundraising Can Leverage Digital Innovations

Consider trends highlighted in this spring’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in Oregon. For example, nonprofit tech pros reported success using Digital Wallets, such as Apple Pay, Paypal and Google Pay, to make donating easier for donors and to increase conversions. AI and chatbots are another boon cited by tech experts, not just because they free up staff from time-consuming interfaces but because they can be used to segment audiences and tailor communications to boost donor acquisition, value and retention. Meanwhile mobile text messaging and mobile giving not only continue to grow in use, but nonprofits are learning to leverage SMS to trigger response, scale donor relationships and engage and motivate communities more fully. Online giving continues its growth path, but there are now more online giving services and their offerings are expanding. For example, Give Lively has free online fundraising tools for text-to-give, peer-to-peer, events, and integration with social media platforms such as Facebook. Finally, virtual-assistant voice services have entered the fundraising arena; for example, Amazon’s Alexa now can help donors verbally contribute up to $10,000.

It All Comes Back to Targeted Data

But for tech innovations to be effective, quality data and data analytics are essential. For example, fundraising efforts can use data to identify and segment those groups of current or inactive donors more likely to increase their donation dollars or flag donors to tap as future legacy donors. And data analytics can combine with real-time marketing automation, triggered e-mail series and variable data printing of personalized direct mail for improved donor acquisition. While the task of data collection and analysis can seem overwhelming, nonprofits don’t need to vacuum up every bit of big data for better results. The key is to collect and track the information in the donor database, or to select the key response factors to target in prospect lists, which are most likely to lead to success. Beyond the basics of name, address/contact, gender, age and date and amount of last donation, data targeting can be enhanced with parameters indicating donor capacity (the ability to give) and donor affinity (the willingness to give). Indicators of donor capacity include personal income/wealth measures, real estate ownership, business title, stock ownership, etc., while donor affinity parameters include the RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) of the donor or prospect giving history, past relationship/interest in a specific cause or affiliated appeal, and political affiliation and giving. Check out this article on donor data from Candid’s Philantopic blog for data management tips.

Beware Assumptions About Donor Data

A good database policy also includes regular hygiene and updating as well as an ongoing check for knowledge/data gaps. Classy, the online fundraising software provider, suggests challenging assumptions of donor knowledge by making sure analytics can deliver on these questions:

  • When are donors most likely to donate?
  • What is the average donation amount?
  • What is the average donation amount?
  • Are there different types of donors?
  • What is the reason for donation?
  • How does the donor liked to be thanked?
  • What is the donor’s communication channel preference?
  • What value does the donor get from donating?

See the rest of Classy’s suggestions on using data for fundraising.

E-mail, Social Lead Nonprofit Event Marketing

AccuList’s direct marketing services support both event marketers and nonprofit marketers, and, of course, there’s an overlap since many nonprofits use events for fundraising. So we try to keep up with what works in not-for-profit show business, and a recent survey of 500 nonprofits by Eventbrite, a leading event management and ticketing services provider, offers some interesting benchmarks.

No One-Size-Fits-All for Nonprofit Events

The “2019 Eventbrite Pulse Report” found that since nonprofits have multiple purposes, they host multiple event formats besides those geared exclusively to fundraising; in fact, just 32% reported hosting galas and fundraisers aimed at tapping donors. Instead, events for cause, community and educational promotion were cited by 78%, networking events by 37%, training and workshops by 33%, food and drink events by 31%, and arts and entertainment events at the tail end with 22%. Of course, revenue production was still seen as a key to success regardless of event goal.

Ticket Sales Swing Between Big and Bust

And when it comes to event revenue, ticket sales, sponsorships and grants/donations were the top sources reported. However, while ticket sales were seen as a key revenue driver by most (75%), the portion of revenue delivered by ticketing varied widely—from 80%-100% of event revenue for just 15% to less than 20% of revenue for a larger quarter of those surveyed. This underscores the need for both diverse revenue sources and more effective marketing to deliver attendance.

E-mail and Social Media Lead Marketing Efforts

Nonprofit event organizers told Eventbrite that their most effective marketing tactics were e-mail (34%); word-of-mouth and referrals (24%); and social media marketing (22%). In the social media arena, nonprofits relied most on organic posts (23%), paid Facebook ads, and video (9%). Among the tactics deemed less effective in the survey were third-party listings, search engine optimization (SEO), and display ads.

Audience Building Is a Top 2019 Challenge

The perennial “insufficient budget” was seen as a 2019 issue by 45% of nonprofit event planners and securing sponsorships as a problem by 46%, but the top 2019 challenge, cited by 73%, was reaching new attendees. And that is the kind of targeted marketing issue that AccuList can help address! For more benchmark data, see the post on the Eventbrite report.

Arts Fundraising Study: Invest to Reap More

Any of AccuList’s performing arts marketing and museum and zoo marketing clients that fret over investing in fundraising efforts in 2019 should take a look at the recently released “DataArts Fundraising Report” from Southern Methodist University. Basically, the report concludes, arts and cultural organizations that make smart investments in fundraising reap more dollars, with individual donors a “vital source” of contributions.

Mixed ROI by Sector, Higher Individual Donor Dollars

Looking at fundraising by 2,421 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors between 2014 and 2017, the study found good news for many marketers even though the overall ROI on every dollar spent on fundraising declined from $8.80 in 2014 to $8.56 in 2017. This reflected issues in select sectors. Seven sectors—including performing arts companies, orchestras and operas—actually saw an increase in return on fundraising over the period. The biggest ROI gain, adjusting for inflation, was a 28.8% bump for community-based organizations. But gaining sectors were offset by ROI declines for art museums, dance companies and theaters. Another encouraging sign was an increase in the average individual donor contribution over the four-year period. The report attributed some of the improved donor generosity to a shift toward investment in donor relationship building, with the average organization allocating 62.4% of fundraising expenses to staff in 2017, up from 54.4% in 2014, and thus allowing for more donor development.

Size and Location Make a Difference

For arts and cultural fundraising, size matters, but in an inverse fashion, the report found. Small- and medium-sized organizations increased the returns on their investments in fundraising over the four years, while larger organizations had steadily declining ROI. Individual donors are important for success, per the report, especially outside of the big metro areas where government support, foundations and corporate donors help foot expenses. But locations vary widely in terms of revenue successfully tapped. For example, New York organizations had the highest average number of corporate donors at 12 and also had the highest percentage of expenses covered by government support (9%). Compare that Big Apple haul to the lowest metro-area average of four corporate donors in Los Angeles and Chicago’s low of 2% expenses covered by government funds. On the other hand, Chicago reaped the most from foundations, with 7% of expenses picked up by foundation support, way ahead of New York organizations which, though they had more foundation grants than any other market, only saw those grants cover 3% of expenses.

For details, go to the SMU DataArts Fundraising Report.