Admissions & Ticketing
By purchasing tickets, your patrons receive an exclusive experience that allows them to connect, learn, and get inspired by your mission—and your ticketing strategy should reflect that. Everything from setting the price to scanning a ticket for entry impacts their experience, so it’s important to stay connected with your entire staff and their departments. More recently, your choices around Covid protections can have a significant impact on the customer experience. Below are tips to improve the admissions experience for your visitors.
- Clearly communicate your strategy. Communicate ticketing options to your patrons online. Collaborating with marketing and web teams to advertise your ticket options—from single admission, group pricing, season passes, and more—to let your patrons chose the options that work best for them. Test new examples to see if diverse offerings work well.
- Use the information stored in your database. Be sure that you are capturing the most useful data. Working with your IT department to identify a connected system that captures and stores ticket purchases, entry times, ticketholder behaviors, and other actions will benefit your ticketing department. Exploring these data points will allow your team to respond to issues and improve upon what’s working well.
- Dig deeper into your reports. Take the time to pull reports for deeper insights into the trends of your ticket buyers. Look for things like the source of ticket purchases, the total price and ticket quantity, time of scanned entry, and more.
- Make clear your Covid accommodations. If it is an indoor event, are vaccinations or negative tests required to enter? Are masks required inside? Is social distancing expected, and is the venue regularly sterilized? All this must be communicated in advance so patrons can decide whether they are comfortable attending and know what to expect.
- Don’t be scared to adjust. Based on the results of your reports, you’ll be able to determine critical areas to adjust. Communicate the results of your reports internally and seek out ways that you can internally stay aligned on them.
Visitor services are often the first view a patron gets into your organization, but the job goes beyond that. You frequently operate as greeter, purveyor of information, tour liaison, and general source of truth for your entire organization. Every interaction should be viewed as a chance to be step one in the patron’s journey toward becoming a donor.
Here are some steps to help shape your front-of-house team as the first step in delighting your patrons:
- Recognize that everyone in your organization is part of visitor services. Each individual on your team should take ownership of your patron relationships. Visitor services staff can help advocate for this sense of shared responsibility across all staff members.
- Be clear about the journey. Try to examine your organization with fresh eyes and imagine what your patrons experience on their first visit.
- Explore areas of improvement. Never miss an opportunity to hear from your visitors about how you can better serve them. Whether front desk staff are asking about expectations, or you are posting comment cards, or surveys near the exits, take time to understand what your audience is looking for and be ready to act upon the concerns and suggestions.
Organizations need to determine how they fit into the transforming digital landscape and anticipate the changing expectations of their visitor and member base. Note these trends to ensure that continued success of your membership operations:
- Costs of memberships are rising. Running a successful membership program involves a plethora of moving parts, which can come at a cost. From hosting special member events to fulfilling membership cards to all the related marketing, mailings, and collateral, everything adds up fast. With these increasing costs, organizations need to be cost-efficient.
- Consumer expectations are shifting. The rise of mobile technology has led to changes in consumer expectations and demands, and the trend is accelerating. It’s not just major brands that have to cater to modern consumers—arts and culture institutions of every size need to anticipate the needs of an increasingly mobile-oriented audience. It’s not too late for arts and culture organizations, but the longer you wait to introduce digital offerings to your members, the more you stand to lose.
- Audiences are more eco-conscious than ever before. Younger generations like Zoomers and Millennials are increasingly committed to making consumer choices aligned with a worldwide environment under siege from climate change. Members and visitors want to know that elements used and the food served are being sourced sustainably, and they have demonstrated that they will take their business elsewhere if it isn’t. A Lending Tree survey found that more than half of Americans are willing to spend more on eco-friendly products and 40% will avoid companies that aren’t green. Arts and culture institutions must join this commitment to the environment, expanding that commitment to the entire supply chain.
- Patrons should experience no-hassle entry. Organizations need to step up the membership experience by providing members with digital convenience. Offering your members digital cards is just one way to stay on top of these mobile consumer trends. Digital membership cards can be downloaded and instantly added to your members’ digital wallets, ensuring a no-hassle membership experience.
- Digital membership cards provide more than just convenience. Digital membership cards eliminate the paper and plastic associated with physical membership cards and provide a higher level of convenience to customers. Moreover, the digital card can be used to advertise special events, and the card allows museums to send membership renewal reminders directly to members’ mobile devices. These push notifications can drastically reduce the amount of paper waste from direct mailings. All in all, digital membership cards are an important way that museums can incorporate eco-friendly values into their practices and keep their eco-conscious members happy.
- There is growing competition for loyalty. Organizations that want to hold onto their members must recognize that the competition for member loyalty is tougher than ever and step up their game accordingly.
Convert Visitors to Members
The most fertile ground for member acquisition is your current visitor base. These visitors already have a relationship with you. Consider these tips to transform your visitors into loyal members.
- Build a relationship first. Asking a first-time visitor to become a member is rushing the buyer journey. Your first priority must be to build an ongoing relationship with visitors and delight them during their experience. Only then are you ready to ask for a larger commitment.
- Create your follow-up plan. Building a relationship requires careful nurturing. Once someone has visited you, you should have some valuable information such as their name and contact information. You might even have a sneak peek into the areas that interest them, allowing you to segment by interest area or exhibits visited. This can lead to sending a curated email to your visitors, sharing similar resources and upcoming events.
- Build connections. Visitors at your organization must feel welcomed all throughout their journey with you. That begins at first contact online or by phone, to their ease of parking, to the service they receive in admissions and ticketing, all the way through the end of their visit. Consider how aspects of the process can inspire connection and make visiting a delightful experience.
- Demonstrate the value. To successfully market the experience, you should be able to demonstrate the value of becoming a member. When you run reports on your visitors, there’s most likely a group of people that would save money by becoming members. Let these individuals know! Sending an appeal that pulls in their ticketing data relative to the costs of membership may convey this cost savings. Additionally, share the larger benefits your visitors could enjoy through benefits. From free parking to early exhibit access, share the perks associated with becoming a member.
Your admissions and marketing teams have raised awareness that brings in visitors. When you convert these individuals to members, you generate further sustainable, consistent revenue and cultivate the opportunity for new donors.
Donor retention is a critical element of fundraising. Absent a strong retention program, your organization must completely refill an empty bucket each year. A productive retention program builds a pathway for donors’ continued support. It is a direct, quantifiable reflection of how you are engaging your patrons and communicating your mission.
You can calculate your overall donor retention rate annually to assess who is choosing to remain in your donor circle every year. While organizations with a high retention rate can count on a large percentage of their revenue from year to year, those with a low rate must acquire new donors to keep their bottom lines above water. This reinforces the significance of calculating retention to benchmark your internal progress annually and over time.
While attracting new members is a never-ending process, retaining existing members is equally important. It’s easier and far less expensive to keep a member than to acquire a new one, so focus on communication and experiences for a successful membership retention rate.
Preserving membership relations is imperative to your organization’s current success and future goals. Here are tips to drive your membership success:
- Relationships: People give to organizations with whom they feel they have a personal relationship. A relationship that feels purely transactional loosens the bonds that connect donors to the organization. Build relationships by understanding your donors’ needs and addressing them, with communications that are relevant to them.
- Involvement: Involve members in your mission. Allow them to experience your goals so that they better understand your organization. This will only deepen your relationship with them, turning them into recurring members.
- Communication: Consistent communication with members is imperative. Staying in the forefront of their minds will validate their commitment. Share goals, experiences, and successes throughout the year. Communicate on every platform your donors might use, whether social media, newsletters, texts, emails, phone calls, or any other medium that works for your audience. Ensure that your communication efforts include pertinent information and provide insight to happenings prior to public announcements.
- Renewals and Timing: Educate members on the different membership options so they can choose the one that best fits their needs. Additionally, create a seamless process with as few steps as possible for current members to renew. Notify them in advance of their expiration date for renewal without lapsing. Personalize all communication and add touchpoints like a phone call or email, once they lapse, to connect and learn what’s going on.
- Database: Maintaining an effective relationship management system is crucial to organizing and strengthening retention efforts. Working with a single source of information will help document key dates, easily renew memberships, and identify members at check-in.
Creating member-only events adds value to memberships and deepens their relationship with your organization. These events should single out members and make them feel special while delivering a quality event experience.
Each one of your members is different and enjoys the diversity of your organization. Allow them to experience your mission in their own ways, while keeping them all engaged. Ongoing stewardship is imperative to keeping any member truly connected.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Convert Advocates into Donors
Convert Members to Donors
The easiest place to look for new donors is among your member base. Current members understand your value and enjoy your work. However, members could have either philanthropic motivation or financial motivation. You can tap into these core practices to help convert members to donors. Here are some tips as you build your program that encourages conversion.
- Listen. Take advantage of every opportunity to hear from members. You should know which exhibits they’re attending, the merchandise they’re buying most, and how often they visit. This helps segment them and create communication methods and messages tailored to their needs and desires.
- Tell Your Story. Set off the right motivation in your member’s brain. Communicate how they’re helping their community and how they can do it even more in the future. Including pictures and stories of how your programs are benefiting your community throughout campaign mailings, website pages, social media, and signs in your building can go a long way.
- Segment. By segmenting your members, you can craft tailored asks for gifts. Do you know whether they come to family friendly events, holiday events, or evening events? Including them on the campaigns that speak more to their individual interests will strengthen your relationship with them and make it more likely that you jump start their philanthropy motivators.
- Thank. We all know how important it is to recognize members and donors. Research shows that first-time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4x more likely to give a second gift. With a strong member base, you already have a group of people that enjoy your work and understand your mission. Some of them are ready to increase their level of support through donations; they just need you to connect with them and express the impact their gift can make.
The decades-long trend of fewer donors giving more money to charity stalled in 2021, the Pareto Principle remains in force in philanthropy, with 20% of donors responsible for 80% of the fundraising revenue. Time will tell whether the increase in the number of donors is a new trend or, more likely, an anomalous event. In any event, major donors are responsible for the vast majority of donated dollars and are therefore the key to any large fundraising campaign.
Any major giving strategy must include significant intelligence about current donors and prospects who have the capacity to make a major gift. You should continually review your files to evaluate your major giving program and track the success of your stewardship and moves management. Key wealth indicators can assess capacity to make a major gift. Doubling down on retention, stewardship, and cultivation efforts are crucial steps in ensuring that your mission resonates with major donors.
For more information on this topic, please visit: Major Giving
According to the American Alliance of Museums, the average museum has 6 volunteers for every paid staff member, a ratio that soars to 18:1 in museums with budgets under $250,000.¹ Volunteers are often your organization’s greatest advocate, and thus, one of your greatest assets. The relationship with them must be nurtured with as much attention as major donors—which they often are as well. Here are tips for collaborating with your arts and culture volunteers.
- Develop your volunteer-training protocols. Similar to staff, volunteers should be onboarded and trained. Ideally, this is an opportunity for volunteers to see the staff experience intertwine with their past experiences as visitors or members. Engaging these volunteers will ensure they feel valued in their roles, know their points of contact on the team, and are prepared with the needed equipment or tasks for a shift.
- Communicate with volunteers. These individuals are likely on the ground interacting with visitors and groups from a more objective position than staff. Providing a platform for their input, suggestions, and ideas will likely align you closer to your visitor experience and demonstrates the value they add to your institution.
- Steward and cultivate your volunteers. They are likely an extension of your staff, with the critical difference that they are gifting you their time and energy. They enhance the work of your paid staff, and should be motivated and rewarded for their service. Whether you host a volunteer appreciation event or provide special invites or perks, be sure to give thanks to your volunteer arm and celebrate their achievements. Volunteering correlates significantly with financial gifts, doubling their value.
¹2016, American Alliance of Museums, “Volunteers and Museum Labor”
For more information on this topic, please visit: Building a Volunteer Program