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Making the Donation Ask Easier at Brewery Arts Centre

Sandwiched between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre opened its doors in 1972, when the premises were converted from the historic Vaux Brewery. Since opening in the seventies, it has hosted thousands of performances and art happenings in its multiple event spaces. and has established itself as one of the leading arts centres in the UK. 

Spektrix started working with the Brewery Arts Centre in 2012, so when in March last year their team set out to improve a key aspect of its fundraising efforts, we were there to see how we could help support them through training and system knowledge. Although it has a 280-strong membership programme, their set-up for taking lower-level donations online, by phone and in person was less developed at that stage. Increasing income from this area was seen as a priority with a focus on developing point-of-sale donations online and over the phone.

Staff training

A workshop was held to train box office staff in asking for donations, raising comfort levels and discussing techniques for starting conversations with customers while a ticket purchase is underway. It was agreed that having a specific appeal to trigger conversations would make it easier, providing a better context to potential supporters, such as why they are asking for support at any particular time, and ease team members into the habit of asking for support. To this end, the fundraising team designed a campaign to raise money for the refurbishment and upgrading of the main building’s lift, and improving its overall accessibility. As a project with match funding, it provided the perfect opportunity to take ownership of a specific goal: raising £10,000.

A point-of-sale approach

Launched in August last year, the Brewery’s box office team asked each customer to make a donation when purchasing tickets over the phone, at the counter or online.Improving data collection was another key objective. By using the segmentation tools in Spektrix, the fundraising team found it easy to segment donors and flag potential prospects who could support at a higher level. Making an ask for support at the point of sale enables the team to increase income, but also gathers data points that can clarify an individual's capacity to give or propensity to give, while painting a fuller picture of their connection to the organisation. The information collected by asking for support at the point of sale was fed directly into the Spektrix database for analysis.

Further reading

How to Coach Your Team to Ask for Donations

How to Build Creative Fundraising Campaigns That Stand Out from the Crowd

7 Tips for Adding a Donation Ask at the Box Office

Comparative results

Comparing charitable income between August to December in 2015 and the same period in 2016, Brewery Arts saw the following results:

  • Charitable income increased by 43% from £2,668 to £3,838.
  • The conversion rate for phone transactions increased from 0.07% to 7.66%.
  • Potential prospect numbers increased, with more donors donating more often and the top donors donating more.

Interestingly, the overall number of donors only increased marginally, meaning that the additional income came from the same number of customers donating more. The average amount donated per donor grew from £2.92 to £4.61, an increase of 58%.

Outcomes and opportunities

These outcomes clearly indicated a greater capacity to give within the customer base. Donors responded positively to being asked for larger donations and by asking for support, the box office team increased awareness of Brewery Arts’ charitable status, even where the initial response was a no.

Brewery Arts is also seeing a shift in how its customers donate. Many customers are now making donations offline when purchasing tickets over the phone or in-person. The number of customers donating online has dropped, although the amount donated has increased by 16%. So the online ask as currently designed is generating more from less.

This opens a host of opportunities for the team at Brewery arts. Improved customer engagement offers the promise of converting donors to become active supporters of, and advocates for the organisation. Asking for donations at the point of sale also increases the organisation’s pool of prospects, enabling the fundraising team to design targeted communication campaigns and other initiatives to increase income.

Brewery Arts has also seen how supporting the box office team internally can improve results. For future campaigns it has identified the following support structure:

  • Providing regular updates to the box office team on income generated and what it’s being spent on.
  • Holding regular workshops to train and work through any difficulties members are having in making an ask.
  • Allowing box office team members the opportunity to feed back their experience of asking for support, take their feedback on board and make changes where necessary.

The next step is to use the new data collected to better define the organisation’s segmentation scheme. Analytics available in the Spektrix system will help the centre cultivate its donor base, engaging those who regularly donate or who have donated a large amount.

This article was originally published in Arts Professional