Recently, the MAC in Belfast, Northern Ireland, started asking for donations at the box office. Fundraising is an organization-wide responsibility and it’s not just about finding those big donors who will give you a big lump sum every year. Every little bit counts, which is why asking for donations at the box office can make a huge difference to your fundraising efforts.
I was talking to Paula Kearney, Box Office Manager at the MAC, about how they started to do this and she told me that she’d been chatting with her box office team for a while about the prospect of introducing asking for a donation at the purchase point. She found that some team members were really keen on the idea, while others found the task quite daunting. Her team decided that the more information they had, the better equipped they were to make the ask and after careful thought, she came up with seven vital tips for box office staff embarking on customer donations.
- Explain why you’re asking. Paula and her team compiled a list of key messages, explaining how small amounts of money can make a big contribution to the venue. By doing this, her box office team had answers ready whenever customers asked how it would make a difference to them.
- Keep it quick. The main aim is to get through the booking process as quickly and efficiently as possible. Adding another question into the process might seem cumbersome, so keep the ask short and sweet. Paula added the question to the summary on the Sales Interface on her Spektrix system, so that the team was always reminded to ask the question.
- Don’t take it personally. By being prepared to hear customers say no, her team knew that it was that it was OK to hear it. It wasn’t personal.
- Make your team comfortable. Paula briefed all her staff individually, as well as having a step-by-step guide on the process. Giving your team the tools they need will eliminate a lot of the fear.
- Practice makes perfect. Paula encouraged her team to practice what they would say in advance. That way they weren’t put on the spot and had added confidence when talking to customers.
- Be flexible. At the MAC, they encouraged the box office team to read the situation and be flexible on the amount of donation they asked for. Asking for £1 per order, rather than £2, seemed to help ease some of the staff into the swing of things.
- Set targets & measure. Paula made sure her team were kept up to date on their progress, by sending them regular updates against their agreed KPIs. Just a few pounds in donations per day was an increase on what they’d been doing before, so it was important to highlight the impact.
Paula and her team found the biggest challenge in the process was having to ask for the first time. If they got a ‘yes’ from a customer the first time, they felt like they’d hit the jackpot and were ready to keep going. If they got a ‘no’, then asking again became more daunting. By using the above tips, they got over these hurdles and made sure all the box office staff were comfortable with asking the question.
According to Paula, the audience response has been pretty straightforward, with either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from their customers. The vast majority are more than happy to donate, with the occasional customer even surprised to find out that the MAC is a non-profit.
Is your box office team asking for small donations? It’s such a simple thing to add to your customer purchase path but can make such a difference to your fundraising efforts. So get started!
If you’d like to get some more tips on ways to help your box office team ask for donations, check out our previous blog here or delve into it a little deeper with our Everyone’s a Fundraiser whitepaper.