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Theater Fundraising: How to Ask for Donations Under $50

Image of $20 bills. Securing donations under $50 is key to any theater fundraising strategy.

Getting a big check from a major donor is an exciting moment for every fundraiser, but small donations can play a larger role for arts organizations than some may expect. Research shows that engaging with small donors who give $50 or less a year can be a key step for organizations to reach their contributed income goals. Not only do these donors represent their own share of contributed revenue, but they also join the donor pipeline and can be solicited for potentially larger gifts as the relationship continues.

Theater fundraisers have the unique benefit of working with a pool of existing customers interested in the organization’s mission: ticket buyers and subscribers. Attracting new donors under $50 connects to a holistic arts fundraising strategy of using patron data to reach core patron groups and build loyalty. Let’s look at some ways to easily engage with potential smaller donors throughout your business.

Theater fundraising tips for increasing donations under $50

Appeal to your key customers: Arts and theater fundraising teams are always looking for ways to convert subscribers and repeat attendees into donors. When targeting potential new donors, build a campaign that acknowledges their existing relationship with the organization and tells a story of how becoming a donor can increase their impact. Ticket holders will feel appreciated and will understand why their donations are needed on top of their ticket revenue. You can also show the benefits of becoming a low-level donor, such as recognizing smaller donors in a program or adding a discounted ticket to their subscription. Recognizing small donors can help them see how their gifts contribute to the organization’s mission, making them feel more connected to the organization and more open to future cultivation. 

Engage donors at the time of ticket purchase: The checkout path of your website is a great place to ask for donations from patrons who are already engaging with the organization. Asking customers to add $5, $10 or even $20 to their order on the way to checkout gives fundraisers a near-effortless chance to grow contributed revenue. As many as 13% of online transactions at arts organizations include a donation, so it’s important to offer an easy way for patrons to give online. 

When asking for donations online, it is best to have an ask that is clear and specific, and that details why donations are key to the theater’s success. If possible, prompt for a fund based on what the customer is already purchasing — for example, patrons attending a family-friendly show might be more interested in an education initiative. It’s also best to make donation asks that are proportionate to the rest of the purchase: adding a $50 donation to a $75 ticket order might seem daunting, but $10 is an easy add-on. Make sure to capture accurate contact and recognition information to help turn this passive donor to an engaged supporter through future solicitations. 

Get the whole team on board: In addition to the web sales process, fundraisers should not be afraid to task their box office staff with soliciting small donations when customers call or come to the window. The box office staff is the face of the organization that patrons often build a relationship with, and that can help them feel comfortable adding on a donation to their purchase. Research shows that donations made in-person or over the phone are nearly double the value of online donations as a percentage of basket value. Something as simple as training box office staff members to ask for donations can have a big impact. 

For tips on how to start these programs, see our article on adding a donation at the box office. Training your box office staff in asking for donations can lead to a five-times increase in the contributions customers make on the phone or in person, so make sure to help them become the fundraisers they can be! 

By leveraging these strategies to ask for donations, fundraisers can increase donations at this key entry point into the donor pipeline, building a sustainable base for cultivating donors up the pyramid. 

For more data and case studies on organizations that are growing their contributed income with small donation asks, download the Spektrix Insights Report