Northern Broadsides, a national touring theatre company with a home base at Dean Clough, Halifax, combined Audience Finder and Show Stats data with Audience Spectrum segmentation to successfully fundraise for a learning and participation programme alongside its 2019 tour. By identifying the giving habits, communication preferences and cultural motivations of its core audience base, the company was able to deliver a sociable, entertaining and lucrative festive fundraiser that both surpassed its financial targets and succeeded in raising its charitable profile across the region.
In late 2018, Pamela Johnson, Development Manager at Northern Broadsides, was tasked with raising £20k in 3 months, £5k of which was to come from individual giving. The sum was required to support the delivery of an education project as part of the company’s 2019 tour of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The company considered a wide variety of fundraising methods, from low-cost email or crowdfunding campaigns to potentially more time and money consuming, but significantly high-reward, fundraising events. With such an array of options and potential risks, Northern Broadsides needed to understand more about how its target audiences might respond to the different approaches, before putting a fundraising plan in place.
Competing demands on time, budget and capacity meant that any fundraising that Northern Broadsides organised – from mailouts to events - must be carefully selected and rank highly with their core audiences for relevance, affordability and logistical viability. Audience Finder data revealed the dominant Audience Spectrum groups amongst the company’s audience base to be Commuterland Culturebuffs and Dormitory Dependables, with the latter segment being particularly over-represented, compared to the local population. Home and Heritage also made up a significant segment.
Previous research on donor giving behaviours further revealed which ‘asks’ best appeal to different groups:
- Commuterland Culturebuffs are more likely to make a transactional donation
- Dormitory Dependables are more likely to attend a fundraising event
- Experience Seekers are more likely to volunteer their time
Based on these findings, plans were set in motion for a Northern Broadsides’ festive fundraiser in December - the time of year when giving to charitable causes traditionally hits its peak. A concert version of A Christmas Carol was to be hosted at The Viaduct Theatre at Dean Clough, led by Northern Broadsides’ Artistic Director and supported by a choir of professionally-conducted local volunteers.
A direct mail appeal was sent to the ‘Friends of Northern Broadsides’ six weeks in advance of the concert, inviting those unable to attend to make a one-off ticket price donation. The company also initiated its first Facebook campaign to promote the fundraiser online and an automated giving tool on the Northern Broadsides website made it easy to take donations, capture additional gift aid and collect donor data for future stewardship.
The 400-strong event sold out several weeks in advance, with a waiting list for returns on the day. The concert performance was enhanced by the theatre’s holiday decorations, snacks, warm drinks and carols under the arches, contributing to an overall fun festive atmosphere. In response to the Artistic Director’s mission-led speech of thanks, audiences gave generously through collection buckets and ticket purchases for raffle items donated by over a dozen local businesses.
The final tally exceeded both Northern Broadsides' targets and its expectations:
Total revenue: £7,672
- Main ticket sales: £4,235
- Raffle tickets and collection buckets: £842
- ‘Friends of Northern Broadsides’ direct mail appeal and online donations: £2,595
Total expenditure: £1,823
- Marketing costs (print, direct mailing and Facebook advertising): £675
- Fees and expenses (Musical Director, choir travel, technical support and catering): £1,148
Total funds raised: £5,849
The company achieved 117% of its £5k target, with a return on investment of £3.21 per £1 spent. As well as gaining 6 new ‘Friends of Northern Broadsides’, which generated an additional £480.00 for the company, there were two donations of £2,500 each from high net worth givers in January, one of which was specifically to support the education project. The well researched, targeted and executed event succeeded not only in generating immediate funds, but in bringing together past, present and new volunteers, donors and supporters. Moreover, it substantially raised Northern Broadside’s profile as a local charity amongst new audiences and businesses across Calderdale.
While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.
Unpredictable and changing circumstances are making it difficult to plan any festival this summer but we are a resourceful lot in the cultural sector.