Every non-profit organization relies on two departments to generate revenue.

  • Marketing is tasked with the job to sell tickets to performances resulting in earned income for the organization.
  • Development is tasked with raising money from patrons who are interested in supporting the mission and programs of the organization resulting in contributed income.

Traditionally, both departments are siloed off from each other, protecting turf and justifying their work. While each department focuses on different revenue motivations, both must work with the patron to achieve a positive outcome. However, in today’s world, both marketing and development need each other more than ever.

If we think about the traditional patron pipeline, Attract, Retain and Upgrade, marketing and development historically had defined roles. It was up to marketing to put customers in the pipeline – attract them. Development was also trying to attract customers to become donors. For development departments, most annual fund donors came to them from the attract phase of marketing. Each department had very little reason to work with other. So, in effect, you had two competing pipelines:

Pipeline Graphic

Competition escalated once the customer was in the pipeline as marketing was trying to turn the single ticket buyer into a subscriber or a lower level subscriber to a higher level. Meanwhile, development was trying to cultivate both the single ticket buyer into the annual fund or the subscriber into becoming a major donor! Despite this conflict, both departments managed an uneasy coexistence. Marketing took care of the transactional part of the customer experience while development took care of cultivating the patron experience.

Today, in many arts organizations this relationship is evolving into a new model that focuses on cultivating a shared patron experience. The dual pipeline has now evolved into a patron loyalty loop with marketing and development sharing the responsibility for the patron experience.

New Pipeline

What factors are driving this evolution? There are a number of areas but two, patron behavior and technology stand out. Let’s examine both.

Changing patron behavior has had an enormous impact on organizations. Some factors include:

  • Patrons moving away from subscriptions and toward single ticket purchases.
  • Patrons grazing across multiple arts organizations, sampling individual events as desired.
  • Increased time constraints as patrons are bombarded with many diverse options for their limited dollars.

Technology has also exerted its influence. Some factors include:

  • The rise of social networks, Facebook as well as numerous others, as channels for communication.
  • Smartphone technology has allowed for greater information flow while on the move.  
  • Home theater technology has put pressure on organizations as patrons now have high-quality entertainment options at home.

Given these factors and much more, marketing and development departments are increasingly working together throughout the patron loyalty loop. CRM solutions have brought patron information together in a centralized database which allows for both departments to look at patron interactions in a more global manner. The result is that both departments are reaping the benefits of a shared approach. Here’s are a few of examples:

  1. A new single ticket buyer purchases an event ticket. The CRM solution, upon completion of the order, sends multiple tasks via workflows, to staff within the organization directing them to take various proactive actions.
  2. Current subscribers are put into an e-mail campaign based upon their interactions with the organization. The campaign provides additional relevant content and invites the subscriber to participate in an additional activity.
  3. Development can now view non-traditional patron behaviors such as patrons who intermittently attend events but donate to the organization on a yearly basis.

While some marketing and development departments have gone so far as to merge operations every organization doesn’t have to do so in order to be successful. By focusing on the process surrounding patron loyalty and experience, adding in the human resources from both departments for cultivation, and using the tools of technology, organizations can not only serve patrons to a higher standard they will also realize increased revenue generated through working as a team.