Just over a year ago, the Irish Repertory Theatre moved over into FundRaiser Professional. Their impetus was another, bigger move: from renters to owners of their own facility.
The mission of the Irish Repertory theatre is to bring works by Irish and Irish American masters and contemporary playwrights to American audiences.
“FundRaiser has been a good choice for us. We got it with the Wintix box office software integration features, and we are better able to manage all of our data at both ends, both donor and box office. Now we have more time to pitch to the patron,” says Patrick Kelsey, Managing Director of the theatre.”
With a capital campaign to cover the cost of the building, pitching to the patron has become more important than ever. Ticket sales and other earned income covers about 60% of the theatre’s running costs. The other 40% comes from donations.
Due to efforts this year, “our unearned income is picking up significantly,” says Kelsey. “We’ve received excellent press for our capital campaign efforts, and for receiving the Jujamcyn award.” The prestigious award is given each year to a theatre company who has shown ongoing consistent quality.
FundRaiser has also helped to increase donations by making it easier for the theatre to know who is most likely to want to support them. “We can better target our donors. We know who our donors are,” says Kelsey.
“The software we were using before was a customized Access database, very smooth and sleek, but it was a challenge to get the information out that we wanted, to query for people and see giving history. FundRaiser has much easier tools, and has all the bells and whistles, too,” says Kelsey.
“Now we can easily tell who gives and who doesn’t. We can see ticket buying habits; and we have the ability to respond to a donor or groups of donors with notices. FundRaiser has become a central component for us. I use it to extract various lists, for instance for opening night, or for donor prospects.” Prime prospects are ticket buyers. “We always try to turn ticket buyers into donors,” says Kelsey.
“We give people who are buying tickets information about becoming a friend of the theatre. If they don’t want to do it right then and there, then they see the information in the program and the lobby about becoming a donor. They can also contribute through the website.” FundRaiser’s integrated online donations features help with recording and following up on these contributions.
The theatre also keeps people informed with a newsletter for each production, and specific mailings for annual giving and the capital campaign.
Turning ticket buyers into donors is a trust building process. “If it’s the first time that someone pays us a visit, then they have to get to know us. Once they come two or three times, they see that they are getting consistent quality theatre; a good theatre company to return to, over and over again, and to bring their family to.”
Comparing the number of patrons to ticket buyers, Kelsey says, that about 15% to 20% become friends of the theatre after a few visits. That is excellent donor prospecting.
Ticket buyers are entered into FundRaiser from Wintix box office software using an ‘updater’ program. This ensures that development has the names of prospects who have bought tickets, without the need for double entry. Says Kelsey, “running the updater is easy too.”
In addition to Kelsey, several other staff members use FundRaiser, pulling the information they need from it directly. “The director of development and the membership manager, who handles all the individuals, and the box office all use it. If the box office has a question, it can easily pull up sales or giving history, see if membership has expired and offer to renew it. To be anywhere in the building and be able to access information ‘real time’ is good. It is much easier for all of us.”