Money, Money, Money

Funding is always an issue for any arts organisation. It could be securing investors as a big-time Broadway producer, engendering donations for a non-profit arts organisation or just raising the funds for a project through Kickstarter. But while none are easy, there are certain things you should (and shouldn’t) do if you want the money!


Whenever I purchase a ticket now days, I feel like I am always asked to donate some money -sometimes it is to an associated charity, other times it is to the organisation itself. But I was recently looking at purchasing tickets from a Melbourne non-profit arts organisation and the manner through which they asked for a donation made me click that big red X in the top right corner of the browser before I had finished the purchase.

So with that purchase experience firmly in my mind, I have come up with a three-step guide regarding asking for donations.

1. Be Polite!

When I clicked through earlier today to purchase my tickets, I found that the organisation had automatically added a $20 donation to my shopping cart. Yes, I could remove it if I wanted to, but that isn’t the point. The fact that the donation was ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ seemed to suggest that I had an obligation to donate and by removing that donation I was being a bad audience member and depriving this organisation of money. I couldn’t help but think about all the people who had missed the automatic addition and unknowingly paid the $20 donation.

On top of that, I was only paying $40 for my ticket. That is an increase of 50%! And to be honest it is a bit presumptuous.

Money is a precious thing. And while you can trick consumers into accidentally donating to your organisation, if they find out about the deception you will be losing a whole pile of potential future money. So be polite. A donation is something people should make willingly, and if they want to do it they may be even more generous.

2. Don’t expect one donation to fund your entire new performance venue

I am sure that you have all seen these donation options before when you have been purchasing a ticket to a show. Usually the options are something like; $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100, with the opportunity for entering your own amount. As most consumers are already spending several hundred dollars on their entertainment purchase, you would expect the majority of donations to be between $5 and $20. And this is reasonable.

If the audience member had been to previous concerts which they were very satisfied with (and would have been happy to pay more for) then they may well add $10 onto their next purchase to reward the organisation for their fantastic previous concerts.

When I encountered ‘opt-out’ donation, unlike most of the other systems I had seen, it was a sliding scale. The dial was currently set at $20 and could be moved down to $0, it could also be moved right up to . . . . $10,000. If someone is going to make a $10,000 donation, it will not be because they saw this slider and thought ‘You know what, I have a spare $10,000. I may as well donate it . . .’. They will seek you out. And to be honest making the rest of us, who want to move it down to $0, feel guilty is not the way to get us to empty our pockets either!

3. Make me want to donate

There is a reason why auctions and these new online mediums, like Kickstarter, raise a lot of money. If I donate, I get a reward. Not only does the donator get the buzz from helping a child in Africa get clean water or raise money for research into a cancer cure, but they also get a neat little tangible gift for their efforts. Something that will solidify their donation and remind them of the good feelings they received from their donation every time they see it.

That’s all it takes. Three little points could turn around the number of donations you received – as well as your audience’s attitude and generosity towards the whole process. So don’t make the mistake of this other organisation and not only lose the donation, but also the potential ticket sale!