Want a Packed House? Start by Building a Loyal Community

As we well know, our programming doesn’t always draw patrons in by the droves. But wouldn’t it be nice to have programming that always generates buzz like a three week run of Book of Mormon or a Van Gogh to Warhol retrospective? Granted a blockbuster show or widely popular artist doesn’t always fill seats or get patrons through the door but it certainly helps, doesn’t it?

So what do we do during those leaner times when  faced with the 1,000 revival of Blithe Spirit or the latest installation just isn’t seeming to jive with patrons?

In either case, it is all about building a foundation that creates and sustains two things: Community and Loyalty.

To get you on your way, here are some tips to drive support all year long.

Capture Data

Make it a point to capture data. Through basic information capture and audience surveying you’ll gain important insight into the preferences and behaviors of your patrons and guests. Gather email addresses for follow-up, but don’t try selling or asking for donations straight away. Instead, invite them back for the next show or event related to their interests and start building the relationship.

Better Focus Your Efforts

As you get know more about the constituencies you serve, you can more purposefully target your messages and interactions. Make patrons feel unique, not just another number or name in your database.

Create Involvement

Build formal and informal affiliations through direct and indirect channels (in person, social media, VIP opportunities). Start with your members or loyal subscribers – Do they feel involved? Do they feel like you care? If you just paid a little more attention, you might be surprised which individuals are ready to move to the next level of support.


Give your donors the opportunity (easily) to make the move to a new level of support through recurring donations. Or as you know more about them, ask for more – start targeting based on their interests and habits.

But remember – It’s about reciprocity. If you’re asking more of your supporters, you must also be willing to give more in return. Make sure that you’re giving your supporters incentive to give frequently. Think about the ways you can demonstrate the value of their support to your organization.

Become a Bit More Omniscient!

We like to think we know everything there is to know about our donors, from giving capacity to who has the most wealth. But in reality, we only know part of the story. Invest in prospect research to gain insight about your supporters beyond their giving habits .

Actively Manage Your Data.

Recording data and information the first time around is the easy part; maintaining it is the challenge. Create a system to secure and maintain your data. Your donor solution isn’t a static tool. It needs regular care, attention and evaluation in order to optimize return.

By being more mindful of interactions with your patrons you will be better equipped to create a dedicated community that packs the house (almost) every time.

Good luck out there. Let us know how it goes and what you’ve done to raise the bar within your organization!