So far in this series, we’ve examined some of the strategies that non-arts nonprofits are using to engage and promote participation among their constituents, as well as their implications for success in the arts. To wrap up, we’ll look at Charity: water, a nonprofit that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to the 800 million people in developing nations who do not have access to it yet. Charity: water operates with a distinctive funding model: 100 percent of public contributions are used to directly fund mission-based projects, while operating costs are funded by other sources such as foundations and private donors.
Like the Nature Conservancy, the subject of Part 1 of this series, Charity: water’s website features a personalized, social media-inspired interface for contributors to track their personal impact on the organization’s mission. Users can quantitatively monitor the extent of their support in real-time, whether they donate, raise funds from and/or with others through a campaign, or spread awareness through (digital) word of mouth. Participants can organize themselves into groups that can run their own campaigns and set collective donation goals in order to fund specific projects, such as a well installation in a village. One of Charity: water’s unique campaign frameworks is The Birthday Project, which encourages people to leverage their birthdays and challenge those they know to donate their age in dollars.
In order to report finished projects, Charity: water uses a Google Maps-powered map to show the exact locations of each completed project with GPS coordinates, completion dates, and the number of people who benefit from the project. To date, there are over 4,000 projects featured on the map across four continents. By literally showing where funds are being used, Charity: water promotes a sense of personal satisfaction in having contributed to a global cause, despite the physical distance between donors and beneficiaries.
Takeaway: Charity: water’s website suggests that the organization values transparency and awareness, allowing donors to educate themselves about the organization’s efforts and track progress throughout the 18-month time frame that is typical to complete such projects. Currently, we tend to measure success in our fundraising efforts by the total amount raised, but Charity: water demonstrates that there are opportunities to strengthen relationships between organizations and our contributors by also acknowledging their individual impact.
A while back we examined some of the creative ways in which the Nature Conservancy uses its web presence to promote engagement with its constituents. The arts and our public radio comrades have much in common with regard to audience development and engagement challenges. In the spirit of pledge drive season, we’ll take a look at what regional public radio institutions are doing online to create a stronger sense of community and participation, even without the benefit of a physical space.
1) WNYC’s online feedback page
New York-based news station WNYC (home station of “Radiolab”) includes a listener feedback forum on their website that goes beyond the typical online “comment-box”-style form. The feedback posts are visible to the public, regardless of how positive or critical they may be. Other visitors can comment on these posts and vote in agreement with the original feedback (think Facebook “likes”). While some organizations might seek to remove the most critical ones to avoid potential bad PR situations, there is a wide range of sentiments and topics represented, suggesting that WNYC wants to create an environment of transparency.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of letting patrons offer feedback in their own words! People appreciate knowing that organizations value the opinions of those they serve on an individual level. Implementing a forum-style feedback page can make it easier for an organization to figure out what issues need to be addressed most immediately: it can be as simple as looking at how many people voted in favor of a specific comment. Also, online feedback forums encourage two-way interaction between an organization and the public, as well as between constituents themselves, even without a physical venue.
2) WBEZ’s CuriousCity
With their CuriousCity project, Chicago’s WBEZ news station (home station of “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and “This American Life”) takes the concept of user-contributed content a step further: users suggest questions and issues relevant to the Chicago community for the station’s news team to investigate and report on. Every one to two weeks, listeners can choose from three issues that they would most like to see investigated. Users can then closely monitor the investigation status of each issue in real time on an interactive timeline, or even add to the ongoing investigation by posting their own insights on the issues.
Takeaway: Gathering ideas from your patrons is great, but actually implementing those ideas in a highly visible way is all the more meaningful in terms of giving your constituents an enriching, relevant experience. A possible equivalent strategy for the performing arts, for example, might be letting audience members suggest or select repertoire for an upcoming event.
3) WQXR’s QCard
WQXR, the classical music arm of New York’s WNYC, offers a premium to donors and members that might be even better than a tote bag. The QCard grants online access to a restricted part of the WQXR website that offers cardholders benefits at businesses and arts organizations in the New York area and beyond. Participating organizations and benefits rotate on a monthly basis. Offering these types of external benefits creates a feeling of community and space for the station’s core audience base, which can be especially challenging for an institution whose main “venue” is the radio waves rather than a concert hall or museum. By partnering with outside local organizations, the station not only provides long-term incentives to donate, but also transforms the cerebral experience of radio into something more tangible and participatory.
Takeaway: Member and donor benefits for arts organizations tend to focus on internal, venue-based perks, such as free parking for events or personalized ticketing services. The QCard suggests that there are ample opportunities for expanding the range of loyalty benefits well beyond the “bubble” of our own organizations.
Photo credit: http://www.npr.org/about-npr/177066727/visit-npr
This week, Opera America announced the thirteen opera companies selected to share $300,000 in grants to support programs and projects that increase first-time opera attendance and return visits. The individual grants range from $7,500 to $30,000. The thirteen companies (and their projects) are:
The thirteen grantees were selected from a pool of 67 companies competing for support from Opera America’s new ‘Building Opera Audiences’ grant program. In its first year, this new program is made possible by funding from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. The thirteen companies selected are pursuing innovative projects to increase attendance through use of technology and social media, special activities for the community, or meaningful discussion with community members to better understand the barriers that prevent the public from attending and listening to opera. Opera America will evaluate each program and project awarded. Congratulations to the grantees- we look forward to following the outcome of these projects and programs!
A description of each opera companies’ specific project can be found in Opera America’s press release.
In past articles we tackled analysis of gamification as a tool for arts organizations as well as some methodology about how to design a game or game elements. This post will relate to how gamification can be used as a tool for marketing efforts.
Gamification can be message, channel, and even marketing education. A game can be a marketing channel of its own for your organization or it can reside within a number of other channels. As a marketing tool gamification is usually best tasked at enticing a specific market segment to engage in a free portion of your programming or educational efforts.
As barriers to participation abound, free, at least initially, is essential. The free doesn’t necessarily have to last forever and there are plentiful articles about the freemium model, its merits and faults for you to consider. Free is important because there are many, many other games out there that compete for discretionary time, although these games aren’t necessarily in competition with your game. For example, a geocacher, may or may not be interested in other types of games but is probably interested in other scavenger hunts. Similar to all other segmentation, games have their market segments and it is uncommon for market segments to blur.
As part of moving into engaging audiences, test or otherwise, you will need to design the instructions for how to play the game. As with the game, you will need to test the instructions for clarity and user-friendliness. If you find the instructions getting too long (over a page at the longest) consider breaking them up into smaller portions and feeding them to the audience incrementally. For live action games you will need to test out your instructions by reading them aloud to a group to check for clarity.
To start using gamification as marketing you will need to plan. Begin in advance of your regular marketing cycle and work out the game before you include it in your marketing plan for the year or target period of time. Given that whatever game you create will be an experimental effort within a larger marketing campaign it should be apportioned resources as befits any experimental effort: aka don’t stop doing what works in favor of using a gamification idea, rather use the gamification idea to engage with segments that are 1) likely to engage with games (have been proven to like the type of game and the format you are exploring), 2) are at least somewhat likely to engage with your project/program/organization and 3) that you have a way of reaching effectively.
In order to effectively market in a gamification project you will have to choose your mechanics wisely. The goal, under a large umbrella, is to sell your art: performance, education, or visual art. In past posts mechanics have been covered briefly but to see a larger overview of mechanics check out the SCVNGR list of 47 game mechanics. Each of the mechanics discussed in the article have a purpose and some work better for marketing (a shell game, viral game mechanics, leaderboards, countdowns, and disincentives) than others (endless game play).
Don’t forget to set goals. You have to realistically predict measurable effects to your efforts, just like with all things marketing. This is best done after you have tested the game on a sample group or two. What do you want the audience for your game to walk away with? Do you want the game to just familiarize a new market segment with your organization, aka inform them? Do you want the game to inspire them to buy tickets to your shows in the future or admissions to your museum? Whatever the goal of the gamification project, make sure it fits into the big picture: your marketing plan.
Some ideas around goal setting:
1) Measure income vs expenditure for the project but bear in mind that since the idea isn’t to make money, at least immediately, try not to go crazy on the rewards side of things (limit expenditure)- rewards often times work best when they are unexpected (aside from the ultimate goal reward of course)
2) Look into measuring attitude and perception, pre-game and post-game, either through quick polling or through self assessment
3) Re-engagement should be a major part of your goals: getting the people who played the game to re-engage with your organization, and not just for the purpose of playing a game
It is worth reminding would be project managers at this point in time that the number one objective of any game project should be the fun of the participants. This should be a higher priority than any of the others. It would defeat the purpose and create more work for your campaign to surmount, ultimately fun gets a lower priority and you end up turning your participants off.
Oddly, in order for the project to be effective and boost your marketing efforts, you will need to market and promote the game. Once that you have your market segment and delivery method worked out, your game designed, and your goals settled on, you then need to move into implementation territory.
Like with any marketing efforts you need to have the infrastructure to manage both the product, the gamification project, and the potential response. Make sure that you have things in place so that the participants of the game can then start engaging in the appropriate product that you are using the game to promote. Also make sure you have the resources to make the game go smoothly without adversely impacting your organization’s primary activities.
As a new buzzword, “Big Data” is all over our daily lives. However, the tech industry specializing in data collection and analysis doesn’t mean that other industries haven’t found value in using data. For anyone who knows baseball (or has watched Moneyball), we know that data analysis has become part of the player selection process.
From a business perspective, big data enables companies to mix their patron data into a broader pool of consumer data and extract correlations that help them know with unprecedented specificity who are most likely to respond to their appeals. The great thing about data is that it replaces guesswork with facts and gives these corporates reliable answers, clear directions and predictable results. The not-so-great thing is that it replaces personal expertise and human intuition with cold hard math, a process that arts administrators who’ve built their careers on creative management practices might have trouble getting used to. Big data often has a negative connotation in the arts, a field where emotion and personal choice are highly valued. But does going with your gut necessarily lead to a more innovative arts organization?
Recently, arts administrators are taking advantage of the data revolution and gradually forming several predictions towards the whereabouts of arts.
Arts organizations should seize on big data opportunities and use them to improve their efficiency and build vibrant communities of interactive participants or supporters. This will help them generate more earned revenue, more individual contributions and larger, more avid support systems, thus giving themselves a better chance of surviving as audiences for traditional art forms continue to diversify.
Many organizations that embrace big data, however, use it to send traditional marketing messages to wider audiences and will probably fail to fully maximize their opportunities. Mining data to find more people who are willing to respond to half-century-old messages is a zero sum game, but the arts industry has a well-established history of neglecting to update its strategic message content. History also suggests that some organizations will consider data an end rather than a means. The goal of using data is to identify individuals with whom organizations can forge deeper, more meaningful human relationships, but many arts organizations will be satisfied with initial transactions and treat new customers as data clusters rather than as individuals. We do this now with small data. Big data will simply compound the efficiency with which we separate the humans who work in arts organizations from the humans who consume artistic products.
In the era of big data, many arts leaders are likely to find that their personal opinions, anecdotal observations, favorite styles, or even final executive decisions are not necessarily relevant contributions to the marketing process. That’s because data is asking art orgs to focus on professional, quantitative bottom line-driven strategies. Ultimately, data will end up being a temporary fix. A mining process that extracts leftover gas and oil from spent wells; data can only help managers squeeze more productivity out of a finite resource. Audiences for traditional art forms are likely to continue their decline and no amount of analytics will enable these orgs to manufacture new demand.
As to audience engagements, some administrators are predicting that audiences are diminishing largely because currently, many art orgs fail to make direct, meaningful, personal, human connections with the younger, more culturally diverse people on whom our futures depend. Hence, under the concept of “Big Data”, arts managers may be able to use data to make more efficient contacts with audiences, but if they fail to immerse themselves in their cultures and just let managers be influenced by the audience, they probably risk having used the whole investment in big data for the smallest of returns. The best outcome would be, art orgs have better ideas of audience through data; at the same time, they can leverage the information they gained and lead the audience.
In the arts, it’s only natural to look to peer organizations in our field for gathering new ideas and benchmarking our success. However, there are countless technology and engagement lessons we can learn from institutions unrelated to the not-for-profit arts sector. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at creative web engagement strategies used by such institutions that can serve as inspiration for the arts industry.
The Nature Conservancy’s website includes a portal to individual user pages called My Nature, which can be customized upon creating an account on the site. My Nature’s content categories, as well as the tone of its written copy, somewhat emulate those of major social media platforms – namely Facebook. News feeds (sound familiar?) can be personalized based on interest categories selected by each user, including birding and photography. A showcase of member-submitted photos and “Why I Give” stories from supporters invite further browsing and contribution, and ensure new content for repeat visitors. Clear calls to action, whether that “action” consists of exploring and sharing content or taking larger steps like making a monthly donation, make it easy for visitors to deepen their personal engagement with the organization and make a difference in whatever way they choose.
Those calls to action are assembled into a badge system very similar to Foursquare’s: as users complete certain tasks related to engagement or support, they earn badges that are displayed on their my.nature.org homepage.
Gamification is a topic that we’ve discussed extensively here at Technology in the Arts, and its effectiveness is well demonstrated in this case. Among the game dynamics behind this badge system are:
1) Ownership: collecting “tangible” (in the digital world, that is) rewards for completing tasks
2) Achievement: having one’s accomplishments be recognized
For the Nature Conservancy, the tasks currently included in the badge system are primarily virtual (e.g. “find out more about conservation in our e-newsletter”), but arts organizations might be able to expand the “game” to include real-life actions too. What about offering a badge for new patrons to commemorate attending their first performance, or to reward a loyal pre-concert lecture attendee?
The Nature Conservancy has a history of implementing creative, proactive web initiatives that create a true sense of community and socialization while still being informative. Their encouragement of conversation and active participation reinforces the universal relevance of environmental conservation issues: everyone is both affected by and capable of aiding the cause, and they may not even need to leave their laptops to show their support.
Even in this age where social media has developed into a powerful conversation forum, many websites still focus more on providing content than on inviting it. As the Nature Conservancy demonstrates, this one-way relationship does not have to be the case. How does your organization use its website to invite patron engagement with its brand and mission, or even with each other?
Featured photo credit:
This work by Michelle Cheng is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Last month we began a conversation on database options for the nano-nonprofit, characterized here as the smallest of artistic enterprises, often in the early years of operation, with annual budgets under $60,000, and/or having a paid staff of 5 persons or fewer (if not entirely volunteer-run). When considering data solutions that will allow these lean organizations to capture the nuances of their patron relationships by integrating multiple points of contact (attendance, donations, communications, and personal info), top considerations that emerge are price, ease of use, customer support, and email compatibility.
Today we consider our first option, Artful.ly, from Fractured Atlas. Self-described as “a simple, elegant way to keep track of events, people, and your everyday work,” this online system is designed to facilitate and manage ticket sales, track contributions (cash and in-kind), and store personal contact information for each individual with whom your organization interacts. Its ticket-selling and fundraising functions work on an organization’s existing website, creating a streamlined interface for the user rather than navigating away from the organization’s site in order to complete the transaction. And Artful.ly’s recent integration with MailChimp allows individual email addresses and communication history to now be stored in the same patron record alongside sales, donations, and personal information.
For the nano-nonprofit, the chief attraction of Artful.ly is likely to be its price. Structured as six modules (“kits”), Artful.ly is free to install, and three kits—People Management, Free Event Ticketing, and MailChimp Integration—bear no cost to use. The remaining kits—Paid Event Ticketing, Charity Donations, and Sponsored Projects (for organizations that receive fiscal support from Fractured Atlas)—incur processing fees for each transaction. The customer is charged a $2 handling fee per ticket, and Artful.ly deducts a 3.5% credit card processing fee from the base amount of each sale. So for a paid event with a ticket price of $10, the customer pays $12, Artful.ly receives $2, the credit card company receives $0.35, and the organization receives $9.65.
In addition to being cost-friendly, the nano-nonprofit will likely appreciate the accessibility of this online solution. Situated in the cloud, multiple users can link to the organization’s account, which can be accessed from any online device. For the small or beginning enterprise without a permanent physical office or still in the process of obtaining personnel, this flexibility translates into critical ease of use. Similarly, while a short piece of code is provided by Artful.ly to install its sales and donation widget onto an organization’s website, nano-nonprofits without a unique website can utilize those features by directing patrons to a hosted online storefront.
The caveat for nano-nonprofits considering Artful.ly is the system’s relative newness. Launched in September 2011, Artful.ly is still in beta mode, and while the status of requested fixes and features is updated regularly, limitations exist. An example: Data can be easily imported as CSV from existing systems, and Artful.ly will automatically match records by email address to merge duplicate patrons. However, the user is left to manually merge any other duplications that exist and because patron records cannot be sorted alphabetically, visually scanning for potential duplicates is a challenge.
The good news is that Artful.ly incorporates substantial arts industry feedback into its design and is extremely prompt in responding to customer inquiries. When we inquired about the inability to delete actions entered in an individual record (eliminating the option to correct data entry mistakes), we received thorough and thoughtful replies, suggesting that nano-nonprofits requiring technical support will find ample assistance.
Finally, potential users should know that Artful.ly is in the culminating phase of a significant redesign of its People Management module, which will address several existing limitations as well as add the ability to include social media handles, lifetime value, and prioritized actions to individual patron records. In the meantime, a “dummy” account may be a useful way for nano-nonprofits to experiment with Artful.ly to determine if this inexpensive, online system is a good fit for its organizational needs.
Coming up next: Patron Manager
FIRST: I want to direct you to this website where you can read an interview about HintMe with Merete Sanderhoff, a researcher at the National Gallery of Denmark, and a case study about the Danish museums using Twitter.
But for the fast facts…
Who: The National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst) and 11 additional Danish art museums.
What: HintMe is a shared mobile platform with the aim of opening up museums’ collections by making content re-useable and freely sharable. At the same time, the platform has the potential to increase user engagement with the museum, its artwork, and between visitors themselves. Here is why it is brilliant: HintMe makes use of an existing platform, Twitter, and a style of communication that has become increasingly familiar and popular, the hashtag. #sohotrightnow
Users can access HintMe on their mobile device to comment on a work of art in the gallery or read what others have said. Users can participate and engage with the shared content, giving each work of art a “human” voice. Not only is this content valuable for the museum, but it also offers a creative way for visitors to participate with the collection. The project provides proper “scaffolding” so users feel confident enough to participate- they understand and are familiar with the platform, the purpose of the mobile tool, the rules, and their options. Because of the platform, HintMe is inclusive, not exclusive, allowing all types of participants to engage- from those who want to contribute to the conversation and #hashtaglikecrazy to those who prefer to read the content others have generated.
When: Now. It is currently a pilot project. Though Beta tests and suggestions from users, the museum continues to discover opportunities to enhance the existing platform. They are open to feedback on how to improve the user experience.
How: HintMe uses the “open” collection model. Works of art have open licenses and can be shared freely and re-used. In order to encourage dialogue between museum visitors regarding pieces in the gallery, HintMe uses Twitter’s API. While in front of a painting, a viewer can access, read and respond to the comments of visitors past and present.
Thoughts on the case? On opening up collections and making content re-usable? #GetAtUs #TechInTheArts
Featured Image Photo Credit: Rikke Baggesen
What art museums do you know with great websites? The Walker Art Center? MoMA? Can you name any that do not focus on contemporary or modern collections?
Spoiler alert: I can - the Rijksmuseum.Yes, I am on a Rijksmuseum kick.
In honor of the Rijksmuseum’s gorgeous restoration, let’s talk about how an art museum with an extensive traditional collection can successfully leverage good website design. I would argue that a contemporary or modern collection is not a prerequisite for an engaging website.
The Rijksmuseum is no stranger to blending their historic values with modern aesthetics. Their renovated space presents the collection in an entirely new way – with only Rembrandt’s The Night Watch returning to its original position. This aesthetic is also clearly visible on their website.
The Rijksmuseum website is sophisticated, functionality wise (we’ve talked about how great Rijksstudio is before). The look is stylish yet mature, and appropriate for the collection it reflects (highlights of which appear in a rotating banner on the landing page). The three navigation bars convey appropriate and necessary information in a simple layout that does not feel simplistic. Perhaps the only criticism I can offer is a lack of centralized navigation – there’s no one location for all the links on every page. But, I am an adult and can use the back button and found the page easy to navigate.
Even as the renovation of the Rijksmuseum is an even further return to “tradition” – original ceiling arches have been restored, the original mosaic floors uncovered – their website stands as a wonderful example of what a museum website should be. It’s easy to navigate, visually appealing, and represents who the museum really is. So check it out – and if you’re in Amsterdam, get tickets to their reopening, April 13, 2013.
Can you think of any other museums with great websites?
The news-reading app Flipboard just rolled out a major update—allows users to create their own personalized “magazines” for public viewing. The feature allows users to pull articles from a variety of sources, including Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, LinkedIn, Instagram and Tumblr. Users can also pull articles from the Web browser by adding Flipboard’s new bookmark “Flip it.”
In a video below, Flipboard founder Mike McCue picked up a magazine built by a fan of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It looked pretty neat, full of news and stories about artists performing at the event, together with relevant videos and even music that you can tap on and have playing in the background. Everyone can comment on the magazines.
It may look a bit like Pinterest at the first glance, and indeed it is a feature that will appeal to those who enjoy creating collections. This could be a useful tool for arts managers to create stories about each exhibition or show. Many arts organizations have realized the value of using social media platform, including Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. However, given the information on these platforms is extremely scattered, arts managers need to reorganize these information and make it more meaningful to the audience. Making a logic story about the concept of a show by integrating the use of video, pictures, words, and audio can help audiences comprehensively understand the meaning behind an art activity.
This new feature provides a preview of Intelligent Content, which is structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable, for both magazine creators and readers. One advantage of Intelligent Content is that it can help arts organizations create content in a more cost-efficient way. Instead of obeying the rules of printed media, arts organization can offer an always-on and continuously updated experience by creating a magazine online while saving money on printing. Moreover, audiences can access the magazines wherever and whenever they want and share them with their friends.
More importantly, this new update enables arts managers to predicate which artworks will bring in a much-needed audience by analyzing the big data that comes from reading, creating and commenting behavior. Recently, an MIT team has developed an algorithm that can predict trending topics on Twitter hours in advance. Similarly, arts managers can use the data that comes from the audience’s responses to the magazines to identify emerging popular topics. Arts managers can also encourage the audiences to create their own magazines that are correlated with the shows. This way, arts managers will be able to create content with almost a certain return on investment.
Arts managers who recognize this design-and data-driven future will have a head start. Flipboard is just a start. Arts managers can experiment now with new ways to deliver content and measure how the audiences engage with it. The data in turn is a great asset to help them deliver even more engaging art experiences in the future.
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