Nope, that’s not a typo–the headline shouldn’t be “Is Your Arts Organization Outsourcing To The Right Vendor?”

Joe Patti of Butts In The Seats had another great blog the other week via guest speaker, Stephen P. Brown – Putting The Wrong Labels On Boxes That Don’t Actually Exist part 1, part 2. In this two-part blog, Stephen discussed job descriptions in the non-profit sector, in particular Development Director. It’s a great piece, and I won’t go into all the detail, but I would urge you to read it.

However, what caught my attention from Stephen’s guest blog was his argument that everyone that ever comes in contact with your organization is in effect a fund raiser for you:

“First, anyone and absolutely everyone involved with a non-profit organization, from the Auditor to the printer, from the Master of Ceremonies to the sweet old lady who ensures sink faucets gleam, is directly involved in fund-raising, without exception. Gail Perry puts it right out there in Fired-Up Fund-raising: “Fundraising is everybody’s job – both board AND staff.” If a performer or a security guard believes they are exempt, retrain or expel them. If someone who gathers data or fills out grant applications believes they are the organization’s exclusive fund-raisers, retrain or expel them.”

This particular argument caught my attention because Onstage Publications is a vendor to both non-profit and for-profit performing arts organizations. Furthermore, although we are not a printer, Stephen specifically sites “the printer!” And I love that–because it really hit home. You see, when I’m giving my presentation about our performing arts program book management system to potential new performing arts clients, one of the things that is front and center in my presentation is the fact that when our professional program book sales reps go to work in their market, we are in essence “ambassadors” for their non-profit performing arts organization.

I go on to explain that what this means to their organization is that when Onstage starts selling in their market, we literally call every local business. Obviously we are calling about advertising in the program books. But what we also are telling these local business owners is the story about their particular performing arts organization and the great line up for the upcoming season. And lots of times, this leads to these business owners wanting to do something more with their local arts organization than just advertising in the program book. A lot of these businesses are hearing their local performing arts organization’s story for the first time and are interested in becoming more involved via sponsorships, donations or something more. Our program book reps are trained to then give this information to our Vice President of Sales, who then contacts the development department and gives them a super-hot lead for a sponsorship, donation or much more! Therefore, when a performing arts organization partners with Onstage Publications to do their program books, they’re also getting another fund raising channel.

Unfortunately, lots of times this goes on deaf ears, and when we attempt to give a sponsorship, or donation lead to the development department, they sometimes don’t even know who we are or what we do! And although this is somewhat heart-breaking, it is understandable because it’s the same old story with every non-profit organization—they’re stretched thin, they have limited resources, and communication often gets lost in the mix of things. I like to think that the only reason this may be is because the development department probably was never briefed on what our company is doing for their organization. And this is why they are perhaps taken aback. But as Stephen quotes Gail Perry “If someone who gathers data or fills out grant applications believes they are the organization’s exclusive fund-raisers, retrain or expel them.” Now I’m not advocating for anyone’s head to roll, but I would strongly advocate for at least retraining the “old school, silo” mentality.

But don’t get me wrong, the majority of our clients embrace this “fund raising” from us (yes, their vendor) and in some cases it has had a huge impact on their organization.

I admire Stephen’s seeming entrepreneurial spirit. You don’t see this a lot in the non-profit world. I don’t know Stephen personally and I am only surmising this entrepreneurial spirit because of his citations from Inc. magazine, Tom Peters, and Gary Vaynerchuk. Anyone who sites from these sources surely is not thinking like your typical non-profit. I only wish more non-profit performing arts organizations had the same entrepreneurial spirit as Stephen. Good Selling, and thank you Stephen!

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