I recently had the pleasure of serving as a panelist for a class of graduate arts administration students at Seattle University talking about digital media and websites for non-profit arts organizations. I guess this means my job qualifies me to speak with some authority on the topic and at the very least, share my experience. Haha. There were also panels for dealing with the press/press releases and database/segmentation.
It was a blast! These guys were awesome! (Actually, there were only three men in the entire class of about 35 students. But thats a whole different issue.) They all asked really great questions and we had a very lively discussion! It was quite invigorating actually, so much so that I went home and wrote down a bunch of thoughts. I’ll share them here mostly so I dont lose them. But who knows, you might be reading this and learn something too. Quite of bit of it was inspired by the database and segmentation panel after mine.
Here they are (in a sort of stream-of-consciousness style)
- Patrons may interpret their “loyalty” to your organization differently than your opinion of their loyalty. This could be more or less but you need to adjust for their perception.
- It may be beneficial to rank “loyalty” based on total donations + ticket revenue in terms of allocating internal resources more appropriately. Plus, you might see some surprising results!
- Is one dollar brought in via marketing equal to one dollar brought in by development?
- How do you ask for a donation when the patron is complaining about the $5 upgrade in their sub renewal? Provide tools for your reps.
- Patrons disengage in their 20s and 30s due to life-cycle events such as marriage and children. This is happening everywhere.
- A/B test as much as you can handle. Expect results and learn from your findings. Great test case for this is emails.
- Pay attention to what duties you have that make the most impact to your organization and which duties don’t. Plan your time management accordingly.
- Consider switching the website to a content management system (The entire class gasped when I told them that we don’t use one at the ballet!)
- When asking for a donation, “Please give” is better than “Please consider giving.”
Ok, some of it is like “duh” stuff, but they are valuable things to remember or think about more.
When we wrapped up our discussion, we were asked to share one last pieces of closing advice for the group. Here’re mine (I broke the rules and gave them two!):
1) When it comes to social media, pick one or two networks that you know you can manage and stick with those. Do not branch out until you have the resources to do so. A good place to start is Facebook.
2) Measure results. Analytics can be intimidating, however, you don’t know how well something is working until you measure it. Sign in to Google Analytics (or Facebook Insights, or whatever tracking system) and pick one or two figures, understand what they mean, and watch them change from week to week. Branch out only when you’re comfortable with those.
All-in-all it was a terrific experience. I can’t wait to see how all of these students change the world!
I recently embarked on a large-scale enhancement project for a client’s site. The site is getting a big upgrade to be more mobile friendly which will alter the code on a number of pages throughout the site. In the past, we’ve used version control in the form of Tortoise SVN. While working on this project, I needed to make sure I could continue everyday maintenance on the site while still working on developing the enhancement. I decided the best way to do this was to use subversion’s system of trunk and branches.
Details of the existing setup led me to have a few restrictions on how I set it up. I ended up putting all of my development work into a trunk and making the current site (where I do my day-to-day maintenance) a separate branch. Until I launch that trunk, I’ll have to keep reintegrating my day-to-day branch into it to keep everything synced up. Not a big deal, as long as I remember to do it!
This process seems to be working great for what I need to do. In the future I’d like to explore Git and Github for these types of things as I understand they are a great deal more efficient. Plus, Github offers cloud storage of your repos (aka accessible anywhere) and they even give non-profits some private storage for free! I’ve used github a couple of times before but not to work on private projects like this. It’ll be interesting to compare subversion and git in the future.
- Facebook is #1 in social media (at least for now)!
- Know what you’re doing with Video
- Fundraising can and should be done online too
- Mobile mobile mobile!
- Don’t do more than you can sustain
- Learn how to speak the language and you’ll already be ahead of most people.
- Measure your success
- Learn from people with more money and resources than you have
- You actually know more than you think
- Have fun
I remember very clearly in sixth grade my mother’s reaction when I connected our new Gateway computer (that came in big cow box) and had it running before she got home from work. This wasn’t my first experience with computeres, but it was the first time I started to feel a connection with them. Perhaps I was good with these things! Over time I became even more interested, specifically in this weird thing called the World Wide Web. Of course, I dialed in on AOL anytime someone else wasn’t making a phone call.
One part of my full-time job is to manage our email marketing campaigns. When I took up this job a little over a year ago, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with email marketing. Yeah, I’d heard of Constant Contact and even used it a few times in previous jobs but was never really that involved in email marketing. None-the-less, I was excited to jump in and learn something new. It didn’t take long to find out there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
The product they’d been using for several years was specifically targeted to non-profits and was supposed to understand the needs of an organization like ours better the competitors. After taking a few months to get up to speed, I was soon hungry for more. I realized how limited the existing product actually was. I outgrew it’s abilities quickly and wanted to start experimenting with different designs, marketing messages, send frequencies, subject lines, list segmentation and so forth. Doing all that in that system was a pain and took forever. I started to feel really constricted by it and my eye started to wander, wondering if there was something better out there.
There are literally thousands of email marketing services available and they all claim their specific features are the best. I needed some way to sort through all of the options so I created a list of what I wanted out of an email marketing service to narrowed it down.
jQuery Mobile 1.0 has just been released and I’m pretty excited about it!
Actually, I’m not alone.
I’ve been using regular jQuery on almost all my projects for years, including those with Tessitura integration. jQuery Mobile (jQM) seems like it will make it easy to build beautiful and functional mobile sites super fast.
One of the coolest features is the built in themes.
Nearly every element can be “themed” simply by adding the
data-theme attribute in an element’s tag, such as
data-theme="A" for theme
A. Here’s an example of all 5 built in color themes,
It also provides most of the responsiveness people are asking for with mobile websites. This cuts down on development time and allows you to focus more on the quality of your content.
How does this help non-profits? Well, it allows you to catch up with for-profit companies in creating mobile versions of your purchase path. Integrated with your CMS and CRM you can finally secure that revenue stream in the mobile space. It also has a great ROI being that jQuery and jQuery Mobile are both open source (read: free and getting better all the time).
All you need is to get started.
I am happy to report that I am once again gainfully employed full-time since the closure of my previous employer, Intiman Theatre. Intiman was (still is: they are on “hiatus”) a mid-sized theatre company located in the shadow of Seattle’s Space Needle. Coincidentally, it’s right next door! I am the new Webmaster and Digital Media Specialist for Pacific Northwest Ballet.
With my background in non-profit performing arts organizations, working at PNB makes me very happy. They’re a Tessitura user and have one of the best Select Your Own Seat (SYOS) user interfaces that I’ve seen. I understand it was designed by Hornall Anderson. They are the ones who designed the new RedHook beer rebrand, Starbucks VIA and Microsoft Office 2010. Watch their video of how the PNB site works.
Although I have a day job now I will still be taking on work from new and returning clients. I’m keeping up on Tessitura web integration and hope to be officially recognized by Tessitura Network soon. Oh, and also, I’m now an officially registered iOS developer! Can you say Tessitura Mobile App?
I’m in the process of building a web application that facilitates online transactions using the Tessitura software (the world’s leading performing arts CRM software). There are a few existing products out there but I want to see if I could improve on their functionality as well as provide some fun bells and whistles for my client.
I can’t show anything just yet but I’ve been able to come up with a purchase-path “proof of concept” using the Tessitura Web API and will be continuing to flesh it out over the next few months.
The most interesting part of the whole project so far is playing around with the user interface. I’m using jQuery with ajax calls to the database to display the information in a elegant way to the user. I’m particularly proud of my calendar which utilizes less than 20 lines of code to build and display the performances in a user friendly fashion.
Are you a developer using Tessitura Web API?
I am interested in working with other developers who’ve been successful in making calls to the Tessitura Web API for their clients. Need any help on a project or just want to bounce ideas off another developer? Let me know!
Update: Unfortunately I am no longer working on this project as my client, Intiman Theatre, has closed its doors to recoup. The good news is that I’m still working with clients who use Tessitura. Stay tuned for more information regarding designing with Tessitura in mind. 5/03/2011