It seemed so long ago when I completed my dissertation into how regional theatres are funded in austerity Britain. Actually, it was around three and a half years ago. Most of the conclusion points I raised then have come to fruition; the increase of product placement; some examples of safer programming; the increase of bucket collections and a larger push on food and beverage sales alongside the dreaded ticket fees.
Over the past twelve months, I have seen a sudden increase in fundraising; from voice-overs before and after productions to bucket shaking and collection points.
Today, was a first. I received an outsourced phone call on behalf of a theatre I won’t name. The theatre was kind enough to send a warning letter and an opt-out system through the post beforehand, alongside a letter of why they were doing it and how to donate right now. I guess curiosity got the better of me and I didn’t opt out.
Where possible, I have continued to contribute to venues near and far that I have a close admiration for. I know the importance of helping these organisations continue to flourish and do the hugely important work they do.
This phone call, although had good intentions was executed in the wrong way. I was confronted by a person who had a long page long script about how the organisation works, why it needs donations, what it does with them, in addition to a couple of standard questions like what show have you enjoyed. The caller had no real idea of the work the theatre did and wasn’t bothered about the answers I gave.
The discussion which was nearly five minutes in length was very one-sided with no activate discussion. If anything, after the call I felt less likely to donate to the venue due to how the call was handled.
To me, what was lost was the very reason I support the theatre – it values the patrons and the discussions that develope from the work it does.
I would be very surprised if regular theatregoers to the venue didn’t know it was a charity and didn’t know about the community work it did. To me, if you can’t persuade the convinced to lodge a donation how do they stand a chance with the less frequent theatregoer?
Perhaps it was a one-off, perhaps I got the short end of the stick with the wrong call handler but with the Arts Council; based on government ideology, constantly pushing organisations to raise more funds themselves, theatres need to a be a little more creative with how they raise money.