"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Math Madness: 3 Number Types to Track that Add to Success in the Arts

This post was inspired by past experience as well as by Wendi Hassan, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Varied Arts and a consultant to Utah Presenters. She created a presentation and CD called “A Metrics Primer for the Artistic Mind”. Contact Wendi at whassanarts@gmail.com for more details. Or click here and order a MP3 recording for $5. It was commissioned by the Utah Arts Council.

Hovering over a calculator may be the last thing you want to do.

From taxes to bills, numbers could drive any artist to insanity.

Never fear.

There are numbers out there that have nothing to do with sending money to someone else. Rather, these numbers make it possible to RECEIVE money from others who love the arts.

Every number has a story and it is up to you to transform cold fact to warm experience.

You might be connected with an event that has been an annual tradition for 20+ years. You might be on the brink to start an event.

So what kind of numbers do people want to know about your art?

Remember to track these number types:
1. Audience Types and Consistency
2. Volunteers and Community Involvement
3. Direct Costs and Indirect Impacts

Audience Types and Consistency
Besides smiling at everyone who attends, notice details about the audience. You will often be fascinated by: average age, range of ages, and ethnic groups—attending and “missing”.

Ticket stubs or hand-held metal clickers could be inexpensive items to figure out attendance.

Some events do not require a ticket. Other places have “free” tickets as they serve more of a reservation or RSVP than an actual proof of purchase.

You could provide surveys or feedback forms that use 1-10 scales on enjoyment to receive “hard” numbers. A mix of 3-8 quantitative questions with 1-2 qualitative usually avoids overwhelming the audience member. Attempt to fit the questions on no longer than half sheet of paper.

Be sure to have a place for audience members to put their name and contact information. Include a way for audience members to grant permission for the possibility of using quotes for advertising.

You may want to have a drawing for anyone who returns a form. To promote privacy in answers, a person could receive a ticket stub in exchange for a completed form. Prizes could be mailed to the address on the stub.

The audience type and consistency could give you a hint as to the target market to reach the next year. It could also indicate that the intended audience did not match to those who actually came. Either you could celebrate and continue to connect with the type of audience that did show or you could reevaluate the advertising literature and strategies on why different results were received.

Volunteers and Community Involvement
You probably sent thank you cards to your glorious volunteers and sponsors, but how much do you know about them?

Detect trends, if any, of these people and organizations. You might consider creating a survey similar to what was created to learn more about the audience members.

As for volunteers, these people may range from Cub Scouts groups to retired individuals. Remember any event planners, directors, or Board members who may not have the title of “volunteer” but are still giving of time.

Though most of the attention focuses on event’s profit or impact, time is the most precious commodity for any event or organization.

For volunteers, consider the following and expand to address your needs:
  • How many volunteers helped out?
  • What is the average age of the volunteer?
  • What is the range of volunteer ages?
  • What was the average volunteer time dedicated to the event?
  • What was the range of minimum and maximum time given?
  • How did the volunteers learn about the opportunity to serve?
As for community involvement, this could mean corporations, associations, or individuals who sponsor through money, in-kind, or services.

For sponsors, consider the following and expand to address your needs:
  • What category or type of organization or business does the sponsor fit in? Examples: Art Group, Retail Business, Civic Organization, Youth-Oriented Association, Retired Individual, etc.
  • What was the value of the donation? (Product vs. Service)
  • What donations, if any, has this sponsor provided in the past for your event? Plans to provide for the current year? Intends to give in future years?
  • What is the key motivation for the gift? Other motives?
Direct Costs and Indirect Impacts
Consider the cash flow. Gather all the invoices and receipts in one place throughout the planning and implementation.

These receipts may include:
  • Location Rental
  • Artist Fees
  • Employee Wages
  • Stipends or Grants
  • Advertising Event
  • Website Space and Maintenance
  • Certificates and Awards
  • Hospitality Bags
  • Transportation/Lodging
  • Food
  • Sound Equipment
  • And on and on and on!
Correlate the not-so-obvious impact with such things as:
  • Hotel Occupancy Rates
  • Restaurant Receipts
  • Retail Sales
  • Property Values
Classic Equations
  • Cost Benefit Analysis = Expected Benefits vs. Expected Costs
  • Return on Investment = (Income – Investment)/Investment
  • Sales Tax Gap Analysis = Expected City Expenditures/Estimated Taxable Sales (less than one means leakage)
  • Lifetime Value of a Patron = Annual Expenditure X Average Years Retention
  • Economic Impact = Direct and Indirect Spending X Multiplier
Multiplier is a measure of how quickly new money “leaks” out of a geographic area.
Leakage is what fails to be consumed, attended, etc. and could refer to money, taxes, products, or performances.

If these equations seem “scary”, then recruit someone to work out these calculations for your event or organization.

Your Number Story
Tell the story of the event’s results once numbers are gathered about the audience, community impact, and other costs. What do you believe caused or impacted the numbers? Why?

Play with possibilities rather than being perfect in the answers.

The telling of this audience story may be most useful when shared aloud, written down, or recorded. There could be several versions of the story. As the story is told over and over, feel free to tweak or change the story as more information or insights are illuminated.

Sometimes the numbers provide a “happy ending” for the event. . .or it could be better described as a Greek tragedy. No matter the results, recognize that “things happen” for good or bad. Be humble with high and encouraging numbers. Comfort yourself that there will be improvement with any pit-of-the-stomach numbers.

Besides, you are involved. That should count for something!

***Besides collecting statistics for your event, search for any other number stories available for events that are either similar in art form, style, or that match your intended audience. When gathered before your event, personal goals could come from it. You might also gage your success by looking at those numbers.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

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