4 Tools Your Performing Arts Program Needs To Succeed
A dancer trips during your end-of-semester showcase. A violinist forgets their sheet music. An actor misses their cue. As a performing arts faculty member, you’re used to handling the challenges that come with working with young performers. But you know that the show must go on, no matter what happens. And the same goes for running your school’s performing arts program. Not only do you work every day to help students learn and grow as performers, but you also strive to forge genuine connections with your alumni, promote the arts within your local community, and design fundraising efforts that help your program flourish.
From teaching young performers about how to get the best audition headshots to advocating for legislation that supports arts education, you have many responsibilities. Keeping all of the plates spinning on your own can be exhausting, and it can be easy to let important facets of your program fall through the cracks.
Luckily, with the right tools, you can stay organized, disseminate important information, streamline your fundraising, and still have time to connect with your students and alumni. In this post, we’ll walk you through four of these tools:
- 1. Prospect Research Platform
- 2. Application and Audition Platform
- 3. Easy-to-Use Website Builder
- 4. Matching Gift Database
There’s no need to go it alone when it comes to keeping your performing arts program on the track to success. With a toolkit made up of these important resources, you can more easily complete all of the tasks needed to continue championing performing arts in your school, local community, and alumni network. Let’s take a closer look at each tool!
1. Prospect Research Platform
Prospect research is an important step in connecting with potential major donors (such as your alumni) who may be interested in giving significant contributions to your program. During the prospect research process, you look at a potential donor’s capacity (wealth) and affinity (warmth) markers. When you find a potential donor who you think has the means and the interest to give to your program, you can then reach out to them and begin building a relationship.
But where do you get the information about an individual’s capacity and affinity? That’s where a prospect research platform comes in. A prospect research platform provides you access to a comprehensive database, where you can get information about potential donors to determine whether they have capacity and affinity markers that indicate you should start building a relationship with them.
And what exactly are you looking for as you use your prospect research platform? Here are some common capacity and affinity markers to look for:
- Capcity Markers: Real estate ownership, stock holdings, business affiliations, political giving history
- Affinity Markers: Previous donations to your nonprofit (or nonprofits with similar missions), nonprofit involvement (such as board service or volunteering), educational history
Once you’ve identified a potential donor that has these markers, it’s time to start reaching out. What you learn about them during the prospect research process can set you on the path to building genuine relationships that are long-lasting and make the donor feel like a person your program cares about instead of an ATM.
2. Application and Audition Platform
Student-facing tools will also be critical to the success of your performing arts program. In particular, an application and audition platform will be a great asset as you screen incoming students.
There are many platforms out there to choose from, so you’ll want to choose your tool after careful consideration of your program’s needs. Here are some essential features you’ll want to look for, according to Acceptd’s audition scheduling software guide:
- Application Manager: You’ll need a centralized place to keep all of your applications and allow faculty members and administrators to view them. Look for an application manager that allows you to review performers’ qualifications and make decisions with ease.
- Secure Messaging: The application and audition process can be confusing and stressful for students to navigate on their own. With a secure messaging feature, you can keep in touch with them, answering questions, sending reminders, and providing updates as needed.
- Scheduling Capabilities: The right platform will allow you to keep your audition scheduling simple and organized. The best scheduling tools will also allow you to stay on track with virtual live auditions (more on this below!).
- Virtual Live Audition Solution: Many things have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including how auditions work. A virtual live audition solution can make it easy for you to connect and communicate with auditionees and make your auditions more accessible, especially for those who don’t live in your local community or who would have never been able to audition in person. This will expand your applicant pool to help you find the best. Plus, some solutions even provide a branded virtual lobby that you can customize with information about your program and school.
With an audition and application platform, there’s no need to try and keep track of hundreds of emails and virtual attachments (or hard copies of resumes and headshots!). In one centralized location, you can schedule, manage, and adjudicate the audition process, which allows you to get admission decisions out quicker.
3. Easy-to-Use Website Builder
A website can serve as the hub of your program’s online presence, providing information about your admissions process, upcoming productions, and more. If you want to create your first website (or revamp your current one) and aren’t sure where to start, there’s no need to worry. All you’ll need is a website builder designed for schools.
Generic website builders (think WordPress, Squarespace, and Drupal) are certainly an option, but with a school-specific website builder, you’ll have access to easy-to-use tools such as:
- Front-end editing tools
- Customizable website themes and templates
- Social media integration tools
These tools can help you lay the foundation for a strong website that you can regularly update and easily maintain. And once you have your website set up, you can start providing important resources to your students, alumni, and local community, like:
- Dedicated event pages: Say your ballet company’s annual performance of Swan Lake is coming up, and you want a page where you can direct ticket buyers and donors to. With a school website builder, you can set up a dedicated page to sell tickets, collect donations, and provide all the necessary information about the performance, from dates and times to parking and dress codes.
- Informative blog posts: Blog posts are a great way to provide valuable information to your student body and your local community. You might share a Q&A with a retiring trumpet professor, an informative blog post about the Musical Theater Common Prescreen requirements, or tips for recovering from a dance injury. The best part about posting regular blog entries like these is that you give your visitors a reason to return to your website again and again.
- Image galleries: Perhaps you have a slew of pictures from a recent alumni event that you want to share online. With an image gallery, you can post all of the pictures from an event to your website and then easily share the link to the gallery through a newsletter or social media post.
With an easy-to-use, school-specific website builder, the possibilities for connecting with your students and the larger community are truly endless. It’s entirely possible for you to easily create a website that reflects the mission of your performing arts program, has a powerful aesthetic, and provides useful resources to website visitors.
4. Matching Gift Database
Matching gifts are a form of donation you and your donors may have never known you needed. The process works like this: A donor makes a donation to your performing arts program and submits their donation information to their employer. If their employer offers gift matching, the employer will make a donation to your program for the same amount (or sometimes more!). This means that matching gifts are an easy way for your donors like alumni or general art lovers to increase their impact without reaching back into their wallets.
To get started with matching gifts, you’ll need to embed an eligibility search tool on your online donation form. According to Double the Donation’s guide to matching gift software vendors, this gives donors a chance to check their gift matching eligibility from the get-go so they can take advantage of their employer’s matching gift program.
Matching gifts are an easy way to get more money for your performing arts program, and donors love matching gifts because this form of donation-boosting doesn’t cost them a cent more than they planned on giving. Leveraging the revenue boost from matching gifts is a great way to get your donors excited about giving, and allows you to spend less time soliciting gifts and more time building genuine relationships.
In this post, we’ve covered just a few of the tools you can use to make your performing arts program soar. From donation tools to audition platforms and websites, these tools can help you continue to connect with young performers, grow your students’ talents, connect with alumni, provide arts in the community, and keep up with new donor outreach opportunities.
As you consider which tools will benefit your program the most, work with the other performing arts faculty and administrators in your program to determine your needs. This can guide you as you look for the best providers, too.
About the Author
Jerry Tsai is the President of Acceptd, a Togetherwork company that is the premier recruitment, application, and audition platform for the arts. He is passionate about serving the arts community and loves that art is a way to wind down and enjoy all that life has to offer.