When Silvia Melchior arrived at the English National Ballet (ENB), it was clear that its tired Regular Giving schemes were in need of an overhaul. As she went digging for the facts and figures to build it upon, she identified a lack of research and no global datasets. Indeed, with no fixed performance space, all ticket sales had been managed by its venue partners so no intelligence was available on ticket-buyers. Silvia launched a qualitative research project of surveys, brainstorm and research groups to inform a complete development redesign.
Ideas were tested, tweaked and perfected to produce key changes:
- A clear distinction between Friends and Patrons
- Awareness campaigns through social media and onsite
Engagement incentives through benefits offers (generous discounts, more supporter events, regular personalised communication) Doesn’t it sound great! But three years into the
strategy, cracks started to show. Despite improving revenue stream, the strategy had encouraged donors to focus very heavily on benefits. This pushed the fundraising team to spend disproportionate time on administrative tasks to deliver on them – so much so that recruiting new donors wasn’t possible. So a new chapter began:
- Investment into new systems to streamline processes and underlining of the team’s role as fundraisers, not administrators
- Restructure of benefit offers and delivery methods (e.g. the very lovely but ultimately unprofitable Ballet Buddies programme, which brought children and professional dancers together, was axed)
- Focus on philanthropic giving over transactional benefits (e.g. stronger storytelling that highlights the successes, value and experience of the ballet)
- Capitalising on existing assets and building towards new networks
- Own it – if it needs fixing, or re-fixing, take it through its reparations.
- Be honest when you take stock of how a strategy is working.
- Sometimes you need to be a little bit ruthless.
- Craft your storytelling to highlight the value already inherent in your art