Marketing the Arts

Lessons from a Community Marketing Collaboration

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 11, No 1 (Summer 2000)

Editor, Phyllis Shapiro

November 1999, 48 pages; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Miami, Florida.

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Since 1994 the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has supported an ambitious marketing effort serving nonprofit arts organizations in Charlotte, North Carolina. Marketing the Arts traces the development of this project that created a cooperative Marketing Services Organization (MSO) to serve four regional performing arts organizations — an arts center and three presenters. The MSO is led by a senior marketing executive and experienced staff. Its mission has been to improve the overall quality of marketing, increase revenues, and build audiences for each of the participating organizations. It conducts market research, integrates mailing lists, improves graphic design, and increases the use of inkind marketing support. Further, the MSO has been able to leverage new resources and reduce expenses for participants.

After four years of Knight Foundation support, AMS Planning and Research Corp. of Fairfield, Connecticut evaluated the MSO, finding that the four participating arts groups were able to sustain the collaboration and remain in the partnership when the grant funding ended. The MSO now attracts outside clients and has become self- sustaining. Most impressive, the four member groups have begun to cooperate further on a variety of marketing and sales activities.

In addition to telling the story of a distinctive marketing initiative from the points of view of the grantmakers, evaluators, and participants, Marketing the Arts analyzes critical factors effecting possible program replication, including barriers to success. The report closes with a brief update about the early phase of one effort to replicate the MSO under very different circumstances in Long Beach, California, where as many as eighty arts organizations may participate.

Review by Frances Phillips, Walter and Elise Haas Fund.