Back to Back Theatre on building donor commitment

Back to Back Theatre was one of our Plus1 recipients from 2017/18. We chatted to Melissa Stark, Back to Back’s Development Manager about their experience taking part in Plus1 and what advice they give to other arts organisations fundraising.

Back to Back Theatre on putting your people first

Back to Back Theatre creates new forms of theatre imagined from the minds and experiences of a unique ensemble of actors perceived to have a disability, giving voice to social and political issues that speak to all people.

Why did you choose to apply for Plus1?

The chance to apply for the Creative Partnerships Australia Plus1 was an opportunity not to be passed up!

Our fundraising efforts and campaigns are deliberately growing in sophistication in a slow and incremental way, and the matched giving really appealed to our donors.

The intent of this campaign was purposely quiet and discreet, focusing on building closer relationships with individuals around direct support for the creative development of our next major new work, THE SHADOW WHOSE PREY THE HUNTER BECOMES.

One aspect of your campaign focused on involving donors in B2B’s artistic development. Tell us about how you were able to achieve this.

Through this discreet approach, we were able to steward and build relationships with a small group of targeted individuals, inviting them to join us through the creative process in our studio.

This was accompanied by a tailored, personalised communications plan throughout the creative development right through to the World Premiere Season, slated for September 2019.

Back to Back’s creative methodology process is unique, in that we take up to 3 years to create each new work with the intent that it remains in our touring repertoire for 10 years. This provides us with a longitudinal opportunity to engage donors on our journey, also a challenge in itself!

You received a range of donations during your campaign, one $10,000. How did you develop this kind of donor commitment?

Our major gift (for us as an internal segmentation of donations over $5,000) donor pool is relatively small. As such, we are able to get to know our donors and their motivations.

We were, therefore, able to speak directly to individuals, and identify those whom we thought would be incentivised by the ‘Matched Giving’. One a particular donor who usually makes two $5,000 donations each year was enticed to combine her donations to time with this campaign to maximise her contribution to the company.

She was particularly moved after experiencing time in the studio with our artists at this stage of development in the company’s life cycle.

From our perspective, it was a real privilege to invite a small number of donors to share in this experience, and we hope to open our doors to our creative processes more often.

Back to Back Theatre, photo by Simon Fitzpatrick

What other ways have you established an ongoing giving circle?

Building on the success of this campaign, we are already planning potential engagement with our next major new work, to begin creative development in 2020.

As we get to know our growing extended family of donors, and how they would like to engage with the company, we are exploring the idea of creating an ongoing ‘New Work Syndicate’ set up with a long-term engagement plan in mind so that donors can join us on the entire journey of a new work of theatre.

How important was it to get your board involved and what ways were they able to assist in the campaign?

Our board have been integral to this campaign, as lead donors as well as making key introductions.

Crucial to the growing sophistication of our fundraising program is our deepening engagement with our board members on an individual basis.

This has allowed for relationships to be strengthened and to work out how best to intersect them to the company through their own networks, hosting small events as well as personal financial donations across the year.

This really has been a critical outcome of this campaign through CPA.

What advice would you give to a first time Plus1 recipient?

Set yourself some clear outcomes. This will help to get your board engaged, and make your messaging nice and clear to your donors. Enjoy meeting supporters who want to be part of a shared endeavour.