Orchestra Victoria on sharing true costs as strategy

For its Plus1 campaign, Orchestra Victoria showed donors the true costs of its work and where funds would go, bringing new life to its annual appeal.

Orchestra Victoria on sharing true costs as strategy

Orchestra Victoria’s Plus1 campaign took a hyper-detailed approach showing donors exactly where the funds would go and their true costs – e.g. a string for a new harp ($13), a night’s accommodation in regional Victoria for a travelling musician ($160), a 30-min physio session to help players avoid injury ($45).

We spoke with Grants and Foundations Manager, Donna Cusak about their fundraising strategy.


Creative Partnerships: Tell us about your fundraising strategy

Donna Cusak: At the outset of the Plus1 campaign, Orchestra Victoria was in a unique position: we knew that, there were many individuals who had supported the company through a donation. However, a large majority of these donors had lapsed. A core component of our campaign strategy was to demonstrate that the Orchestra is stable and re-establishing a sound philanthropy program.

Seeking support to purchase a core instrument (timpani), central to the Orchestra’s future, served to reinforce this positive message to donors. Secondly, we utilised the power of the matched giving message to attract new supporters.


Tell us about the Giving Catalogue

The Giving Catalogue was our primary call to action. The catalogue was used as the vehicle to receive donations from individuals we had previously cultivated and who we believed were ready to give. It also worked well for new and current donors, as we carefully segmented our messaging so as to speak appropriately to every individual who received a catalogue.

The Giving Catalogue provided opportunities for donors to give both big and small gifts. In this way, people could give as little as $13 (purchasing a harp string) and still see the value of their support. Certain items within the Catalogue proved particularly popular with donors. This helps us to understand the areas of our work that people are most inspired to support.


What two elements would you say were key to the campaign’s success?

Very clear communication about matched giving, how it works and the deadline. We received a fifth of all gifts over the penultimate and final day of the campaign.

We carefully penned personalised communications to ensure every donor knew we were speaking to them very personally.


Did the campaign bring new donors on board?

Very pleasingly, the campaign brought us new donors and reactivated many lapsed donors. We received about one third of our goal amount from donors making their first gift, one third from lapsed donors, who were encouraged to support us once more and one third of gifts from existing donors who made contributions above and beyond their current level of giving! Overall, we doubled the number of individuals supporting the Orchestra.

Arts organisations have an amazing and coveted asset: their audience. Do everything in your power to capture audience contact details and add these people to your database. Communicate with any connected audiences and/or work with related arts organisations to access ‘like-minded’ audiences. Search high and low for people who are already demonstrating an interest in your work.


Did you encounter any problems while during the campaign?

The timing of the campaign was a challenge, as many of our prospective donors travel over the summer holidays. This made it difficult to connect with them until quite late in the campaign.

Several aspects within the campaign were reliant upon the realisation of organisation-wide projects. Delays to some of these organisational projects negatively impacted the timing of certain components of the campaign.


If you were to run another fundraising campaign what would you do differently?

We might have gone out stronger in the early days of the campaign so as to allow more time to cultivate support. We found the timing of the campaign overall challenging as many of our key donors are away over the holiday period. Running the campaign throughout to the end of the financial year also would have been very helpful.


Has this experience made Orchestra Victoria more confident in approaching new donors?

Yes! We involved the musicians in the campaign and continue to provide them with opportunities to meet and speak with donors. The knowledge that we have the full support of the artistic side of the company has certainly improved our organisation’s confidence in fundraising.


What can we expect from Orchestra Victoria in the next 2-5 years?

Together with our great community of supporters we will continue to perform alongside our partner companies from the pit and further develop our stand alone performances and education program across regional Victoria.

Coaching and mentoring

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