A study of an arts organisation’s current donors
University of New South Wales,
Applied Marketing Research
This applied marketing research project was undertaken for an arts organisation in
Sydney. The information from the study is confidential and the organisation’s name
together with other sensitive information has been removed from the report.
The anonymous arts organisation will in the report be referred to as “the arts
The arts organisation is a non-profit charity organisation operating in the theatre
business in Australia. Each year the arts organisation organises three to four major plays
that are preformed all around Australia. The theatre education programs are, in the
same way as theatre productions, aimed to students from all over Australia. The
company relies to 30 % of private donations. With this background this study has
examined the following seven objectives relating to donor attitudes of charities in
general (1); particular awareness of The arts organisation (2); motives for engagement
(3); expectations for involvement (4); perception of current communication and
programs (5); future involvement intentions (6) and perceptions form donors on how
The arts organisation can improve (7).
The method the study has used to achieve the objectives is a focus group on current
donors to the arts organisation. The focus group methodology benefits from a clear
budget advantage and in depth knowledge investigation and is therefore suitable for this
study. The focus group took place at the arts organisation’s Headquarters and contained
eight randomly selected participants from the target population of 325 current donors.
The data from the focus group has been analysed by transcript-based analysis. A
transcript has been constructed verbatim from the group with code marking that is used
for referencing in the findings section. The findings section report the findings of the
focus group together with a comparison of the concurrent research studies that is done
by a focus group on the art organisation’s subscribers and a survey to all donor
segments. The main findings of the focus group are:
The donors consider it important to donate to charities and do so for other charities
apart from the art organisation with both time and money.
The donors are more aware of the productions in comparison to the education
programs, which could be explained by a higher level of personal involvement.
The motives of donors to engage are among others the art organisation’s excellent
performances, education programs that help people fulfilling their dreams and tax
The donors expect more special treatment from the art organisation, more
involvement in organisation and to get access to special targeted information.
The donor perception differs between the art organisation’s communication and
programs. The participants show positive responses regarding the programs of the
art organisation, but are not satisfied with its communication.
The respondents claimed that they are willing to be more engaged in the art
organisation in the future.
The participants believe that the art organisation can develop the donor relationship
by improving communication channel, getting more media coverage, offer special
packages and give more incentives to attract donors.
The major recommendations from this report are that the art organisation should make
use of donors willing to give their time to the company to increase the perceived
involvement and reduce costs. However, donors should not be deciders. Moreover, this
report recommends that the art organisation should implements better web services
with access to discussion forums, video material from plays, back stage material and
interviews. The art organisation’s Current Donor Relationship Management program
should also include theatre interest groups for donors to discuss and act theatre to
generate increased involvement. The art organisation should also release their plays on
DVD and arrange package deals with accommodation, dinner and theatre.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Introduction .............................................................................................................................................. 1
1.1 Background ...................................................................................................................................... 1
1.2 Literature review ........................................................................................................................... 3
1.3 Management decision problem and research objectives ............................................... 4
2 Research Methodology ......................................................................................................................... 7
2.1 Research design rationale .......................................................................................................... 7
2.2 Research design .............................................................................................................................. 7
2.3 Limitations with the design .................................................................................................... 10
2.4 Data collection .............................................................................................................................. 11
2.5 Data analysis ................................................................................................................................. 14
3 Findings .................................................................................................................................................. 15
3.1 Findings from the study ........................................................................................................... 15
3.2 Findings from the focus group on subscribers ................................................................ 32
3.3 Findings from the survey ......................................................................................................... 33
4 recommendations ................................................................................................................................ 34
4.1 Donor attitudes toward charities and non-profits in general and towards the art
organisation ............................................................................................................................................... 34
4.2 Determine general awareness of the art organisation’s fundraising activities
and programs............................................................................................................................................. 36
4.3 Describe donors and their motives for engagement and involvement with The
art organisation ........................................................................................................................................ 37
4.4 Measure expectations from donors for their involvement with the art
organisation ............................................................................................................................................... 37
4.5 Evaluate donor perceptions of current the art organisation communications and
programs ..................................................................................................................................................... 39
4.6 Ascertain intentions of donors with respect to future involvement with the art
organisation ............................................................................................................................................... 39
4.7 Determine donor perceptions and thoughts of how the art organisation can
improve donor relationships and retention strategies ............................................................. 41
Bibliography ....................................................................................................................................................... i
Appendices ....................................................................................................................................................... iii
This study has been undertaken behalf of the client “the art organisation” that has a need
to better understand their donor community. In this report the method and findings of the
qualitative focus group that was conducted on the art organisation’s current donors are
reported together with the researchers’ recommendations.
1.1.1 THE ART ORGANISATION
The art organisation is a non-profit charity organisation operating in the performing arts
in Australia. The daily operation is equally divided in two main areas; theatre
productions and education. Each year the art organisation organises three to four major
plays that are performed all around Australia. This includes geographical coverage from
large cities such as Sydney at the Opera House to remote locations with small
population. This is made possible with flexible actors and an overall business objective
“to bring Shakespeare to everyone”1. The theatre education programs are, in the same
way as theatre productions, aimed to students from all over Australia. An example of the
programs that are given is the Interactive Distance Learning program (The art
The art organisation has an annual turnover of $AUD 9.5millon which can be derived
from sales 52% (tickets for theatre productions and education programs), government
18% and private support 30%. The private support originates from corporate
partnerships, fundraising events, grants from philanthropic organisations and donations
from individuals. The individual donations category includes directed donations to
specific programs and unconditional donations. For the unconditional donations’ the art
organisation can only speculate on what actually motivates donors to make donations
(The art organisation, 2009).
The art organisation currently segment donors into three groups depending on their
status of giving. The groups are current donors, lapsed donors and potential donors (The
art organisation, 2009). The current donors are the most important group since they are
actually donating money.
The donors to the unconditional cast are segmented in different stages based on amount
of donation. Due to confidentiality figure 1 has been removed. The different segments
receive special treatment based on their importance. Also lapsed and potential donors
are treated as segments (The art organisation, 2009).
Some of non-profit organisations, including the art organisation, have charity-tax-
concession, which makes these organisations deductible-tax-recipients. A deductible tax
recipient does not have to pay income tax on the money raised by donations and the
donations made by donors are to tax deductable (The art organisation, 2009). To make a
1The art organisation’s representative, responsible for private donations The art organisation , UNSW
Research Brief presentation, 2009-07-23, UNSW
valid tax deductive donation the donor has to give money, not time or resources, and
fulfil the terms that is stated by the Australian government (Australian Government,
1.1.2 FUNDRAISING OF AUSTRALIAN THEATRE
Currently, Australian theatre companies are facing a tough situation with fund shortage.
The government of Australia does not support the theatre companies as much as in 80’s.
Besides, the lack of innovation and less creative production result in less and less
audiences of theatre (Pogit, 2009; Hibbert & Home, 1996). Meanwhile, current global
recession also influences the fundraising of Australia (Horin, 2009).
In the cultural domain of the non-profit organisations the private donors are not the
main sources of income, but still significant2. As a non-profit organisation in the
performing arts the art organisation has a noteworthy incitement to understand their
donors and their motives to be able to maximize revenue.
2 See Australian Bureau of Statistics,
Issue)~Main+Features~Culture+and+recreation?OpenDocument>, retrieved (2009-08-01), where private
donations accounts for 10 percent of the total income. 50 percent of the income generally originates from
sales of products or services (which also is the case for The art organisation).
1.2 LITERATURE REVIEW
Normally, one of five donors only gives to an organisation once (Bennet, 2006). There is
usually a great distinction of the value different donors have to the organisation and this
makes Bennet (2006) to suggest that the charity should focus on retaining such donors
via building relationships. Loyal donors are often more valuable than one-givers.
Improving donor loyalty by 10 percent can affect the Return on Investment by as much
as 150 percent (Sargeant & Woodliffe, 2007). To build donor relationships information
is needed to streamline the offer according to donors’ expectations. Such information
has been gathered in this research study of the art organisation and this will help the art
organisation to understand their donors and then build lasting relationships.
The length of a donor relationship is affected by the involvement the donor feels in the
organisation. The frequency and value of donation are correlated to the lifetime of the
donor relationship. Normally, frequent donors of a small amount tend to be loyal as well
as donors with less frequency that gives larger sums. Donors that have more connection
with an organisation are likely to be in a long lasting relationship (Bennet, 2006;
Sargeant & Woodliffe, 2007). Sargeant and Woodliffe (2007) also found that factors such
as service quality, risk, trust and shared beliefs affect donor loyalty. It is important that
the donor can trust the organisation to spend the funds efficiently in a service that is in
line with the donor’s perceptions. Dedicated programs are a way to ensure that the
donation goes to a purpose that is in line with the donor’s perception of good service
A study of what is most important for donors when selecting organisation (van
Iwaarden & van der Wiele, 2009) concludes that the type of charity and effectiveness of
the charity’s activities are the two most important factors. However, in the study
respondents did not seem to think that low overhead costs were important when
selecting charity, which contradicts the need for an efficient organisation. Hence the
most important factor is the type of charity. This is in line with what was important for
building donor loyalty. Donors tend to stick to organisations with the same preferences.
Supphellen and Nelson (2001) concludes that donors can be divided into three different
categories; analysts, relationists and internalists. The analysts are characterized by high
involvement and choose organisation based on trust and a belief that the charity is good
and has a good cause. Opposite of relationists, analysts finds the cause and action of the
charity as more important than the involvement and relationship with the organisation.
The internalists motivates donation by the act of giving as such. Since the competition is
fierce among non-profit organisations and the most value steam from loyal donors the
art organisation would benefit in targeting donors that seek a relationship. The analysts
should of course be gained by providing the best operations and value in the non-profit
theatre business, which corresponds to one of the objectives of this study. Internalists
might be hard to keep among the current donors, which is one of the causes that explain
the category of lapsed donors.
Schlegelmilch et al. (1997) have made a comprehensive literature review of donor
characteristics that tend to affect the amount of donation. Demographic characteristics
such as gender and age affect the donated amount. Females tend to be more open to
giving than male and donations tend to increase until the age of 65, thereafter decline.
Donations also have a propensity for being related to income in the way that people with
large income and small income tend to donate, whereas the middle segment are
relatively more sceptic. This applied well to the art organisation since their donor base
largely consist of older people with high income levels.
Schervish (1997) means that minor and major donors have the same drivers for
donating to an organisation. What differentiates the groups are the amount of influence
and need to be seen that a major donor often has. One objective of this study has been to
look at this need for influence and how it is seen from the donors of the art organisation.
The art organisation has specifically stated that they don’t wish to have donors
influencing the contents of the plays. The study has under this constraint suggested
means for making donors involved in other ways since involvement has been found to
be very important for the donors.
Moreover, Schlegelmilch’s et al. (1997) review declares that people that have
perceptions of self generosity is associated with amount of donation. This is also
suggested by Yavas, Riechen and Parameswaran (1980) who state that donors to charity
have a strong need to be seen as caring and generous. Religion, financial security,
attitudes towards the charity and perceptions of efficiency are all positively associated
with the amount of donation (Schlegelmilch et al., 1997). Schlegelmilch’s et al. (1997)
study was general for the charity industry and it could of course be questioned if it
applies to the art organisation. A key question of this study has been to investigate what
motivates a donor to give. As previously explained the art organisation is a deductible-
tax-recipient which in many studies has been shown to be an important factor for donor
decision-making (Clary & Snyder, 1995; Schervish, 1997). This study also examines if
this is the case for the art organisation’s donors.
One particular study of interest has been found that focus on art and giving in United
Kingdom (Sargeant, Lee & Elaine, 2002). The study revealed that donor motives is
important for giving and that they often are in line with broad literature on charitable
giving, but that each organisation need to justify what is important in the particular case.
The study concluded donors to be:
Older with higher income and education
Likely to participate in several art forms
Socially mobile and motivated to attend through aesthetic yearning
In the early or late stage of a family lifecycle
Socialised to the arts as a child
1.3 MANAGEMENT DECISION PROBLEM AND RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
The problem background has been broken down into five specific issues that serve as
the management decision problem. These issues have been stated by the client the art
organisation and serve as the basis for what this study has investigated.
Management want to know how to establish a greater ability to target markets and
allocate resources more effectively.
Management want to know how to develop more successful promotions and
communications of programs.
Management wants to develop a greater understanding of what donors expect from
their support to the art organisation.
Management wants to gather an empirical basis to inform strategies and action plans
for greater donor retention and acquisition.
Management wants to find ways to form long term relationships with donors in
order to increase the total revenue.
In order to address the management decision problem specific information has been
collected. The information has been collected from a focus group study. First of all it was
interesting to examine the art organisation’s donors in the context of current research.
Information has been gathered on how the donors of the art organisation look upon
charities in general. Do they contribute to more charities than the art organisation? Are
their general giving financial or in volunteering? How do they differentiate different
charities? Whose role is it to assist non-profit organisations, government, individual or
After putting the art organisation in a general context that will be compared against
prior research it is important to collect information to address the management decision
problem directly with the study. Information has to be collected on current association,
thoughts on improvement and future vision. The current association includes what
motivates the donors to give including positive and negative associations with the art
organisation. Also it has been of interest to investigate how aware the donors are of the
broad activities the art organisation has to offer. One hypothesis from the art
organisation has been that donors are more aware of the productions than for example
scholarships for students and teachers that the art organisation also offers.
When looking at the improvement and future vision for the art organisation it is of
interest to investigate what the donors think in this issue. Where should the art
organisation extend? What are they doing well and what can they do more of? Also
communications with the donor public is important to study. How do the donors see the
relationship with the art organisation and is there something that could be changed? To
improve the relationship with the donors, information has also been gathered on which
benefits the donors expect to receive from a relationship with the art organisation.
Finally the donors have been asked for information on what they think could be good
actions for the art organisation to take for getting more donors involved in the company.
Based on the management decision problem and need for information the following
marketing research objectives have been formulated and used in the study:
Determine donor attitudes toward charities/non-profits in general and towards the
Determine general awareness of the art organisation’s fundraising activities and
Describe donors and their motives for engagement and involvement with the art
Measure expectations from donors for their involvement with the art organisation.
Evaluate donor perceptions of current the art organisation communications and
Ascertain intentions of donors with respect to future involvement with the art
Determine donor perceptions and thoughts of how the art organisation can improve
donor relationships and retention strategies.
2 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
To answer the research objectives and the art organisation’s specific problem a qualitative
exploratory research study has been conducted on the current donor group. The study has
been conducted by means of a focus group where the research team met with a sample of
donors to discuss questions covering the marketing research objective.
2.1 RESEARCH DESIGN RATIONALE
Focus group research is a suitable research method to use for approaching the art
organisation’s research objectives. Regarded to Lukas et al. (2004, p.123) “the final goal
of focus group research is to provide researchers and ultimately decision makers as much
information as possible about how people regard the topic of interest”.
Focus group is a type of qualitative research, and is a comprehensive way to explore the
in-depth meaning and the truth of the response from the respondents. “Qualitative
research offers insights into attitudes, beliefs, motives and behaviours” (Malhotra, et al.,
2008). This is in line with the marketing research objectives for the study that among
others strives to determine attitudes, motives and perceptions. The answers to these
questions are not straightforward and could therefore not easily be examined by for
example a survey.
Apart from motives and perceptions focus group data play a critical role in identifying
marketing problems or opportunity situations (Lukas, et al., 2004). Conducting focus
group is therefore a good way to use for obtaining insight on the donors’ engagement.
The conversation process of the focus group style generates new ideas or reveals the
donor’s hidden view. This is done by gently probing the donor to give a deeper
explanation. One example of this can be taken from the focus group that this report
analyses. A sensitive question in this group where weather the art organisation’s
deductible-tax-recipient status had a major influence on any donor to give. The question
was not asked directly but due to the context of the group it could be answered.
Furthermore different participants can motivate each other to comment or share their
perspectives in the comfortable interview environment (Lukas et al., 2004).
2.2 RESEARCH DESIGN
The marketing research design that has been used for this study can be divided into
different stages. The stages are depicted in figure 2 and are described in this section.
Sampling Focus group Execution,
population: screening and
frame: 325 particioners: 8 analysis and
325 current screening
current donors donors report writing
Figure 1. The figure illustrates the process of the research design. The design of the study has been made
from the selection of target population via sampling of the focus group partitioners to the execution of
the focus group and analysis of the result.
First of all the target population has been defined as all the current donors to the art
organisation. This group consists of 325 donors that have donated various amounts of
money in the past twelve months (The art organisation, 2009). The decision to choose
the current donor group can be motivated since this group was most likely to be able to
answer the marketing research objectives. Current donors were also most likely to be
the group who has most desire for the welfare of the company and that could be able to
make the largest contribution to the purpose of the study. Since the study is constrained
to one focus group the decision of looking at current donors could also be motivated
since they are most valuable to the art organisation. Prospective donors have been
studied by another research team concurrent to this study and their results will be
compared with the findings of this study. This will be done in chapter 3.2 after the
findings of this study have been reported.
The target population in this study, the current donors, is equal to the sampling frame
since all 325 donors is registered as donors in The art organisation’s database and can
be contacted to participate in the study.
The current donors are segmented into seven stages within the annual giving program,
which begins with general donations and thereafter stage one to five (see figure 1, page
2). According to the information provided, there are 57 people in stage one and 47
people in stage two. However, the numbers of donors decrease to only 14 people when
looking at stage three. Liamputtong (2009) suggests that a homogenous group of
partitioners in terms of (among others) educational background, occupation and status
within the community allows for more free flowing conversations in a focus group.
Moreover different backgrounds can restrict openness and sincerity of the discussion.
With the prior research from chapter 1 in mind it was believed that donors to the art
organisation are from a wealthy background and tend to like theatre. When studying
current donors the best criteria for homogeneity is how long each donor has been
involved with the company. This study has therefore looked at current donors that have
been involved with the art organisation for a substantial amount of time, but not
necessarily donated during the whole period. The criteria were set to more than five
years involvement. Liamputtong (2009) further argues that a heterogeneous approach,
with different participants, will maximize the possibility of exploring subjects from
different perspectives. It were therefore of interest to not have a completely
homogenous group. To give the group some variation donors were selected from the
general donation stage of between $250 and $499 to stage four with donations between
$5000 and $9999. This made it possible to study some of the differences and the reasons
for donors in the upper segment to give more. Moreover Liamputtong (2009) has
suggested that it is ideal if the participants not know each other beforehand so that the
quality of information can be enhanced. Therefore donors were sampled from the
sampling frame independently. Hesse-Biber and Leavy (2006) also addresses the issue
of homogenous versus heterogeneous groupings and conclude that homogenous groups
are more suitable when a topic is to be investigated in depth whereas heterogeneous
groups are better when a broad understanding is sought. The marketing research
objectives for this study calls for both breadth and depth which further motivates the
balance between homogenous and heterogeneous participants that were chosen for the
The participants of the focus group were contacted and invited by telephone. A
representative from the art organisation randomly called one donor from the sampling
frame and asked for interest in participating in the focus group. The interest was large
from all donors that were called and there was no problem to gather enough
participants. Since the interest was high the bias from potential negative donors was
small. The script that was used for contacting participants can be found in appendix 1.
According to Brown (2005) the most common form of decision-making is when both
parties cooperate. This is done two of three times when donations are made. Of the
remaining one-third the wife is more than twice as likely to be in charge. Even if the
decider is not paying for the actual donation, (s)he makes sure that it is done. When
screening the partitioners the phone interviewer specifically asked for the decider to
attend the interview. In the cases with joint decision-making in a couple only one were
asked to participate (see appendix 1).
When the participants arrived to the focus group they were asked to fill in a screening
questionnaire (see appendix 2). Results from the screening questionnaire are
summarized in appendix 3. The screening questionnaire has been used to ensure that
the participants actually were current donors and that they had been involved with the
art organisation for a long time. Half of the participants have been involved with the art
organisation since the opening season 1991. This is included in the 75% that has been
involved for more than 10 years. Everyone that participated in the focus group has been
involved for more than five years.
A1, Involvment with Bell
Figure 2. The figure answers the question “how long ha ve you been involved with the art organisation?”
for the participants in the study.
The focus group had eight participants which according to Liamputtong (2009) is an
optimal number. With more than 12 participants it is hard to get everyone’s opinion,
with less than six it is hard to maintain a discussion flow. To ensure that enough
participants turned up the participants were called up a second time the day before the
focus group. This gave a certainty that seven people were going to come the day of the
focus group, an eighth person was uncertain. Eight people finally turned up due to that
one partitioner came on the wrong day. Since this partitioner came late the
questionnaire were not filled in until after the group and it was assumed that the
partitioner that came late was the one who first had been unsure to come.
Incentives for the participants to come to the interview (apart from finger food and
drinks that where provided) were not told in advance. The participants came motivated
by the pure invitation from the art organisation and the fact that the art organisation
where requesting for their input. This minimises bias from participants that turn up only
for the incentives. After the group the participants were given a box with small quotes
and poems from Shakespeare printed in gold, which was an appreciated gesture.
2.3 LIMITATIONS WITH THE DESIGN
The screening questionnaire (appendix 2) also asked for the amount of donation and the
result shown a spread from <$250 to between $5000 and $9999 in the focus group. This
is illustrated in figure 4. The result shows that one participant has been involved with
The art organisation for more than ten years but only donated for less than one year
with <$250. This cannot be seen by studying figure 4 but it is understood when looking
at the answers (in appendix 3) in detail.
The fact that one partitioner donated less than $250 and had been involved with The art
organisation for a long period suggests that this participant is not a current donor,
which was also confirmed by The art organisation when cross checking the list of
participants against the database. The participant had accidently turned up at the wrong
day since, she were expected to come for the focus group with potential donors. This is
of course bias to the result of the focus group but when studying the transcript the
participant did not make statements concerning current donations and can be assumed
to have little effect on the result. The analysis has also been made with this in mind to
reduce the bias from the participant.
B1, Time of less than 1
year B2, Amount of
Donation 1-3 years donation less than $250
0; 0% $250-$499
3-5 years 1; 13% 1; 12%
5-10 years 1; 12% $1000-$2499
1; 12% $2500-$4999
More than 3; 38% $5000-$9999
1; 13% 1; 12% 10 years
Figure 3. The figure illustrates the time of donation (left) and the figure illustrates the amount of
donation (right). The time of donation is not the same as time of involvement (figure 3). Note that one
participant donates less than $250. This participant came by mistake but the assumption is made that
(s)he does not alter the results.
This focus group study has only been conducted with one focus group on current donors
and one on potential donors. This is a too small amount for giving a completeness of the
donor population’s in depth insight on the marketing objectives. Malhotra et al. (2008)
suggest that enough focus groups should be conducted with the same questions for the
moderator to be able to anticipate the answers from the participants. This has not been
the case in this study and the conclusions have to be seen under this constraint.
Although completeness cannot be reached the study still has great value to reach in
depth insights for the art organisation. The study has to be seen together with the
concurrent studies that are done by UNSW research groups for the art organisation. The
results from the study will be compared with what has been found from the concurrent
focus group on subscribers and with the results from the surveys that have been sent to
all donor categories in chapter 3.2 and 3.3. The in depth insights from this study
complements with the results from the qualitative survey study and will give a well
covered highly reliable result to the art organisation.
2.4 DATA COLLECTION
The focus group took place at the art organisation’s Headquarters. As discussed below,
the focus group was conducted within a one-hour allotted time and used a semi-
structured approach. Dual moderators were used to lead the group which consisted of
eight participants from the annual giving program.
A semi-structured group discussion was used in the focus group discussion as it allowed
flexibility to come into play during emergent insights and allowed the moderator to
further clarify the set of research questions prepared beforehand.
Two moderators were employed during the discussion, each with a different role. One of
the moderators had a significant role in stimulating rich data from the participants by
asking questions, discussing and probing for more information. The other moderator
assisted discussion by taking notes and also ensured the discussion ran smoothly, i.e.
kept the time. The note taker took notes of the non-verbal cues that were not captured
by audio tape alone.
The moderators were selected from within the research group to give the best match on
six criteria that are suggested by Hair et al. (2009, p.197) to be important for a
1. Personable: The moderators should have the conversation skills to make the
participants feel comfortable and be flexible with the way the focus group flow.
2. Attentive: The moderators have to pay their attention throughout the duration of the
3. Professional training: The moderators of focus group have the soft skills of
communication and psychology.
4. Well organised: The moderators should be prepared well and then help the
interviews to be logical.
5. Objective: Moderators could not let his or her opinions influences the focus group.
6. Listens: Ideally, the fewer the moderators say the better. A good moderator listens
and helps participants share more ideas.
Moreover to avoid the disadvantages of an inexperienced moderator, a detailed
moderator’s guide was formulated (see appendix 4). A moderator’s guide represents a
detailed outline of the topics, questions and sub questions that serve as the basis for
generating the spontaneous interactive dialogue among the group participants (Lukas et
al. 2004). This prevented the loss of discussion of topics, miss adjusted time
consumption, ineffective use of time and also helped the moderators do a better job in
moderating the discussions. The moderators also had studied the background
information about the art organisation and relevant publications of the charitable giving
area. This helped the moderators to better understand the participants, the context of
theatre and the organisation, which facilitated for leading the discussion. Training was
done in a test environment before the actual focus group in order to test the moderator
guide and let the moderator learn the questions.
Audiotape was used to record the entire discussion and the participants were fully
aware of its presence. The participants were informed that they were to be audio-
recorded when they were contacted in the screening procedure (through the phone
calls) and for a second time from the moderators in the beginning of the focus group
discussion. A ‘list of participants’ sign-in sheet were handed out for the participants to
give formal consent of the audio-recording and also to show that they attended the
focus group discussions. A copy of the sheet template can be found in appendix 5. The
participants’ is anonymous in this report and therefore the completed sign in sheet will
not be presented.
The advantage of audiotape is that it allowed the discussion to be captured as accurately
as possible, a quality that the note takers lacked. It also provided opportunities to listen
to the entire discussion again during the transcribing process. The transcript is then
cross-checked with the notes taken by the moderators to ensure accuracy of
Apart from the second moderator another note taker from the research group was
present. This note taker also took notes and helped out with greeting of participants,
collection of surveys and administration during the session.
Running the focus group
After the participants had filled in the form sign-in sheet and the screening
questionnaire the focus group started. Since the moderator already had greeted each
participant when (s)he arrived no time was spent with this during the focus group. The
first part of the moderator script questionnaire consisted of general lead in questions.
The moderator went straight on this general part and the discussion started to flow
The discussion guide that was used in the group covers the topics philanthropy and
attitudes towards charities in general, attitudes towards the art organisation and
thoughts of what could be improved in the art organisation’s future product portfolio.
The topics that were discussed in order to meet the marketing research objectives were
Philanthropy, the desire to help others.
Perceptions of charitable organisations.
Involvement with charitable organisations including financial.
Association with The art organisation.
Motivations for decision to offer financial support.
Understanding of The art organisation’s education and access programs and
perceptions of these.
What additional programs could the art organisation offer?
How can the art organisation better contribute towards arts and theatre for Sydney?
The Marketing Research Objectives (MRO) and the Management Decision Problem
(MDP) were addressed by the discussion guide in a logical order. The discussion guide
was grouped into four main sections to cover each objective. The first section, lead in,
covers the first marketing research objective by asking general questions on charities.
This is important in order to compare existing research in the donation area with the
findings of this study. The second section of the discussion guide, current association
with the art organisation, covered marketing research objective one to three. One way
that this was done by was to show a series of flash cards with activities that the art
organisation does and ask the participants if they were familiar with them. Also the
participants were asked to describe positive and negative aspects with the art
organisation and their story for how they got involved with the company. The activities
that were investigated were from both of the two main operation areas of the art
organisation, plays and education programs. The activities were:
Scholarships for students and teachers in regional Australia
Online resources including discussion forums for students
A famous activity that has been removed
Extensive annual touring of theatre productions
The third part of the questions that were asked by the moderator, improving the art
organisation’s current activities, covered the fifth and sixth marketing research
objective. The objectives where covered by asking about how communication can be
improved and how likely it was with the support to continue. The last section in the
discussion guide asked directly about expected benefits from the relationship with the
art organisation, which covers the fourth objective. The seventh and last objective are
covered by (among others) the last question asking for donor inputs on how more
donors could be bound to the company. Hence all objectives were covered by the focus
group, although each section did not strictly address only the objectives as listed above.
The discussion guide contained 16 questions in order to cover all the marketing
research objectives. How To conduct a focus group (2005) have suggested that twelve
questions are a maximum for a focus group. Due to this constraint a discussion was held
with the client the art organisation who put forward that the most important sections
were section two to four. Hence less time was spent on the general lead in questions.
The lead in questions was grouped with the introduction and got 15 minutes together.
The other most emphasized sections got 15 minutes each. In total the focus group lasted
for one hour. There were two questions that therefore was not asked directly, question
1.5 and 1.6. These are however somewhat covered by the context of the group and
answered under other questions.
2.5 DATA ANALYSIS
The data analysis process of this study consisted of a few important stages. These are
illustrated in figure 5 below.
Coded, checked Final conclusion
Raw transcript findings from Conclusion
and structured and
from audio transcript under brainstorming
Figure 4. The figure depicts the process of analysing the focus grou p data consisting of five stages.
First of all the focus group data was analysed by using a transcript base analysis. This
analysis began with that the audio recording was transcribed verbatim from audio to
words. The “raw” transcript was then processed further so that it was easier to read and
so that references to sections in the transcript could be made when analysing the
findings. Appendix 6 explains how the transcript has been coded. For example, when the
research team mentioned their observation from the focus group session and it applied
to the objectives, they will write it down followed by a quote of what the participants
said and referenced the quote by using the transcript number such as (Transcript,
a<Number>). This will allow readers to find the quote from the transcript easily.
The transcript was transcribed as close in time to the audio recording as possible. Some
dialogues were not very audible and have therefore been cross checked against the
notes. A copy of the transcript can be found in appendix 7 and the notes from moderator
and note taker in appendix 8.
The findings section of this report makes full use of this numbered base transcript to
keep track of what was said during the focus group session to ensure accuracy of the
data. The section structures the information from the transcript under each marketing
research objective and used the transcript as reference for quotes and information. The
data analysis process ensures that the findings are as accurate as possible so that the
researchers would be able to report the findings back to the art organisation.
After the findings were written and structured the researchers sat down and had a
meeting brainstorming on what the findings could imply for the art organisation. These
implications have been written for each marketing research objective together with the
recommended action from the researchers.
The findings section will report on findings from this study, the concurrent study on lapsed
donors and the survey to both current and lapsed donors.
3.1 FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY
3.1.1 DONOR ATTITUDES TOWARD CHARITIES AND NON-PROFITS IN GENERAL AND
TOWARDS THE ART ORGANISATION
Summary of findings 1
The donors think that it is important to support charities apart from the art
organisation: “Giving to charities is essential.” (Transcript, a3)
The participants are givers of both time and money.
Government has an important role in supporting charities including the arts,
although it is unlikely that their part of the cake will increase.
There is a difference between charities. The art organisation cannot be classified as
a charity in the same way as the Salvation Army.
Although a difference does exist and some charities have a higher level of
importance to peoples’ lives, the donors donate to causes they believe in and are
“close to their hearts”.
Donors donate to other non-profit organisations than the art organisation, including
other theatre companies.
Feelings about contributing to charities and non-profit organisations (q1.1)
In general, most of the participants in the focus group felt that it is very important to
support charities. Even though not everyone answered the question, they were all in
favour. The following quotes were typical responses:
“Giving to charities is essential.” (Transcript, a3)
“Yes I do a reasonable amount of that. It’s not a bad thing if you can support a
good cause.” (Transcript, a6)
When it comes to supporting charities the participants expressed that they both gave
their time and money to charities. This is expressed in the following dialogues:
Moderator1: “When we speak about giving, do you prefer giving your time
volunteering to charities or do you prefer financial donations?”
Transcript a4: “Both!”
Transcript answer number 10 explains with support from the others that everyone in
the position to give has a moral obligation to help charities:
“I think it is almost an obligation of a person if they are in a position to do so,
that you should support charities. And I think, both giving your time, going
back to your first question, and your money are both valuable things to do,
trying to do both. But now I can’t give my time to the art organisation so...”
The participant also states that (s) he is a giver of both time and money, where time is
given to other charities than the art organisation. By the context of the answer it is clear
that the participant also would give time to the art organisation if the possibility was
given. This is also expressed by other participants in the group. None particularly stated
that (s)he is only a giver of money to charities and it can of course not be excluded that
this could be the case, even though all answers includes both giving of time and money.
The role of government in assisting non-profit organisations (q1.2)
The participants to the focus group felt that the government in Australia should be able
to support charities more, in the same way as individuals have an obligation to do so.
When answering the question they directly related to charities in the arts and the art
organisation in particular. They felt it unrealistic that the government should increase
its support to the arts. The art organisation has today a government support of 18
percent of total revenue. One participant put it forward like this:
“I think that it would be wonderful if we could have […] more government
support for the arts in Australia. But I think we, well in my view it is probably
unlikely and an unrealistic expectation that the government is going to be
able support the art more. I think the art organisation is so wonderful
because the art organisation has been able to do so much in a period of time
where funding has been miserable.”(Transcript, a7)
Another participant strengthens the feeling that the government should be a supporter
to the arts and charities but that the current level of support is not likely to increase in
the nearest future:
“It’ll be a perfect world if governments could support the arts entirely. But it is
not quite [likely] to happen. “(Transcript, a11)
A third voice that summarized the feeling of the group in a way that the group agreed on
“[...] I think the government has the obligation to support both indirectly and
directly. Indirectly through tax breaks. Directly is desirable. But I think we
have to be realistic and the amount of direct substitute [is] unlikely to
increase and would probably decrease.” (Transcript, a12)
Feelings about non-profits in general (q1.3)
Apart from general feelings about donations to charities the study has also found
perceptions about and differences among charities. The participants do not believe that
the art organisation can be called a charity in the same way as Barnardo’s or the
Salvation Army. This was expressed by a few participants and agreed in the group
(Transcript, a22 & a25). The level of criticalness is lower for the art organisation than
for example the Red Cross. One participant had hard to put it into words but the
moderators could clearly understand what (s)he expressed anyway:
“Ahh! You look at Barnardo’s or the Salvation Army and they,.., I mean there
are so many such a range of things.” (Transcript, a14)
A second participant made a comparison between Shakespeare and cancer, meaning
that it is impossible to compare matters of life with pleasure:
“Cure cancer or put on a Shakespeare production.” (Transcript, a15)
When it comes down to an individual deciding among his or her options for donation,
however, the participants do not think that everyone is obligated to donate to more life
important causes. A charitable decision is about selecting one cause that you believe in
among the thousands of options that exists in the market:
“Yeah, I don’t think to some extent... you follow your heart in terms of who you
help and who you don’t.” (Transcript, a16)
The same participants develops his/her thoughts further with declaring that (s)he
chooses what to support by following what (s)he believes in, which everyone seems to
be agreeing on. (S)he also states that it is a great feeling to make a donation and that the
feeling as such can be a driver of the donation (Transcript, a17).
In line with what was previously explained to be found in the literature review section
one participant expresses that trust is very important for his/her support. (S)he has
previously been donating to a charity that was revealed in newspapers to be inefficient
which made him/her to stop donate (Transcript, a 21). Another takes a similar approach
and doesn’t judge the charity by the cause, rather the performance when stating:
“…I can’t stand being rung up at home with begging, with charities asking me
to give. I dislike that very much and I, I won’t do it...” (Transcript, a20)
This suggests that although the cause of the charity is important it is even more
important to handle the donor relationship well. The participants to the focus group do
not choose charity based of its important to humanity rather based on own perceptions
of how well it is performing mixed with what they “believe in”. This is perfectly in line
with what was explained from previous studies in the literature review chapter.
In contrary to the previous paragraph the participants put forward the idea that the art
organisation’s charity ranking is higher than other theatre companies in Australia
(making the comparison with e.g. Opera Australia). This is due to the education
programs the art organisation offers to school children in the country (Transcript a26 &
a28). By this reason the participants justify that donating and believing in the art
organisation is not only a selfish aspect of fulfilling their own need of enjoying theatre, it
is also a means for helping others at the same time. This means that the art organisation,
apart from their competitors in the performing arts in Australia has an extra
differentiating aspect that makes the art organisation unique.
What non-profits are you involved with on any level? (q1.4)
This question was not answered directly by the participants with specific charities.
Although the answers that did come indicated that the participants have other charities
in their portfolio apart from the art organisation (Transcript, a24):
“Well I have other charities that I support...” (Transcript, a25)
None expressed which these sets of charities where but from the discussion it was clear
that the set included other theatre companies. One participant brings up Opera Australia
when discussing communication and improvement as an example where the donor
communication is done better than in the relationship with the art organisation:
“I mean Opera Australia sent me something before every production usually...”
This proves that the participant have a relationship with Opera Australia.
Other examples that involve comparisons with theatre companies in which the
participants are involved with donation are (among others) Burgeon Music Theatre
(Transcript, a187), Music Theatre of Brendan Burke (Transcript, a127 & a189) and
Sydney theatre company (Transcript, a196).
3.1.2 DETERMINE GENERAL AWARENESS OF THE ART ORGANISATION’S
FUNDRAISING ACTIVITIES AND PROGRAMS
Summary of findings 2
The donors are aware of stage productions and education programs. The level of
awareness is greater for productions since the donors are personally involved.
The awareness/involvement has been assessed in the table below. The relative
awareness between the activities is of most relevance. Activities have been graded
with the levels unaware – aware – involved:
Activity Level of awareness
Scholarships for students and teachers from regional Unaware
Online forums Unaware/ aware
A famous activity that has been removed Aware /involved
Mind’s Eye Unaware/ aware
Extensive annual touring of the production Involved
Family productions Aware /involved
The donors to the art organisation are in general aware of the art organisation when it
comes to both their main areas of operation, theatre productions and education
programs. As already stated the theatre programs are frequently expressed as a factor
that differentiates the art organisation and is a reason for making donations (e.g.
Transcript a26 & a28).
However the donors do not have a deep knowledge of activities related to the education
programs in the same way they have for theatre production. One example of this is
scholarships. This can be understood since the donors are not in direct contact with
these activities in a deeper level than the concept as such that they read about in
information from the art organisation. Production related activities directly involve the
donors since they frequently visit plays. This was found when presenting the
participants with cards of activities (q2.4) taken from the entire organisation. First of all
the activity scholarships for students and teachers from regional Australia where
presented to the donors. The answers speak for themself:
“Sorry I did not know that that one happened.” (Transcript, a80)
When the question was asked it became silent for ten seconds before the first answer
came. The following answers indicated that the donors have seen the activity and might
be aware of it but that they are far from being involved with it in the same way as for
example theatre productions:
“I know they do it but I would like to know more about it.” (Transcript, a81)
“I think it is on their website…” (Transcript, a82)
After the moderator shortly summarized the content of the activity the participants
“I would say that that’s a good new story that they’re not making enough of.”
The next activity, online forums for students, is also taken from the art organisation’s
education activities. Some of the participants (the younger part) directly expressed that
they were aware of its existence (Transcript, a84-86), although others were clearly not
aware (Transcript, a87).
“Can I just say that I was unaware of it and I have been endorsed with [what]
this gentleman said here that the art organisation should make more of it.
Because anything that helps young people to grow in the world, get educated
and find a path themselves is so important and I follow a lot of current news
and I am totally unaware of both those initiatives and they are so impressive!
Yeah. You should blow the trumpet a lot loader!” (Transcript, a88)
The third activity, a famous activity that has been removed, was close in all practitioners’
minds. Everyone answered yes on the moderator’s question of awareness (Transcript,
a89 & a90). When probing for involvement by asking if they could tell more about it; the
first participant that got the question could not reply (Transcript, a91), which made
another participant step in and take the answer (Transcript, a92). This indicates mixed
levels of involvement among the participant where some are only aware.
After checking involvement on a famous activity that has been removed, Mind’s Eye was
next to being probed. The donors where not very aware about the activity more than
that it had been seen on the website:
“Mmm, I’m sure it is on the website on one of the drop down menus but...”
No more answers were given on Mind’s Eye except a probing from a participant stating
“if it was about play writers?” (Transcript, a104), which indicates some degree of
The fifth activity was annual touring productions which everyone seemed to be involved
with since the participants directly started to chatter about different plays after
screaming “yes [for being aware]” (Transcript, a105). By looking at the screening
questionnaire results (appendix 3, diagram A3) this can also be confirmed since all
participants visit the art organisation productions two or more times per year.
Finally the moderator probed for awareness on family productions. The donors where
confused and did not know about the activity until the moderator probed with “Just
Macbeth”, which is the name of a current family production. Everyone then seemed to
have awareness with the activity and chattered about it (Transcript, a110). A few
participants have seen the play, while another have had a daughter seeing it (Transcript,
The participants are in general more aware of theatre productions than education. The
production related activities (A famous activity that has been removed, touring of
productions and family productions) are closer to the participants’ daily life and contact
with the art organisation since everyone is personally involved. Education programs do
not have the same involvement from the participants which makes the level of
awareness smaller. This finding is in line with what was put forward by the art
organisation’s initial hypotheses.
3.1.3 DESCRIBE DONORS AND THEIR MOTIVES FOR ENGAGEMENT AND
INVOLVEMENT WITH THE ART ORGANISATION
Summary of findings 3
The art organisation’s performances are something above the ordinary. Some key
words that are associated with the art organisation are risky, fresh, innovative,
edgy, different and not afraid of failure.
The art organisation has a broad offer. The education programs help people
fulfilling their dreams which differentiate the art organisation from an ordinary
theatre company that only deals with performances and gives another dimension
for justifying donation.
Tax break and a relation to the art organisation are also important causes for
The focus group of current donors has found a few in depth insights about what
motivates donors to give. They will here be described. To answer this objective
describing donors it is also of interest to identify the demographical characteristics of
donors. This has been done statistically in the concurrent focus group survey study that
will be compared with this study in chapter 3.3. In this context the first part of the
results from the screening questionnaire is also of interest (appendix 3, diagrams A).
Due to a too small sample size the findings from the screening questionnaire cannot be
generalised to be valid for the target population and is hence omitted to be extensively
reported in this section.
Time of relationship with the art organisation (q2.1)
The participants of the focus group were, just as the donors filling in the general survey
(section 3.3.), asked the question of how long they have attended to the art organisation
productions. Four of the participants had been involved with the art organisation from
the very beginning and they recalled the opening night outside Sydney football stadium
when answering the moderator’s question. This was 1991 and the art organisation was
performing “Hamlet in the Tent” (Transcript, a31-36). One of the participants in the
focus group revealed (s)he was the first shareholder in the company.
However two of the participants have not been involved with the art organisation for the
same time period due to not knowing about the company before. The following diagram
was previously presented in the methodology section and is created from the answers to
the screening questionnaire.
A1, Involvment with Bell
Figure 5. The figure is illustrating time of involvement with the art organisation. Six participants have
been involved for more than ten years, two found the company more recently.
First motivation to become a the art organisation donor (q2.3)
The donors to the art organisation are very much into the performing arts. When asked
why they first became a financial donor to the company they express that there is a
strong need to have a national Shakespeare company. Shakespeare is part of the English
speaking human inheritance that must have a place in the future society (Transcript,
“I can see an absolute belief in principle that Australia needs a national
Shakespeare company. “ (Transcript, a61)
“We need to keep Shakespeare alive in front of Australian audiences.”
One participant builds on this with his/her discussion on an earlier question stating that
donating to The art organisation has a selfish reason; to keep Shakespeare alive in
Australia for him/her being able to see productions when growing old:
“...I want Shakespeare to foster and flourish in this country, I want
Shakespeare to be in schools I mean there is a selfish reason for it too, I want
a new cohort of Shakespeare devotees coming through so there will always be
Shakespeare and a demand for Shakespeare in this country so when I am 80 I
can still go...” (Transcript, a28)
The education programs the art organisation has to offer is also important for other
reasons. The art organisation has monopoly on this approach in Australia. The donors
see education as something really important to justify a donation. The donation is not
only made for the donor’s own joy, it is also via the education programs useful for more
people in the community:
“... the bringing it to the schools side of thing. Nobody else does that. That’s
what attracts me. And that combination of, of the focus on Shakespeare and
bringing it to the community rather than being a very twisted existence for
your use of...” (Transcript, a71)
On the topic of motivation for donating to the art organisation the participants also put
forward that the edginess and freshness of a production from the art organisation was a
main driver for them to come along as donors. The art organisation always manages to
do something fresh and never disappoints. A few key words are high-lightened in the
“I think it is the energy and the innovation. The way the art organisation
approaches their productions. A full production that scale... A lot of energy
and sort of, as you say, I can go and see a very expensive Shakespeare
production and could be disappointed. I never get with the art organisation.”
“They are fresh aren’t they! Yeah.“ (Transcript, a67)
“Yeah they always do something different “(Transcript, a68)
“They prepare to take on something risky.” (Transcript, a69)
“...there is an edginess to the productions that I like because it tells me that
they put their heart and not afraid of failure.” (Transcript, a78)
Few participants answered directly what first motivated them to give and become a fan
of the company. At the time when the art organisation started with productions ”the
founder of the arts organisation” was a major driver with Oscars and a good reputation
which attracted at least one participants interest (Transcript, a77). Another participant
expresses that (s)he is interested in the tax breaks a donation to the art organisation
give (Transcript, a73). This was not spoken straight out but implied because the
participant expressed that (s)he does not donate to the Royal British Theatre company
due to that it does not give tax breaks in Australia.
A major discussion point was also the art organisation’s position in the fine art society in
Australia. It was put forward that many young actors that love performing arts and
theatre are aiming for a place in the art organisation’s organisation.
“...their aspiration is not to go over to Hollywood. Their aspiration is to join
the art organisation and work with the founder of the arts organisation
[Speaking of young actors]...” (Transcript, a76)
“...people who have talent and energy, who wouldn’t have that sort of
opportunity if the art organisation wasn’t around and he, he is a fantastic
example of what... it is not private enterprise but it is. It is in a way, someone
who said we would do this, and we will. He could not do this just with a
government funded [organisation]... The government will do Shakespeare...
You have to have an inspired person like him (the founder of the arts
organisation) and his wife. What a wonderful opportunity they have given so
many actors and yes, you really...” (Transcript, a74).
The art organisation is seen by the participants as an opportunity for actors to develop
their skills and make fresh new edgy theatre. An example is taken with a famous
Australian actor now in Hollywood due to her background in the art organisation
(Transcript, a73). The edginess and openness is believed to not be possible to achieve
from a government controlled agency. The art organisation is appreciated by the
participants to be a good solution where an individual incentive has succeeded.
Strengths of The art organisation (q3.1)
Looking at what motivates financial donors for the art organisation the question of
donor perceptions about strengths is also of relevance. This question was put forward in
the third section of the focus group where the partitioners were asked to list the
strengths (and weaknesses) of the company. Much emphasise was put on the
weaknesses but the strengths that were put forward are useful for understanding donor
“The strength is they doing all these things, the tranquil things.” (Transcript,
“I think its greatest strength is fabulous productions” (Transcript, a142)
Another strength with the company as such that is submitted from one of the
participants is the ability to give complete freedom to the producer and actors of a
“What I think one of the great strengths of it is... and I sit here wonder how
the hell he does it!? That, if I own this company, I would find it really difficult
to give a play to someone and say, “here go and direct that,” in my company
and not interfere. But it’s such a fantastic quality to be able to do that. And
because of that, I suspect that’s one of the reasons why the script has such a
great variety and that each of this we spoke about. I just think it’s a fantastic
thing.” (Transcript, a139)
Apart from this the participants put forward many examples of weaknesses that they
thought could be approved within the art organisation. This was made through
comparing the art organisation with other theatre organisations that the participants
donated to. Chapter 3.5 will address the issues of expectations from the participants that
came up when asking about strength and weaknesses.
3.1.4 MEASURE EXPECTATIONS FROM DONORS FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT WITH
THE ART ORGANISATION
Summary of findings 4
The donors expect to be treated different from the ordinary audience. Special
seating must be given as well as help arranging tickets for friends.
The donors expect to be more involved in the organisation and get access to special
As indicated in the previous section, the participants’ motives in donating to the art
organisation mostly involved their personal feeling and experiences, such as the love for
theatre and need for a national Australian Shakespeare company. This also means that,
to a certain extent, the participants have expectations from the art organisation in return
of their involvement. The following quotes were typical of the views expressed:
“Pretty few people are completely altruistic.” (Transcript, a187)
“I think you wanna feel a little bit special, a little bit appreciated and that’s
very hard to define [...]” [Transcript a186]
A number of suggestions were considered during the discussion. One suggestion that all
participants favoured was to keep the flow of information coming toward them,
especially information regarding activities within the company. While giving their
suggestions, the participants also compare the art organisation with other organisation,
i.e. Opera Australia and Brendan Burke. They expressed that the art organisation should
try to benchmark its communications against their competitors and make use of simple
techniques such as mailing lists and e-mails, which include pre-play information and
Apart from having a steady flow of information, the participants also expect good seating
in return of their donation.
“I mean one thing I expect this is, subscriber is good seating if I’m going to
subscribe.” (Transcript, a191)
The donors seem to be pleased with the current seating arrangements in the art
organisation, compare to that of other organisation, including Sydney Theatre Company
where good seating is not granted for the donors. The participants also expressed that it
is good to have a phone number you can call in case of changed plans before a
performance when extra tickets might be needed for friends (Transcript a193 & a194).
One other suggestion that the participants discussed quite comprehensively was about
the level of involvement with the art organisation. Although the art organisation does
have the program that allows the donors to meet with the actors and people who are
involved with the plays, one participant clearly did not recognise such a program
(Transcript a142). This in turn, created an argument where the donors objects the use
of ‘levels’ to judge whether the donors are allowed to be in the program or not. The
following quote shows their objection:
“[...] I agree, I think everyone who supports the company should be invited.”
The participants also explained that if the use of ‘levels’ is eliminated; the art
organisation may have a greater support from their lower level donors.
“[...] If you open up all this things to all your supporters and everybody starts
to feel more of a family, you probably find the lower level supporters would be
willing to go a bit more out of the way to give the extra 500 or a thousand
dollars. That’s how you gonna save us towards, people who perhaps are not
giving as much to give more.” (Transcript a151)
3.1.5 EVALUATE DONOR PERCEPTIONS OF CURRENT THE ART ORGANISATION
COMMUNICATIONS AND PROGRAMS
Summary of findings 5
The participants show positive responses regarding the programs that the art
organisation offers. However, the communication regarding the program was
perceived to be unsatisfactory.
The participants also demand more communication regarding the plays, especially
The participants generally have similar perception of current the art organisation
communication and programs, which range between very positive responses and to
some extent, responses of the art organisation’s relatively poor conducts.
Impression of current programs held by the art organisation (q2.2 & q3.1)
The positive responses are mostly directed to the art organisation’s program, both
educational and theatre production. As indicated in the previous objectives, the
participants are more aware of the theatre production programs and appeared to be
very enthusiastic in discussing and sharing their personal experiences with the program.
The following quotes were two of many responses that show such enthusiasm:
“I agree it is absolutely wonderful. My daughters, her English teacher, She
took her class and to see more incentive... and she keep saying, ‘Why didn’t
you go, why didn’t you go!?’ “ (Transcript, a112)
“My children are approaching the age where it will be relevant to them.”
To some degree, their positive responses also appear as the moderator informed the
participants about all the activities (they are unaware of) and the achievements that the
art organisation has done until now. One such case involves the program “A famous
activity that has been removed” regarding the company’s coverage.
Transcript a99: “How many people a year?
Transcript a100: “Woww!!”
It is to be noted that across the whole programs, online resources, a famous activity that
has been removed and family production generate the most responses, which are
generally positive and supportive.
Impression of communication by the art organisation (q3.3 & q3.4)
On the other hand, the positive responses also draw attention to what the participants
perceived were less satisfactory in the relationship with the art organisation. It appears
that all of them agree about the lack of communication and the utilisation of media by
the art organisation towards the participants as well as general public. They also believe
that the art organisation can grow if they maximise the use of communication and
media. The following quotes were typical of such responses:
“The strength is they doing all these things, the tranquil things. The weakness
they not making enough of them in terms of getting the message out [...]
“[...] in terms of national outreach you would expect the art organisation to be
a lot more aggressive in terms of the use of e-media because that get to those
people.” (Transcript, a156)
Suggestions were also given to promote the art organisation program which mostly
revolved around the idea of publicity. The participants are really keen on the idea of
using newspaper and ABC programs for the art organisation’s publicity.
“[...] they should be capitalising matter; they should be going after their
supporters and general public.” (Transcript 169)
“[…] Talk to ABC and they would interview him and other people that this
program... and I’m sure other outlet would too [...]” (Transcript a169)
As the participants expressing their displeasure about publicity, they also feel that
current communications are not enough. Several participants clearly said that they
received calls and letters. They love it but all the participants emphasise on pre-
production communications (that they did not receive). In this particular topic,
comparison against other companies (i.e. Opera Australia) was also discussed:
“[...] Well, they are good but they are not as good as some other organisation
in terms of keeping in contacts.” (Transcript a125)
“I get something for a start; I get a thank you letter for the donation. I get the
sort of here is the subscriptions thing. But I don’t get something before every
production saying this is happening next year.” (Transcript a136)
Satisfaction of current programs and communication (q3.5)
The participants’ satisfaction of the art organisation’s programs and communications
summarise the evaluation of donor’s perception. As indicated above, it appears that the
participants show positive responses regarding all the programs that the company
offers; both education program and theatre production. However, they are also upset
that the art organisation does not capitalise more in communicating their programs to
donors and the broad Australian public.
One such example is when the moderator approached the topic of education programs.
The participants were unaware of the programs but were delighted to hear it.
“They need to get on the marketing so that everyone find out about these, very
good.” (Transcript, a102)
It is also to be noted that the participants are not satisfied with the art organisation’s
communication. Although they are pleased with the thank you letter and other
communication regarding their donation, they also want to be informed of the art
organisation’s activities, i.e. programs and productions. Furthermore, they especially
emphasise on pre-production communication.
3.1.6 ASCERTAIN INTENTIONS OF DONORS WITH RESPECT TO FUTURE
INVOLVEMENT WITH THE ART ORGANISATION
Summary of findings 6
The participants felt positive about the art organisation and had been a supporter
for some time. This shows their passion and commitment to the art organisation
that will be likely for them to continue their involvement.
The participants are passionate about Shakespeare and are very happy with how
the art organisation portrays the Shakespearean plays and what they bring to the
Likelihood of support to continue (q3.6)
“You have got a happy self-selecting group here.” (Transcript, a173)
“Happy customers.” (Transcript, a174)
From what was said by the participants, they are very happy with the art organisation
and will be likely to continue supporting this non-profit organisation that supports
young actors to develop their skills. Therefore these participants would like to give that
opportunity to these actors and showing their support by subscribing and donating to
the art organisation.
When asked this question, these above are the only answers give to the moderators by
the participants. However, what these participants aid about The art organisation and
how happy they are with their productions, their love for Shakespeare and what they
received from The art organisation as a donor points towards them to continue their
support for The art organisation.
“I want Shakespeare to foster and flourish in this country, I want Shakespeare
to be in schools I mean there is a selfish reason for it too, I want a new cohort
of Shakespeare devotees coming through so there will always be Shakespeare
and a demand for Shakespeare in this country so when I am 80 I can still go.
There is something that is being supported, I mean. It is a degree of selfishness
in there. I am supporting the art organisation because of its program. Of
activities ... And that bringing Shakespeare to people who might not have had
a teacher like you did (another in the group) and like I did too, who exposed
us to Shakespeare when we were young and who enthused and changed my
life by bringing Shakespeare in to it. I want that for other people. I want that
for kids. And the art organisation reaches so many students.” (Transcript a28)
From the above comment made by one of the participant, it is obvious how much they
love Shakespeare and with the art organisation being one of the many performing arts
companies in New South Wales that does Shakespeare, it will motivate these donors to
continue supporting them so that the art organisation will be able to flourish.
Time of involvement with the art organisation (q2.1)
“I first attended in the tent outside Sydney football stadium. That is the first
play.” (Transcript a31)
“... late 80s or very early 90s when they cut loose from ... Theatre Trust.”
“I was the first shareholder in the company.” (Transcript a40)
From the above comments gathered from the participants, they have been supporting
the art organisation for a long time. So “why stop now?” it shows their passion in
supporting the art organisation and watching the productions by the art organisation
and will be likely to continue supporting the company.
3.1.7 DETERMINE DONOR PERCEPTIONS AND THOUGHTS OF HOW THE ART
ORGANISATION CAN IMPROVE DONOR RELATIONSHIPS AND RETENTION
Summary of findings 7
Some of the participants feel that the art organisation could improve their
communication to their donors. The art organisation was compared against other
performing arts companies such as Opera Australia.
Getting more media coverage can be a way to retain more donors.
The participants all agreed that with more incentives, the art organisation will
attract more and/or retain donors. E.g. discounted tickets, packaged deals, etc.
The participants also feel that ”the founder of the arts organisation” should have a
succession strategy to endure that the art organisation will continue to be around.
This will give their donors comfort knowing that the company will continue to do
well and their support will be recognised.
Communication improvement (q4.2)
The participants mentioned that they receive e-mails and letters from the art
organisation. However, one participant mentioned that the art organisation is lacking in
the communication department with their subscribers.
“I don’t think the art organisation is as good at loving its supporters as some
other organisations are. In terms of keeping in touch, keeping the flow of
information.” (Transcript, a123)
“They are good but they are not as good as some other organisations in terms
of keeping in contacts.” (Transcript, a125)
The participants compared the art organisation to Opera Australia and thought that they
got the communicating with the donors down to “a fine art”. The art organisation should
take more proactive actions to communicate with their donors even if it is just an e-mail
to inform their subscribers and donors about their upcoming productions in Sydney
(Transcript a134). Although the participants do get the occasional newsletters, phone
calls and e-mails, they felt that the art organisation should take more actions to make
them feel recognised and more special like Opera Australia does with their supporters.
To back up the previous statement, (Transcript a156) proves that the participants feel
that the art organisation should be more aggressive in the use of e-media to reach the
nationwide supporters of the art organisation.
Areas to extend and prioritise (q4.3)
“I would like them to make a film.” (Transcript, a202)
This comment that one participant made had the others talking about the possibility of
the art organisation making a DVD out of all the productions they made. The DVD could,
for example, contain recorded plays, interviews with actors, directors or other extra
material. They believe that with the DVD, The art organisation will be able to reach out
to more audiences and maybe get them interested in the performing arts.
“I think the more reach, I know that the art organisation does very well with
it. But the more reach of places that they can get to, the better” (Transcript,
Also, the participants thought that if the art organisation had the money they should put
up one extra production per year. Not only that, it would be good to have extra
Shakespeare plays for all Shakespeare fans (Transcript, a208). The participants were all
very excited while talking about expanding the art organisation’s activities (i.e. their
stage productions and their other activities). A participant said that The art organisation
is great due to that they are doing the other activities such as education but (s)he would
not want The art organisation to defer away from their core activity which is to produce
Shakespearean plays; “There needs to have a bit of balance in between” (Transcript
Ideas of encouraging more people to donate or engage in the art organisation (q4.4)
In regards to this topic, some of the participants were quite reluctant to express their
opinion. One in particular said “No” when asked (Transcript a215), indicating that it is
up to the art organisation to find ways to improve their strategies. However, the others
were pretty happy expressing opinions that might be useful for the art organisation
regarding how best to grow the donor base.
“I think the general focus on more publicity would take care of that to some
extent” (Transcript a216).
As mentioned earlier in the findings, the participants thought that the art organisation
should do more publicity in regards to their productions and the activities they are
providing to increase awareness. It might spark interest for some to want to become a
donor. Moreover, for non Shakespeare fans, the art organisation could bend the norm a
little and put up non Shakespearean plays to target these groups of people to become
interested in the art organisation productions because of the actor’s great acting.
“I think if more people realised the breadth. It wasn't just putting on
Shakespearean plays, they would become more interested. And I think that's
one of the strengths probably of doing one of the non-Shakespearean plays as
well. You might be able to get your friends to come along to that, and say,
“Look just... What do you think of the acting and the performance and the
production?” And I'd say Wow.” (Transcript, a217)
The participants also felt if the art organisation can give discounts of free tickets to their
donors and potential donors as a marketing tool, it might make them more interested in
the company (Transcript, a220). Another organisation in Sydney sent out two-for-one
vouchers to all its “patrons” to give to a friend. This promotion was successful as the
patrons feel it is “value-for-money” compared to for example visiting a cinema
Another thing that was mentioned during the session was that the founder of the arts
organisation, that now has a significant role in the organisation, should have a
succession strategy in place so that all the good things that he has done will be
continued even after he has passed (This was mentioned as a context).
“You’ve got to be giving your key supporters, EVIDENCE, COMFORT that there
is a succession strategy in place, because if they're comforted by it, then that
goes out, to your broader support base.” (Transcript, a239)
Some participants felt that a subscription package is a good idea such as packaging the
art organisation performance with a dinner after (Transcript, a261). This was also
expressed by one donor not from Sydney that thought it would be great to have a trip
Finally it was expressed that a donation to the art organisation should be able to be
given away to friends. One participant arranged this by herself by making a donation to
the art organisation in the friend’s name and writing a card that she gave to the friend on
his/her birthday. The friend is today a frequent visitor to the art organisation plays and
has continued to donate. The participant expressed that it would be good if this service
existed professionally from the art organisation.
3.2 FINDINGS FROM THE FOCUS GROUP ON SUBSCRIBERS
The potential donors’ attitudes toward charities/non-profits in general and towards the
art organisation are similar to current donors’ attitudes. Supporting a good cause is one
of the reasons that make people donate. Another reason is that people usually support
the things they are interested in. The respondents also consider it good to support
organisations of education and art. Besides, the subscriber group claimed that the
government has to support the art sector and culture. However, the government has to
distribute budget in each cultural industry equally.
As the current donor group, the subscriber group also considered the art organisation as
not being a charity organisation, but it need charitable donation. The subscriber group
revealed that the art organisation is not the donation object they first consider, but other
charities are prioritised before. This differs to the current donor group. Like the current
donor group, the subscriber group recommended the program list of productions.
Moreover, both the subscriber and the current donor groups expect to participate in
The awareness of activities and programs is identical in the two groups. Both groups
were aware of the education program and amazed by it. However, the other activities
like the online forums for students did not generate the same awareness. Most
respondents of the subscriber group have different taste of the art organisation’s
productions, but all of them think the productions in general are excellent. The
difference between current and potential donors is that potential donors mentioned that
they were impressed by the services of the art organisation.
The motives for engagement and involvement in the art organisation are based on two
concepts in the subscriber group and the donor group. One of them is that respondents
like to participate in the very early stages, in order to acknowledge and experience the
productions. Another motive is that respondents donate because they like to support
any company educating children.
One thing that the current donor except from their involvement with the art
organisation is special treatment. The potential donors have the same opinions. They
would like the benefits such as discount of tickets, free snacks and drinks.
The current donors’ perceptions of current the art organisation communications and
programs involved more promotion of the organisation and the education programs.
Compared to current donors, the other focus group gave some recommendation on e-
mail, website and the information services. For e-mail, respondents have different ideas,
some of them think it is annoying but some of them will read briefly before they delete
the mail. The respondent think the website is better than e-mail, because the visitor
could select the information they need. The subscriber respondents also suggest that the
art organisation’s phone should be answered by a person, not a machine.
Finally the study on potential donors identified the trust issue to be important. In order
for the group to make a donation they want to understand where their contribution is