Technology / 07.29.19
An Artful Collaboration in Tulsa
The creative process of collaboration can take us far beyond the stage. Collaboration is thriving within arts organizations, especially when processes and communication are structured to support the overall goals and missions of everyone involved.
At INTIX 2019 in January, the “Squad Goals” session showcased three different success stories of behind-the-scenes arts collaborations. One of those stories was about the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a flourishing multigenre consortium.
What’s a consortium, you ask? It’s a group of organizations that share a database while maintaining control over their own data and branding, and it’s a unique capability of Tessitura. Each organization in a consortium can utilize all of Tessitura’s comprehensive functionality — ticketing and admissions, fundraising, memberships, CRM, marketing, reporting, online transactions and more — and configure Tessitura to meet their business needs. Every organization can personalize web and mobile experiences for customers, donors and prospects. And, if desired, organizations can opt to sell tickets and events for each other singly and/or in combined packages.
In addition to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Tessitura Network currently has more than three dozen consortia in six countries worldwide. Another thriving consortium is powering arts and cultural organizations across the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The “Tulsatura” consortium brings together a diverse group of organizations: Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Botanic Garden, Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Symphony, the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa (known as ahha Tulsa), the Gilcrease Museum, the Philbrook Museum and the Woody Guthrie Center. The Tulsa Arts Management Consortium (TAMC), a nonprofit organization with its own staff, manages the consortium and serves as a resource to all members.
We spoke with several people to learn about what makes this collaboration run so smoothly.
A Cultured City
Tulsa, a relatively small city of 400,000 people, boasts a highly active cultural scene for its size. Angela Carter, Development Director and clarinetist of the Tulsa Symphony, notes: “For a city of this size to have a symphony, an opera and a ballet, and several museums is not necessarily typical, and the city prides itself on its arts and culture.”
That also means that the members of the consortium share many of the same patrons and audience members.
Colleen Lahti of the Tulsa Ballet recalls that some people felt cautious in the consortium’s early days. “It was like, ‘We don't want to share information with the other organizations. We all have the same donor base and we all have the same patron base.’” But, she continues, the consortium “has actually helped us collaborate more because all of those walls are being broken down.”
Scott Black, Managing Director of Tulsa Ballet, attributes the collaborative atmosphere in part to the data-sharing model. The members of the consortium can see which other organizations an individual patron is connected to, but they can’t see individual activities — such as ticket purchases or donations — at organizations other than their own. “There is a control in place where we don't see each individual person’s data, but we have a way to tell the story of what’s happening within the arts community of Tulsa,” Black notes. “We’re not just all living in our own silo.”
“If we can use the consortium membership as a way to encourage participation among everyone and not feel like we’re in competition,” adds Black, “I know donors appreciate that. I know our board members appreciate that.”
Rather than competition, says Annie Chang of the Tulsa Symphony, “It’s more a source of pride that so many people are supporting all of us at the same time.”
Carter, too, appreciates the openness among the organizations: “It’s a very collegial atmosphere,” she says. “I think that’s because of the TAMC staff and the fact that they are impartial. They’re a third party — or an eighth party, I guess. They’re not affiliated with anyone, and they take very seriously the security and privacy” among the organizations.
“One of our goals is to have a city that is all brought together by Tessitura,” says Katie Hathaway, Software Specialist with the Tulsa Arts Management Consortium. “Tessitura has helped foster the camaraderie between the organizations that are currently using Tessitura within Tulsa.”
Benefits of Sharing Data
One of the biggest benefits of a consortium can be more accurate patron data. Cody Palmer of the Philbrook Museum agrees: “You have a bunch of different eyes looking at all the same data … If somebody over here updates their email, we can update it across the board, or if somebody updates a phone number, an address.”
Black explains: “There’s a process in place. So there’s never the concern that some random person changed data without letting anybody know.” He continues: “When somebody passes away who’s a member of the Tulsa arts community, it’s going to affect all of us. So why not just change it one time?”
One challenge that a growing consortium can face, particularly in a close-knit community like Tulsa, is duplicate patrons. “Data hygiene is always a priority,” says Brian Parker, Consortium Manager. “TAMC has established tools which allow us to analyze our database and limit the number of duplicate constituent records.” So when new organizations come on board and their patrons are imported into Tessitura, the procedures are already in place to streamline and optimize the data.
“They have the data so well-scrubbed,” says Holbrook Lawson, Board President of ahha Tulsa, “that when the Arts & Humanities Council came on, there wasn’t a migration problem because the consortium staff are so on their game.”
While it takes work to maintain clean data, Parker points out that the shared data is an enormous asset to the group. “TAMC is a firm believer in data-driven decision making,” he says, “and actively seeks out new ways to analyze the data of the shared database.” The consortium always considers “how better data can help member organizations achieve their mission.”
The shared resources within a consortium can help expand how members use Tessitura’s capabilities. For example, a couple of Tulsa organizations expressed interest in improving the way they used Tessitura to track their education programs. In response, the consortium staff organized a “group effort … to create a custom registration for all of our education classes,” recalls Palmer.
The project streamlined the collection of data for education programs. Now, when a customer registers a child for an activity, they don’t just purchase a class as though it were an event ticket; they enter the child’s name and birth date, and the online purchase path validates the child’s eligibility for the class. In addition, the purchase path can ask for specialized info such as allergies and can require the parent or guardian to sign a waiver. All the information is automatically stored in Tessitura.
Tulsa Ballet is taking advantage of the registration pathway. Hathaway explains: “It allows a parent to go online, purchase a ballet class, and right there it can create a constituent record for the child and adds that child as a recipient to the class.” In addition, “There are custom questions that are built by the organization. You can have different forms, you can have waivers, and all that is written directly to that child’s constituent record. It is an amazing resource.”
Carter appreciates that consortium members make decisions collaboratively and agree upon timelines for long-term projects. Like the Tessitura Network itself, she says, “We have a roadmap of our own. We solicit input from the users.” Reflecting on the Tessitura community as a whole, she says: “The reason everybody feels so invested is because they’re part of building it. I think that’s the case on a tiny scale here in Tulsa. We’re kind of emulating the whole Tessitura Network right here.”
For some members of the consortium, Tessitura has opened up possibilities they hadn’t even considered before. Melissa Payne of the Woody Guthrie Center appreciates being able to consolidate their customer service tools. The staff “have really enjoyed QuickSale,” she said, adding that once the Center began using it, they were able to handle concert tickets, memberships and donations from the same screen. The streamlined transaction, she said, “is very helpful.”
That’s an example of Tessitura “bringing everything into one place so that you have an all-encompassing picture of your constituents,” says Hathaway.
“Back in the day,” Black remembers, “everything was so separated. You had your fundraising contacts over on this side and you had ticketing contacts over on this side, and we would have to manually import different spreadsheets and manipulate data. It was an arduous process.” Now, when seeking a list of “people who bought a ticket to this ballet and who are also donors,” for example, “I can actually do that within Tessitura instead of having to rely on multiple spreadsheets.”
Several others also said the consortium not only saves time in their busy jobs but provides a vital sense of community. “I already feel like I have a lot to do as it is,” says Payne, “so if I wasn’t part of the consortium and didn’t have their help or have them as a sounding board, it would be a lot more difficult.”
“We’re not doing it on our own,” says Carter. “And that’s not limited just to Tessitura. It creates this connection where anything that comes up, you can just reach out and ask our fellow people. And it may or may have not to do with Tessitura, but they’re always there for opinion or advice or to bounce ideas off each other.”
“Being part of a consortium keeps us from feeling like we're an island,” says Phyllis Sanders of the Philbrook Museum. “We can come together and exchange ideas. It’s comforting and reassuring to know that there’s other people that we can reach out to.”
“Without the consortium,” says Palmer, “I don’t know if the individual Tulsa arts organizations would have been able to communicate on the level that we do now. It’s definitely built this big sense of community among the Tulsa arts organizations. And it’s helped us progress as a city towards a common goal.”
“Being involved in the same product does bring a sense of unity and community,” says Lahti, “and it also gives us sort of a feeling that we can change the world.”
Read more about the Tulsa consortium on the Tessitura Network website.
This article was sponsored by Tessitura Network.
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Tags: Theater , Arts , Consumer Preferences , Leadership