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Accelerating fundraising at the Alley Theatre

Amy Lampi describes how implementing dynamic rankings led to a dramatic increase in fundraising

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Amy Lampi

Amy LampiAssociate Director of Development, Alley Theatre

TitleAccelerating fundraising at the Alley Theatre


Read/View Time4 min

“The arts are on the cutting edge of this kind of technology because of Tessitura.” 


Probably the most creative use of Tessitura that we have is through rankings. We've imported four predictive models, and we do prospect management through using these rankings. We have a ranking that's a likelihood of making a major gift, a likelihood of making a capital gift, one of making a planned gift, and then the likelihood of a ticket buyer to convert to a donor. 

We use all of those rankings in many applications: subscription renewals, donations, suggested ask amounts. We use it for identifying major gift prospects, and converting people and increasing them up the giving pipeline.

“We started the pilot in December of 2014. We used the rankings for the next six months and wound up raising $100,000.”

How It Began

In 2014, I was brought back to the Alley, and my charge was to bring the best practices of fundraising to the theatre. I was being taught on Tessitura by our database administrator, and I got to Rankings and I asked, “Why aren't we using predictive models in this? It's automated. We can do scoring and figure out who these donors are.” And he said, “I don't know.” 

So I pitched the idea to a couple of people. I knew that if we did a pilot and partnered, this could be something great. 

We started the pilot in December of 2014. We used the rankings for the next six months and wound up raising $100,000. We continually used them the following year and have had incredible results using rankings in Tessitura by identifying prospects and then moving them up the ladder.

“An incredible resource”

These are specific fundraising models that are customized according to the donors in our database. They follow the patterns of what a major donor would do in our database, or someone converting from a ticket buyer to a regular donor.

Tessitura is an incredible resource for this. What I didn't realize at the time was we were on the edge of something very cutting edge. Hardly any non-profit organization in the country, or actually, world, has automated rankings. It's what they call dynamic scoring, where rankings can update on a daily or weekly basis according to an algorithm that is already built into Tessitura. 

What makes it so incredible is the arts are on the cutting edge of this kind of technology because of Tessitura. And because Tessitura has a common platform for all ticketing and donating, you can bring all of those data points together and look at the entire person. For a major gift model, you may have 100 variables. It's so easy to pull that data through a SQL pull because it's all there in one database.

“Tessitura helps you be a lot more donor-centered, because you're able to look at the entire patron. We can strategically find the people that we need to focus on.”

Using predictive models to shape cultivation 

After importing these predictive models into rankings, I would pull a list of those who had the highest amount of major gift potential. I would filter this list in a report, and I would run it every time I'm about to go to a patron activity. For instance, going to a working rehearsal, I would automatically filter out the people that didn't have the highest giving potential and I would focus my energy on the people that did. And it helped me save staff time, and intentionally cultivate the people that needed to be moved up the ladder. That's an incredible capability that Tessitura has that we can use with any patron activity, with any event. We can strategically find the people that we need to focus on.

Photo courtesy of the Alley Theatre

A unified system 

It helps you be a lot more donor-centered, because you're able to look at the entire patron and see that they just attended the theatre two days ago. So you can follow up and put a step in your Plan, and see how they enjoyed the experience. You can also look at the Promotions tab and see the ways that they were touched by other parts of the organization, see how they interacted with someone at the box office. And you can treat the person as an entire patron, because that's how the patrons view our organization. They come to the Alley and they view everybody at the Alley as one person representing the organization, no matter what department you're in. And I feel like Tessitura encourages that kind of collaboration inter-departmentally.

Tessitura's strong fundraising capabilities 

It's very robust. There's some incredible uses of segmentation. By far, the ability for rankings to be used for prospecting is a incredible feature that I would say hardly any other softwares have built ingrained to the system. So that's what really sets us apart from a hospital or university. I have over ten years of Raiser's Edge experience, and I've never had this kind of capabilities before, where a patron’s scores are dynamically updated on a regular basis.

The Tessitura community 

I really love that the Tessitura community comes together, and there's a sense of collaboration. With this pilot, other Tessitura people in the community are a part of it: Seattle Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Shedd Aquarium. And so there's a vision I have that we can have these capabilities through Tessitura to allow us to raise a lot more money for the arts as a whole, not just for the Alley itself.

It's an incredibly collaborative process. Many of the other non-profit sectors are not like that; they tend to be more competitive. Not only can you talk about how people use Tessitura in cutting edge ways, you also can talk about best practices and applications in ways that can help the community as a whole, and arts as a whole, advance as a sector.

Groundbreaking work featured in Chronicle of Philanthropy 

We were very fortunate to have to be featured with this pilot in the August [2016] issue of Chronicle of Philanthropy. What's thrilling is that we are featured on the cover, and it's an entire article on data analytics and the use of fundraising analytics in the industry. I was so glad that we were able to highlight Tessitura and its capabilities for the entire subscription audience of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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