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Tessitura helps take an orchestra's fundraising program to a new level

How the Jacksonville Symphony created big increases in major giving, the number of donors, and more

Jennifer Barton, seen from the torso up, wearing a navy blazer with her hair falling over one shoulder.

Jennifer BartonVice President of Advancement, Jacksonville Symphony

TitleTessitura helps take an orchestra's fundraising program to a new level

Published1/14/2020

Read/View Time4 min


“Our Tessitura implementation was the catalyst for a culture revolution at the Jacksonville Symphony,”

says Jennifer Barton, Vice President of Advancement.

“Going to Tessitura gave us an opportunity to examine every practice that we had,” Jennifer explains. For example, “Tessitura allowed us to look at our entire patron base by opening up a conversation between our marketing and development departments.”

With Tessitura’s unified platform enabling broader conversations, the Symphony was able to create better profiles of donors and prospects. And with the flexibility and scale now available to them, Jennifer says, “We challenged ourselves to find new ways to capture participation in our system.” The team began to look at volunteer activities, planned giving commitments, attendance at special events and guests brought along.

“When you are trying to raise money without your customer data in one system, you’re leaving money on the table... I see Tessitura as a tool that frees you up to have face time with people.”

“The ability to work with our box office to identify people, and in the same moment put them into our prospecting pool so that they can be contacted by a gifts officer in a short period of time, is a dramatic change from where we were,” Jennifer says. “It’s created space for us to always be asking how we can put information into the system.”

That, in turn, helps other teams like marketing and front line staff provide better customer service while making the most of the customer interactions that they have. “They know that it’s not just transactional. It becomes a conversation about who you are and what brings you to the organization,” Jennifer explains.

Women playing the violin, with other orchestra members (including a flutist) behind them

Growing every donor program with Tessitura

“One of the ways that we really excelled after switching to Tessitura was in being able to identify great prospects for our giving program,” Jennifer says. “We had a donor base of about 1,100 people when we went to Tessitura about four years ago. Now we have a donor base of nearly 2,000 households.”

The Symphony has also seen “tremendous growth” in major giving, Jennifer adds: “We’ve increased that by probably 30%, just in annual giving.”

Beyond that, “We’ve been able to identify planned giving prospects, which has been very important.” This is an area where Tessitura’s unified CRM is especially helpful for prospect research. “There are different kinds of signs that people will show to be planned givers,” Jennifer explains. “That really requires you to look at their behavior with your institution as a whole, probably more so than any other kind of participation.” 

“We had a donor base of about 1,100 people when we went to Tessitura. Now we have a donor base of nearly 2,000 households.” 

Moves management

“Tessitura is essential to fundraising,” Jennifer says. “When I first came to the Jacksonville Symphony, we did not have Tessitura.” In her previous role at the Baltimore Symphony, she had grown accustomed to Tessitura’s powerful fundraising and moves management capabilities. These include the Plans feature, which allows fundraisers to manage every stage of their workflow: add and track steps for each stage of a plan, record actions that they’ve taken, assign pending actions to colleagues, and attach files such as proposal documents. In addition, Tessitura allows fundraising staff to define a portfolio of people that they are cultivating, and can add colleagues and board members as additional workers on a prospect’s file.

All of these features feed natively to Tessitura’s business intelligence capabilities, Tessitura Analytics. The interactive tool, Jennifer says, “has allowed us to take our portfolio management system to a new level. We are putting that data in the hands of our fundraisers so that they can track in real time how they’re meeting the expectations that they need to meet in order to reach their numbers.”

“Tessitura is essential to fundraising.”

The self-service aspect, Jennifer says, has been “a game-changer” with the Symphony’s talented giving officers. Tessitura, and in particular the reporting features, “put a lot of power back into their hands” so that the officers feel in control of their portfolios and their work, rather than feeling overly managed. “That is so valuable,” Jennifer says, “because it will facilitate communication and allow us to do better forecasting, in addition to retaining our fundraising talent.”

Fundraising with a unified system

All this work draws on the rich trove of data that Tessitura captures from multiple types of interactions. Jennifer notes: “Tessitura allows you to build a relationship with somebody [based on] their entire relationship with your organization — which is critical to understanding what might be the thing that inspires them.”

When Jennifer first arrived at the Symphony, she discovered that their years of using separate fundraising and box office systems had led to a “haphazard way of managing our prospect program.” The move to Tessitura’s unified platform opened up new possibilities.

“Going to Tessitura from Raiser’s Edge gave us the ability to do very simple things that I had become accustomed to at the Baltimore Symphony. That included things like pulling a list of people who were attending a concert in the evening.” Seemingly simple tasks like that “immediately started to make a change in the amount of capacity that I had to do more connecting with people.”

“Tessitura allows you to build a relationship with somebody [based on] their entire relationship with your organization.”

When you are trying to raise money without your customer data in one system, you’re leaving money on the table because your time is spent working with data instead of people,” Jennifer asserts. “You are also left at a disadvantage because you don’t have the ability to synthesize all of the information about somebody that’s going to lead you in the right direction, to ask the right questions, and build the relationship that you seek to advance.”

“Tessitura can tell you what direction you might want to go, whereas the Raiser’s Edge program is really just one silo of fundraising,” she adds. “That’s not how arts organizations can afford to think about fundraising these days.”

“I see Tessitura as a tool that frees you up to have face time with people,” Jennifer says. “That’s the most important thing about what we’re doing.”

Jennifer Barton, seen from the torso up, wearing a navy blazer with her hair falling over one shoulder.

Jennifer Barton

Vice President of Advancement

Jacksonville Symphony

Jennifer is the Vice President of Advancement at the Jacksonville Symphony in Jacksonville, Florida.

She spoke with the Tessitura team in the Success Studio at TLCC2019.

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