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success stories

Personalized, efficient acknowledgment letters

Los Angeles Opera uses Tessitura to send personalized donor acknowledgments — while saving staff time

Josh Harrold

Josh HarroldAssociate Director, Annual Fund and Development Operations, LA Opera

TitleStreamlining acknowledgments at LA Opera


Read/View Time4 min

Previously, we had been using roughly seven different Microsoft Word letter templates for acknowledgments. The acknowledgement process, especially during busy times of the year, would take upwards of half a day or more — which meant that we really struggled to get acknowledgements out, even on a weekly basis.

Streamlining the Process

After attending a session at last year's conference, we went back and worked with our Annual Fund Coordinator to develop a process that was much more streamlined. We implemented conditional formatting that we had been exposed to in that session and refined our process down, so that we were going from seven different templates to two: one being a version with a membership card and one being a version without a membership card. We relied on conditional formatting, switches, field codes, to robustly tailor the acknowledgment to each specific donor, using a single template.

On a weekly basis, it's saving at least two hours, which really allows us to get our acknowledgments out much more frequently. It makes life so much easier.

One of the functions that I love about Tessitura is the merge capability, where essentially once you set up your templates from the report itself you can select merge and you don't ever have to touch Excel, it just merges it automatically, directly into your Microsoft Word templates and saves even more time.

“On a weekly basis, it's saving at least two hours. It makes life so much easier.”

Learning from the Community

One of the things that I love so much about TLCC is that so many of the sessions ultimately tie back to the database, but really are about how we, as organizations, develop strategies and tactics to further our organizations' goals. Oftentimes, the technical parts are maybe 10% of the conversation, but it's otherwise spent discussing what member benefits are working, what ways of communicating with your donors and soliciting your donors are working. It does ultimately tie back to the database, and that's what connects us all, but it's more than just a database conference. It's really this gathering of people who have a common goal of furthering their arts organizations.


The Plans capabilities and a whole host of other tools within Tessitura for development really allows us to intimately track upgrading within our system and identify when someone's made a very unexpected increase in giving and so then we can customize our stewardship and really start to build that relationship in a more personal way. The tracking functionality allows us to relate with our donors in a better, more informed way.

Data as Leverage

Some of the data that we use in our campaigns that relates to a donor's history with our organization includes past five years’ worth of membership, level, their long-term donor value over a five-year period, pulling together their ticketing information, both pricing, seat location, performance types, and then mapping that against donations to really be able to segment and speak to both current donors, lapsed donors, as well as prospective donors in a way that is much more targeted than if we were only looking at donor-related information or only looking at ticketing information. It's really great to be able to pull all that together and do a lot of really deep segmentation of our data to speak to our donors in a very personalized way.

Automated Reporting

One thing the database does that helps me and my colleagues be more effective at what we do is things like the automated reporting, coming in each morning at 8 o'clock and knowing that I'm going to know exactly where I'm at for revenue for the month-to-date, year-to-date, that we have a list of anyone who's made a new contribution, who never made a contribution before to our organization or has not, in the past three to four years, made a contribution to our organization. It is really beneficial and saves us a lot of time in identifying those people that we want to get in touch with and try to deepen a relationship with immediately.



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