One of our goals is to have a city that is all brought together by Tessitura,
by this amazing software that can do so many different things for organizations, and that brings everything into one place,” says Katie Hathway of the Tulsa Arts Management Consortium (TAMC). And the consortium continues to grow, with ahha (the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa) and the Gilcrease Museum the most recent organizations to join.
Photo courtesy of ahha
The main benefit that ahha sought, said board chair Holbrook Lawson, was “moving to a software system that is member-driven.” In addition, ahha has begun charging admission for the first time, and Lawson notes that the ability to ticket “is a really important thing for the economic stability of any arts organization.”
Before working for TAMC, Hathaway was the Membership Services Coordinator at the Tulsa Botanic Garden and remembers the helpful role that Tessitura Network consultants played during implementation and training. “It was really great to have consultants available,” she says, “because they helped us to guide and structure how we needed Tessitura to work.”
She explains: “The Garden was a brand-new organization. And so to be able to go into Tessitura with help,” with a knowledgeable person “holding your hand, setting everything up in Tessitura and helping us structure it, was really, really amazing.”
“That, in turn, is going to help us, the Tulsa Arts Management Consortium,” she says. “We are doing more implementations, and we want the assistance of the Tessitura consultants to help guide those future implementations so it’s a more streamlined process as the Consortium grows.
Tessitura “brings everything into one place so that you have an all-encompassing picture of your constituents.”
“For new organizations joining our consortium,” adds Brian Parker, “TAMC has worked in partnership with Tessitura Network to develop a team-based approach to implementations.” This means that “the heavy lifting of the basic database structure is completed by consortium staff” rather than employees of the new organization. “In turn,” he adds, “that frees organizational staff to learn the essential skills needed to use Tessitura on day one of their go-live.”
Streamlining Workflows with Tessitura
For some members of the consortium, Tessitura has opened up possibilities they hadn’t even considered before. Melissa Payne, Sales Manager at the Woody Guthrie Center, notes that they’ve been able to consolidate their customer service tools. The staff “have really enjoyed QuickSale,” she said: once the Center began using it, they were able to handle memberships, concert tickets, and even 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.
Photo courtesy of the Woody Guthrie Center
“Back in the day,” Scott 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 and things like that.”
“I can’t imagine trying to run or grow a membership program without a comprehensive database,” says Keli Kirwin, who led an initiative to bring the Botanic Garden’s membership sales into the visitor center. “Our membership sales had been exclusively processed in my office; none of them were actually processed in the visitor center where people were buying the membership. And as the Garden has grown, it was not sustainable to keep doing that.”
So, she describes, “I was able to talk with another member of the consortium about how they use Tessitura to [sell memberships] at front of house, and I was able to implement that. And it has been a life saver. It has taken so much work off of my plate so that I can do more.”
“I can’t imagine trying to run or grow a membership program without a comprehensive database.”
Not only is the new membership purchase process a better customer experience, but it’s also “allowing the visitor center to feel the ownership of the database,” Kirwin says, making them feel more connected to the Garden’s enterprise operations. Furthermore, “it’s a much more secure process, because the credit card numbers aren’t being written down and transported to my desk.”
Kirwin explains how the consortium contributes to success like these: “It’s all of the the support, the large community that it creates, the possibilities that you might not have thought yourself. You can see how other people have solved problems.”
Photo courtesy of Tulsa Botanic Garden
Several others also said the consortium saves time in their busy jobs and 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.”
“I think being part of a consortium keeps us from feeling like we're an island,” says Phyllis Sanders. “Instead, 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.”
“It’s built this big sense of community among the Tulsa arts organizations. And it’s helped us progress as a city towards a common goal.”
“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.”
Chang notes how the Tessitura consortium has become something bigger than she’d imagined. “Just by nature of seeing these people every month, to get to know them, and then seeing them at events and being able to have this thing in common, is something I didn’t expect from a software. It has gone beyond those borders.”
Photo courtesy of the Philbrook Museum of Art
A strong consortium like Tulsa’s demonstrates how cultural organizations in a community can benefit from aligning themselves with one another. Seeing each other as potential partners rather than as competition leads to improved collaboration, which in turn cultivates a better understanding of the community’s resources.
Even when invisible to the public, a collaborative effort such as a consortium can benefit visitors and audiences. There are concrete improvements, like the streamlined registration process for education programs that multiple organizations are taking advantage of. Recent ventures into shared programming show a different type of tangible growth that the public can enjoy. And several staff described a more intangible trickle-down effect that is leading to improved audience perceptions of Tulsa’s cultural scene.
“Being involved in the same product brings a sense of unity and community, and it gives us a feeling that we can change the world.”
Influential figures like board members and funders are also taking note. Board members, who often serve more than one of these institutions over time, have expressed their appreciation of the mutually supportive relationships among staff and organizations. The consortium has even attracted funding that the individual organizations would not have been able to access in isolation. And in a climate where arts funding is often becoming increasingly scarce, a financial benefit like that can be invaluable.
Photo courtesy of the Tulsa Botanic Garden
The synergy of this Tessitura consortium is reaching far beyond software. This cultural collective is helping to grow the vibrancy and resilience of the city’s arts scene. And there is still plenty of room to grow. As Scott Black says, “The fact that it has encouraged conversation amongst the different arts groups has been a huge benefit. I think we’re still really early on in what the consortium is going to be able to do here in Tulsa.”
“Being involved in the same product brings a sense of unity and community,” says Lahti, “and it gives us sort of a feeling that we can change the world.”
This article is Part 3 of 3.