E-marketing E-ssentials: The Hierarchy of Arts Data Management Needs

Russel Feldman
January 2011

Ever since I encountered the frustrations of my first data management system in my first job in the arts, I’ve tried to understand the data needs of arts administrators. What’s the best way to manage our data, and why does it seem so rarely achieved or even understood? I think I’ve found the answer, and it’s not because the arts are not valued in this country or underfunded. It’s something fundamental to us as people in the arts. But it can be changed, and to start we just have to think a little differently.

Among the many businesses in the world, arts organizations are uniquely similar to human beings. Like any individual, they are striving for something greater, to realize their full potential of creativity, whether non-profit or for-profit. They have a mission.

The day-to-day striving towards that mission means using technology and working with data. But no one becomes an arts administrator because they want to manage data. You do it because you love the mission, the art, and not because you love wrangling data. Your data is simply a means to an end. If so, then why does it never seem that way? Why does it seem like we’re a slave to our data?

My answer is that, like people, even though they may have a strong drive, arts organizations get stuck along the way towards realizing their full potential.

What I want to propose is a model of how to achieve arts administrative self-actualization. This concept is based on the famous work of Abraham Maslow and his Pyramid or Hierarchy of Needs. Put simply, he puts physical survival on the bottom and “self-actualization,” often defined as “the full realization of one’s potential,” at the top of what people need in life.

I see stages of growth in data management that organizations go through to get to the point where they can focus on achieving their mission.

Let’s see what happens when we apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to your organization’s data management.

Level One – Physiological Needs: Contact Information

If a person is hungry or thirsty, they have to eat or drink. It’s fundamental. And if your organization has patrons, you need to keep track of them somewhere. That’s fundamental. More often than you’d think, I see people use the simplest tool they have at hand: a contact address book in Outlook. There, done! You’ve satisfied this most basic need of arts data management. But if you stay here, all you’re doing is subsistence-level data wrangling, and the results aren’t pretty.

Level Two – Safety Needs: Data Security

Once a person has food and drink, they need shelter, and to feel safe. As for your organization, safety means secure data. How many organizations don’t back up their data, and/or do it haphazardly? Storing your data in a place that offers fail-safe security, such as online or server-based backup, lets you satisfy this need. Otherwise, should the unthinkable hard drive crash or natural disaster happen, the contact list you worked so hard to build over the years will vanish. You may not think it will happen, but it can and does.

Level Three – Love, Affection, and Belongingness: Donations, Memberships, & Tickets

The next step on Maslow’s pyramid is love and belonging. In your organization, that can mean, “Who likes us enough to give us money or buy a ticket, or become a member?” So you create something like an Excel spreadsheet or an Access or FileMaker database, or you get a ticketing or fundraising system. Now you have contacts (Level One), safe and secure (Level Two), and you know what they do. It’s at this level where you find perhaps the most struggle. The reason is because you’re so close! You know who loves you, and you begin to ask what you can do with it, but you keep running up against walls.

Level Four – Esteem: How Well Are We Doing?

After love comes self-esteem. What do we think about ourselves, how are we doing? It’s often hard to know in life. But with the right software system, at last, it’s much easier.  Eventually, you will need to compare ticket buyers to donors; or find out which marketing campaign is most effective, or what subject line got the most clicks. And, to really know what’s working, you need something that combines data from disparate departments, and can easily run complex reports.

Level Five – Self Actualization: Fulfilling your Mission!

Finally, having satisfied basic survival needs, safety needs, needs for love, and needs for esteem, a person has climbed to the top of the pyramid and can begin self-actualizing — doing what they do best and realizing their full potential. For an arts organization, that means you’ve solved the basic problem of where to put your data, keeping it backed up, knowing what your patrons are doing, and then knowing what you’re doing that works or doesn’t work. Now you can begin to truly fulfill your mission. What this looks like isn’t for me to say. Maybe it’s selling out your season, or increasing donations each year, or consistently improving your subscriber retention rate or your open rate in e-mails.

But more than that, it’s returning to your love of the art. Selling out your season means you’ve brought more people into the joy you share. Increasing your donations means you can do more, think bigger, achieve greater dreams — all of that idealistic stuff we put into our mission statements. Arts actualization means not being enslaved by data needs, but standing atop a pyramid built on knowledge. And it’s not a place we can stay forever, but a goal to continue striving for.

With this framework in mind, isn’t your job to find the best tools to get there? To not merely survive, but to reach your full potential? Our company’s vision is that a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system gets you there best. CRM lets you capture all your data, manage it in a safe and secure environment, and know what’s working and what isn’t so that you can fulfill your mission. PatronManager CRM, our newest product, is such a system — designed especially to give small and mid-size organizations powerful tools to enable them to succeed.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact us and we’ll put your organization on the upward path to arts actualization, CRM-style.

Did you know that Patron Technology has just introduced a new product? PatronManager CRM is an all-in-one system that manages and integrates all of your organization’s operations: ticket sales, donations, correspondence, e-mail, and calendar. It is designed and affordable for small and medium sized arts organizations.

If you’d like to learn more about PatronManager CRM, click here.

Learn More about PatronManager, the powerful CRM platform that helps you sell more tickets, raise more money, and cultivate stronger bonds with your audience, all in one database.