Since 1997, Northern Stage has provided its community with world-class productions and extensive educational and artistic outreach programs for all ages. As a regional non-profit LORT-D professional theatre company located in White River Junction, Vermont, Northern Stage has become Vermont’s preeminent year-round theatre.
Today, Northern Stage reaches more than 50,000 community members each year, offering a wide array of programming in line with their dedication to making their organization indispensable in the lives they serve. The company presents six full Mainstage productions from September to May, drawing in talented artists from all over the country, many of whom have Broadway, Regional Theatre, and National Tour credits. Seasons include world premieres, classics, and shows fresh from the stages of the Great White Way and London’s West End.
Northern Stage also provides opportunities for community members of all ages to learn from working theatre professionals with a year-round schedule of educational programs including a summer musical theatre intensive, student acting ensembles, and an expansive theatre-in-the-schools residency program. Coupled with ambitious arts outreach initiatives such as New Works Now, Northern Stage holds true to their firm commitment to intimate engagement and the development of new work for the American theatre.
An Evolving Organization
In 2013, Northern Stage was at a crossroads. With the company on the edge of financial collapse, the theatre’s Board of Directors engaged a new leadership team to galvanize the organization for its next stage of evolution. They quickly realized that in order to grow their audience and have the ability to take more creative risks, Northern Stage needed not only a new venue, but a modern ticketing and fundraising system that could house all their data in one place and help them usher in a new era.
Northern Stage is always striving to be responsive to the desires of their community, but they quickly realized that their lacking ticketing system was a hindrance to this goal. They wanted a system that could not only keep up with the expectations of their community, but exceed them. While they had the ability to sell tickets and take in donations, their patrons’ data was dispersed across multiple systems that didn’t talk to one another, making it difficult to reconcile entire patron histories. On top of this, there was no clear place to keep track of other important patron details, such as accessibility needs or seat preferences, which resulted in repeated conversations, staff knowledge disparities, and patrons left feeling unimportant to the organization.
“We’re here because of, and for, our community, so we really want to make sure we know exactly who we’re talking to when we talk to them,” said Ruby Summers, Northern Stage’s Director of Sales & Marketing. “This is key to maintaining and building relationships with our patrons, and having one system for donations and one for ticketing made that really challenging.” Without a more robust, unified system in place, Northern Stage found it difficult to engage with their patrons in a meaningful way that would ensure their continued patronage. To do this, they would need a system that could track and store patron data in an intuitive way.
With production seasons including hit shows such as Mary Poppins, Once, and Matilda, it’s not hard to see why Northern Stage’s Mainstage programming is their biggest attraction. But in 2014, the organization was ready to take more creative risks and make their mark as a bold and visionary theatre. Among a diverse set of new programs, New Works Now, an annual festival of new plays designed to enrich the theatre experience for audiences and artists alike, was born. “The Mainstage season is our core, but beyond that, our commitment to new work supports emerging artists and furthers the dialogue we’re having with our community,” Summers explained.
The idea behind the festival was to expose audiences to new daring and impactful stories, while giving playwrights and artists a home to nurture their work in a collaborative environment. With all the programming and staff in place to achieve their ambitious goal of developing new work for the American theatre, Northern Stage continually found themselves let down by their technical infrastructure. They wanted a system that enabled them to market this and other new programs effectively to the people in their community who would benefit from and enjoy them, but as they were unable to easily pull reports, segment lists, and send targeted emails, it became a difficult and time-consuming feat.
An Outdated System
Intent on moving to a new venue and taking more creative risks, Northern Stage was in need of a technology upgrade that could help support and fundraise for these big initiatives. Their previous system continued to become more outdated, with client support, resources, and technical updates dwindling as time went on. “In my mind, the best systems are a connecting tool, and our prior system got to the point where it became a bit of a barrier, rather than a bridge,” said Irene Green, Managing Director of Northern Stage. “It would be the reason why we couldn’t accomplish specific tasks, which is not a great reason.” The theatre needed a modern system in place that would support and sustain their organization’s growth for years to come.
A New System for a New Era
As part of the new leadership team in 2013, Green brought fresh eyes to Northern Stage’s organizational challenges. She knew that a new, modern system with the ability to house all of their patrons’ data, implement targeted marketing strategies, and support large fundraising initiatives would go a long way to help solving them. “Having had prior experience with PatronManager at other organizations, I had in my mind the possibilities of ‘what could be,’” Green said. “I just knew that we had to bring Northern Stage’s system forward into something more modern.” With no other cloud-based ticketing system on the market that had the ability to house all their desired functionality on one platform, they made the switch to PatronManager within a few months and never looked back.
The All-in-One Solution
Done with the days of disparate systems and spreadsheets, Northern Stage was thrilled at PatronManager’s ability to house all of their patrons’ data in one place. Not only did this help simplify day-to-day operations, it also gave Northern Stage the technology they needed to sell more tickets, raise more money, and collaborate more efficiently. With each patron’s entire history in one shared database, PatronManager empowered staff members to have genuine one-on-one interactions with them, ultimately building stronger bonds and solidifying relationships.
As a completely customizable solution, allowing users to personalize and automate individual fields, PatronManager enabled Northern Stage to tailor their system to address the unique needs identified within their community. “One thing we really believe in is access, both financially and physically,” Summers said. “Within PatronManager, we have been able to create a new “accessible needs” field that we pull into ticket orders. So, for example, if someone has historically used an assisted listening device, they don’t have to ask for one every time they come to the box office. We just offer it to them when they arrive.” By using PatronManager’s discount code functionality, Northern Stage has also been able to implement a program called “Access for All,” which gives five-dollar tickets to people on select government assistance programs. The theatre could then tap into a segment of their community that had previously been inhibited from enjoying all they had to offer.
With a system in place that made targeted marketing efforts a breeze, Northern Stage finally had the ability to effectively promote and grow new programs outside of their Mainstage season. Specifically, New Works Now was able to grow quickly by marketing to past attendees using the Report Builder to segment lists based on past productions patrons attended. “Having a CRM system allows us to know our audience better and make sure we’re telling them about events they would be interested in,” said Summers. By running reports using detailed filters, they are now able to curate the invite list for New Works Now based on what events their patrons have attended in the past. Summers concluded, “Being able to easily pull an email list from a very segmented audience group in five minutes has streamlined our whole process and made us so much more efficient and effective with our marketing efforts.”
Since completing their sixth annual New Works Now festival, they’ve workshopped over 30 new plays, 3 of which have gone on to be produced Off-Broadway as of September 2019. While the first New Works Now festival back in 2014 had small audiences, through sending targeted marketing emails to curated segments of their audience based on attendance history, the interest in the festival has grown to a place where nearly every reading is now sold-out. And that interest, coupled with the reaction of their audiences, is impacting other artistic decisions as well. After the January 2019 festival, the enthusiasm for a particular play was so strong that the company decided, after their upcoming Mainstage season was already set, to add it in as a full production the following year.
The Power of the Platform
By choosing the cloud-based solution, Northern Stage bid farewell to outdated legacy systems. PatronManager is the only full-service ticketing application built entirely on Salesforce — the preeminent CRM technology that’s been #1 on the Forbes World’s Most Innovative Companies list for four years running. “With PatronManager being on the Salesforce platform, the system is constantly upgrading based on best practices in the industry,” Green said. “It’s not a static system that will have to be replaced ten years down the line.” Given PatronManager’s iterative development as ticketing and marketing trends continue to grow, Northern Stage could now rest assured that their ticketing and fundraising system will evolve alongside them.
PatronManager Delivers Results
- 128% Increase in the number of tickets sold since adopting PatronManager
- 231% Average year-over-year increase in number of donations made during ticketing transactions since adopting PatronManager
- $9 million raised for the Campaign for Northern Stage (which included their new space)
The Trusted CRM and Ticketing Solution for Arts, Culture, & Live Event Organizations
As Northern Stage looks to the future, they will continue to rely on PatronManager to stimulate the growth of their vast offering of programs, making Northern Stage indispensable in the lives of those they serve. With their ticketing, subscriptions, fundraising, email marketing, and staff collaboration all on one integrated cloud-based solution, Northern Stage has been able to pursue their mission and meet their core values, while expanding and growing their business.
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