My latest scrappy experiment has been inspired by a recent peer session.
Union Chapel the arts venue is essentially a receiving house. Union Chapel, the charity, was established in 1992 and focuses on heritage, arts, cultural and social welfare activities. Union Chapel, the building, is a church. The charity was set up to maintain the complex of listed buildings and keep them open to the public for arts, community and social justice activities.
Our primary income is via our year round programme of popular performances. However, we do also have two large campaigns for which we are raising funds for predominantly via trusts and foundations. Key criteria for these major donors is audience diversity.
However, a recent audience survey showed, what we suspected, that our audience does not reflect the demographics of Islington or London. Islington is an enormously diverse borough of two halves, of extreme wealth and substantial deprivation. Our audience survey figures (scrappy and the official audience survey!) were showing clearly that we were only appealing to this first group. We lack diversity, and this for a fundraising team equates to a limited number of funders. So, what to do without jeopardizing our events income via our loyal following of white, middle class over 50’s?
What small increments could we make to welcome new audiences?
What could we do to reach out to those who live in Islington who think ‘Union Chapel is not for me’?
A huge problem for us is that, as a Church building, so many local residents do not feel welcome, or do not even know that we are a venue. Unless one subscribes to the gig announcements, you would have no idea what was on offer, and even if you did, there is a strong potential that many of our community might not be able to afford the ticket price. However, we know that many of our gigs do not sell out so I have started a scrappy experiment to work with the events team to identify the gigs that are unlikely to sell out and see where we might be able to offer a number of free and discounted tickets. And I am feeling hugely inspired!
I have to admit the idea came straight out of one of the ADA peer sessions during which one of the fellows talked about having the Syrian Orchestra event – and using this as an opportunity to welcome many Syrian refugees.
This experiment is in its infancy, and first I need to identify the events that we can open up, but some excellent fine tuning has already happened thanks to one of my mentoring sessions. My mentor suggested to focus very specifically on one group so that I can gather robust information on that group. This will also work hand in hand with our largest campaign – the reparation of our Sunday School Hall, which we are bringing back in to community use (by 2021/22). We have already identified that most of the users of the hall will be young people and disadvantaged families – therefore I will focus my experiment on this group.
A huge thanks to my peers and my mentor for the inspiration and guidance!
Photo: © Daniela Sbrisny
Rachel Booth, Fundraising and Development Co-ordinator at the Union Chapel Project