Why do people give?

This morning I went to a workshop session on fundraising and giving. It was mainly focused around strategies for asking people to donate financially to an arts organisation, but included some really interesting psychology and other ideas about encouraging people to give.

One part particularly stood out and was really interesting to me, so I thought it might be interesting to other people too:

There are four different motivations for giving, and people will usually only respond to one of these. They fit into a matrix (below).



Basically, people will either be interested in the future or present, and with a positive or negative approach. This is not to say people are negative themselves, just that the possible negative outcome of not giving will have more effect than promoting the positives.

To explain the categories, the workshop leader used the example of an HIV crisis in an African nation:

Vision: we will put a clinic in every town (positive action, in the future)

Risk: thousands of children will be orphaned if their parents die (what will happen, in the future)

Opportunity: we can buy antiretroviral drugs at a reduced price for a limited time (what can be done right now)

Crisis: people are dying right now, we must help them (the immediate problem)

It’s such a simple concept when it’s spelled out but makes so much difference when thinking about fundraising and giving. Communicating the right need to the right person is likely to increase donations and therefore what charities and organisations can achieve. Obviously I’m a passionate communicator, and I do believe that the way you communicate with someone can have a huge influence on their actions, so it’s great to see that this is part of the development process as well as the consumer marketing one.

The next stage of the workshop was to look at the organisation at hand and work our what our visions, risks, opportunities and crises are – whether it’s ‘we can take engaging theatre to every person in Wales’ or ‘people can’t pay their bills because the cost of living has spiralled out of control’.

I work for an arts organisation, I’m part of a political party and I’m often involved in charitable projects so I’m looking forward to getting better at this by practising great communication!

Breakin’ The Bay

Breakin’ the Bay takes place at Wales Millennium Centre annually, usually around the August bank holiday. It’s one of my favourite arts events to attend in Cardiff and I think I might have been to every single one. In different years, the programme has varied from including a main-auditorium evening show to just sticking with the essentials of live graffiti art and hip hop dancing.

Breakin The Bay

This year I popped along to WMC in time to catch some of the dance tournaments in the Glanfa, and some graffiti work going on outside the Centre. Inside there were people of all ages, races, genders and styles participating or watching dance competitions. There are competitions for freestyle, popping, locking, individually and in teams. The standard of the dancers is incredibly high, despite the fact that some of them cannot have been more than about 10 years old. It always amazes me.

Outside people of every age were watching and admiring the graffiti artists, taking and sharing photographs and commenting on the quality of their work.

Breakin The Bay

What makes me really happy about Breakin’ the Bay, though, is the atmosphere. Whoever is dancing, they get a cheer. There is hip hop music playing but the crowd consists of everyone from young people to passing families, older people watching with a cup of tea to 30-something couples bobbing their heads along with the music. We often make assumptions that certain types of art, music or creative practice are only for one type of person but Breakin’ the Bay does a brilliant job of flouting that myth entirely. Everyone in the crowd is involved with the spirit and you rarely see so many smiles in an arts centre these days!

I hope Breakin’ the Bay continues into the future, and I really hope that all those people – young and old – continue to see that there’s plenty available in an arts centre for them, even if it’s not exactly what they thought it would be.

Breakin' The Bay

No Word Yet on What This is Promoting

A company called Zed Events are currently offering you the chance to battle with zombies every weekend in an abandoned shopping centre in Reading. The building is due to be demolished, but this group have created an interactive real-world game in the space before it is destroyed. There are a number of companies around at the moment creating experiences which sit on the borders of theatre, film-reality, gaming and party and this seems to be one of them.

I heard about the event via Mashable, everyone’s favourite Social Media news source, and noted a rather interesting sentence in the article:

No word on what, if anything, this zombie battle is promoting, but one thing is for sure — people love being scared by zombies.

This struck me as very interesting. Obviously Mashable are a social media news source and, as such, many of their articles are about virals, pop-ups, flashmobs and the like which are almost all to do with marketing and promotion. It seems interesting, though, that it hasn’t occurred to them that this sort of experience can be simply that, an experience.

I work in the business of theatre and experiences so perhaps I’m more familiar with this sort of thing than most people, but even so it feels like a sad sign of our times that a news source’s first question is ‘what is it promoting?’

Photo CC by Rodolpho.reis on Flickr

Tweet of the Year?

Much-loved bookshop Waterstones this month did away with their apostrophe. Unsurprisingly this caused an amount of controversy in both traditional and social media. An entertaining Twitter account, Sad Apostrophe, also popped up pretty quickly.

Luckily, someone manning the Twitter account of Waterstones Oxford Street has a sense of humour and some social business savvy. The product of this? One of my favourite tweets ever:

tweet by waterstones



Roundup of 2011 Part 1: QR Codes

I haven’t been amazing at updating this blog and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be a bit better at it. For now, here’s the first of a few little roundups of some things that happened in 2011.

QR About Me

Part 1: We all talked about QR codes. A lot.

And I sort of got bored of it. The main points made were as follows:

  • They’re quite cool and we think people scan them because they’re interesting
  • Very few people are actually backing up (or disproving) the above with analytics data
  • They’re not as pretty as we’d like them to be
  • A lot of people are using them very badly (for example to link to a non-mobile-optimised homepage)
  • We can do more with them. But we’re not.

So what can we learn from this? Well, I’m steering clear of any “2012 is the year of the QR code” nonsense, but I can do think that they are a useful and interesting way to provide creative extra content as part of a communications strategy.

Here, then, are my top tips and thinking points for using QR codes in your marketing:

  • Be absolutely certain that whichever URL your QR directs to is mobile optimised. Test it.
  • Try directing QRs to other places. It doesn’t just have to be a URL. What about using it on your gig poster to add the event to the user’s calendar? Or use one on your business cards to add your details to the user’s address book. You get the idea, and there’s a helpful list of possibilities here.
  • If you are going to use a URL, make it a good one. An exclusive behind-the-scenes video, a wallpaper or song download you can’t access any other way, for example.
  • Use Google Analytics (or or other web analytics system) to find out how many people are using your codes and arriving at your site by scanning them. If nobody is, re-think where they are and what they do.
  • Make sure it’s scannable. It needs to be large enough, clear enough and situated somewhere with mobile internet signal. Don’t become one of Mashable’s Top QR Code Fails.

Check back for part 2 later in the week!


An Art Gallery in your Hand

Poolga have been curating illustration, typography and graphic design work since 2007, with the specific intention of providing high-quality wallpaper for the iPhone. The work included is digital art, sized specifically for iPhone or iPad, and created by established and up and coming illustrators.

They have been offering these wallpapers on their website since 2007 but have recently created their first app. It includes a selection of work by 15 of their favourite artists. It has a great interface and you can save the images quickly and easily to your photo album to set as wallpaper, or Tweet a link to the images for your community to see.

What they are really doing is bringing an art gallery to handheld devices. The Google Art Project is working on a similar basis. Art galleries are wonderful places but you have to have been to one to know that. Online and iPhone galleries are a brilliant way to introduce new audiences to the concept of an art gallery. Whether it’s digital illustration or the inside of the Prado gallery it is an easy way to be exposed to art on your own terms.

Poolga’s ‘share’ function is where the real strength lies. The fact that when I like one of the pieces I can post a link straight to Twitter involves me and my online community straight away in the work.

I don’t see why ‘real live’ art galleries don’t have this function yet. Surely it wouldn’t be so difficult for the Tate to put a QR code next to every work, taking you to a microsite which would share it across your social platforms? I can see this setting off quite a buzz but also continuing to work way down the line when people are still getting excited by the things they see.

We Want Music, Not Marketing

This morning a friend of mine shared a link to an article in The Telegraph. The headline reads ‘Mitsuko Uchida: Give me music, not marketing – The recent Grammy winner Mitsuko Uchida tells Adam Sweeting why standards matter more than PR.’

Have a read if you haven’t seen it already. As someone who spends their life marketing and promoting the arts, including classical music, I have to raise one or two objections to both the headline and content of this article. I don’t understand why music and marketing have to be in opposition.

“She says that these days, she only works with people with whom she can say it is a privilege.”

How did she come to see these people in such a way? If they had just stood on a podium at the age of 18 and waved a conducting baton they may well have been demonstrating passion and musical integrity but no-one, not even Uchida, would have heard of them. They needed marketing, self-promotion and, yes, PR in order to become top names in the business, to be written about in industry magazines and for her to find out who they are.

She too requires PR. How did she come to win a Grammy? Promotion from the record company. How did she get an interview in The Telegraph? Extensive relationship-building and Press work by her agent.

The other angle on which she criticises arts PR is this:

“Uchida is at the opposite pole from those who believe the future of classical music lies in getting people who look like supermodels to play it in “chill-out” clubs. “Maybe these people who think it is so easy are more talented than I am,” she says. “For me it is difficult, and I don’t mind admitting it. But today people want things to happen fast and earn a lot of money, and therefore it is even more important to go to concerts.”

Again, this is somewhat of a misconception. People who are employed in the PR and Marketing of classical music certainly do not feel that performers should be supermodels and the setting should be a club. (I personally believe that bringing classical and crossover music into new spaces from time to time is something worth consideration, and could break down barriers, but that is for another blog post). When my colleagues and I promote a classical performance our selling points are based around a world-class acoustic, high-quality concerts, respect for the performers’ talent and a unique musical experience.

There is an audience for very traditional classical music but there is also an audience for change. Classical music lovers are now part of a modern world. There is more choice of entertainment than ever before and we need to keep people’s attention in order to maintain any future for live classical performance. This does mean, as Uchida says, that it is vital to present the highest quality of musical interpretation possible but there is more to it.

“I say [PR] is the least important issue if you have something musical to say! If you have something to say, the world will come to you.”

I’m afraid this is simply not true. If the PR department don’t tell anyone about the concert then no-one will know to come. It’s easier for us if the performer has something really musical to say, of course, but we still need to invite the audience. That is, after all, what we actually do.

Lessons in Signage – Museum of London

I have just returned from a weekend in London, during which I made a trip to the Museum of London to see their London Street Photography exhibition.

The friend I was with and myself are London-navigation savvy so we had no problems with buses and finding our way to the museum. After getting off the bus we walked in the right direction and saw some large lettering on the side of a building for Museum of London. Eventually, after walking round two sides of a building, we found our way in to the museum only to discover that there was a quicker way from where we had just come from.

On the information counter there was a notice saying that all the day’s timed tickets for the exhibition had run out. Although both of us had checked the details on the website, neither my friend nor I had noticed that there were timed tickets so we were a bit frustrated about this. (It turns out this information is actually on the site, but well below the fold and not on the Visit Us page at all).

After a little wandering around the permanent exhibitions we happened upon a queue of people who (a small notice informed us) were waiting to get in to the Street Photography exhibition. We did the obvious thing and joined the queue. We’d come all the way so figured we may as well wait. We noticed that the people around us in the queue had timed exhibition tickets. There was no-one to ask about this so we left the queue and went to find someone.

It turned out that the people with tickets didn’t need to be in the queue, and it was actually for people without tickets. Still figuring that we’d come all the way to see this exhibition we got back in the queue and waited a further 20 minutes before being allowed in.

The actual exhibition was very good. There was a lovely selection of photographs stretching right back to 1860, along with helpful information about the sort of cameras used, and trends in photography by era. They covered everything from street urchins to the decadent classes enjoying the city, with each photographer’s take on life demonstrated in their work. I was also interested to see an iPhone amongst the display of historical cameras, with careful explanation of the way it has changed street photography via its ability to upload media to the internet straight away.

It was very busy, and people’s inconsiderate behaviour did cause a bit of frustration when trying to see the photographs, but we did manage to get round them all.

The lesson of this story is that signage is very important. Too many signs, as we can sometimes find on Britain’s roads these days, are not much use. What we need is appropriate signs for the location, giving the customer the information they need. If there had been a sign on our way to the museum, we wouldn’t have walked out of our way for several minutes. If there was clear signage about the exhibition tickets, and the nature of the queue, we would not have wasted time and been confused at that point either.

Next time you’re thinking about the layout of your venue, your exhibition or a new building, take a moment to really consider signage:
What will the user be thinking?
What will they want to know?
How can you help them?

It’s a fairly simple process but it really will make a difference.

Museum of London

Image from

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