I’ve given the Columbus Symphony Orchestra some tough love this week with regard to their online donation system. I sincerely hope they eventually make it easier on us donors and patrons. Their website just doesn’t yet reflect the sentiment of the people I’ve talked to (other patrons, musicians, staff, etc), who are all enthusiastic about making this work.
Earlier this week I had a question about whether or not a part of my donation to the CSO would end up being split between CSO / CAPA / Ticketmaster because it has to be made via that trio of websites. Fortunately, it all goes to the CSO. Here’s the response I received from an Email I sent on Monday. It helps explain the organizational relationship.
CSO has a management agreement with CAPA, but our budgets and operations remain completely separate. Through the agreement, we are able to use CAPA’s existing online services (including ticketing and donations through Ticketmaster) instead of paying set up and online management fees on our own. All donations are received directly by CSO and deposited into our bank account. Other than the standard credit card processing fee which every organization pays when accepting credit cards, there are no additional fees through Ticketmaster for making a donation online
The response went on to offer to take a donation over the phone if I felt more comfortable with that idea and then also gave me the option of mailing a check.
I appreciated their taking the time to explain that to me. From a business standpoint, it makes total sense. They’re saving money. From a practical sense though, the current donor system isn’t user-friendly which means they’re also probably losing potential donations. My guess is that no one with decision rights on this process has ever actually tried to donate online otherwise they’d have already ameliorated the process.
Keep it simple
My recommendations as a person who isn’t abusiness expert, but who makes online donations? Keep it simple.
- Lose the up-front account and password requirement. Mistyping a password should not be the deciding factor on whether or not a person donates.
- Don’t make calling the office a requirement for anything. This is an “online” donation process!
- 19 steps is just ridiculous. Drop it down to 5 including the front page and receipt/confirmation page. No more.
- Never time out a donor
- Lose Ticketmaster for donations altogether.
Contractual obligations may prevent that last suggestion from being implemented, but per the 2011 and 2012 annual reports, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra yielded close to 30% of its operating budget via ticket sales. That left 70% or so to be acquired from donations. That’s not an easy task especially when people are giving less and less money each year to the arts. By default, more donors are needed.
Using Ticketmaster seems to send a message to potential donors that our money is neither needed nor wanted otherwise the process would be much simpler.
Sure, big donors are still gratefully sought with the assistance of the Board of Trustees. I’ve learned that not only are the board members significant donors themselves, but they also work with local businesses to solicit corporate donations that help keep the orchestra up and running. Their work is invaluable.
Wouldn’t it be nice if they had some help reaching the not-so-big donors? I.e. the rest of us?
If Ticketmaster’s system is anything like SAP, then it’s probably modular but can still be tweaked to meet the specific needs of the customer. Ideally, we’d fill out all the info on 1-2 pages, hit submit and be done. Heck, if I can set up something easy like that, anyone can.
Look how simple it can be
It’s my first tip jar, so it took me about 15 minutes to set up because I had to first google the instructions and then take the picture. It uses Pay pal and, for each donation, it deducts a tiny fee (.25-35 cents) plus 1-2-3% depending on the kind of credit card used. I like Pay pal and use it to sell my knitting and crochet patterns. I’ve used it for non-profits, too, which get smaller fees once that status is verified.
I haven’t actually donated to myself, but my tip jar is set up to only require a small handful of screens from beginning to end. FYI, it’s also set up to accept tips of $5. What can I say? I’m optimistic about people’s tipping abilities! And since I’m still experimenting, the link from within this post is for only $5, but if you’re really inclined to donate more, e.g. a multiple of $5, you’re welcome to click on my tip jar link located on the side bar to the right of this post. See? Options!
I invite everyone to please click on the picture and at least take a look to see how quickly it takes you to get to the credit card info. Then tell me which you’d prefer: a few steps for my tip jar? Or 19 steps via Ticketmaster?
Should anyone actually donate (and I would be really surprised if anyone did) I’d use the money to attend additional classical music events, starting with my CSO since I only have tickets for 5 of their 14 classical performances so far.
Rising from the ashes
A few years back the CSO was on the brink of some very scary things and has worked hard to rebound. It’s been a long road and there’s still a ton of work yet to do, but they’re making great strides. I believe that improving the online donation process by simplifying it is a necessary step that will open them up to more fundraising possibilities.
The CSO is a fantastic orchestra, so I think they deserve fantastic online support, don’t you?
On a happy note, their ticket sales have gone up quite a bit in both the Masterworks and Pop series – 30% for Masterworks alone per a recent letter I received from them. Great news. Fabulous news.
If the CSO were to improve its online support, I think it would see great results. So what do you say, CSO? Try it out? You may just find you like the idea.
You may just find it works!