Donor Relations at a Classical Music Festival: Three Essentials About the Ever-Changing Field
More often than not, if you live in the Eugene area and have the slightest appreciation for classical music you have heard of the Oregon Bach Festival. Taking place in Eugene each summer, the world-renowned festival celebrates the works of J.S. Bach and others. It has featured some of the most celebrated musicians of our time, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Joshua Bell.
On Friday, Oct. 5, I had the pleasure of speaking with Patrick Hosfield, director of corporate and donor relations at the Oregon Bach Festival. The conversation not only opened my eyes to the intricacies of donor relations but also got me excited to see where this field goes in the course of my career.
Here are three essential tips I learned about success in the donor relations field:
1. A cyclic season means an ever-changing work year.
The actual Oregon Bach Festival only takes place for a couple weeks during the summer; this year the dates are June 28-July 14. But having a music festival during the summer does not mean a director of donor relations is off the hook during the fall and winter months.
Patrick Hosfield explained to me that writing grants is basically a yearlong task when working in donor relations; his undergraduate degree in English has obviously helped quite a lot in this department. As the festival grows closer, tasks begin to change.
The donor relations department keeps tabs on every donor, whether the donation was $100 or $100,000. A lot of effort is put into making sure donors are taken care of (e.g., Did they get the correct tickets? Have they responded to their invitations?). This kind of work continues during the festival.
2. Being detail-oriented is key.
A director of donor relations is in charge of keeping track of many people and a lot of numbers. A database is used to track and document the donors, including their donation amounts, tickets they will receive, and events they will attend.
This kind of attention to detail is also used when dealing with sponsors. In the above picture you can see the Oregon Bach Festival booklet that contains everything you could possibly need to know about the festival; from concerts to guest artists and advertisements to lists of donors, it’s all presented in this single document.
As a donor relations professional in this field, it’s important to be detail-oriented so that if a sponsor asks you specific dates and places you ran their advertisement, you have accurate and easily accessed information for them.
3. Be aware of the growing effects of the Internet.
When I asked Mr. Hosfield about changes in the industry in the next 5-10 years, it started a conversation about social media and the Internet. Of course, the ways of the Internet are changing every industry these days, but as far as the Oregon Bach Festival is concerned, it brought up some interesting questions.
Our society has quickly shifted to an “everything online” mentality, which works well for many industries. However, these kinds of music festivals cater to an older crowd who are part of a generation that missed learning about the Internet. Therefore, a lot of things are still done the traditional way, such as sending printed newsletters and receiving donations made on actual checks.
As the next generation who is comfortable with the Internet moves into this older category, industries like the Oregon Bach Festival will be able to move more things online. But then there are questions about the younger generations.
With increasing cuts in the music education world, it’s hard to say if enough members of these younger generations will even have an interest in classical music as they get older. And because they will have been raised on social media and can access everything online, what will motivate them to come out for a classical music concert?
Hopefully that generation will still appreciate the virtues of attending a live performance. No matter how good the sound can be on recordings these days, nothing can beat sitting in a performance hall and having live music fill your ears.