This is an updated version of a previously published article that has been edited for clarity.
Thus far, we have gathered more than 150 pages of community input on Hatch Open and Artse United’s vision for designing a cooperative digital future for managing the arts, including issues of “digital life”, “managing creativity”, “capturing insight”, “promoting justice”, and more in the visual, performing, and disability arts.
In Part 3 below, we share emerging insights on evaluating the impact of the arts. See Part 1 for insights on the digital life of Ontario arts workers, Part 2 for general practices and desires for managing the arts, and Part 4 for explorations of digital justice in the arts.
When asked what types of data and information will help illustrate their impact and promote learning and insight, participants identified an array of public and private sources including administration and programming, finance, marketing, fundraising, equity and more. While many also struggled with the question (“(it is) not an issue we have thought about”, “we need to think about business intelligence more…I don’t believe we take enough time to do that currently”), examples identified include:
Administration: In regards to data and statistics, some participants identified the need to “visualize data/statistics in creative ways to display a story”, for a more comprehensive arts and cultural database to “inform reports and analysis about the sector”, and a way to generate “historic data” easily. Others desired a “place where stats can easily be entered in real time” such as “attendance, box office revenue, number of artists”, as well as a way to transfer statistical information to “funders and promotional materials”. Additional desires included a way to share “insights into policies, practices, and procedure documents” and access to “quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate and share the challenges, successes, and impacts of my arts career”.
Human resources: Participants desired information on volunteer management such as “skills, participation, and feedback,” and information for boards such as “skills, background, and contributions”. Information for new and current staff such as “impact of professional development”, programming decisions and updates, meetings notes, and “staff stories that proceeded me” were also subjects that came up.
Programming: Participants voiced the need for a software that would provide support for “identifying and addressing gaps and needs in programming”. This might include tools such as events calendars for “planning/routing and other shared opportunities”, and archives of reviews, playbills, recordings, photos, and promotional videos. Keeping track of information about past and present artwork such as materials used, “dimensions, photos, prices, and artist statements” was also important.
Finance: In terms of budgeting, participants pinpointed tracking “percentage of budget time and money” to organization’s activities, assisting with “reasonable asks” to government and corporate funders, and identifying best/worst/most likely budgets based on program changes. Benchmarks of “staff salaries, artists’ fees, advisory groups” were also identified by participants as important to them. Additionally, one participants sought to gain data on how organizations are “changing communities’ investment and prioritization of arts and culture”.
Sales: Participants identified that information about “bums in seats” and “number of participants in sessions” was important to them. Tools such as “visual graphics that show the impact of attendance figures and demographics,” “box office theories” that analyzed changing variables, and automated reporting customized to need were also mentioned.
Promotions: Tracking promotions with associated sales numbers and “media engagement/online presence” was of concern to participants. Promotions in relation to search engines also came up: “Google analytics that shows me the top earning campaigns or platforms from which I can take an informed decision”, “click-through rates on Google ads”, and “amount of presence when doing a Google/Bing search (i.e., number of online listings, articles, reviews)”. Participants also desired data that provided an analysis of brand and message consistency.
Social media: Participants identified “digital realm hype (online, social, blogsphere)”, “number of social media likes, shares, retweets, positive comments, views, reviews”, “number of ‘bounced’ postings online”, and “number of newsletter opens” as meaningful data that could be collected.
Fundraising: For participants, tools that address “grant development management or stewardship” would be beneficial. Specifically for funders, ways to “capture the impact of an organization, sell our brand to sponsors, and create an understanding of why what we are doing is worth funding/investing in” were identified as important. Participants were also interested in data regarding “in-kind donations”, and “donor likes, memberships, birthdays, and where else they donated to”.
Audiences: Participants identified relationship building/maintaining and connectivity as areas of importance in audience data. This included using qualitative audience experiences through digital, “maintaining relationships through successes in conflict resolution”, and recording audience engagement through testimonials, “talkbacks, feedback surveys, (and) ongoing communications”. Participants also saw feedback from the other side of the curtain such as “cast-mates
and “production teams”, both written and oral, as beneficial data. Regarding connectivity, participants said using digital to help audiences “feel connected (to us) even if they cannot physically (be present)” and “what made (people) want to connect with the organization” was important data to participants.
Equity: Equity statistics such as the “gender breakdown of lineup, audience, etc” were identified as relevant data. Additionally, “impact data for Black theatre companies, such as: how many Black-identifying people are working in theatre and do they see themselves and their stories represented; stories of successful Black theatre artists supported by our company; number of Black audience members compared to other theatres; measuring stress and workload for staff through one theatre season and how does this change depending on how many shows we are running or in-between shows; is the impact of our stories on stage worth the stress/work impact on staff; are staff being paid enough; do Black artists feel empowered and taken care of; are there new Black Canadian plays and are they getting recognized or receiving awards”.