What Leaders Should be Measuring: Six New Metrics from TRG Arts

Between CRM systems, social media management, and Google Analytics, arts organizations today have access to more data than ever before. Indeed, this unprecedented access has allowed for arts leaders to measure their performance more accurately and holistically than in the past. But in this ever expanding sea of data, how does an arts leader decide what information is the most important to focus on extrapolating trends on?

TRG Arts, consultants for arts organizations of all types, is helping solve this problem. Beginning in mid-September, TRG arts began publishing videos to identify key metrics of patron activity that arts institutions should be looking at. The results are often surprising—some metrics might be entirely foreign to some organizations. Through a series of six 8-minute videos, six different consultants at TRG explain and justify all of these metrics, and I left convinced by the necessity of each.

The first metric, Patron Generated Revenue, presents an entirely new way of thinking about where money actually comes from. Leaders are familiar with the traditional dichotomy between earned and contributed income, however this metric explodes that framework to instead look at money that is coming from patrons (including earned income, and donations from individuals) and money that is coming from government grants and private foundations. According to TRG Arts, this metric allows organizations to focus on all points in the ladder of loyalty—the stair-like path from single ticket buyer to subscriber to donor.

Metrics two and three have similar goals. Active Patron Participation and New Audience Churn Rate evaluate the health of audience development initiatives. Active Audience Participation looks at how many patrons have been active in the last two years, indicating the number of prospects for an organization, while Audience Churn Rate gives a glimpse at the number of patrons lost each year. This indicator is a reminder that retention requires focus and that growth is incremental.

Perhaps the most intriguing metric, Percentage of Subscriber Donors, answers the question “can subscription/membership renewal rates be too high?” According to TRG Arts, the answer is a resounding yes—very high renewal rates indicate a complacent and stagnant membership. TRG Arts proposes a different metric to measure loyalty: what percentage of subscribers make donations in addition to their subscription package? By focusing on an organization’s strongest advocates, leaders can get a more realistic glimpse at how well audiences support a company, shining a focused light at the top of the performing arts ladder of loyalty.

Metrics five and six introduce new ways of measuring financial success on a show-to-show basis (replacing Percent Capacity Sold) while stressing the importance of collecting complete contact information from all constituents. These two measures are perhaps the most common-sense suggestions in the series, though they are still excellent reminders that accurate revenue information and contact details are valuable assets to any organization.

The videos offer compressed information comparable to slide shares. Static images and charts are revealed in sequences, illustrating the key ideas explained via one of TRG Arts’ leaders. This framework is simple, and though the pacing sometimes feels slow, the level of detail in each video is so high that few questions are left unanswered. And in case you don’t have the time to watch the videos (they are all about eight minutes long), a full transcript is provided for each.

At the end of the day, arts organizations can only measure so much—they also have to implement. But as TRG Arts reminds us, “what is measured, is managed.” Decisions about what metrics to track inform the way arts organizations define success and work towards it. These six metrics help any arts leader who wants to rethink the way she measures health and success in order to create strategy. 


Banner image by Mason Bryant, licensed under Creative Commons.