Berkshire County, MA

Contact Name
John Beck
Project Dates
2010 - Present
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2011
The Berkshires Audience Initiative came out of a need addressed by Jennifer Dowley at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in the Spring of 2010. There was a desire among arts and cultural organizations to better understand their existing audiences and to work collaboratively on a regional arts participation project. An idea was brought up of replicating a program that ArtsBoston had been running in Boston for six years called the ArtsBoston Big List. Jennifer Dowley's goal was to create a project that arts and cultural organizations could work together on collaboratively and create something that would benefit the entire community - something that organizations could not do on their own.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
The year one project goals were to create a baseline of audience participations data. By aggregating participation data from 25 leading organizations we will be able to create a snapshot of who our audience is today (demographic, geographic etc.) and how they interact between organizations. Establishing this baseline will allow us to analyze our audiences, determine who is coming to cultural institutions in this region, and set outcomes for who we want to be reaching. It will also help us identify what gaps there are and who isn't attending - which we'll be able to track over time.
Have they changed over time?
The initial findings of our community reports will be presented at our March, 2011 community meeting; they will certainly be conversation starters. We have 300,000 unique households in the project and community reports are being generated on demographics, geographic penetration, crossover between organizations etc. The first report we have which is sure to be a conversation starter is that 14% of audiences attended more than one organization. That means that 86% of Berkshires audiences are going to one organization and one organization only.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
The Berkshires Audience Initiative is managed by ArtsBoston, a non-profit arts service organization. Target Resource Group (TRG), a marketing consulting company, is the vendor for this program. Funding is provided by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation through a grant from The Kresge Foundation.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The project was implemented through a series of community info sessions and the establishment of a Berkshires Audience Initiative Task Force - comprised of arts and cultural leaders from the region. This was essential to building a community of practice and a group of organizations willing to collaborate by sharing audience data in order to elevate market knowledge for the entire sector.
Have they been refined over time?
The task force made it clear that this was not to be a project about direct marketing and mailing list exhanges, instead it was to be a project about knowledge and about turning that knowledge into action. Together we identified the appropriate vendor whose approach to the community database project aligned with our own goals and chose TRG to take on the creation of the community database, reporting analysis, and the administration of list trades
What were your major obstacles?
Major Obstacles: - ArtsBoston not familiar with the cultural landscape of the Berkshires and the existing relationships - Initial uneasiness about sharing data between organiztions - Desire to have Tanglewood participate - Other obstacles including: data preparation, second home owners, email vs. mail
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Overcoming obstacles - Establishing a task force of key cultural organizations - sharing ownership or project - Leadership of Jennifer Dowley from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation - Peer to peer selling on the project - Examples of how other communities around the country have used this research as a marketing and advocacy tool
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
See above
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
While we are just beginning, I feel like this project has already had a big impact on the community. Just through the collaborative process of launching the program, organizations have come together in the same room and worked collectively on audience development in a way that they have not before.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
The original goals of setting a baseline have definitely been achieved - now it is all about what we do with the information that we've gathered. How do we continue this conversation year 'round and ensure that the Berkshires Audience Initiative actually affects how we do business and how we talk to our audiences. We will be convening groups throughout the year as part of this "Learning Network" as well as digging into the research deeper through our google group for the BAI
Were there unexpected impacts?
Organizations have come together in the same room and worked collectively on audience development in a way that they have not before.
CCX Workshop Handout