Friday, April 28, 2006

Business and the Arts Case Study #6

Theatre Saskatchewan

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Theatre Saskatchewan Incorporated (TSI) represents all aspects of community theatre in Saskatchewan and – through member funding, education, awareness and festival events – fosters accessibility to all who wish to participate. Theatre Saskatchewan Inc.’s vision is to build a strong foundation for theatre which allows all people in Saskatchewan accessibility to live drama. TSI is the oldest continual theatre organization in Canada. At all Festivals, since 1933, trophies have been awarded. Cameron McIntosh, former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, donated the first trophy. It was created in memory of his father. Other trophies have since been added, bringing the current total to thirteen.

Business support for Theatre Saskatchewan often comes from rural businesses in the communities where a festival competition is being held. Businesses provide food in-kind for the green room, general meeting rooms in-kind, and in-kind accommodations for performers. The approach for this support is made at the local level by someone living in the community who knows the business owner.

Theatre Saskatchewan has also received support from other businesses like breweries who have donated cases of product when additional product is purchased. The amount of business support TSI receives varies from year to year. If the business has offices in other regions where a festival is held in subsequent years, a supportive business will be approached again. In other cases, businesses in one community have suggested contacting one of their colleagues in a different community.

Board members assist management in identifying potential prospects. TSI regularly monitors which businesses in the province are sponsoring similar activities and develops a list of contacts annually. A sponsor package is prepared by management and approved by the Executive. When board members have a personal connection to a business, they will drop the package off to reinforce the personal connection. Follow-up is then the responsibility of management. When no personal connection is present, the business is sent a sponsor package, soon followed by phone call from the Executive Director.

The responses from these packages are eventually divided into three categories: No (the business is not interested in providing and never will be); Maybe (the business has indicated support for the program but cannot yet commit); and Yes (the business has indicated they will support now or possibly in the future). Nurturing the business starts with putting the ‘maybe’ and ‘yes’ businesses on a mailing list for TSI information and newsletters.

Those businesses that have provided support rarely realize that there are 90 theatre groups across the province, a fact which often opens the door to beginning a dialogue about TSI, its mandate and programs. Businesses have generally been interested in supporting the organization in order to increase their exposure and enhance their profile across Saskatchewan. The Executive Director maintains the relationship by phoning the business from time to time and, if possible, meeting them in person. The purpose is to ensure the business is informed and happy with the relationship.

Each community is different, states Theatre Saskatchewan. Businesses in larger communities are frequently approached by a variety of organizations and causes; competition is fierce and support is hard to garner. In smaller communities, everyone knows everyone and TSI organizers often sit on a variety of committees. This personal interaction makes soliciting and obtaining business support easier – for cash or in-kind product, services or equipment.

Theatre Saskatchewan has been working hard over the past three years to increase business support for their programs, and they feel the personal touch is critical. TSI says developing relationships with business is like developing a friendship – it must be nurtured. It is important to keep talking to the business throughout the year, not only when the organization is approaching the business for support.

This article explains that it is not always necessary to have a personal connection to business (although it does help) but it is imperative for organizations to nurture their relationship with business, not unlike how a friendship would be maintained – a principle that was outlined in the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance report “Business & the Arts: Service Relationship Indicators”. For a copy of this report, please contact the SAA at (306) 780-9820 or outreach@artsalliance.sk.ca.

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