How Much For The Valkyrie?

It is day 2/3 for my top secret client work here in NYC so another quick post today inspired by a recent article from Joe Patti at Butts In The Seats on category names for giving levels.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-112Patti wonders about the potential value in branching out from the tried and true category names associated with donation levels such as Donor, Supporter, or Benefactor.

It’s a good post and I find myself on the fence but at the same time, I couldn’t readily think of an organization that uses non-traditional names. As such, I want to open it up for feedback; do you know a group that uses catchy category names. Better still, do you know of an organization that changed up their names and experienced an uptick in giving interest.

Take a moment to leave a comment and a link over to any examples.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “How Much For The Valkyrie?

  1. For Corporate annual fund donors, the Dallas Symphony uses the following categories for donors: Maestro, Concertmaster, First Chair, Assistant Principal. For individual annual fund donors, they use: Jaap van Zweden Society (100,000+), Platinum Stradivarius patrons, Gold Stradivarius Patrons, Silver Stradivarius Patrons, Bronze Stradivarius patrons, Stradivarius Patrons, Conductors Circle Leadership, and Musicians Circle (500-999). (Information from the Playbill for a recent classical subscription concert.)

  2. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Dallas Symphony has what I find to be very classy (but what you might call here in your blog, “old school” monikers) names befitting of the classiness of the institution itself and the image it has of itself and which is well-deserved. Classiness does not always have to translate into elitism or exclusivity: it is really about defining — or trying to qualify in just one word — the worth, importance, prestige and pride that all of those who are a part of the organization in any way attach to your organization by virtue of their association and the relationship they have with you. I spent nearly two decades in development and believe me I do not believe for one minute that gimmicks (such as creative “labels” for giving categories) are needed or warranted to woo the patrons from the very highest levels to those who can only contribute in lower levels. Regardless of the name of any defined giving level, it is still largely about personal relationships in the end, and first and foremost, and the fact that the organization must carefully build, maintain and plan for the transition of those relationships over time, and across the entire patron/member/donor/ticket buyer/staff/board member/or what-have-you kind of other constituency you may find at your own orchestra. Call me a bit old fashioned (or maybe a lot so) but what I think this whole field could really benefit from on some level is a return to basics and a few core principles rather than trying to be “all things to all people, all the time.” It’s nuts: the wheat will always separate from the chaff. Always has, always will. Rock on DSO–you have my vote. Keep up the good work.

  3. For the lower levels, we do use traditional names. However, for the higher levels, we use kitschy names such as Top Brass, High Note, Gold Key, and Conductor’s Circle.

    When our supporters ask about what level they are at, we have found that they’d rather hear the narrative versus the monetary total. They already know the dollar amount they have given, however, many would like to hear/see their name “in lights.”

    Though, and given that our music director has programmed Wagner for next season, I think I might just add a Valkyrie level for kicks. 🙂

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