Helping Service Organizations Do More For Their Members

Performing arts service organizations have always been among the most intriguing and engaging clients because they always bring a wealth of projects to the table that require creative solutions.

Case in point, one of my newest clients is the League of Chicago Theatres (LoCT), which serves more than 200 theatres in what for my money is the most vibrant theatre community in the country: Chicago. In their own words:

The League of Chicago Theatres is proud to serve a membership of more than 200 theatres, a rich and varied theatre community ranging from storefront, non-union theatres with budgets under $10,000 to major cultural centers with multi-million dollar shows. We are dedicated to enhancing the art of theatre in the Chicago area through audience development, professional development and support services for theatres and theatre professionals. Find frequently-updated jobs, auditions, and other valuable resources for Chicago theatre artists, administrators and theatre companies.

Toward the end of 2018 we started working on a multi-phased project to overhaul their websites and move their membership management functionality online. First up in that work was updating their ChicagoPlays.com website.

ChicagoPlays.com is where the League showcases events from their more than 200 members. We launched the site on January 1, 2019 with more than 1,000 current and future events, each with multiple occurrences.

And yes, I’m more than a little proud at how great a job my team’s event management functionality handles a gargantuan amount of meta while simultaneously delivering a snappy user experience.

The end goal was to make ChicagoPlays.com a site that was equally useful for those visiting Chicago to find shows as it is for locals to take a deeper dive into the playground that is their theatre scene.

The site also serves to highlight the Year of Chicago Theatre project. This citywide, year-long focus on theatre is the first of its kind in the U.S. and ChicagoPlays.com functions as a central hub for ticket buyers to locate shows, purchase tickets, and connect with theatres.

Working with the LoCT crew, Director of Member Services Ben Thiem, Laura Nair, Marketing Director Laura Nair, and Executive Director Deb Clapp, was a genuine treat. Everyone was on point and had a great deal of time with the organization (as in a decade or longer).

This meant they really know their membership, understood their project goals, and were all-in for success.

All of this helped us get a tremendous amount of work done in the span of only eight weeks. If you’ve ever worked on a project like this, you know how much of a herculean task it is.

When you get a change to explore the site, be sure to check out the following:

  • The custom search filters on the Find A Show They allow site visitors to narrow the massive list of offerings based on neighborhood, genre, and individual theatre along with must-have date range filtering.
  • Anywhere you see an event, you’ll notice the member theatre name is linked. It points to a custom page, like this one for Lookingglass Theatre Company (also one of my clients), that includes a comprehensive list of all their upcoming shows in the system.
  • The member theatres index page, where site visitors can filter results down by neighborhood.
  • The Year of Chicago Theatre landing page. This is one of my personal favs because I love the photography, click to tweet function, and overall layout.
  • The donation page processes predefined and user defined gift amounts and provides the checkout all on the same page.
  • The staff page. The header image makes me smile each and every time 😊

Lions and Tigers and Jobs and Auditions…

Currently, the League has nearly 100 job listings and more than 20 auditions from member theatres. And since jobs boards seem to be one of my firm’s growing specialties, we had loads of fun putting together jobs.leagueofchicagotheatres.org and auditions.leagueofchicagotheatres.org.

The auditions board was especially intriguing due to all the unique fields they needed to accommodate that aren’t part of a typical jobs board.

LoCT is perhaps a bit unusual in that they provide jobs and auditions listings free of charge to member organizations and charge non-members a fee. Accommodating the fee and fee-based listing structure required creating dynamic pricing rules that removed charges for logged in members.

All of this happens seamlessly and automatically.

The next big phase of their project is a complete redesign for the LeagueofChicagoTheatres.org website. In addition to a new look, we’ll be moving their entire member management functionality online. This will ultimately save them hundreds of work hours each year and provide a smoother, easier membership management process for member theatres.

It’s always gratifying to get a new hometown client and the League is a special treat because of how much I love the theatre scene in this town. It really is second to none (sorry NYC).

So, when are you coming to Chicago to see a show?

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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