From the Theatre Supervisor: Change to Membership
Hello Majestic Folk!
Early on, we discovered that people weren’t buying memberships very often. When we asked folks about the perks, such as a discount on tickets and being able to purchase tickets earlier than the general public, we were surprised to hear from a majority that these factors didn’t figure into why they supported the Majestic. The general message we’ve received at forums and in talking to individual patrons was, “Those things are nice, but I really don’t bother with membership. I just donate to support the theater.”
So, last summer, we combined membership and donation into one feature. The new paradigm was that if someone donated more than $30 per year, they were a member for that year. It simplified the transaction process and made it all one program. However, due to the way our ticketing and donation program Arts People interacts with the City’s financial system, it also increased staff expenses by requiring two additional steps in our reconciliation process. Due to legal requirements, when processing the donation, we had to split it into two portions: the donation and then the membership component as we are required by law to treat those as different kinds of transactions. Confused yet? I know I was.
But we went with it for the Fall season, with the plan to track the staff hours and reassess after the new year. We recently completed this process and found that the staff hours required to support the program actually costs more than the $30 portion of the donation, as there are several staff involved and several hours spent. A conundrum.
Another factor we had to consider was the reduced revenue involved in offering a discount to our members. With discounts being between $2 and $5 dollars, the amount adds up quickly and even further depletes the impact of the $30 membership portion. Additionally, we noticed that many of our members were also covered by other discount qualifications, being either seniors or students.
Another aspect of the membership program was the ability to purchase tickets in advance of public sales. On average, only ten to fifteen people did this and because our ticketing program Arts People doesn’t have an option that supports this, it forced the patron to call in and do the purchase manually. More staff time and an unsmooth process for the patron.
After all of the analysis and discussion with our City Finance department, our patrons, and among our staff, we decided that the membership program should end as it wasn’t actually benefiting the theater. Given that the Majestic does not receive operational support from taxes and thus has to operate budget neutral, the fiscal impacts of both the staff time and the reduced revenue makes the current membership paradigm unsustainable.
So, effective immediately, we will no longer be offering the purchase of new memberships. We will continue to honor member pricing until the end of our fiscal year in June, but will not be selling new memberships. Rather than offering tickets to members six weeks out and to the public four weeks out, we will now be starting ticket sales eight weeks in advance and will be emailing all donors prior to the on sale date to give them a small edge in securing the best seats.
This was not an easy decision for us, as our donors and volunteers are the life blood of the Majestic and taking anything away from them pains us. But to secure the fiscal stability of the Majestic long term, and especially during these first years of operation as a part of the City, it was a decision that needed to be made.
If you’re upset by this or would like to talk to me about it, please don’t hesitate to email me to schedule an appointment.
Majestic Theatre Supervisor
City of Corvallis Parks and Recreation