University Musical Society (UMS) in Ann Arbor, Michigan is one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious presenting organizations, attracting world class performing artists and attractions each season to the University of Michigan campus. WolfBrown and UMS have worked together for over 20 years on a variety of research studies, including numerous studies commissioned by Major University Presenters, of which UMS is a member. Between 2015 and 2019, UMS commissioned four phases of research in connection with its grant through The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability program. Through this multi-year effort, UMS explored how to expand the audience for its more adventurous “Renegade” strand of programming.
Phase 1: Understanding the Landscape of Risk-taking and Adventurousness
In its initial cycle of research, UMS gained a more nuanced understanding of current and potential Renegade buyers through individual depth interviews and focus groups, and built a working attitudinal definition of “adventurousness” through survey research comparing results for Renegade buyers and non-Renegade buyers.
Phase 2: Operationalizing Adventurousness, Part 1, Quantitative Analysis and Model Development
Moving into its second year of The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability grant program, UMS sought to mine its database of ticket buyers for qualified prospects for Renegade presentations in the 2016-17 season. Having gained a more nuanced understanding of current and potential Renegade buyers in Phase 1, UMS turned its attention to the task of operationalizing the idea of “adventurousness” in Phase 2 – testing and refining both behavioral and attitudinal definitions of adventurousness, with the goal of incorporating an “Adventurousness Index” into its Tessitura database for use in targeting prospects for Renegade products.
Phase 3: Operationalizing Adventurousness, Part 2, Qualitative Analysis
Moving into its third year of The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability grant program, UMS sought to deepen its understanding of prospects for Renegade presentations during the 2017-18 season. Building on its Year 2 work with WolfBrown developing quantitative indicators of adventurousness, the next phase of work cross-examined customer attitudes about adventurous artistic work through focus group research. The purpose of the research was to further inform UMS’s strategies for expanding the base of prospects for Renegade presentations.
Phase 4: Qualitative Research to Test the Philanthropic Case for Supporting Renegade Programs, and to Test Hybrid Ticket/Philanthropic Offers for UMS’s “No Safety Net” festival.
The final track of inquiry addressed UMS’ research questions about the plausibility of raising designated philanthropic money for Renegade programming. The questioning revolved around the case for supporting Renegade programs, issues around making designated vs. undesignated gifts, core values associated with Renegade, messages likely to resonate with potential donors, and structural alternatives for campaigns/approaches.