"Fundraising is really important for our organisation. And Access thankQ CRM and the NFP Website Suite were critical in helping us achieve those fundraising goals."
Nicole Hermanns, Head of Development at Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group is one of the world’s foremost new music ensembles. Over three decades, BCMG has developed the music of today for the audiences of tomorrow. The ensemble has commissioned over 175 pieces of music from the world’s finest composers and emerging international talent. Many of the works have been commissioned through its innovative pioneering Sound Investment crowd-funding scheme to which over 500 donors have contributed more than £300,000; many of these works have subsequently found their way into worldwide repertoire.
Their subsector, which is arts, culture performance and music has been enormously impacted by the lockdown.
"It’s been enormous. When the first lockdown came in, all of our concert venues shut, we couldn't rehearse, record or perform. And we were able to continue some activity when we had that dip in the summer where the numbers were low enough for us to get out and start to do some activity safely. But we are back in lockdown at the moment so we aren't able to do as much as we can. So the main difference for us is that when we are able to do things at the moment, we are doing them on a much smaller scale and digitally. So that's the main change and shift that we've seen.
"It has been a different delivery model for our learning team as well. So they have been producing lots of online resources. Obviously, a lot of parents suddenly also became the teacher. So there's been lots of things that we've been able to put out that people can use at home and to make music and to keep learning, ” said Seb Huckle, the Executive Director.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways that will continue with us post-Covid is a real transition to doing stuff digitally and working online. So we've managed to stream concerts and do that for the first time with a ticketed audience, for example. A lot of our learning resources are proving to be really popular in lockdown. And whereas before our resources were geared more towards the teachers to implement in the classroom, we've shifted and made them more accessible for students to do at home. So a lot of little things that are really increasing our reach and letting people engage more fully with our work. So we'll definitely keep doing that in the future,” Nicole said.
“Fundraising is really important for our organisation. We wouldn't be able to do our work without philanthropic funds. As you can imagine, with all classical music, in particular, the income that you get from your ticket prices never comes close to the cost of putting on a performance. And that's definitely the case with us as well. And we're really fortunate to have an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation Grant, and that really provides a lot of our core funding. But looking for additional funding from trusts and foundations is critical.
"The funding we get from our individual donors, particularly for sound investment, is something we couldn't do without. And I think we've been really heartened over the past year that our donors, especially our individual donors, have really stepped up. And we've had a few individuals giving campaigns: one for ‘BCMG at home’ that really helped us kickstart the transition to a lot of this digital work, commissioning solo pieces and performances that were premiered online for the first time. And then this September, we did another campaign for learning, celebrating our 20th-anniversary learning activities. And they went really well, both of them were matched campaigns. And I think having that incentive to have their donation matched worked quite well. And Access thankQ and the NFP Website Suite that's linked to it, were critical in helping us achieve those goals,” Nicole explained.
Having thankQ in place has been really useful for BMCG, allowing them to do more planning.
"We can pull the data out of thankQ in a much easier way and really get an idea of who's given when they've given and how much. We knew after the first campaign that having the match really made a difference but we were able to pull out some information from thankQ about really how many new people donated that hadn't before and things like that. And so it's definitely been helpful. And it's something that we're going to continue to learn and figure out how to use it more effectively in the future."
BMCG took the decision to upgrade to the could version of Access thankQ after the first lockdown as they felt they weren't able to use the system to its fullest extent due to some connection issues.
“And there's been a lot of administrative cost savings and time savings for sure. And with the donation side of things, but also with the ticketing as well, because now we have most of our tickets being purchased through our website. And so with them linking together, it's just made it so much easier. And for me as head of development, I can see who's come to which concerts and really get a much better picture of the donor before I talk to them,” Nicole added.
“Just as an example, I took the opportunity when the first lockdown ended to go camping and I realised that I hadn't set up one of my campaigns up properly. And I was able from my mobile phone to completely set up a fundraising campaign and send that from a field in the Cotswolds. So that is definitely not something I would have been able to be upgraded," added Seb.
“Extremely easy. The customer service that we received was exemplary. And we had a really knowledgeable developer working with us all along the way and we opted to have a number of training sessions which were really, really useful. So we got not only a really thorough process covered with somebody that knows all of the ins and outs of the system but we also got somebody who was really used to actually using the system, take us through all the processes that we would need to use. And I have to say as well, we had an effectively off-the-shelf version of thankQ CRM, and it completely meets all of our needs, whereas previously we had had to have functionality developed in thankQ,” Seb said.
“My employees absolutely love it. He's finding it so much easier to get the data in, to pull it out. Reporting is a lot simpler. So I know we're finding it to be a much easier system to use, for sure,” Nicole said.
“We did look at other systems to double-check. But yeah, it was it was largely also the fact that the actual functionality was going to be so similar to what we were so used to working with, but we were removing all of those manual processes too. That would have been adding to those processes had we not been able to, because obviously there's a limited number of integrations that are going to work with any particular system. This one works across all of the systems that we were using.
"So our process is typically that a customer comes onto our website, has an interaction on their where they purchase a ticket or make a donation and then we need to understand and take all that customer's information and work with them to give them the experience that they are expecting either stewardship as a donor or the customer service that is required for event attendance. All of that can be done through the solution that we have with the Access NFP Website Suite and Access thankQ CRM. And it was going to be tough for anybody to come close to that," Seb said.
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