Using Arts Award to support Audience Development for Arts & Cultural organisations

Using Arts Award to support Audience Development for Arts & Cultural organisations

Picture of Annabel Thomas

BY: Annabel Thomas
14 Mar 2022

Something we are passionate about at Arts Award is supporting the next generation of not only arts makers, but arts consumers and audiences. This is why at all levels of Arts Award we ask young people to find out about artists and their work, and most levels also require young people to find out about arts organisations as well. Arts Award can, and does, play a key strategic role in developing and building audiences for many arts organisations, and in this blog we will share some of our key pointers to help you make the most out of your Arts Award offer.

What do we mean by audience development?
Audience development is a term that can mean different things to different people. In the context of this blog we will use it to mean:

  • Audiences of the future
  • Returning customers
  • Multi-generational activities
  • Diversification of your offer
  • Supporting the future of arts engagement, workplace development & arts consumers

Activities that help you to either grow your audience (or customer) base, engage with new customer segments and support repeat engagement from your communities all come under this term, and Arts Award can support you with all aspects of your audience development strategy. By investing in young people with a view to their future audience potential you are not only securing the sustainability of your organisation, you are helping the next generation to have the opportunity to experience arts and culture.

What audience development looks like in practice with Arts Award
There are many forms that audience development with Arts Award can take. One of the most common forms is using Arts Award to build links with local schools. By providing an Arts Award programme or adviser, or being an active Arts Award Supporter, you can provide a meaningful reason for local schools to engage with you, adding value to what schools can provide and creating long-term mutually beneficial partnerships.

Offering Arts Award Discover as part of a family or open day can be a great way to demonstrate inter-generational opportunities at your organisation, as well as showcasing your venue (if you have one) as a central part of your community. Working with families may mean that parents/carers can also achieve their Discover if they are under the age of 25, and all ages will enjoy working towards something creative together. Having a certificate with your organisation name on it may also help prompt repeat visits – which is what we all hope for!

Other arts and cultural organisations use Arts Award linked to a youth board or youth engagement programme. At higher levels we ask for young people to take the lead on arts projects, and this can be a great way to give agency and leadership opportunities to the young people in your community. By doing this you are not only ensuring that the voices and views of young people are reflected in your organisation, you are also helping to develop valuable employability skills, helping to feed into the future arts workforce.

Useful hints and tips when developing audience development strategies

1. Be mindful of the outcome – do you want to support repeat attendance, build links with schools or engage marginalised communities?
2. Make life easy for schools. Have you made a sample risk assessment? Is it clear in your marketing and messaging if there is a space to eat lunch, park the coach or where the loos are?
3. Don’t just give away tickets. Be strategic and use free or reduced price entry as part of a wider plan – especially for schools that are not always able to get permission to attend things at late notice.
4. Make it clear if programmes and offers are a one-off or ongoing.
5. Highlight the wider benefits of engaging with your programmes and Arts Award – for example increased confidence, sense of ownership of cultural spaces or other key messages you want to communicate

Plan, do, review
Just as with Arts Award, make sure you have time to review the outcomes of your strategies and Arts Award work. Reflect on what is working for your organisation and what could be doing better. There is no one size fits all and these are all just suggestions for how Arts Award can add value to your audience development strategy.

Our recent webinar exploring these themes digs into the areas explored here in more depth with case study examples.

Check out our range of webinars
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