Leveraging Digital Fundraising to Support Local Artists

Overview

Art Enables is an art gallery and vocational arts program in Washington D.C. dedicated to creating opportunities for artists with disabilities and mental health challenges to make, market, and earn income from their artwork. In addition, artists build the skills, relationships, and experience necessary for a successful career in the arts and forge meaningful connections with our staff and one another. Art Enables offers our artists the creative space, materials, and marketing support they need to develop and succeed as professionals.

Client

The Outcome

Year over year, Art Enables saw an increase in both the number of gifts and total revenue — a signal that their first foray into traditional digital year-end fundraising effort was a strong one, and that the Art Enables community was poised and primed to support the mission once asked. To date in the calendar year 2021, donation revenue is up 96% YoY and art and merchandise sales are up 74% YoY.

300%

35%

23.9%

YoY Increase in average gift size

YoY increase in the number of online gifts

Average Email Appeal Open Rate

The Challenge

When Art Enables shifted to a remote model, critical grant funding dried up. Art Enables needed to rely more heavily on individuals to make up the gap.

For the first time, Art Enables launched a matching gift challenge over email, organic social media, paid media, and a homepage lightbox. The size of their email list would demand strong response rates and a carefully calibrated email calendar to avoid overloading a limited audience.

The Strategy

The year-end giving season was a time for Art Enables to return to the bread and butter of their mission, while emphasizing the new urgency 2020 has brought to their work — and the reasons donor support became even more important.  Our campaign centered around four cornerstone messaging themes:

The Problem: Art Enables’ artists have been stuck at home during this pandemic like the rest of us. But for those we serve, the stakes are often even higher. Art Enables is a personal and professional lifeline for our 40 resident artists, many of whom live in group homes, lacking adequate space and materials to create and make their art.

The Solution: To ensure ongoing artistic support, Art Enables pivoted to a virtual support model, in which artists receive a personalized kit of materials, weekly prompts, 1:1 coaching sessions, Zoom meetings, and online exhibitions. We never closed, and with your help, we never will.

Why now:  Pandemic restrictions have severely impacted our funding. Key government funding that once funded half our programs has been slashed by nearly three-quarters, and if we’re going to maintain our virtual services, we need your support, right now.

Donor as Hero: Our 40 resident artists, who find solace, meaning, and a professional identity through their artwork are relying on you, our supporters, to keep Art-Enables alive. Our virtual programs receive no government funding, which means they rest in your hands.

Implementation

Art Enables’ End of Year (EOY) campaign began the first week of November with a news roundup, and ended the first week of January with a profuse thank-you to the Art Enables email list. In sum, this constituted 17 total emails, 10 of which asked for purchases or donations.

We focused our efforts on cultivation and engagement in November, before turning to an e-commerce ask on Cyber Monday. In December, we spaced three periods of fundraising appeals around (1) Giving Tuesday, (2) a tangible giving push mid-month, and (3) a final matching gift effort from 12/29-12/31.

Especially if you haven’t asked for money in a while, remind your list why they love you with a cultivation series that shows off your results and recognition, while engaging your audience. Don’t forget to heap gratitude on your audience every step of the way.

It’s important to organize your solicitations around key dates in the giving calendar. Knowing Giving Tuesday and the final week of the year are prime time for fundraising, we helped Art Enables launch compelling, transactional matching gift challenges to seize these moments.

Between these tentpoles, we needed to get creative — and so we got tangible, with a giving drive based around $50 home artist kits needed for remote programming.

This tangible giving push didn’t just hold its own with the matching gift challenge — the two sends were the single most productive in the entire year-end cadence!

We worked with our design team to forge an eye-grabbing campaign aesthetic that put artwork front and center, and showed off the creativity that resident artists bring to the table every single day.

What’s more, we leveraged artists’ voices with personal stories of the lifelines provided by Art Enables. Our 12/30 send, under resident artist Sarah Swan’s name, outperformed the less personal appeals that followed on 12/31 — an impressive feat that underscores the power of a sincere, personal ask.