Reaching Out

One of the most common goals written by arts groups is to increase membership and/or audience. Another is financial stability. Enhancing the quality of life in the community is often next on the list. Success in these areas depends on outreach.

Basic arithmetic demonstrates the need for outreach efforts by arts organizations. Draw a circle on a map that extends over the geographic region you serve. Add up the populations of the communities within the circle. Now add up your audiences and membership. How do the numbers compare?

Who Isn’t Participating In Your Programs?
Who are the people who are not benefiting from your programs and activities? Where do they live and work? Are there whole groups divided from your efforts by geography, ethnicity, economics, or social structure? What resources do they have to contribute that you are overlooking? What special needs do they have that you could be addressing?

How Do You Get Them To Participate?
Start by identifying the new audience you want to attract. Typically, you will have more luck with groups that already see themselves as a group or community. Find a couple of movers and shakers from within that community to work with you to develop programs that are tailored to their needs. Don\’t believe you can design the programs without them. Have them help you identify the barriers and find ways to address them. Some considerations:

  • Marketing: Making sure your messages reach your whole market
  • Young people: Take steps to insure that all students are able to take advantage of the arts opportunities you offer. Remember them when you plan your programs and marketing
  • Transportation: Provide assistance and rides for senior citizens and others with special needs
  • Board development: Develop a board of directors that reflects the makeup of the community
  • Accessibility: Present your programs in accessible facilities
  • Expansion of services: Present your programs in neighboring towns
  • Attendance at other community events: Support the efforts of other groups
  • Volunteer recruitment: Invite volunteers from new sources
  • Diverse programming: Explore the arts of different cultures
  • Inclusion: Celebrate all local heritage

Adapted from the South Dakotans for the Arts
Community Arts Handbook