Uses of Impact Data

May 22, 2014
Sean Fenton

Good data collection is arduous work. So, why bother? What are the uses of impact assessment? Why would you create a permanent feedback loop with your audience? We are still learning what really drives arts groups to seek out audience feedback, aside from a general feeling amongst staff members that they should be listening to audiences. Certainly there’s been a great deal of talk at marketing conferences over recent years about embracing a “customer-centric” orientation. But what does “customer-centric” really mean? Is this merely a reference to excellence in box office service, or does it mean something more? Based on our experiences working with arts groups in Australia, the U.K. and U.S., we see a strong rationale building for impact assessment. Why undertake impact assessment?

  • Because the act of providing feedback is a form of aesthetic development (i.e., critical reflection) amongst audience members, and, therefore, a strategic investment in mission;
  • Because an audience member’s commitment to providing feedback represents an important milestone in the customer relationship; if it is done well, it can increase loyalty and retention; conversely, if it is not done well, it can stress the relationship;
  • Because reporting on intrinsic impacts to external stakeholders can help arts groups build sensitivity to, and support for, the intrinsic value of their programs (i.e., focus on artistic, not financial, outcomes);
  • Because receiving impact results on a regular basis can help an arts institution develop a more sophisticated understanding of how its work is received – representing a tangible commitment to continuous improvement;
  • Because, over time, doing impact assessment can help an arts organization build a diagnostic capacity for anticipating how artistic work will be received, and thereby anticipate audience needs in terms of engagement and interpretive assistance.

Inviting and receiving critical feedback on your most important work is never easy, but it is the hallmark of a true professional. Are you ready to assess your impact?

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