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ArtsBoston aids nonprofits in art of data mining

ArtsBoston member organizations include the BSO.Hilary Scott

ArtsBoston is teaching other US nonprofits the art of data mining.

For decades, art institutions have individually collected basic information about their own subscribers and donors — names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mails — as part of their marketing strategy.

But ArtsBoston, a nonprofit that helps organizations with their marketing needs, has taken that concept a step further by convincing 60 of its 150 area members — from the Boston Symphony Orchestra to the Danforth Museum in Framingham — to pool their data to get a more comprehensive, crossover look at the region’s arts scene and patrons.

ArtsBoston supplemented that data with demographics on about 1.4 million households in Greater Boston, including general income, age, family size, and ethnic background of current and potential patrons.


The result: a rich array of marketing data that members use to target people via advertisements, mailings, phone calls, and e-mail. “We can now step back and look at the regional market in ways we could never do before,” said John Beck, deputy director at ArtsBoston.

Last year, ArtsBoston unveiled its state-of-the-art database at a Philadelphia conference for similar arts-services organizations, showing how aggressive data mining can increase ticket sales and fund-raising.

“It’s already changing the world of arts marketing,” said Catherine Peterson, executive director of ArtsBoston. “Before, we did marketing mostly from the gut or instinct, with limited hard data. But this is real, deep data that allows you to spend less on marketing for better results.”

Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at jayfitzmedia@gmail.com.