By Melissa Farzin
During the pandemic, MPS has been extra busy delivering consulting services to nonprofits all over the country. We recently completed a project for a Chicago-based music collective, CHAI Collaborative Ensemble, dedicated to honoring history, advocating for new works, and engaging with communities through performances of vocal and instrumental chamber music.
The pandemic has been challenging for many of us, but can you imagine how hard it must have hit CHAI, a small nonprofit, that (up until 2020) subsisted on in-person performances and cultivated its customer base via social interactions at live events? Now they needed to gain a more complete understanding of their audience so they could design appealing programming for a virtual environment. CHAI came to MPS, hoping to improve their customer outreach and meaningfully engage with their audience digitally until social distancing rules are lifted. After that, they were considering moving to a hybrid face-to-face/virtual approach.
Three MPS consultants responded to the request. Julianna Driskel, Melissa Farzin, and Wes Cronkite, coming from diverse locations, contracts, and backgrounds, put their heads together (virtually of course) from October 2020 through March 2021, to help CHAI reach new milestones.
Team MPS suggested starting with a survey. How had their customers heard about CHAI? Would they consider participating in virtual programming on a regular basis even after COVID? What types of performances were they interested in? In the past, CHAI had surveyed customers informally, mostly through organic conversation after events. This would be the first time they formally surveyed their customers. (That’s a major milestone!)
The MPS team conducted industry research, internal research, and ultimately, with the help of their CHAI counterparts, created a comprehensive eleven-question survey on a user-friendly platform, Survey Monkey. Recognizing that this form of outreach would be new territory for CHAI and its audience, the consultants created a communication cadence to help boost the survey over the two weeks it was open.
Fast forward to the second week of January, when the survey closed and the team had collected the desired information. MPS consultants found that many respondents were open to the idea of blended performances. The attitude was, “Keep it virtual during COVID-19, and while I prefer in-person, I’d be open to a hybrid approach even after things get back to normal.”
MPS determined it would be best to center recommendations around three main areas of communication:
The camaraderie between the MPS team and our CHAI clients was excellent. Collaborating with such open and appreciative clients makes a huge difference in the success of a project. MPS was able to provide them with the guidance and information they needed to empower their growth in extremely trying times. As with all our clients, our hope is to offer them tools to grow and succeed well beyond their MPS engagement.