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Symphonies, Orchestras, and Showing Supporters the Love With Rachel Rossos Gallant

Introduction

In this episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast with Ben Freda, Rachel Rossos Gallant, Vice President of Marketing and Memberships at the League of American Orchestras, shares strategies for building community among orchestra patrons and discusses the organization’s shift to digital platforms. Rachel also explores how music perception inspires innovative marketing techniques and the challenges and advantages of transitioning a longstanding print publication into the digital age.

Today's Guest
Rachel Rossos Gallant

Rachel Rossos Gallant

Rachel Rossos Gallant is the Vice President of Marketing and Memberships at the League of American Orchestras. As an alumna of the League’s Executive Leadership Program, she brings nearly two decades of experience in revenue generation, customer retention, and enhancing the customer experience within orchestras. Rachel is dedicated to advancing the field and is excited to contribute to the League’s mission on a broader scale. Beyond her professional commitments, Rachel is an accomplished singer, songwriter, producer, and poet, frequently collaborating with her husband on various recording projects.

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Rachel Rossos Gallant image description

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [1:39] The impact of relationship marketing and customer loyalty on nonprofits
  • [2:40] Enhancing professional creativity and innovation through personal artistic pursuits
  • [3:38] The value of music education and its influence on career paths
  • [4:39] The power of live performances in forging memorable connections
  • [10:34] Why increasing attendance frequency leads to greater audience loyalty 
  • [14:38] How strategic marketing initiatives reinvigorate a declining subscriber base
  • [22:32] Digital tools and platforms for expanding nonprofit reach and engagement
  • [27:58] Adjusting communication strategies based on audience familiarity and relationship depth
  • [41:15] Benefits of shifting from traditional print to a digital-first approach

In this episode…

In the world of nonprofits, particularly within the realm of music organizations, harnessing the power of relationship marketing and customer loyalty is crucial for long-term success. How does building and maintaining strong relationships with supporters strengthen the organization’s foundation and foster a loyal community essential for sustained growth and impact?

Singer-songwriter Rachel Rossos Gallant proposes personal artistic pursuits, like composing or performing, to significantly enhance professional creativity and innovation. When nonprofit leaders and marketers embrace these activities, they infuse their work with fresh ideas, driving the organization forward with renewed energy and vision. By integrating marketing initiatives, communication strategies, and digital tools, nonprofits in the music sector can harness the power of music and marketing to drive growth, enhance engagement, and achieve their mission more effectively.

In this episode of the Nonprofit Thrive podcast with Ben Freda, Rachel Rossos Gallant, Vice President of Marketing and Memberships at the League of American Orchestras, shares strategies for building community among orchestra patrons and discusses the organization’s shift to digital platforms. Rachel also explores how music perception inspires innovative marketing techniques and the challenges and advantages of transitioning a longstanding print publication into the digital age.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Quotable Moments:

  • “Music is connecting to people, and that’s the magic.”
  • “It’s not just what you’re offering, but how you’re treating your audience that matters.”
  • “Digital transformation doesn’t eliminate the need for personal, human-centered experiences.”
  • “The more we embrace the digital space, the more we need to remember why people connect with us in the first place.”
  • “Sometimes it’s not about changing your innate responses, but learning to live with them and use them to your advantage.”

Action Steps:

  1. Implement relationship marketing to enhance customer loyalty: Building genuine connections can create a sense of community and increase repeat engagements.
  2. Analyze audience data for better engagement: By understanding audience behavior, orchestras can tailor experiences that encourage more frequent attendance.
  3. Embrace digital tools and platforms for greater outreach: Leveraging technology can help orchestras reach a wider audience and create more timely, relevant content.
  4. Adjust communication strategies based on patrons’ longevity: Orchestrations should provide more substantial and less frequent updates to long-term subscribers to honor their commitment.
  5. Transition to a digital-first publication approach when necessary: Moving to a digital platform can provide more timely, accessible content and help grow readership.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by BFC Digital.

At BFC Digital, we help nonprofit organizations thrive on the web so they can improve the world.

Our team of creative and tech experts understands that an online presence can help foundations and organizations accomplish their missions. That’s where we come in. Over the last decade, we’ve advised our clients on web design, front- and back-end development, and tech support.

We’re committed to supporting a select set of clients who continually inspire us with their vision for a better world.

To learn more on how BFC Digital can assist you in realizing your organization’s mission, visit bfcdigital.com, email us at info@bfcdigtal.com, or call 646-450-2236 today!

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:06

Welcome to Nonprofit Thrive, a podcast where we learn from the humans who are helping nonprofits succeed in the digital world. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Ben Freda 0:23

Ben, welcome. I’m Ben Freda, host of the show, where we share stories of leaders in the nonprofit space, the people behind the organizations, the foundations, and the companies that help nonprofits change the world. Past guests include Emily Culbertson, a website strategist who helps nonprofits when things go sideways; that’s her specialty. Really interesting episode with her. Listen to that one if you’re interested in digging yourself out. Another recent episode we released. We recorded an interview with Hilary Wartinger from Save the Children, who talked about knowledge management. She runs knowledge management at a program called Save the Children called the Healthy Newborn Network. She talked a lot about how to get life-saving info on newborn health to different people’s hands. It was super interesting. So if you’re interested in knowledge management and sending information, making sure people can understand that information would be interesting to listen to. Before we get to today’s guests, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I have to tell you, this podcast is brought to you by BFC Digital, where we help nonprofits thrive on the web. If you work at a nonprofit or a foundation or another type of social change organization, I’m sure you know that unless you’re doing a big old, chunky project with a budget in the 10s of 1000s, you might find it tricky to find reputable, responsive, friendly, day to day type help for your web issues that need to change at BFC Digital, we help our clients succeed on the web by being the web colleagues, web developer colleagues you wish you had sitting in the desk next to yours, or maybe working from home at a place accessible over slack, we can help you, fix your bugs, evolve your web presence, design new campaign pages, integrate that new donation system, your fundraiser so psyched about and we try and do all of it by treating you like a human, by treating you like a person, without ever making You fill out a support ticket and leading with responsiveness and kindness. Go to BFCdigital.com to learn more. So today, very excited. We have Rachel Rossos Gallant. I’ve worked with her for a while. She is Vice President of Marketing and Membership at the League of American Orchestras. There, she is responsible for maximizing earned revenue, fundraising, engaging members, and cultivating a proactive, member-centric culture. I met her because we’ve worked on a couple of website projects together: one for the main website for American Orchestras and another for their member magazine, symphony.org, and we’ll get into those. She actually has a lot of experience working in orchestras before working at the League. She was with the New York Phil, which is the New York Philharmonic. She was their director of relationship marketing, where she helped reverse declining subscription numbers by increasing customer loyalty. And as you might expect of somebody who’s worked in orchestras for so long, she’s also a singer, a songwriter, a producer, and a poet who collaborates on recording projects with her husband, who’s a jazz pianist named Michael Gallant. She also performs with him in an indie rock band called Aurical. Rachel, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 0:41

Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Ben Freda 3:40

Did I pronounce Aurical correctly? 

Rachel Rossos Gallant 3:41

You did. 

Ben Freda 3:42

Okay, it’s, and I want people to know this, it’s AURICAL find and find it on Spotify. Spot Are you guys on Spotify? Okay,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 3:49

we’re on all the services.

Ben Freda 3:51

Yeah. So tell me first, you know you’re, you’re sort of into music, musicianship, songwriting, when you were a kid, was that sort of your first love? How did that come about?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 4:02

I always loved music, and I remember asking for voice lessons when I was real, real little. I mean, I would just I loved Madonna, and singing a lot with Madonna, but I grew up in a small town, so my parents couldn’t find voice lessons for me right away, but I they started me on keyboard lessons, and I was lucky enough that, you know, in school, we still had music programs. So I’ve learned recorder and violin in school. So I got started in music, basically in elementary school. Cool. And where did you go to the singer-songwriter thing in high school, I grew up in central New Jersey. Okay,

Ben Freda 4:41

All right. So in a small town, you start getting involved in music. And in high school, you move to playing with other people and stuff.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 4:47

Yeah, yeah. It was like a talent show coming up, and somebody posted on the notice board we had, this was back when email was DOS-based and so, so she posted in one of them. Word that she was looking for somebody to do Indigo Girls music with her. And I had never listened to Indigo Girls, but I said, I’m learning guitar. I can do this. And so that’s what got me started on the whole singer songwriter thing.

Ben Freda 5:13

So you guys wrote your own songs in high school.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 5:16

I wrote some. Yeah.

Ben Freda 5:17

Are they any good? Looking back?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 5:20

Yeah, they’re pretty good. They’re decent.

Ben Freda 5:23

I’ve always wondered about why. It seems that, of all the art forms, creative forms, writing, pop music, seems to be possible when you’re 1819, 2021, you know it is really good pop music. You know this

Rachel Rossos Gallant 5:38

rawness at that age, you’re not second-guessing yourself yet. Do you think that’s what it is for me, I definitely had periods when I got to be a little bit older where I was second-guessing myself, and I’d have dry periods. For sure, you’re

Ben Freda 5:53

judging what comes out. And maybe when you’re 1718, you just don’t know how to do that yet. I guess, I suppose,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 6:00

yeah, or you’re feeling so many emotions that it kind of doesn’t matter.

Ben Freda 6:06

Yeah, totally, totally. I was listening to all the bands like The Rolling Stones. For some reason, I think I was on shuffle, and I was with my kids, who were 12 and eight, and we were driving around California on Easter break, and that Rolling Stone song, Gimme Shelter, came up. And I don’t know if you know if you know this song, it’s a rock and roll song, whatever, but it’s so complex and layered and interesting and smart, and I think it’s great. And, you know, they were 21 when they wrote it, you know? And it’s just, it’s bizarre to think that, you know, among other things, I was such an idiot at 21 that you could create such beautiful stuff anyway. So all I’m saying is, I believe you that your high school songs are pretty good. Do you still have them?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 6:45

Yeah, yeah. I’ll have to send you some links to them. They’re on Spotify too. Oh,

Ben Freda 6:50

we’re definitely putting links to this in the show, putting all those things so, so you get into Indigo Girls covers and write your own music in high school. And then what happens? I

Rachel Rossos Gallant 7:00

Also, I also started, finally got my voice lessons, and they were classical based. It was through the school, and it was classical based. So I have, you know, that foundation now because of that, gotcha,

Ben Freda 7:09

gotcha. And so did you decide you were going to go, try and go to music school for college, or was that not part of it? Well,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 7:15

actually, I thought I was going to do creative writing in college, and it wasn’t until my senior year, after I’d already done all the applications and all of that, that I realized that I wanted to focus on music, because I was taking AP music theory at that point and getting a lot deeper into more aspects of music. And so it was like late senior year of high school when I decided to major in music, that’s what I want to do. So I was looking for schools that had strong music but also had strong creative writing programs. Got

Ben Freda 7:49

you. Did you? Do you write lyrics for songs as well? Yeah. And do you find that like, what? How do you find that process compared to like, I guess it’s similar to poetry. It’s

Rachel Rossos Gallant 7:59

similar to poetry, but it has a different rhythm to it. At least for me, it’s and it can be, it can be harder when it’s not flowing. You know, with poetry, there’s so many different forms and meters that you can play with. So if something’s not working, I can just, I can shift and try something different, and it’s, I’ll be able to spit something out. It may not be the best thing ever, but I can keep it easier to keep that practice going. I find it harder with the song lyrics. If it’s not coming, it’s not coming, really,

Ben Freda 8:30

and so you have to put it away and try again later, or not. Yeah, that’s Do you still write? Now

Rachel Rossos Gallant 8:36

I do so because you write not as not as frequently pre-pandemic, but it’s because things are still settling from these last few years. But yes, I’m still writing, still recording. What do

Ben Freda 8:48

you think that’s not to get too personal, what do you think that’s about the post pandemic, pre pandemic difference?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 8:53

I mean, on my end, it’s just, it’s a lot of, a lot of rebuilding old habits and old connections, and then also the from a work perspective, there’s just so much more to do now and so, so balance, you know, getting back to that balance between them is, it’s challenging, because even you know, as you know, everything’s more digital now in all spaces, yes, right. So that’s in the league. There’s a lot more that we do digitally, and we were already on a journey to becoming a digital first organization, but Right? You know, this really pushed us faster in that direction. And then also, you know, when it comes to the music, to the writing, there’s just, there’s so many more steps to actually get something out there. So the creation of it is one piece, but then publishing it, or releasing the recording has so many more steps to it now, really promotion, yeah, oh, is that right? I kind

Ben Freda 9:50

of always assumed that, like the digital music space, would make it more DIY, almost.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 9:56

It is, but it’s, they’re just, it’s very. Complicated. If you want people to hear it, if you do it right, and you want people to hear it, that’s where you have to put in the time. And it’s you’ll hear if, like, if you were interviewing a lot of creators, you would probably hear the frustration. And I’ve read, like, influencer interviews, where they complain about how they spend so much of their time doing the promotion that it eats away at the creative time, for sure.

Ben Freda 10:26

Yeah, totally, totally. So you’re talking about releasing on Spotify, for instance. Do you? Do you still like shows, like in person, shows?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 10:34

I want to get back to it. That one got paused when everything shut down, and our goal is, well, my husband has started doing some, and then our goal is to start getting Oracle back out there as well. And so we’re coming up with the strategy of which venues and what timing and all of that to come back out right.

Ben Freda 10:55

Optimally, would you play like, once a month, once a week? What would be yours, or is it way too much, way too ambitious?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 11:00

Oh, I don’t know. I mean, optimally, I would just be out there playing shows all the time, every day. I mean, that’s, that’s, I love that.

Ben Freda 11:09

So, being on stage, do you like that part of it? Yes, I do. Are there any nerves involved with that? Absolutely, yeah, yeah,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 11:18

I get a lot of stage fright. But that happens. It’s the same thing. Like, when I was at the New York Philharmonic and doing all I was doing a lot of customer experience and customer service training with front-facing staff. Every time I’d have to get up in front of them, there was a little stage fright then too. It’s the same thing. And

Ben Freda 11:36

and you just, like, learn how to overcome it, or how to do it, not overcome it, but like, do what you have to deal with. Yeah, exactly. Just realize that’s going to be part of the process. Yep, I feel like that’s in part. Like, what becoming an adult is, is like realizing, Wait, I’m not going to change. My innate responses will not change that much, but I’m just going to learn to, like, live with, you know what I mean? And like, I’m never going to be perfect. I’m just going to be able to adjust, or, like, able to over to just go through and do my stuff anyway,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 12:05

and to take care of yourself beforehand so that you’re set up for success. Because some of it is also knowing, if you know what your triggers are, and you know what you’re like, your nervous responses are, then you can do things leading up to train yourself to make it easier,

Ben Freda 12:21

yeah, yeah. What was your like, your favorite performance that you’ve ever done with your band? For instance, anything that’s like, most memorable

Rachel Rossos Gallant 12:28

there was, well, probably our Lincoln Center debut. We played at the atrium, the David Rubenstein Atrium. It was actually coming off of my husband, and I had just been in California, and so we had gotten off the flight the day before to be ready for this performance. But yeah, it was the nice, big listening audience. Great sound system. The staff at Lincoln Center are amazing, so we really felt taken care of, and we just knew it was a really good show. We had a really great show. So that felt good. That’s

Ben Freda 13:08

it’s really cool. Yeah, what about the worst one, the worst performance? Most? I guess there’s, is there any bad performance?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 13:15

I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t remember that. I think I’ve blocked the worst. But there have definitely been, like, you know, issues with sound systems. Or there have been, you know, those times when like, two people show up and you play the show anyway, because two people showed up. But yeah, two people there, so

Ben Freda 13:35

yeah, and I mean, but you’re still playing a show, I guess, and you know, it’s like, maybe you have to rehearse anyway, or, I don’t know,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 13:42

well, and, yeah, you’re still connecting with people. And that’s the thing for me, it’s connecting to people through music, and that’s one of the things I miss. So even though, you know, I do a lot of recording, it’s, it’s and that’s actually a space that I feel really comfortable in, because I was even doing that in high school, when my dad was recording music and so, but it’s, there’s something about that playing for somebody in person and just connecting. And that’s the magic. So

Ben Freda 14:14

more than like, Oh, hey, I got 1000 listens on Spotify or whatever.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 14:18

It was exciting too. But yeah, it says it’s not the same. It doesn’t have the same emotional feeling because they don’t know who those listeners are. You don’t know how much they were paying attention. It’s nothing like playing a show and then hearing, seeing the look on someone’s face, or hearing from them afterward what they felt.

Ben Freda 14:37

That’s got to be like, almost addictive out there. That’s pretty cool. I wonder too, if there’s some if maybe that was, why do we even like music, right? Like, what is it about me? Like, what is it about the human brain that’s like, seeking this out? And maybe it is sort of that that’s part of it, right? Like, that idea that you’re understanding somebody, or that somebody is understanding you, on, like, a. Deeper kind of level, maybe, I don’t know. I

Rachel Rossos Gallant 15:02

i mean, I think that’s part of the magic of orchestral music is because you’re in that space, and you’ve got 100 musicians that are connecting to each other and connecting to you, and here you are with hundreds or 1000s of other people listed in a listening space. Because orchestra concerts are usually listening experiences, right where you’re all sharing that and you’re sharing those emotions, it’s pretty powerful. Yeah,

Ben Freda 15:26

That’s pretty cool. How did you get into orchestra, specifically? So,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 15:31

So I was a freshman at Columbia, and one day I was coming back from class and I saw a poster on the wall saying that there was an internship opportunity at the New York Pops Orchestra. Okay? And I thought to myself, I’m in college, I’m a music major, so I should get an internship, and I have a free period, so I’ll apply. Yeah, perfect, perfect. So that was, to the extent that I didn’t know anything about arts management. I didn’t know that was even a career path at that point. Wow. And so I applied, I got it, and then found that I really loved it and so when the internship was over, they hired me as a development assistant, and I stayed there all through the rest of college. And then when I was graduating, my boss said to me, Well, so what are you going to do next? And I said, I guess I’m going to have to get a job. And then I turn to beat red, because there I was at a job, yeah, but, but it was also an internal aha moment, like, oh, this doesn’t feel like work. There’s something here. Oh, I see, yeah. So as embarrassing as that comment was, it was

Ben Freda 16:44

job already, that’s really funny. So it was just so you hadn’t been an orchestra musician, you hadn’t played in an orchestra before. You hadn’t even all been all that interested in orchestra music, per se

Rachel Rossos Gallant 16:54

or No, I yeah, I had done it when I was still playing the violin. I had done a little bit like in my small town. I joined the summer band. I used to joke that I turned them into an orchestra, but they would give me like the flute parts because that’s what or oboe parts because that’s what was in the right range, gotcha. But then when I got to high school, I tried. I was going to try to join the orchestra there, but it was, it was a private school where everybody else was way ahead of me, and while I could have put in the work to catch up, was also a more rigorous academic schedule, and I just didn’t feel like I I didn’t feel like I could do it justice. So I decided to let that go, and that’s when I was pivoting to guitar anyway. So I started doing music, so my relationship to classical music was mainly and not right, yeah, sure. And I really got into orchestral music by working for and it’s interesting that my introduction was a Pops Orchestra, because so many people in the orchestra world, it’s through classical music. But that wasn’t my entry point. My entry point was first a Pops Orchestra, then I went to a chamber orchestra when I was in San Francisco, so I learned all the string orchestra repertoire Gotcha. And then the New York Philharmonic, where I really got exposed to the full breadth of the classical so and and that was in me. Could hear the rehearsals often piped into the office. So even if I wasn’t in the concerts, I was still here. I was still surrounded by the music. That

Ben Freda 18:24

is cool. So there was a microphone on the stage, and if they were just rehearsing, it would just sort of go into the halls.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 18:29

Well, yeah, it was because some of the staff, like I, sat near the operations staff, so they had to know what was going on, so they would know when to go and help out. And so they piped in, and you could turn it off. And sometimes we needed quiet, and we turned that off, but, but, yeah, we were able to hear as the orchestra was rehearsing, and they had a very generous comp policy for the staff. So I did get to go to see a lot, but, but even when I couldn’t make it to a concert, I often that

Ben Freda 18:59

is really cool. So before we ask you more about that, I just want to make sure, because I’m an idiot when it comes to this kind of stuff. So pops being popular music performed by an orchestra, is that right? Yeah,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 19:08

yeah. It’s, I mean, it’s i It’s that’s, that’s the distinction that gets made. Not every orchestra uses that distinction, and I think that in general, as a society, we’re way too invested in genres and definitions and all that, but And so that includes with orchestras. I think sometimes we’re just too invested in the definition. But broad strokes, yes, a Pops concert or a Pops Orchestra, it’s going to be popular music. Back then it was a lot like Broadway and an American Songbook.

Ben Freda 19:40

Sure. Yeah. And now it might be like, I don’t know who’s the guy who did the score for, like, Star Wars and all those mid-dress Park and stuff like that. Oh, like, John Williams, yeah, yeah, that’d be part of it. And the chamber is, like, four, five musicians, right?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 19:53

That’s it. Well, good question. That is a chamber group, a chamber orchestra, is still, it’s. We had about 16 people in our orchestra, so it’s still, you still have the sections, but it’s smaller than what you would have in a larger orchestra. And it’s not always just strings. There are many chamber orchestras that have winds, percussion and so on as well, but it’s smaller, it’s more. And

Ben Freda 20:16

you can tell because chamber in France, chambre means that what it comes from? So it’s like, I don’t know. They’re some we should definitely not just state as a fact, but I’m the state as a fact. It is called a chamber orchestra because it can fit in a bedroom and and then, and then regular orchestra. Obviously, we all know that hundreds of people, you know, 100 per person, things. Okay, got you so, okay, so tell us, you go from college, we have that internship, and then you are, and during that internship, you’re doing similar, you know what? So I

Rachel Rossos Gallant 20:50

was, when I was at the New York pop so I started out, you know, as an internship, and then I became a development assistant. And so I did that for four years. And so, so So I was helping with basic things like acknowledgement letters when someone would make a donation. So I would run those every week and then also help out with events. So we would help staff the events and get the invitations out the mailings. You know, we were small enough that we were doing them in house with volunteers, so we would all get around the table and fold and stuff together.

Ben Freda 21:23

Cool, yeah, for sure.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 21:24

I think I think back then, I think the executive director was also hand signing. It was very personal. And then, yeah, and then the other thing that I did toward the end, I also started working on grant applications. I remember having to learn to navigate the NEA portal, online portal, and yeah, and then, and then my other responsibility was the archives, because we were maybe 20, maybe 2025, years old while I was there. And so I needed to go back through all those years of archives and just sort of prune them, if there were too many, and catalog them. So that was just an overarching project that I did during my time there. I finished it very close to women

Ben Freda 22:10

gotcha, and then, and then you leave there, and you go to the San Francisco place,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 22:15

yeah. So then I moved out to San Francisco, and at first I worked for UC Berkeley in their development office. So I thought, okay, development continued. Development quickly learned that it was not the development that I liked, but it was the music and

Ben Freda 22:31

So yeah, got you uh huh. So

Rachel Rossos Gallant 22:32

That job I only stayed in for about six months, but I did learn a lot about event planning when I was there, because that was the subsection of the department I was in. And so I learned a ton about that. And so that then teed me up to be able to take on a role at the New Century Chamber Orchestra as director of PR and marketing, gotcha. And so I, even though I was coming from the development side, the event planning really helped, and then a lot of my own personal music experience was directly applicable. And I had also worked when I was in college. I had simultaneously worked for a medical equipment company where a lot of what I did while I was doing it, I wouldn’t have named it marketing, but when I looked back, I realized, Oh, that was marketing. So once I put all of that together, landed the job and learned, learned a lot right away, you know, hit the ground running, and I was there for four years, and eventually I took on the development side of that too. We were a really small team. There were just three of us full time when I started, and then by the time I left, it was four full time. Okay,

Ben Freda 23:42

okay, so get that experience there, and then move back and do New York. Phil, here,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 23:47

yeah. So I did what. While I was at the news at New Century Chamber Orchestra, I also participated in the League of American orchestras Executive Leadership Program, which they had. It was a pilot program they had done for a couple of years. I was part of the second class, and that was all development and marketing professionals. And so I learned a lot through that. And then one of the faculty for that program was the VP of Marketing for the New York Phil and he was inspired by some of what we studied in that program to create the role of director of relationship marketing, and the timing was such that, as he’s doing this, I reached out to him and said, I’m looking for work in New York City. Will you be my reference? And he said, there’s an opportunity that might be for you here.

Ben Freda 24:34

Oh, nice.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 24:36

So I interviewed for that. I interviewed for other things too. I didn’t, like count on anything but, but I ended up landing the New York Phil job, and so I and it was a really rewarding experience. I was also eye opening to go from this tiny little half of, you know, four full time to, I think we had about 100 at that point. At the Phil. And so I saw my old job kind of multiplied across like mind boggling, but, but it was great. It was great and so I started focusing on loyalty, subscriber loyalty, and first time single ticket buyers. And then over time, it expanded, and eventually I was overseeing the subscription campaign. And then I also, about halfway through my time there, we started a customer experience initiative, and so that was something that I led the charge on, and worked very closely with Lincoln Center gotcha once, providing the front of house staff.

Ben Freda 25:39

So how are you all right? So if you, if you’re an orchestra like New York Phil, and you want to grow your subscriber base, and you have these people that are buying tickets to one show, or maybe two shows a season, or whatever, what do you do? Like? What do you think about that? How are you? Is your goal to turn those people into subscribers? Is that not your goal? What? What do you think about that? So

Rachel Rossos Gallant 25:58

traditionally, that is the goal to get them to become subscribers. Now this it’s now been a number of years and a pandemic, so my experience in this realm is, is dated. From that point of view. You just think, from that point of view, I do hear what my colleagues are doing, because I organize meetings of the marketing folks for the but, but it’s, some of it has stayed the same and some of it has shifted. One thing that I think is still really, really important is thinking about that relationship, building more tools to do that now, right? Because so much more digitally, so, so that’s so that’s important, having that in person experience be really outstanding, memorable, right? And then aiming toward frequency of some kind is still so towards frequency. What do you mean? Frequency of so what? What we found in the research that we did is everything was accompanied by research and surveys, data mining, what we found was that there was a correlation between the number of times a year somebody was attending our concerts and their propensity. So we weren’t looking at whether they were purchasing a package. We were just looking at how many times a year. And this was through a great research project we did with them, Prescott and Associates and and so the and the average, it was something like it was if somebody attended 15 times over the course of five years, looking at sort of a longer time period, then they were much, much more likely to give. And I can’t quote the percentage higher anymore, but I remember the 15 over the five years,

Ben Freda 27:39

That was like the tipping point. That was like the tipping point. 

Rachel Rossos Gallant 27:41

So it was more important than if they had been attending for 50 years, but only came five times over those five years. So,

Ben Freda 27:48

Wow, that’s fascinating. Okay, that makes sense, yeah. So,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 27:51

So when we saw this, I said, that’s an average of three times a year, which is our smallest. Choose your own subscription package, yeah. So, so we really, so a lot of the after that, a lot of what we did was we didn’t just try to drive people into Subscriptions. We also tried to create incentives to add on to the subscription. So if you were already going to buy three concerts, well maybe there was an incentive to get a four or even a fifth. And there was one point when we when we were able to actually increase our retention rates and our number of subscribers after years of decline, um, through some of these initiatives so, um, so we did a lot around the the packaging and the incentives, but then also there was just a lot of relationship building. I did a subscriber Appreciation Month, where the biggest thing that we did was we printed 8000 subscriber thank you notes to be put personalized, to be put on their seats. Wow, it would be over the course of like five or six weeks of concerts. So we tried to hit every series once. If somebody was to choose their own, we could not guarantee that we would get to them, because that could be anywhere in the season. But at least for our fixed package subscribers, we could make sure every package was represented, wow, and, and it was a long enough time period that got to most of the people who were attending in the and. And so we had letters that were first year subscribers, welcoming them into the fold we had. And then we had our general letter, which was still very warm and positive. And then we had a special letter for those who had been with us for the first Wow, rose on their seats as well. Oh,

Ben Freda 29:34

That’s so nice, though. I mean, imagine walking into a concert not expecting anything, just to see a show and have a little letter there with a rose that says your name on it. I mean, that’s so nice. So that’s what you mean by relationship building, making the people you know, having a relationship with, with the people they’re coming. Yeah, yeah.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 29:51

I mean, it was when I first got there. A lot of the communications were, buy this, give us money to come to this concert. There wasn’t a lot. There might have been a little bit of the cultivation, but actually, if you think about it in development terms and fundraising terms, there’s a lot of time that’s spent on cultivation before you make the ask. I took that mindset and tried to apply it on a mass scale to our audience, right? Yeah. And so I had my target groups, so where we did that, and the subscribers were part of that, and so we were sticky.

Ben Freda 30:25

What are orchestras now? Now you work at the league, of course, and we haven’t really gotten to this, but the league helps orchestras, right? I mean, that’s the goal of the league, is to help orchestras best practices, figure out how they’re going to do all this stuff separately, because there’s, I don’t know, 1000 of them, or how many there are, you know more than that. You know more than me. But is this still, I mean, it must be a bit of a struggle during covid, and now that covid is over, maybe you’re getting back to it. But are these still things that you advise orchestras to do as if they’re part of your membership?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 30:51

Well, so this is, again, this is an area where I kind of step back a little bit and so that they can talk to each other about what’s working because, because things have changed, yeah, and, and where, you know, I mean, subscriptions have been like as a product, right? Have been declining for a long time. That’s people. People purchase differently, and they purchase later. Now, one of the things that I never got to do, that a couple of orchestras are starting to experiment with now, and I’m really excited about is this idea of kind of like with airlines, when you hit a certain number of points, then you get upgraded to the next level. So I wanted to go somewhere, okay, you might not buy your three concerts all at once, but now, oh, you’ve hit your third concert this year. So now you get the subscriber benefits. They kick in automatically. And there were some technical reasons that it was a project. It wasn’t just something we could do. And if I had been at the Phil for longer with no pandemic, then that would have been my next life, a big thing that I would have pushed for. But, it’s there. There is at least one orchestra, if not two, that I remember bringing this. They brought it up in some meetings in the last year. So I’m really looking forward to hearing how that works for them. Because it’s, it’s another way of recognizing what people are already doing and rewarding them for it, right? Because also another thing we did so we would first year subscribers would get a little gift as they were entering the subscriber Appreciation Month. And actually, we might have done that all year long. It’s been a while, but so we had a little gift, a little branded gift for them. And sometimes they would say, Oh, I didn’t even realize I was a subscriber, because when they were making the purchase, they were upsold into the three concerts, and they got the savings, but they didn’t then make the connection. I’m now a subscriber, right? So, there’s also the communication aspect of reminding you to have this relationship, right, right? And we really appreciate that you have this relationship with us, for sure.

Ben Freda 32:59

That’s interesting. Do you still know How many orchestras are using it? I’ve just noticed talking about this with other nonprofits. There is now kind of a sense of email overload, right? Like people are getting a trillion emails. How much do orchestras still use email to communicate? Imagine a lot. But you also have the benefit of an in person event as well. Have you guys, has anyone started texting their constituents? Is that a bad thing to do? Will because it’ll just happen. The same thing will happen with email. What’s your, what’s your feeling on that?

Rachel Rossos Gallant 33:29

There’s definitely texting going on, but it’s more of a customer service thing there. There are a lot of regulations around that. So generally, when I hear about it, it’s, it has to do with customer service, but lots of emailing and, and there are a lot of really interesting digital tools like you can geofence around your building and then set have a message pop up, oh, there are still tickets available tonight to such and such concert. There are all sorts of things that one can do that I have not myself been able to play with, but I’m aware of these tools. And so there’s, there’s a lot that orchestras are doing in the digital space, and I have not heard too much about email overload from the marketing folks. There was one marketing person who noted that some of their longer term audience members didn’t appreciate the increase else, so they were thinking about doing some segmentation specifically for that because, and that kind of makes sense to me, because if somebody’s already been attending for 2030, years, they have this relationship with the orchestra, maybe they just don’t feel like they need there are. And also, I think if they’ve been there that long, maybe they’re already coming to a lot of concerts, these people who already have five or six concerts, so they’re already there so much, maybe they don’t totally gonna analyze that and target a segment that makes sense. And

Ben Freda 34:56

it also kind of goes back to what you’re saying about the relationship. Reminding the people that you guys have a relationship. If I have a relationship with a friend that’s gone on for like, 20 years, and then all of a sudden they start texting me every time they are good, get gas or whatever. Not that any of my friends have cards. You know, I’d be like, wait, what? Like, they don’t understand what our relationship is. You know what? I mean, like, it feels weird. It feels like they aren’t treating me. They may have forgotten what relationship we have. And so maybe that might be what those long standing subscribers are feeling like, wait, I’m not just a normal person here. You know, I’m one of your favorite people, right? You know? So you don’t need to flood me with these things. I don’t know anyway.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 35:35

I mean, this is all speculation, but this, Oh, totally when I but when I heard that, that was where my mind went. Was the same, exactly what you’re describing, okay, I already have the relationship, right?

Ben Freda 35:48

Yeah, exactly. That’s really interesting, yeah. And maybe I think it depends on, you know, I think a lot of the email overload stuff has come from political campaigns. That’s where I hear about it most. Is political campaigns, giving, giving, giving and stuff. And the thing is, it works. I mean, that’s why it happens, because people do give to political campaigns based on emails that are, you know, dramatic or whatever. It works. So, but I think it’s sort of working less.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 36:15

That’s a tricky thing with email marketing in general, is getting the frequency right. Because if you don’t go out frequently enough, somebody might look at it and think, oh, yeah, I want to do that. And then get distracted because they have something, forget about it, and it’s too late. So you have to have enough reminders that they get it enough times that they actually take the action to click on it. Gotcha, but not so many that you’re annoying. Yeah. And for every industry that balance, and every organization that balance is going to be a little different, but that’s, yeah, that’s something we try to be mindful of at the league. And we actually created a member newsletter in order to keep from emailing people too much. Because one of the one of the things that has come out of the pandemic is that in this time, we’ve actually exponentially increase our offerings to the and we are serving the field in more nuanced ways, in more areas and and so because of that, there’s a lot more to communicate about. There are a lot more regular webinars. And so that’s something to communicate about. And then new resources that we publish, or major things happening in Washington, DC with our advocacy team. And so with each one of these projects or new offerings, we need a way to communicate it out. And it used to be a dedicated email for every single thing. And so then we switched to having an every other week newsletter, so that if it was, if it was something that needed to get communicated but did not need a critical mass of people clicking on it right away to engage with it, then it didn’t have to have that dedicated email. And that’s really helped. We still have a lot of emails, but it’s, it’s better than it was, for sure that,

Ben Freda 37:58

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That’s a really good approach. I have many questions I wanted to ask you, time is running very short, so I do want to ask an important question, which is that people, have you had a membership magazine called symphony, and you decided we’re gonna stop printing and mailing this to people. We’re gonna put it online now, a lot of people have seen nonprofits consider doing this, and I’m just curious if you could reflect a little bit on the outcome of that decision. How well did that work? What were the good things that came out of that? What were the bad things that came out of that? Well, it’s

Rachel Rossos Gallant 38:31

something that actually, as an organization, we had wanted to create a digitally native platform for Symphony. For a long time, the editor-in-chief had been talking about it first, and so we finally had an opportunity to pivot to that. We actually did not get rid of print altogether. We still publish once a year, and but, but we’ve, and we’ve increased our circulation for the print copy. So it used to be earlier so I would know where we were coming from. Yeah, it used to be that we mailed 13,000 right? And then with and our estimated readership was 48,000 because they would often share it with their colleagues, right? But now we’ve increased that to 17,000 people in order to include more roles at our member orchestras. And so that, I think that’s also increased awareness of Symphony and the usefulness of it. So there’s that aspect and that from the print side, for the digital side, it’s been great because we’re now, it’s changed our our publication schedule, so that now we’re, we’re publishing a feature every other week, in-depth feature every other week, as opposed to doing, you know, a group of features for print magazine. So it’s more timely. A lot of our coverage is more timely. From that. We already had a new site that was branded separately. We were able to fold that into Symphony and so on. So we also published. Published every weekday news brief on what’s happening in the orchestral world, where things are relevant to the orchestra. And so that’s a really important resource for the field, and has been for years, but now it’s in. It’s on this wonderful mobile-friendly site. Well, you actually built us a mobile-friendly site as well for the old Brandon. But I think it’s actually even better in this newest iteration that you also built for us, because there’s a photo associated with everyone, and with the RSS feed, we’re able to send out the news to our Twitter feed. Now we’ve also signed up for Blue Sky, and so we have that automatically going out, and then we will cross-post all the features on LinkedIn and Facebook, and there they show up in Google search results as well. Yeah. So it expands the longevity of this coverage and the audience form, yeah. And when we launched, and was December 2022 when we launched, we had about 17,000 visitors coming per month those first few months. Now we’re up to anywhere from 25 to 35,000

Ben Freda 41:11

visitors a month. I’ve noticed that your Yeah, your visitors, your growth is good on this,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 41:15

Yeah, people are really finding a lot of value in it, and we’re really happy with how that’s gone.

Ben Freda 41:23

Yeah? Any downsides in terms of, you know, people always talk about fundraising and stuff. Any downsides of not having as frequent a because you used to, I think, mailed a magazine four times a year, right? Yeah.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 41:33

So I mean the downside, I suppose, would be less print advertising revenue, right? But, at the same time, the tree has seen declines in print advertising, Bruce, right? And so we were not immune to that, right? So it’s, it’s sped up that decline, but we also now have digital channels to sell. So there’s, it’s not the same level of revenue, but there’s still some really interesting opportunities that we have for our business, sponsored

Ben Freda 42:06

posts or whatever. Yeah, yeah, ads in the online version of the magazine, yeah, I can imagine that, right? That makes sense. Okay, good. That’s, well, I’m glad to hear it.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 42:17

Yeah, we’ve been, we’ve been really happy with it. And, you know, people are signing up almost daily to get the RSS emails that they send out. We send them out twice a week. If you want to know what’s happening in the orchestra world, there you go. Stop Shop.

Ben Freda 42:34

It is. And you guys do a great job of combining in-depth feature articles, like the type of thing you’d see in, you know, New Yorker, and also daily stuff about who’s in, who’s out at certain orchestras, where are the jobs? What are the events that have happened to a certain orchestra? What are the things that are happening on a daily basis? I mean, it’s a really nice combination that you guys have been curating, so it’s not a surprise that it’s growing but, but a lot of you know some effort on your part too, to create, obviously, listen, I had a bunch of other questions, but of course, we’re over our time, so my, my last question really, is just, if people want to learn more about you or about the league your band, how do they find out about more about you or the league or your band? Okay,

Rachel Rossos Gallant 43:14

Well, just for me, they can go to Rachelrossos.com, and I can link to all my projects from there. So that’s a good starting point for the americanorchestras.org is our main website. So, if you’re interested in learning more about membership in the league or digging into some of our topic resources or webinars, that’s the place to go. And if you’re just interested in news about orchestras, symphony.org, and sign up for the emails. They come twice a week. We’ll keep you in, and they’re nice.

Ben Freda 43:45

They’re nice-looking. Yes, I get them as well. All right, thank you so much for joining us. This has been a lot of fun, and I really appreciate it.

Rachel Rossos Gallant 43:53

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Outro 43:57

Thanks for listening to the Nonprofit Thrive podcast. We’ll see you next time, and be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.

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