The Membership Table

3 Jun

One of the goals of the development department at American Ballet Theatre is to widen the circle of patrons who support the company through yearly donations. One of the ways that ABT has tried to recruit new members is by having a membership table set up at the Metropolitan Opera House during its eight week Spring Season there. As one of the membership interns I’ve had the opportunity to work at this table during the past few weeks and it has quickly turned into one of the highlights of my wonderful internship experience!

During the weeks leading up to the Spring Season a sign-up sheet for the different staffing needs at the Met goes up in “Devo Hall”, where most of the members of the development department work. I was quick to sign up for most of the nights, knowing that working at the Metropolitan Opera House is not an opportunity that presents itself very often. On the nights when I’m working at the membership table I get to the Met about an hour and a half before show time so that the table is all set up when the house opens to guests half an hour before the show. This means that I get to come and go through the stage door, which is, admittedly, one of my favorite parts. Up at the Grand Tier level we have a large table set up in front of the staircase and a smaller kiosk in front of the Met’s patron lounge called the Belmont Room. Both of the tables get set up with membership materials, but the larger table gets most of the bells and whistles—it’s packed with membership incentives to catch the eyes of passersby. We have a drawing for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the fall season at the Koch Theater, a laptop playing one of ABT’s DVDs and a poster covered in signed photographs of the dancers to lure people in. The table also has membership brochures, Junior Council brochures (a special membership category for those aged 21-40), and copies of On Point, ABT’s magazine that comes twice a year with membership.

Once we’ve got someone’s attention with a signed photo of Misty Copeland or a clip of Baryshnikov in Don Quixote it’s our job to engage them and talk to him or her about the benefits of membership. Most of the time, it’s just starting a conversation about whatever caught his or her eye—“Oh, that’s our magazine. Feel free to take a look. It comes to you twice a year if you become a member!” Membership starts at the $75 “Friend” level and you get to attend a working dress rehearsal at the Met so it’s hardly difficult to entice people. What’s more, if you become at “Friend” at the membership table you can take home a ballet DVD and if you become a member at the “Contributor” level you get to take home a signed dancer photo! Though not a lot of people want to sign up on the spot, the membership table is a great way to let people know about all the amazing benefits that come with being a member of ABT and every time someone decides to hold on to the brochure it’s a small victory and possibly one step closer to welcoming a new member to the ABT family.

Working at the membership table is an important strategy to grow membership, but it’s not all work and no play! I have to be stationed at the table before and after the show and during intermissions, but as long as I duck out of the auditorium as soon as the curtains close I get to watch the show. Most nights company management will have a ticket for whoever is working at the table, but if they don’t there is a massive TV in the Belmont Room where I can watch. Another great part of working at the membership table is that ABT members volunteer to work there as well. They are a wonderful asset because they have tons of firsthand information about what it’s like being a member that they can share with people who have come over to look at the table. It’s also been fun to get to know them! Leading up to the Spring Season I spent a lot of my time entering ticket orders into ABT’s database so it’s been great to be able to match faces to names and spend so much time with them. My internship at ABT has been a terrific experience from top to bottom. I could not be more grateful for the wonderful opportunity I have been given and the equally wonderful people that I’ve had the privilege to work for and with. Working at the membership table had been the cherry on top of a perfect semester at American Ballet Theatre.

Hannah Anderson

Membership Intern

Spring 2014

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