Business and the Arts: Case Study #3

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New Dance Horizons

New Dance Horizons is a Regina dance company founded in 1986 by Robin Poitras and Dianne Fraser. New Dance Horizons (NDH) is a nationally recognized organization dedicated to celebrating new visions in Canadian contemporary dance. New Dance Horizons’ annual Performing Series features national, international, regional and local Canadian contemporary dance artists. Dedicated to the development and celebration of diverse artistic visions, this project-based company is a foundation for the creation, production and touring of original works.

The company often contracts with visiting dancers and has developed a relationship with a Regina-based accommodation provider (i.e. hotel). The hotel provides two key types of sponsorship to the dance company – a certain number of room nights free of charge (negotiated annually based on the total number of bookings NDH will make in that year) and a preferential rate on other room night bookings made by NDH throughout the year.

The development of the relationship with the hotel was cause-and-effect because New Dance Horizons had already been a client of the hotel for a couple of years before they approached them for the sponsorship. No one working with NDH personally knew anyone at the hotel, but NDH decided to approach the hotel because its location was good and the hotel had been active in promoting its competitive package rates. The relationship has now been in place for five years.

After the decision had been made to approach the hotel for sponsorship, NDH contacted the most senior person on staff in person. The results of that meeting were positive and NDH was asked to provide a proposal to the hotel. Because the hotel is part of a larger company, the proposal went to head office for approval; but because the proposal was in keeping with the hotel’s overall business practice, the response was made quickly.

The sponsorship has provided a number of key benefits to New Dance Horizons. It allows the organization to do things that are not planned. For instance, if a key person shows up in town unexpectedly, because the donation of block rooms is in place, NDH is in a position to offer that person a room without any budget implications. The relationship also reduces regular direct costs that would otherwise be incurred by NDH – their major annual event requires a number of room bookings for performers and other bookings are made during the year for other activities of the organization. New Dance Horizons is also in a position to recommend the hotel to performers who come to town but pay their own accommodation expenses. NDH can recommend the hotel, which reinforces the relationship with the hotel; the performer gets a reduced rate, and the hotel gets a new guest. A win – win – win situation for all.

From the hotel’s perspective, they are generating room bookings and seeing a direct return on their investment. The hotel is also very community minded and wants to be seen as such in the city. They understand that sponsoring New Dance Horizons is good business because they can generate new and more business.

NDH sustains the relationship with the hotel and other sponsors by including them in all their print materials (e.g. programs, advertisements, etc.). NDH makes a point of meeting personally with the hotel’s senior staff throughout the year (with no hidden agenda in mind) and is on a first name basis with management. They stay up to date with what is happening with the hotel as well. Sponsors are provided with complimentary tickets to performances and, in the case of the hotel, the hotel aids with ticket distribution by making tickets available to both employees and their guests.

New Dance Horizons suggests arts organizations should first look at who they are doing business with when considering business support. Arts organizations need to understand themselves as businesses, and often they don’t. In order to speak the same language as a business, an arts organization must be able to describe how it is also a business. Sponsors need to be inspired about the work of the arts organization, but they need to be confident that it is managed effectively and makes good use of resources. A proposal should include the scale of annual budget, indication the organization operates without a deficit, long-term plans, the role the board and so on. Most important, however, is to remember that there is a human being on the other side of the table. Maintaining the connection by nurturing the personal relationship is what good business is all about!

This article highlights the importance of maintaining the one-on-one connection, as well as the need for arts organizations to be more business-like –concepts which were outlined in the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance report “Business & the Arts: Service Relationship Indicators”. For a copy of this report, please contact the SAA at (306) 780-9820 or