Skip to content


July 19, 2011

Gibbes does Groupon

Like arts organizations around the country, we’re all looking for effective ways to engage new patrons.  Here’s a quick story about two South Carolina arts organizations–one of the oldest and one of the newest–that took advantage of Groupon to sell memberships online (more than 200!).   Hear from The Gibbes Museum of Art,  701 Center for Contemporary Art and Groupon about how this deal worked and each organization’s strategy to attract new participation.

First, the Gibbes Art Museum in Charleston …

With some research under their belts and a well planned strategy, the staff at the Gibbes embarked on an adventure with Groupon  to sell its family membership for $49–less than half the normal rate of $100.  Learn what happened….

What happened with the Gibbes’ Groupon offer?  More than 130 people took advantage of the offer effectively doubling the Gibbes family memberships from 130 to 262. 

How did the deal work?  For each membership sold, the Gibbes received $24.50; Groupon received $24.50. 

Considerations… The Gibbes’ staff considered the following elements as they made the decision to engage new participants in their organization:

 1. They took what they considered the “least risky maneuver:”  They picked a membership category they wanted to grow and one with the fewest members.

 2. They built in a way to appease any current $100 members so that they could renew at the discounted rate if they so chose; only four members took this option.

 3. Their strategy for welcoming these new members included a plan to engage them as a new group at the Gibbes: they invited new Groupon members via email to a  Museum tour created especially for them.  About 16 total participated in the tours.

 4. They coded their new members in their database so they can track them their renewal rates at the regular $100 rate in a year.

Insights…Director of Museum Relations, Marla Loftus, shares her insights about the Gibbes and Groupon:

 All kinds of people joined….not any single type that could be categorized.  She doesn’t think they were necessarily strapped for cash but simply responding to a good value during a time when the economy is down.  She saw this opportunity as a way to engage new people who will be cultivated to renew at the regular membership rate in a year.  “People like being part of a group and taking advantage of the newest trends…that’s what Groupon is about.”   As one of the early adopters of Groupon, the Gibbes also positioned itself “under the halo of being tech-savvy–” which isn’t bad for an institution that’s more than 106 years old.   

701 Center for Contemporary Art's Groupon offer

One of the state’s newest galleries,  701 Center for Contemporary Arts, a mostly all volunteer organization in Columbia just three years old, also decided to use Groupon to expand their membership base after learning about it from Columbia’s Shop Tart.   According to Tracie Broom, board member and marketing coordinator, the organization wanted to bring in new members and chose to offer a deal on  both its individual memberships (normally $25, offered for $12) and family memberships (normally $50, offered for $20).  Also, part of 701 CCA’s strategy was to simply put its name out in front of many Midlands residents who might not have heard of  the new organization yet. “The main reason we did this was not financial,” Tracie said.  “It was marketing and outreach.”

What happened with the deal offered at 701 CCA? 

Eighty-seven new memberships were sold; 81 percent of the purchasers were female; 50 percent of the purchasers were 50 or older.  Fourteen percent of the purchases were as gifts. Because Groupon tracks each purchaser’s zipcode and email,  701 CCA knows who and where their new members are. 

Tracie Broom’s general concensus is that this vehicle was easy to use and put the offer right in front of the people 701 CCA wanted to engage. 

What does Groupon say?

Chad Nason with Groupon concurs that museums, galleries and other arts organization make great offers.  “Groupon is about reaching people in their homes, getting them off their sofas and into their communities to experience what’s great about where they live. ”   He explained that Groupon works with organizations that are vetted, have the capacity to deliver a great product and stand behind their offers.   Organizations who offer a deal through Groupon must be ready to fully take advantage of the  opportunity to bring in new members. Anticipating capacity issues and having the right tools and personalities in place to engage new members are a few ways organizations can be prepared to create great experiences for their new members.   And in the end, it’s about the experience someone has once they walk in your door.  That’s for every organization to make or break.  

 Tracie Broom is a partner with  Flock and Rally: Events + Communications for a Brave New South. She can be reached at 415.235.5718  or by email at  Some of her current clients and project include 
 City Roots sustainable urban farm & venue; Bone-In Artisan BBQ on Wheels;  The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce & BuySC as well as Slow Food Columbia & The Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival.

Marla’s background involves marketing and public relations for both for-profits (Starbucks Coffee, Blockbuster Entertainment…) and non-profits (the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta); her title is Director of Museum Relations.  She has been with the Gibbes for just over 5 years.   You can reach Marla at email or by phone 843-722-2706, ext. 38. Read more about the Gibbes at

Chad Nason, a PR Associate with Groupon, can be reached at

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2011 3:36 pm

    I know the Greenville Symphony Orchestra has also used Groupon to great effect, to the point that they had real problems with walkup Groupon coupon holders the day of the show… created real problems in terms of customer service at the Peace Center, I don’t think the box office was prepared for it. If you use Groupon you need to anticipate how it will affect the rest of your customer base.

  2. Debra Heintz permalink
    July 21, 2011 3:33 pm

    We have discussed using Groupon for tickets sales and couldn’t work it out with just 150 seast. But I LOVE the idea of memberships. Much easier to handle.

    • July 25, 2011 1:26 pm

      Debra, Let us know if you decide to try this idea for memberships. Also, I suggest you contact Marla Loftus and Tracie Broom for their insights following the offer. I know that both would be happy to talk to you! Susan

  3. August 11, 2011 4:40 pm

    Groupon has worked well for the Newberry Opera House, we have gotten prompt payment and sold quite a few tickets

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: