Technology Upgrade for History Theatre

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
History Theatre
City & State:
Saint Paul, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

History Theatre inspires, entertains, and provokes audiences by creating and producing new works that explore Minnesota’s past and the diverse American experience. History Theatre is guided by a core belief that history provides a unique lens through which one can see and understand contemporary issues.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Prior to the Microsoft donation, technology was a barrier to success, rather than a business tool for excellence. History Theatre had cobbled together a bunch of donated computers of varying age with incompatible platforms, and a range of capabilities. Departments were unable to share information, and internal and external communication was limited to phone calls and costly postal mail postcards and letters. Because production staff worked different shifts from administration, internal communication was difficult. Further, the postal mail line item was crippling, considering that the theatre sends out hundreds of scripts, study guides, advertising collateral and donor solicitation letters. When foundations and corporate giving programs began requiring online donation applications, employees relied on their home technology to upload requests. This meant additional time out of the office, further hindering communication, and cost additional staff time making trips from home to office, copying files, and gathering additional information. The computers were not networked, and different computers used different kinds of disks for saving information, which meant that transferring data from one computer to another, often meant using a third computer as a translator, or cost staff time re-typing copy and data. Each computer had a different old printer (generally old, unreliable inkjets with costly cartridges that couldn’t handle special paper like stationary or card stock, multiple sheets of paper, or envelopes). History Theatre had no backup options, and with an IT system made up of 100% old, unreliable computer hardware, this meant losing important information often, and cost the company staff time and customer relationships. Sharing reports and internal communication was time consuming and inefficient, and communicating with our patrons, donors, and potential audience base was costly and nearly out of the question. Today, the company has a more reliable system set-up, connected to a single server, which means that departments can access and share information instantly, which has made unified branding possible. All are also linked to one, high-efficiency printer, which also sends and receives faxes, and scans. Now, all work is backed up, and the company can share a wide variety of files, data, logos, newsletters and related company information. We are now able to build and update our own web site, and have supported it with an eNewsletter to better communicate with audiences quickly, consistently, and inexpensively. The company has added an online ticketing system, which is starting to dramatically increase involvement by patrons under 40. Because all programs are now Microsoft compatible, and include the entire Microsoft Office Professional Suite, efficiency in communication has vastly improved. PowerPoint is used to create more effective presentations for funders, board members, gala presentations, and even mixed media productions. All departments use the picture manager to edit photos of events, productions, and branding materials and design fliers, brochures, signs, and letterhead in house. Using Word with Mail Merge has made it possible to personalize half a million letters and emails each season, which has vastly improved the response rate over the former “Dear Friend” letters. The development department alone was able to use these tools to increase donations by over $100,000 and added more than 250 new donors due to this more personalized approach. Because the staff spends less time struggling with technology, they have more time to work on what they do best, and this has impacted the organization in terms of income – both in increased ticket sales, increased institutional and individual gifts, and improved artistic products with new partners who can increase the reach of the work. The Microsoft donation and purchasing assistance programs at Tech Soup improved the History Theatre experience dramatically. (And because we’re a theatre company, we know drama.) We’re just beginning to realize the massive long term impact and the unlimited potential that technology brings to the company, the audience, and our community. Microsoft has made it possible for History Theatre to better serve the community, expand our client base, involve schools and their teachers, correspond with artists and playwrights, and develop integrated learning programs to better serve the growing home school demographic, via free online teaching guides and workshop tools, and move the focus of day-to-day operations back to the core- servicing our mission of producing and presenting new plays and musicals about history through the power of theatre. Because of the impact of improved efficiency due to improved technology, the company has stared to grown in budget, audience, and staff. If History Theatre is awarded the impact funds and software, the company will institute hardware and software systems upgrades, improve online ticketing options, include an online donor portal with software to support it, add much needed work stations so staff no longer has to share computers, increase the sophistication and usability of our website and other communication tools, invest in staff training, and hire a dedicated on site IT person to ensure continued success.

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology
Project Image
Supporting Work Files