Data + the Greater Good Meetup: 92nd Street Y

Posted May 10, 2019

At our latest Data + the Greater Good Meetup, Kent Davidson, Managing Director, Strategic Marketing at the 92nd Street Y, discussed the role data innovation, marketing automation, and machine learning play in the organization’s programming, fundraising, and audience engagement.

For 145 years, 92nd Street Y (92Y) has created exceptional, groundbreaking programs in performance and visual arts, Jewish life, literature and culture, adult and children’s education, and health and fitness, among others. 92Y is committed to serving people of diverse racial, religious, and economic backgrounds, and their distinctive programs are a pillar in the New York arts and educational landscape. More than 300,000 New Yorkers come to 92Y annually, and more than 4.5 million people engage with 92Y’s programs online. 92Y is also the home of Giving Tuesday, which occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving each year, and celebrates and encourages philanthropic giving.

The diverse range of 92nd Street Y’s programming is a unique—and wonderful—facet of the organization, but it can also present a challenge for the nonprofit. Kent noted that he and his colleagues often hear from patrons that they were only familiar with select aspects of the 92Y’s programming – for instance, some patrons may attend numerous literary readings each year, but are unaware of, and thus not benefiting from, the private music lessons 92Y offers through its School of Music. This posed a question:

How can 92Y gain a better understanding of their patrons, their interests, and their interactions with the organization in order to engage them on a deeper, more personal level?

For the 92Y team, the answer was clear: through data. With the implementation of new marketing technology and strategies, 92Y has been able to adopt strong data practices and improve their patron engagement through various means, including but not limited to:

Customized—and Responsive—Content

92Y’s emails are more personalized than ever. With the use of Salesforce’s Email Studio and Journey Builder, the organization is able to collect keywords related to 92Y programs patrons have purchased or searched for on their website and use the data to inform e-mail content; for instance, the organization can recommend upcoming art classes to patrons who have previously browsed their art class offerings on their website. The e-mail is also responsive and automated through the use of A/B tests; if two slightly different versions (A and B) of the same email are sent at 9 AM, and in the first couple hours, version A outperforms B in terms of open and click rates, then version B will automatically become version A in recipients’ inboxes. This new approach is working – 92Y is sending more e-mails than in the past, but open and click rates are up, while unsubscribe rates are down!

Timely Notifications

92Y has implemented Salesforce’s Mobile Studio to enhance their Senior Program. In the past, when the location of a class changed, a sign would be placed on the door of the original classroom informing patrons of the new location. With Mobile Studio, 92Y is able to text all patrons who have registered for a class and inform them of the location change further in advance. Though a seemingly small change, this ability has lessened the potential for confusion and greatly improved service delivery.

Targeted and Thoughtful Advertising

In the past, 92Y sent 120+ page, printed catalogs to hundreds of thousands New Yorkers every year. The digital marketing strategies 92Y is currently using has changed that practice, and significantly reduced their direct mail initiatives. With targeted and segmented advertising on social media, and ample data on ad performance and user behavior, the organization now acquire more new patrons through digitally than through traditional marketing and advertising.

Kent noted that his team and 92Y is constantly developing and strengthening their data practices and their team’s skills, but as they become increasingly sophisticated in their efforts, one thing remains constant: their commitment to putting the patron first.

Click to learn more about 92nd Street Y or to join the Data + the Greater Good Meetup group.

Our “Data + the Greater Good” Meetup series has featured speakers from an array of nonprofit organizations, including The Met, The Whitney, New York Public Radio, ProPublica, Public Art Fund and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Read about their presentations on our blog.


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