Advice for arts and cultural organisations selling tickets

Advice for arts and cultural organisations selling tickets

Firstly, our thoughts are with anyone who may have been impacted by the current situation – we wish you, your colleagues and your families all the best during this time.
As an Arts Council England Sector Support Organisation we have discussed with Arts Council England how we might best support the sector at this time. We will be launching a number of initiatives over the next few days. 
One key area in light of Monday’s Government announcement advising the public to avoid public spaces like theatres, is that we know the serious impact that closing your venue or cancelling your exhibition will have on your own earned income streams. Whilst we know that your customers will be expecting you to offer refunds on any performances or events that might be cancelled, there is also an opportunity to use this communication to see if they would consider donating the cost of the ticket, plus securing the additional Gift-Aid to your organisation. We are aware of a number of organisations that are currently offering this option, and whilst you will need to develop good messaging to make this ask, this may help to mitigate to some extent, the impact of cancellations.
Whilst you should take your own independent financial advice on the tax implications of this approach, there are a number of commonalities which we are seeing across other venues on this matter. Not every organisation will have the capacity to manage this but for those that do, it may prove effective:
  • Ticket buyers must be given the opportunity to claim a refund on cancelled performances – i.e an opportunity to opt out of making a donation. Some ticket buyers will not be able to afford to donate and any messaging should be sensitive to this.
  • Ticket buyers can be asked (by phone or email) if they wish instead to donate the refund to your organisation – for those of them which are registered for Gift-Aid already, this can be automatically reclaimed, if not, you will need to ask them to fill out a Gift-Aid declaration.
  • Emphasising to ticket buyers that by making a donation this will be automatically increased by 25%, thanks to Gift-Aid, is likely to be an incentive for people to donate. 
  • Higher rate tax payers who have made a gift aid payment can reclaim the difference between the basis rate of tax (claimed by the charity) and the higher rate of tax that they pay
  • There is also potential to offer ticket buyers the opportunity to donate part of their ticket to your organisation, and you might consider this option, alongside a part refund. Do please be aware that ticket buyers might consider taking this option above a full donation.
  • Any messaging should emphasise how the donation will help you to ensure that the organisation can survive during this difficult time and how any funds might be used. You could also take this opportunity to focus on the future plans of the organisation – communicating all the exciting things which you may have coming up later in the year. You could also emphasise how you might be supporting the community in other ways during this time.
  • You may want to make your audiences aware of the critical role of individual creatives, and that it is important that as a sector we support them during this period through honouring contracts and making sure they are recompensed. Arts Council England's ten year strategy Let's Create, has some good language to help, articulating creativity, culture and its impact on the country as a whole. 

See this example from Bristol Old Vic, they clearly ask for support in their statement through saying: In these difficult times, we are also inviting our customers to consider donating the value of purchased tickets to the theatre to ensure that we can come back fighting fit once the crisis is over. 

Or this example from Snape Maltings which says: We would be hugely grateful if you would consider donating all or part of the price of your tickets to help us continue our important work. 

Organisations should be aware of any GDPR implications of asking ticket buyers for donations and should refer to their own data management policies. However there are some interesting thought pieces emerging in this area incuding this blog from Katy Raines at Indigo. 
We know that the arts and cultural sector will play an important role as we emerge from this crisis and get back to normality. Securing donations on some purchased tickets can play a role in supporting organisations during this time.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions, or book onto our daily FREE strategy Power Hour sessions for support on arts fundraising here. In the meantime we hope everyone stays safe and well. 

On 2nd April the UK Government confirmed that theatres and other cultural venues recognised as charities by HMRC will be automatically eligible to claim Gift-Aid if ticketholders choose to donate the cost of their tickets rather than ask for a refund. Institutions can claim Gift-Aid on freely given donations, as opposed to payments for goods or services, such as admission tickets. Gift-Aid is calculated based on the donor declaring that they pay a basic rate of tax in the UK. This means that a venue can recover £25 for every £100 donation.


Spektrix have created a Ticket Converter Tool which allows you to easily convert tickets from cancelled performances into refunds or account credit, no matter what ticketing system you use.  Ticketsolve have already added an option to do this for all users.