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From 80 Spreadsheets to 1 Database: How Boston Children’s Theatre Got Their Data Under Control

With 63 years under their belt, Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) is the longest continuous running children’s theatre in the country. Their mission is divided between outreach and training, so they spend a lot of time traveling to Boston public schools to perform and run workshops. BCT produces professional quality plays and musicals throughout the year and provides theater training for students from 4 – 19 years old as well as college preparatory classes.

Buried in Spreadsheets

According to BCT Executive Director Toby Schine, before they moved to a database, they were managing everything using spreadsheets: events, class registration, and donor relations. Altogether, there were over 80 spreadsheets. “It was pretty chaotic,” he says. “We were entering and re-entering addresses for contacts again and again, and there was no way to get their data to talk to each other.”

Consolidating Data in One Membership Database

When he came on as the ED, Schine knew things had to change, but there were few solutions out there that handled ticketing, class registration and donors in one system. Then he found Sumac. It could do it all, and it even offered online ticketing, and ticket printing.

“It was incredibly easy to set up.” Schine says. “The Sumac staff took our 80 spreadsheets, created an architecture that made sense for us, and imported all of our data into our new database. They were wonderful at consulting which made the process really smooth.”

Now, Schine says with excitement, “We can get a complete picture of what is going on at the organization: our events, classes, and donors are all in one system. Data is speaking to each other, we can see what other staff members are doing, and we only have to update data in one place. Also, we no longer need to use OvationTix box office software which charged a percentage of each ticket sale, so we’re saving money.”

Boston Children’s Theatre has now been using Sumac for almost two years and Schine says, “We keep uncovering more ways to use it.” Recently they discovered custom reports that allowed them to see what promotion efforts are working. What they found was surprising: direct mail worked for promoting summer workshops and email worked for promoting their shows. So, now they can use time and resources more efficiently. In the end, Schine says, “We are operating much more efficiently, and that’s what people expect even if you are a small non-profit on a limited budget.”

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