So you’ve achieved your first step in engaging younger audiences. But how can you keep them coming back in the longer-term? In this third and final part of our series, Director Lorna Dennison draws on our research to detail six tried and tested ways.


Building loyal relationships with younger audiences – six valuable approaches

We’re very aware that focusing on young people is a key objective for many, many cultural organisations. Engaging the next generation is a sector-wide goal. We’ve seen many organisations have success in engaging young people over the years with specific exhibitions, shows and events. But hanging on to that audience – inviting them back and building long-term relationships ­­– is much harder.

Discovering what has already worked

Earlier this year we did some work to think more about what kinds of ways we could build real relationships with young people. As part of that work we set out to explore what approaches were already working – not just amongst cultural organisations but other models in other sectors – learning and education, media, entertainment, subscription services, and more.

We eventually mapped what we found into six broad categories. This list isn’t exhaustive – organisations are engaging young people in new and creative ways all the time – and they aren’t entirely mutually exclusive – it’s possible to create a hybrid between different styles. But our aim is to help give focus and clarity on what we mean by engaging young people and what we want to achieve.

Six ways to engage and stay in touch

Youth participation

Creative engagement or outreach – inviting a small number of young people to participate in a programme that is highly interactive/co-creative. The main objective is impact: to deliver personal outcomes/development.

Developing young audiences

An open to all, and most often free, membership scheme aimed at engaging young people (eg under 25s, under 35s – the definition may change) and bringing them into the audience – offering cheaper tickets or other small-scale perks to encourage young people to attend.

Supporter community

An invitation to those already highly engaged to join with others and become advocates. It creates a community of supporters around a place, interest or cause they love. It may come with minor benefits but is philanthropically focused, but with lower-level donations – many individual podcasters use this ‘buy me a coffee’ model.

Exclusive access

Join for exclusive access to exciting content or events, designed specifically for young people. Positioned with clear tangible, exclusive benefits, and  social and learning outcomes.

Entry level membership

Offering a cheaper ‘young person’ discount to an existing membership scheme, lowering the cost barrier for younger audiences (and potentially limiting some benefits) but otherwise the offer remains the same as for members of any age, with the hope of starting the relationship earlier in life.

Young patrons (or board)

Cultivating philanthropic relationships with a small number of wealthy individuals to be part of an be part of exclusive circle of high-level donors, and offering a small access to key benefits/events in return. (Alternatively, a cultivating philanthropic relationship with a small number of highly committed young individuals to help shape your organisation.)


Bringing it into the big picture

All approaches are valid ways of engaging young people, so the one to take is very much dependent on your wider objectives. Is the focus on widening your reach amongst young people – reaching new and different audiences? Is it about deepening engagement with young people in order to increase impact? Do you need to drive more visits or income? Create a community of advocates?

We’ve mapped each approach across these specific objectives to help focus in on the options that might be the right fit for you.

To discuss a project around engaging younger audiences, contact Lorna Dennison.

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