“We’ve been using Culture Segments to inform our marketing for years. MHM works with us providing feedback on the way we position ourselves to our market. We use this as a training ground for how we develop everything else.”

Danielle Barlow, Audience and Insights Manager, West Australian Opera

West Australian Opera have been using Culture Segments successfully since 2018 for audience understanding and for marketing. However, in 2022 they decided to apply it to philanthropy as well. The results show the power and impact of targeted fundraising.


Established in 1967, West Australian Opera (WAO) has been the state’s premier opera company for over 50 years. The company presents a rich, dynamic program of new commissions and traditional works year-round, supported by a thriving education and outreach program.

Extending Culture Segments from marketing to philanthropy

WAO have been using Culture Segments to great effect since 2018 – informing their positioning and serving segment-aligned messaging to meet the needs of target clusters. While Culture Segments has been a well utilised framework for understanding audiences at WAO since adoption, practical use of segment insight – until recently – had been largely marketing-focussed. 2022 saw this usage expand dramatically however, with its application to the Company’s most important philanthropic initiative of the year – the end-of-financial-year (EOFY) fundraising campaign.

Framing ‘the ask’ for Expression

In previous EOFY campaigns, WAO issued letters to database contacts as well as promoting ‘the ask’ more widely on social channels – a costly approach in terms of both resourcing and collateral. To maximise outcomes this year, WAO’s philanthropy team reviewed the previous year’s campaign and the segment profile of their database – possible because WAO has a Culture Segments TagTool.

With close to half of WAO’s database identifying as Expression – and knowledge that Expression are the most philanthropic of the segments – WAO felt confident that, for best results, their ask should be Expression-aligned. The letter issued was beautifully crafted with Expression in mind, sent to patrons telling them that their collective support ‘…has enabled voices to soar in theatres, schools, communities, the regions and help us to introduce more people to opera each year.

Understanding individual’s ‘propensity to donate’

Taking this even further, WAO’s philanthropy team also explored Emotional Brand Equity data – another dataset gathered by way of their Culture Segments TagTool. More specifically, they were able to explore data relating to an individual’s ‘propensity to donate’. The team were surprised to learn that a sizable proportion of their records – who were neither existing donors/ subscribers, nor had engaged in the past 2 years – were identified as having a high propensity to donate to WAO. While these individuals wouldn’t traditionally have been considered as good prospects for donation, WAO had confidence in MHM’s data and looked to target those identified.

“The Emotional Brand Equity questions [a feature of the Culture Segment TagTool] were a goldmine, exposing people that wouldn’t normally have been on our radar because they didn’t meet the traditional recency requirement in terms of ticket purchase.”

Danielle Barlow, Audience and Insights Manager, West Australian Opera

Building deeper relationships between individuals and WAO’s cause

 The EOFY fundraising campaign produced fascinating results. Existing donors increased their giving and there was strong conversion among new donors, including one new patron providing a single ‘supporter tier’ gift. WAO firmly attributes these results to the application of segmented messaging and use of the propensity to donate metric, successfully identifying patrons who would not have been flagged as prospects otherwise.

“It was wonderful to see the traction we got. People who had no previous interaction with us provided a donation at first contact, purely because they received a targeted letter.” – Danielle Barlow, Audience and Insights Manager, West Australian Opera.

Overall results included: 24% growth in the value of contribution from existing donors, 5% new donors and a year-on-year increase in the proportion of previous donors giving again (94% retention).

With such results, the WAO philanthropy team have committed to Expression-forward messaging and the on-going mining of propensity to donate data as standard in their campaign.

“Culture Segments and Emotional Brand Equity super-charged our campaign in a way that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have this data to turn to.”

Rebecca Bencivenni, Marketing Coordinator, West Australian Opera

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