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How small charities formulate marketing responses to major reductions in income: A study of nonprofit contemporary dance companies

Roger Bennett (London Metropolitan University – Business School, London, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 7 January 2014




The purpose of the study was to examine how heads of small charitable performing arts organisations who did not possess backgrounds or qualifications in marketing interpreted the implications, for future marketing activities, of significant cuts in government funding and how their views on the value of marketing changed consequent to the cuts.


Dervin's sensemaking interview method was employed to explore the processes, whereby the heads of 26 small nonprofit contemporary dance companies made sense of the marketing demands of newly constrained funding situations.


Three groups of respondents were identified, respectively, labelled as marketing reductionists, knowledge seekers, and marketing activists. Many of the respondents did not distinguish between marketing and human resource management functions. Major confusions existed vis-à-vis pricing policies and how to evaluate returns on marketing expenditures.

Research limitations/implications

The study covered a single sector in just one country. Replication of the study in other sectors and countries would be worthwhile, as would the comparison of how small arts companies deal with various other types of financial crisis.

Practical implications

National bodies that award performing arts qualifications need to include marketing in their curricula and syllabuses. Arts marketing associations should make available on their web sites instructional materials relating to marketing. The government should encourage the formation of marketing co-operatives among small performing arts companies.


The study applied a qualitative interview technique unfamiliar to most researchers in the marketing field. It was the first to investigate the impact of cutbacks in government funding on the interpretations of marketing held by heads of small arts organisations.



Bennett, R. (2014), "How small charities formulate marketing responses to major reductions in income: A study of nonprofit contemporary dance companies", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 58-76.



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