Fun with Foster

I am starting this post while I wait for BAT’s final meeting with the student at the Foster School of Business at the UW.

Due to a rather odd set of occurrences, BAT was able to join forces with the Foster School of Business to see if we could get a handle on BAT’s economic impact on the City of Burien. It has been a very interesting trip. I have had the opportunity to get to know a handful of students and their corporate consultants. My faith has been renewed for the future of business.

This was the students’ first exposure to the odd world of non-profits and the especially odd world of non-profit theater. I was often asked questions like people — fill in the blank — (actors, designers, directors, stage managers) work for THAT amount of money? I would always explain, BAT would like to pay more, but with a 94 seat house and no trust fund, that is the most we can pay. Nevertheless, the students were impressed and their eyes were opened to the idea that not everything one does is for the money. A good lesson for those at a school of business.

The students came to see a show and were very impressed with the whole experience, from the production values to the kindness of BAT’s volunteers. (Plus they liked the cocktails designed for the show.) Again, a good lesson on what you can do on next to nothing with great people volunteering to help.

For my part, I was very impressed with how bright the students were. It has been a long time since I studied statistics and data analysis, but these students had it down, and then some.

I have not yet seen the final report, and don’t really have a good idea what BAT’s economic impact is on Burien, but I am very confident what these students find will be very accurate. As I said, the amount of work that went into this study was very impressive.

As part of the study, students talked to businesses in Burien. The feedback I got from those interviews was nothing but glowing.

So, what did BAT provide? BAT has been asking audience members to fill out questionaries at every performance for a number of years. We have loaded that data into spreadsheets. BAT also has kept records of audience numbers and the type of tickets sold for years. Again, many years of that data has been put into spreadsheets. BAT also keeps track, for its online sales, of where the people buying tickets live, at least as far as city and zip codes. That data too has been put into a spreadsheet.

BAT has been gathering all of this data for its internal consumption. It helps us gauge the success of shows and provides an indication of what an audience in a certain time slot will be. However, what BAT has been doing with this data is nothing compared to the mining the students at Foster did. Hopefully, I have learned a little, and BAT will be able to use its data even better in the future.

Once a week for the last 7 weeks, I have met with the students at Foster and their corporate advisors. At these meetings, I was asked about how BAT’s data was gathered, what was available, and given a list of what data the students needed. But most important to me I was privy to the discussions on how the data was being used and why certain information as important.

Doing theater you get to spend time with some very very bright people. Creative problem solvers. The students I worked with a Foster were just as bright. It was an experience I hope BAT gets to repeat in some way soon.

It is very close to finding out the verdict.

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1 Response to Fun with Foster

  1. Lance Bowman says:

    What a great learning experience for everyone!

    “Nevertheless, the students were impressed and their eyes were opened to the idea that not everything one does is for the money. A good lesson for those at a school of business.”

    An excellent lesson for us all.

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