Erin Koppel

Chief Strategy Officer, Tessitura Network

Connection and Presence


3 min

Can you have connection without physical presence?

Yes, you can. But you have to try harder, and in different ways.

I want to tell you the story of how Tessitura Arts & Culture Connection groups were born, because I want you to attend. We are opening these groups to the sector, beyond our usual focus of the member organizations we serve, because we believe that it is important for the future of arts and culture.

•      •      • 

A few weeks ago, we at Tessitura knew it was necessary for all of us to begin to comprehend the scope of challenges the arts and culture industry is facing right now. We set out to connect members of our community by creating an atmosphere of collaboration, inspiration, and encouragement.

While other companies rushed to host sessions online, we eliminated the usual webinar format pretty quickly. We didn’t think that one-way communication was the answer: our primary focus was to deliver connection. And to be honest, we needed the connection as much as our audience did.

But could we create true connections without physical presence?

Connection is a mutual exchange of ideas. We had to invent the virtual infrastructure to accomplish that. To get people to talk with each other, we used some learnings from in-person gatherings. When we bring together peer groups at our Leadership Summit, the most successful ones have 5-6 people. For our Connection groups, we assign 6–8 because at any given time someone might be distracted with real life (it happens).

We also choose highly relevant topics for discussion, such as Relational Fundraising during Physical Distance, New Revenue Streams, Revisiting your Case for Support, and Season Announcements and Subscriptions. We help people exchange ideas by giving them solid discussion prompts. And we set clear expectations that what you bring to the conversation is what you will get out of it. (It’s hard to lurk in a group of six people.)

We are hosting Connections on topics across all revenue streams: fundraising, marketing, ticketing, and education. The role of the host is to frame the topic, listen in to the breakouts, and then elevate ideas from the group at large in the takeaways. If you’ve been feeling the absence of connection, these sessions are a good antidote right now.

I feel privileged to host the fundraising topics on behalf of Tessitura. We start each session by taking a few breaths together. We are on video, remember? So you can see people (including me!) relax, focus, and start to get to work. Those are the intangible benefits of connection in this way, and those benefits sustain me personally.

Imagine an hour to toss around ideas, gain inspiration from others in the sector, and hear encouragement that you are doing the right things in these wild times. We’d love to have you join the conversation and share the connection for yourself, and with us.

Ultimately, we’ve decided the presence necessary for connection is that which you bring with you. A desire for a meaningful exchange of ideas. And the sector deserves to have all of us invited into that process. Hope to see you soon. Be well, friends.


Coming Up

You can view all our upcoming events in one place.

Upcoming events >


Top photo by Andrea Piacquadio  from Pexels


Arts & Culture



Erin Koppel

Erin Lively Koppel

Chief Strategy Officer
Tessitura Network

Erin (she/her) works to translate Tessitura’s vision of a day when every human in every community we serve has arts and culture as a meaningful part of their life into a clear strategic plan.

As Chief Strategy Officer, she is responsible for clarifying this vision, creating shared alignment around it, and driving the change effort. Of critical importance is ensuring the decisions being made are aligned with the strategy and creating the desired results. 

In addition to her role as Chief Strategy Officer, Erin leads Tessitura’s Professional Services group, which seeks to align the business of Tessitura members with a holistic use of our technologies. She directs this highly skilled team of industry experts to help organizations create revenue-generating strategies, gain meaningful business insight, and maximize their use of CRM to connect audiences to their mission.

Erin’s background includes nearly twenty years fundraising for Lyric Opera of Chicago (one of North America’s largest opera companies), where she directed multi-million-dollar fundraising campaigns and led major initiatives. She later worked in consulting, where she honed her ability to develop and critique strategy. Erin is a highly sought-after conference speaker and seasoned executive adept at strategy formation and execution, focusing an organization on what needs to be done today, as well as planning for tomorrow. She resides in Bolingbrook, Illinois, southwest of Chicago.

  • Good data is about people
    Insights and InnovationInsights and Innovation

    Good data is about people

    Arts & Culture / BI & Analytics / Technology

    How data is fueling the future of arts and culture (and why Tessitura members have an edge)

  • The audacity of relevance
    Insights and InnovationInsights and Innovation

    The audacity of relevance

    Arts & Culture / Innovator Series / Community Engagement

    Alex Sarian urges us to prioritize shared cultural experiences in the face of social isolation

  • Who we are, what we value and where we’re headed
    Insights and InnovationInsights and Innovation

    Who we are, what we value and where we’re headed

    Arts & Culture / Technology

    Recapping the TLCC Orlando 2023 opening session