Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: March 9, 2020

Hello again WESTAF Trustees:

Like many of you in your daily work, we are confronting and assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various parts of the WESTAF organization. We are trying to stay as flexible as advance planning allows, although we’re already seeing some disruption on some of our programs, mostly from travel decisions and restrictions. That being said, we are doing A-OK in the WESTAF office (as of this writing!), and doing our best to continue with our work! Hope everyone is doing as well as possible given the circumstances. Onwards…


An open call for candidates is now underway. We’re so excited to have this new program out in the world! (From South Arts Newsletter): “Between 11 and 13 participants will be selected for this partnership program between South Arts and WESTAF. This is a Southern pilot of the Emerging Leaders of Color (ELC) program for cultural workers and arts administrators located in seven states in the southern region. Building on the success of WESTAF’s ELC program which has been attracting, training, networking and promoting a new generation of diverse arts leaders since 2010, the South Arts program will serve to advance Southern vitality through the arts through leadership development.”


Last week we had a productive Executive Committee meeting. Along with some discussion about the technology businesses and some programmatic updates, Treasurer Mike Lange and WESTAF staffer Amy Hollrah offered a thorough overview of the cash summary report through the first third of the year (33%). We find ourselves at 37% of revenue goal and 32% of expenses — a good place to be at one third of the way through the fiscal year. We also unveiled the first iteration of a projections document. This begins a monthly effort by all budget owners to project (and, if necessary, revise) revenue and expense projections through the end of the fiscal year.


(Per cohort member Kelly Ernst) Similar to the Equity Cohort, the Comm Cohort is still in a workshop/conversation/research/understanding phase of our work. Our cohort has been processing through the scoping document that was given to our team at the beginning of the fiscal year. We have gone through the document as a team and are in a phase of understanding the content as well as designing research strategies to begin to understand how to implement the contents of the document. Some of our preliminary discussions have included: How are our current brands and assets presented? How are they perceived by various stakeholders? Using research to understand the current equity in your brand and begin to develop strategies to build upon it by connecting with what our stakeholders and audiences value most. Auditing current materials and experiences. Where are we today? The first steps of our research included conducting a brand analysis of all of our products, which ended up being incredibly useful for the team. We are in the middle of evaluating our marketing plans. We discovered that our internal communication and understanding of the brands that we work so closely with is varied. It opened up a lot of space for organic conversation regarding communications at WESTAF.

The team has also experienced several operational challenges. The process of understanding and interpreting the scoping doc and making it our own have been slow going as we decide on exactly how to proceed with a timeline, as well as ensuring that our understanding will align with the objectives. The process was labored because of operational challenges such as onboarding new members, clear communication on who is leaving the cohort and joining the cohort, establishing a leadership process that will fit well with the work, and interrupted meeting times (due to holidays and snow days mainly.)

The future is exciting for the Comm Cohort. In Q2 and Q3 we will continue to address and process the work for the scoping doc and continue our research phase of the communication assets, challenges, and strengths of WESTAF and its projects. We have proposed to engage in an OKR planning process similar to that of the SAAS programs in order to better understand our goals and initiatives around those goals. In addition, the Comm Cohort will be engaging in projects that will have a more local and immediate effect on the status of WESTAF communications and culture. Suggested projects will focus on and evaluate how staff builds community with each other through contact points such as standups, social shares, and other gatherings.


Per the Executive Committee meeting last week, WESTAF is adding two new signers to the bank accounts to aid the finance team with time-sensitive check process for both ZAPP and CaFE. Thanks to David and Chrissy for helping out when they can! The F&A team has started the first round of performance development reviews and will wrap up the process by March 16th. It’s been a helpful process as the team thinks about the goals and improvements each member wants to focus on. The 990 tax forms and FY19 audit, both compiled by Plante Moran, are still being finalized now and will be shared with the Executive Committee and board in the coming months.


Though February was a slow month for CaFE demos, we’ve had 14 new clients in the last week. We also saw nearly 50 new prospects complete our “schedule a demo” form in February, which could be a result of the Google AdWords campaign we launched this year. Our team is also working through about five minor bugs that have cropped up in the last couple of weeks. Our new Operations Coordinator, Eliza Weatherill, will start at WESTAF on March 9, and will begin a weeklong immersion into CaFE.


We had a successful and engaging meeting with communication strategists, Common Notice, and spent time brainstorming and thinking creatively on the CVSuite messaging, brand story and purpose. We’re also hard at work on the Creative Vitality List campaign, with an approaching deadline at the end of March. We emailed contacts in those cities who made the list with a request for information to help us tell their stories. We also sent out an email campaign to highlight our Specialized Impact Reports and followed up with people who clicked on the link in the email. Since we’ve hit some obstacles with client retention, we’re shifting focus to concentrate on lost renewals by tracking the client, their contract value, and a narrative about why they chose not to renew.


Our client, North Dakota Arts Council ($10,900 annually), let us know they would be looking for a replacement to GO Smart but have found that search daunting and fruitless. As such, they have given us the opportunity to assist with making GO Smart work with their other data products. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months to see how we can meet their needs. The tech team has completed the initial work for a development ticket that is reordering and streamlining the tabs of the admin dashboard. We are doing blocker and in-depth testing and are hoping to release it to the live site by 3/12/20.


Lori is working with the CVSuite data analyst, Trevor, to script portions of data cleaning and formatting to streamline the client onboarding and data import processes for PAA. PAA is hoping to close the sale of two more CMS/Showcase features for the City of Sacramento, CA and Los Alamos County, NM, although it is unlikely that either client will sign in March, based on the timing of budget meetings. Lori has been in initial discussions with the University of Alabama to host the State’s mural collection on the Public Art Archive in addition to featured tours for artworks within the state collection.


The internal tech team completed an update to make ZAPP Onsite, our scoring tool used at fairs and festivals to determine award winners, mobile responsive. Our team will begin testing this week with a hopeful launch by early April. As of Feb. 29, we were down about 1% in overall application submissions for FY20 as compared to the same time period in FY19. This is most likely a result of the loss of one major client who annually collected about 800 applications (the event was cancelled indefinitely) and a slight decrease in submissions to standard shows (shows that regularly collect 500+ applications). We’re going to add in logging on our checkout and registration pages this year so that we can identify any trends or blockers that ultimately prevent people from creating ZAPP accounts and/or submitting applications.

That’s all for now!

Thanks for all your do as WESTAF trustees!

As ever,