Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: September 8, 2020

By September 8, 2020No Comments

Greetings WESTAF Trustees:

Hope everyone was able to relax, take stock, and feel safe and during this past Labor Day weekend. It’s really very busy at WESTAF right now as we head towards the last few weeks of our fiscal year so let’s jump right in, shall we?


The July financials were reviewed by the Executive Committee at their meeting on August 26 and are presented here for your review: July Cash Summary — a snapshot of cash income and expenses as of July 31st; July Financial Memo — accompanies the cash summary footnotes; Aug End of Year Projections  — a forecast of where we think we’ll be at year-end as of mid-August. As you’ll see in the projections, the budget managers continue to project a strong year-end surplus. Please reach out to Amy if you have any questions. 


As you know, September is the last month of our fiscal year. The team is busy preparing for the new year starting on October 1st! Budget managers are working on the first round of monthly projections for FY21 this week and next week. We are pleased to announce that WESTAF received a $10,000 grant from the Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund (NPERF) program from Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO). To qualify, we needed to provide evidence of major reductions in our net income during the pandemic. This is very clear when you combine WESTAF and ZAPP financials (as required per Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — GAAP). These funds will be applied to FY20 payroll expenses, which in turn increase our year-end surplus. The surplus will be put to good use in FY21. Becca is coordinating with our benefits broker on our open enrollment for staff benefits. Lauren continues to implement our Concur accounts payable transition. Amy is drafting a list of goals and objectives for the department for FY21 and working with Christian and Becca on a plan for implementation of a new all-team evaluation tool called Insights. This tool links department and individual staff goals directly to the strategic plan and offers support to supervisors regarding feedback and accountability.


The MarComm team launched the brand new newsletter, WESTAF Now, and made some adjustments to the website to officially retire the Update Notes. The team is heavy into FY21 planning and has met with all product teams to discuss marketing support for business initiatives/OKRs for the next fiscal year. FY21 marketing plans are currently in development for all tech products, and the FY21 MarComm budget for all tech products as well as general marketing has been finalized. We also launched a joint marketing campaign for CaFE and Public Art Archive highlighting WESTAF’s history and experience in the public art field and created more video ads for social media that got a lot of engagement with CaFE audiences on both Facebook and Twitter. The final version of the Arts + Rural West Summit Session report is nearly done and we are tentatively planning to announce the release of the report on Sept. 14. CVSuite’s second Creative Vitality List is coming together nicely, and we plan to launch this second (super duper awesome) list by the end of September. The MarComm team is also currently putting the finishing touches on a homepage refresh for that we’ll reveal soon. Finally, the team kicked off the first in a series of five all-staff sessions with Common Notice designed to inspire exploration of WESTAF’s Guiding Principles through team members sharing origin stories of personal values that connect back to these principles.


I wanted everyone to know that after 11 incredible years, our chair Tamara Alvarado will be stepping aside from the faculty of the ELC program to most effectively steward the many aspects of her busy professional and family life. In her note to the ELC faculty and friends, she said: “Please count on me to always be an ardent supporter of ELC! I make this decision with the utmost sincerity and respect for each one of you and what you mean to me personally and professionally.” Salvador Acevedo, ELC faculty and curriculum specialist captured everyone’s sentiments well when he said, upon hearing the news: “This is surely the beginning of a new era for ELC and I’m fully confident of its bright future. (Tamara’s) guidance and nurturing will continue to be at the essence of the program, just in different ways now.” Huge thanks and gratitude go to Tamara for her leadership over the years in this immensely important WESTAF program. We love, admire and respect leaders who make big decisions for all of the right reasons!


As reported previously, David has been invited to serve on a NASAA advisory committee charged with assisting NASAA in considering stronger messaging strategies designed to drive arts policy change and public funding. Other members of the group include leaders from the Cultural Advocacy Group (a network of the national arts and cultural advocacy groups and industry associations), influential former congressional committee staffers, public relations strategists, state arts agency leaders, policy experts, and registered lobbyists. The committee includes a former WESTAF board chair and a lobbyist engaged through our State Advocacy Funds program. David recently participated in two sessions in August where NASAA leadership, fellow advisory committee members, and a strategic communications agency based on the West Coast convened to discuss proposals for a new arts advocacy message framework that can resonate with policymakers across the political spectrum, with a respectful emphasis on connecting to conservative policymakers and influencers. A refined message framework and narrative guide aimed at being a resource for advocates nationally will be released later this year after the communications firm conducts further message testing with interviewees recommended by committee members. 


WESTAF endorsed the Getting Creative Workers Working Policy Proposal developed by Americans for the Arts in consultation with the field. Over 600 organizations across the country have endorsed this platform, including sister regional arts organizations, philanthropic foundations like the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation, and WESTAF partners like California Presenters, Forecast Public Art, and Arizona Citizens for the Arts. The proposal will be submitted to the presidential campaign teams and arose from the work of the Getting Creative Workers Working Group that Christian and David serve on with hundreds of arts leaders nationally.


Several weeks ago, Chrissy and David met with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, a federal agency housed within the US Department of the Interior, that is charged with protecting and promoting authentic indigineous arts and crafts of federally recognized tribes. Their stated mission is to “promote the economic development of American Indians and Alaska Natives through the expansion of the Indian arts and crafts market.” The board’s team promoted WESTAF CARES and the Regional Arts Resilience Fund to their networks nationally, which enhanced the participation of indigenous led and serving organizations in the applicant pool. We discussed ways in which WESTAF can amplify their Source Directory of American Indian and Alaska Native Owned and Operated Arts and Crafts Businesses to our networks; engage Indian markets regionally and nationally; and share Native artist and culture bearer contacts as we deepen and expand our network and engagement with indigineous communities. MarComms will be promoting some of the board’s resources on social media and the Business team is exploring further engagement with Indian markets, with the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market currently launching their applications on ZAPP.  


David was recently selected by the Arts Endowment to serve as an expert reader for FY21 Regional Arts Organization Partnership applications, and will be reviewing on-year submissions from sister RAOs this fall.


September started with the Policy cohort nailing down a date for their TA kickoff session. They have also been collaborating with the marketing team for their Stories of Resilience project and each cohort member has a couple of stories that they will be gathering information on the organizations being profiled to include in future WESTAF blog posts, social media, and press releases. The Communications cohort is currently in the planning stages of their kickoff session and Natalie reached out to those advisors on what early October dates would work best for them. Once the advisors have decided on a date, the cohort will begin putting together more information on their current initiatives to discuss how the TAs can inform this work going forward. Last week, the Equity cohort, in collaboration with the SRI team, held their second Equity and Inclusion session alongside Carla Mestas. The team completed an “I Am…” session from worksheets to embrace their identities by being vulnerable and sharing parts of their life experiences with each other. The team also discussed and reacted to Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s Deconstructing White Privilege video.  


The final of WESTAF’s three all-staff workshops with equity and inclusion consultant Carla Mestas will take place on September 10. Once again, the goal is to foster dialogue and learning as we consider, as a staff, how to infuse and underscore equity and inclusion in our day-to-day work at WESTAF, this time with the guiding principle of “Amplifying Marginalized Voices” at top of mind. In this third workshop, Carla will guide us through conversations about bias (drawing from Ted talk by Vernā Myers as inspiration) and facilitate teams as they take a closer look at ways white dominant culture shapes how organizations operate. 


The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to supporting folk and traditional arts in every state, region, and territory. The 2019 Living Traditions report includes significant data that shows the strategic role that folk and traditional arts grants and programs play in serving the nation’s most rural and low income communities. Likewise, the report illuminates the power of institutional partnerships (between SAAs, RAOs, and nonprofit partners) to extend the reach of arts agencies to the nation’s most underserved communities. Chrissy Deal and the SRI team are looking forward to developing WESTAF’s new approach to engaging WESTAF-region folk and traditional arts professionals, organizations and culture bearers as the Arts Endowment increases its commitment for folk and traditional arts beginning in FY21. In addition to meeting with the Arts Endowment’s Cliff Murphy and Cheryl Schiele, they will be reconnecting with folk and traditional arts state arts agency staff members from across the region, among others, to ensure WESTAF’s emerging folk arts partnership plan is informed by those closest to and leading the work.


If you get a chance, I strongly recommend this NASAA learning series called Shifting Policy and Practice: Insights and Actions for States. The first two editions (Pivot One and Pivot Two) feature some super smart and illuminating panelists, not to mention our own Victoria Panella Bourns. I highly recommend.


Whitson Strategies has completed a roadmap of some of the most likely private foundation sources for WESTAF as we move into FY21. While some of these approaches were already on our radar, these recommendations are a very valuable way for us to organize and prioritize this work as we look towards the future. At WESTAF, we’re focused on two kinds of approaches right now: foundation funding for our programmatic work (equity, advocacy, policy, professional development) as well as to some degree identifying the right funder who is interested in the work we’re doing at the intersection of art and technology. The second approach is more focused on social enterprise impact-style investment, focusing on some of our emerging platforms like CVSuite and Public Art Archive. Recently, we’ve been fielding some incoming interest from investors that are specifically interested in one or more of our technology platforms. In particular, we’re working with one —  Upstart Co-Lab — which, as a social impact investor, is in general better-aligned with our nonprofit, project-based approach. We’re approaching this cautiously but methodically and we’ll keep you posted to let you know if there’s a potential fit for us here.


Given that we’ve been missing out on informative and relevant presentations during our regular in-person BOT meetings, I’m thrilled to report that the Development Committee (Karen, Jonathan, Ann, Bassem and Brandi) invite you to ArtX, a conversation and discussion time for learning, sharing and professional development. The date for the inaugural ArtX will be Wed, September 30 at 3:00 pm PST. You should have received a calendar invite and some additional information recently. The first topic will be the Brookings/Metropolitan Policy Program paper co-authored by Michael Seman with Richard Florida “Lost Art: Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy.” Michael Seman will join us virtually, to talk about it with us all. After this inaugural ArtX, we aim to hold them quarterly. Future ArtX conversations will be scheduled quarterly on the last Wednesday of the month at 3:00 p.m. PST, starting January 2021. The Development Committee’s vision for ArtX: “Think of this as a time for us to deepen our connections while learning from others and from each other in a way that is relevant to our work with WESTAF.” Given that context, do you have topics you think might be important for us to discuss and kick about together at future ArtX? Do be in touch with me, Karen or anyone on the Development Committee.


For the last few months, the Business department has been busy finalizing the FY21 OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and budget for all SAAS products. Developing projections and metrics for these goals is important and these will be summarized for the leadership team in a forthcoming business strategy document.  For FY21, we are moving to a system of managing projections in a single document that will allow us to streamline the process, view multiple products simultaneously and provide an accurate summary for the Finance team. We will use this updated budgeting form as a working document for FY21 to allow us to easily adjust our projections and predict the impact of these adjustments on our products’ individual line items. Having a single view of all of the products’ monthly projections will also support the Technology team’s work in developing a road map for using the resources it has to accomplish goals. We will also be focusing on a year-end burn down of costs and quarter 4 OKR progress reports, significant metrics that allow us to see our year-end results against our FY20 OKRs, which will improve the way we approach our goals in FY21.  


The marketing team, together with Justine in CaFE and Lori in PAA, launched four CaFE + PAA Facebook ads on August 31. You can see them here, here, here, and here. Considering the dire city and state budgets across the country and their impact on public art programs, the team’s goal is to communicate WESTAF’s long standing commitment to the field and offer a modest discount on a two-program package for those agencies with budget constraints.


In the last two weeks, CVSuite has focused on the Creative Vitality List and launching the next technical enhancement. Slated for launch September 8, the new feature will create a report for users that includes charts on demographic breakdowns and sales and earnings revenue over time. We’re in the editing process of a communication that will accompany the release on Tuesday.


GO Smart continues to renew clients above the expected rate, with three clients confirming their renewal in the past week. We are awaiting payment from roughly 15% of our renewed clients and may not receive many FY20 payments until FY21. We conducted a well-received demonstration to the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department at the referral of our client, Town of Gilbert. The technology team continues to improve UX/UI by adding directive instruction modals to the administrative portal. 


PAA is working toward contracting its newest CMS client, the City of Alexandria, Virginia’s Office of the Arts. The team also finalized and submitted an RFP for Los Alamos County, New Mexico. Over the next few weeks, the tech team is working on upgrading all CMS clients to an enhanced version of the system, which includes more powerful reporting tools, new fields, and additional search functionality. However, a few minor issues with the reports have caused a delay and will need to be corrected prior to deployment and upgrade. PAA is happy to report that all CMS clients have renewed their annual subscriptions.


The ZAPP team is finishing up the fiscal year with a strong push to collect balances owed, renew clients, and sell e-blasts. Julia came up with a 25% off campaign for e-blasts that are reserved by September 30, and as part of the effort, we were able to increase our e-blast sales by 279% from July to August. We also hosted another ZAPP Connections discussion on virtual fairs; this was a follow-up to the first discussion where events discussed the opportunities and challenges with transitioning their in-person event to the digital realm. Finally, we released a change to the artist application so that artists are able to drag and drop their images in the desired order. Though a minor adjustment, this change is significant to artists and was made based on direct feedback from our artist advisory group.

Respectfully submitted,