Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Update: January 24, 2022

By January 24, 2022No Comments

January 24, 2022

Greetings WESTAF Trustees, Committee Members and Staff!

Januarys are ridiculously busy at WESTAF and this one is no exception. It’s really exciting to see our web platforms picking up and roaring back in the new year…in fact, CaFE just added its 10,000th event to the system recently…wow! (ZAPP reached the same milestone a few months ago, in fact.). Read on below for more details on this astonishing milestone! CVSuite, GO Smart and PAA have also been very busy with new releases, attracting new customers and retaining current ones. Lots of energy and progress on the web services side of things! On the policy front, there has been a lot of intense activity in DC of late, with a recent hearing on the Creative Economy held the U.S. Congress House Small Business Committee. Currently, there are seven Creative Economy-related bills under consideration — unprecedented in U.S. history. In other news, our two planning committees comprised of board and staff have been hard at work developing the agenda for both our February and May board meetings — so much gratitude to them for the creativity, curiosity and good work! In particular, it’s exciting to see the close involvement of our Hawai’i ELC alumni in the planning of our Hawai’i Equity Gathering (read on below). It cannot be said enough, but…wow! What an incredible team we have here at WESTAF. So many individual skills, competencies and leadership qualities wrapped up in patience, humor and compassion…all converging confidently to advance our FY22 Initiatives. It’s a true marvel. Gratitude abounds.

Trustees! We are now into the fourth month of FY22. You’ll remember that last year we introduced a 100% Trustee Giving Participation Policy. The policy requires no minimum individual giving amount, and each trustee’s giving amount remains private and secure. To facilitate the donation process, there is a “donate” button on the password-protected trustee web page at Trustees are asked to make their donation (in whatever amount) as soon as possible, but definitely before the end of Q3 (June 30, 2022). If you are having difficulty with the donate button, or you would prefer to send a check or make another arrangement, please contact Cameron Green, and he will be happy to expedite this for you. Your participation is so very much appreciated!

WESTAF invited Be An Arts Hero/Arts Workers United to attend the recent Western Arts Advocacy Network (WAAN) meeting on January 14 to lead a discussion on the U.S. Congress House Small Business Committee Hearing on the creative economy, The Power, Peril, and Promise of the Creative Economy, that they spearheaded with broad based support across the field. Matthew Lee-Erlbach, one of the members of the Be An Arts Hero leadership team, met with David, Claire Rice, and Ernesto Balderas as Co-Chairs of the Creative States Coalition to discuss finalizing witness testimony on January 13, and provided written talking points on the creative economy to them. The hearing took place on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, and a recording of the session can be viewed on YouTube. The hearing centered on seven pieces of legislation related to the creative economy currently being considered by Congress, Promoting Local Arts and Creative Economy Workforce (PLACE) Act, Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA), Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy (CREATE) Act, 21st Century Writers Act, Saving Transit Art Resources (STAR) Act, Performing Artists Tax Parity Act (PATPA), and Arts Education for All (AEFA) Act. Rebuilding America’s Arts Infrastructure, a set of Cultural Advocacy Group (CAG) policy recommendations developed with lead authorship from WESTAF, was used by the Small Business Committee to frame the content of the hearing.

Cynthia and David have been conducting a review of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 to identify opportunities for provisions and appropriations of the act to support arts, culture, and the creative economy. Cynthia has been developing a set of recommendations to be shared with and used by the Cultural Advocacy Group to define advocacy and lobbying actions. David will be meeting with a lobbyist at Penn Hill Group, a leading federal lobbying firm focused on education and workforce policy, to discuss possible engagement with the leadership of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). He will also be meeting with fellow Salzburg Global Fellow Ben Stone, director, arts and culture, at Smart Growth America/Transportation America to discuss the policy environment and potential recommendations to the DOT and other agencies.

Moana Palelei HoChing and Cynthia Chen were recently welcomed into the Getting Creative Workers Coalition per recommendation by David, and Moana has also been invited to participate in coalition meetings of Be An Arts Hero. Both national coalitions are focused on improving economic conditions for artists and creative workers and amplifying their voices in arts advocacy and cultural policy.

Two arts advocacy groups in the WESTAF region have appointed new staff leadership. Patrick McWhorter was recently appointed as executive director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts and Andrew Schneider was recently appointed as director of operations of Wyoming Arts Alliance. Both were welcomed into the WAAN group in our recent meeting alongside WESTAF Board Secretary Karmen Rossi and Cynthia Chen. The AAP team has met with McWhorter and Schneider in recent weeks to discuss their strategies for the upcoming legislative session.

Cynthia, Moana, and David met to continue the development of the division’s FY22 plan on January 13. The plan connects the division’s program of activities to WESTAF’s FY22 Initiatives and the WESTAF 10-year vision and strategic plan. Individual portfolios have been identified for both Cynthia and Moana, with each taking on management responsibilities related to key policy-related convenings and WESTAF’s engagement with a group of states and jurisdictions. The team will continue refinement of the plan at a retreat to be held at Lost Eden Gallery (where Moana serves as a curator) in Salt Lake City, Utah in February.

David has been invited to serve as a keynote speaker at the Nebraska Arts Advocacy Day in February 2022 by Nebraskans for the Arts, a member of the Creative States Coalition.

SRI Director Anika Kwinana has been selected to participate in a small group of advisors, diverse across lines of identity, arts disciplines, geographies, and experiences to engage in three virtual conversations to discuss how Arts Midwest should shape a new national fund. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the fund will invest in performing arts experiences that explore and advance social justice and social change. The conversations take place January 20, February 1, and February 16.

Kanaka Maoli, multimedia performer, educator, and 2021 ELC alumni Nāwāhineokalaʻi (Nawahine) Lanzilotti has been onboarded as Consultant/Project Manager for the Hawai’i Equity Gathering and is charged with its management, implementation and evaluation. Co-designed with Hawai’i-based Emerging Leaders of Color Alumni, the Equity Gathering sessions are grounded in community building with the intention to spark transformative conversations on the current and future state of race and equity issues in Hawai’i. Lanzilotti will work closely with SRI Director Anika Kwinana and interdepartmental staff from WESTAF and with other ELC Hawai’i alumni to gather a representative group of local stakeholders to meet with the Equity and Inclusion Committee and the Equity Cohort for the sessions taking place February 22–23 in Hawai’i.

David Holland, Moana Palelei HoChing, and Jade Elyssa Cariaga met with Parker Yobel of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Arts Council to finalize the design of the CNMI American Rescue Plan (ARP) Fund for Artists and Organizations, among other items related to solidifying the agency’s partnership with WESTAF. In financial partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the CNMI ARP Fund for Artists and Organizations serves artists, culture bearers, and arts and cultural organizations in the Northern Mariana Islands while simultaneously deepening WESTAF’s commitment to decolonization.

In the business department, we’re working on a lot of updating and cleaning up with sales metrics tracking, automation, and general business operational things like call routing guidelines, and working out some payment timing issues with the finance department. We will also complete our Insights quarterly 1:1 check-ins this month. In sales, we are working on a features/benefits matrix to help the MarComm team with messaging in all external communications and preparing coverage plans for Ken’s upcoming paternity leave. Blair and Natalie are focused on technology “build” meetings where the SaaS teams plan out the next month’s technical development work.

CaFÉ added its 10,000th event recently. The lucky customer, Edmonds Arts Festival (which also happens to be a ZAPP customer), will receive one free event on CaFÉ and will celebrate with us in a featured upcoming blog post. Q1 was busy for the team with many returning customers and an ambitious list of team objectives to tackle. We also made changes to our promotional e-blast offering to adjust for the popularity of the service. Customers can now choose a maximum of two dates per month to send, and for those customers who have multiple calls open at the same time, they can now include multiple listings in one e-blast at no additional cost. CaFÉ’s e-blast offering is a revenue-generating complement to CaFÉ’s core service projected to bring in around $45-50k this year. By leveraging our database of more than 100,000 artists, we are able to distribute a customer’s opportunity to likely applicants based on locality and artistic discipline, thus increasing the customer’s applicant yield. The starting rate for up to 9999 email recipients is $100 which is why this is so popular and has a very good ROI.

CVSuite has been busy with sales activity, including a new user orientation for the City of Austin Economic Development Office and a new sale to the Utah Cultural Alliance. The Alliance is an expired client who declined to renew, citing more affordable access to broader data sets available by our competitor Chmura, but they were still interested in purchasing nonprofit data dashboards. They purchased the dashboards for 2020 and 2019; however, the level of effort to provide those was underestimated by our team and we have had to communicate about delays in providing this data. Kelly is also processing documentation for new hot leads, Pennsylvania Arts Council, Montana Arts Council, New Hampshire Council on the Arts, and the City of San Diego. We are also processing Alaska State Council on the Arts’ renewal and preparing for upcoming renewals for ArtsWA and Cultural Planning Group.

The GO Smart team is finally able to announce the release of five tickets today after passing all testing! The tickets mostly pertain to a refresh of the admin’s Program Cycles editor and the advent of modern date pickers to replace the drop down menus for day, month, year, hour, and minute. We’re very excited to finally see this pass as it was nearly six months in the making. Jessica continues to support South Arts as they run their panel reviews for Cultural Treasures, as they build their first final report for Jazz Roads residencies, and as they add a new sub-department, Traditional Arts, and program to their slate of grant offerings. Cynthia Chen has received preliminary training on GO Smart so she can assume management of the Advocacy Funds grant that is being administered in the system. Current client ArtsBuild Chattanooga referred our newest client, Chattanooga Tourism; however, they will not be renewing their subscription this year.

The PAA coordinator hiring team has completed all interviews for the new position. We are excited to report that there are many great candidates that would excel at the job, and it will really come down to past experience and alignment with WESTAF’s guiding principles. Lori completed the build of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Monument Lab page as part of their Collection Showcase services. The team continues planning the Anniversary Map Campaign in coordination with the MarComm team and hopes to reach out to the potential artist by the end of the month. PAA is in conversation with Austin Art in Public Places to bring them onto the PAA CMS, which would be a great win for a long-time PAA supporter. A new site is being developed for the WESTAF Women’s Suffrage Mural Project, and Lori will report on this once the new home for the mural is determined.

Julia has been busy in communications land lately building out our annual surveys for both administrators and artists, slated to launch in our next newsletter. This year we have decided to focus our surveys on evaluating how effective some ZAPP services and offerings are, making business improvements, and better understanding our customer base. We hope to gain a bit more insight for several of our OKR tasks we are working toward. Julia has also received an influx of e-blast requests as more shows want to advertise their applications to our user base to increase their application numbers. We are booked for e-blasts through mid-March and have secured about $27K in revenue for those sales!

With the conclusion of December, WESTAF has finalized the first quarter of the fiscal year. Time flies! The financial system was upgraded to the most recent version this past Monday. Thanks to Paul for shepherding the process through the day! The budget managers have been compiling the first round of cash projections, which will be shared with the executive committee in January. Amy is also compiling the first round of accrual financial statements which will be shared with the executive committee in January along with a memo that outlines the differences between cash and accrual methods of accounting. The tax and audit draft documents will be shared with Amy in mid-February and will then be reviewed by the executive committee at the February meeting. Once approved, the documents will be shared with the full board in March. An unexpected change in the financial system has caused omissions in the monthly financial income totals. Amy and Becky worked to identify what happened, why and a way to work around the issue going forward. Lauren, Michelle and Cameron are working with Amy to propose a replacement travel credit card given the endless challenges we continue to have with Diners Club: thanks to the three of them for their work on this! Becky and Ashanti have been working to compile a TourWest grant batch for this month and it has taken a lot of their time. Everyone will be relieved when we have the Grant and Finance Specialist hired! Speaking of which, interviews have been set for the first round of applicants for that position. Another round will be set once the position closes on January 25. The report that automatically pulls cashed checks by program is up and running and Amy is considering how best to integrate it into the monthly closeout process.

Amy and Christian have been meeting regularly with our investment advisor Tim Schott of ATON Advisors to fully understand the investment screens that we can apply to our long-term investment funds, so that we can make sure that WESTAF is both divesting from companies that are not aligned with our values, while investing in companies that are aligned and also not contra to your values. We can do this while also being focused on investment return generation by globally diversifying the portfolio and focusing on market factors like profitability, size and value that have a history of market outperformance. WESTAF currently owns 12,535 investment securities, so this is a rigorous exercise, but we’re making good progress. Based on our discussions with Tim, ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) categories like atmospheric emissions, nuclear power, and companies prone to toxic spills and other waste-related events, as well as child-labor and weapons-related companies are excluded from our U.S. equity portfolio. We are using exclusionary screens, meaning we are excluding these types of companies from the portfolio (companies that score poorly based on these particular screens). On the investment side, WESTAF is now heavily invested in companies that have strong racial/ethnic diversity policies, empower women, particularly in developing countries, and have exemplary gender and LGBTQ equality policies. We are able to change any of these selections at any time based on discussions with the board or any other changes as they arise. Tim will report on this at the next board meeting, and will be ready to answer your questions on this strategy and our investment performance in general.

The MarComm team is currently developing a new GO Smart video ad that will launch in February on both Facebook and LinkedIn. We are also working on a strategy for CaFÉ’s Recharge the Arts paid social media campaign and organizing a Public Art Archive social media calendar. The team has also finished conducting research on potential e-newsletter sponsorship opportunities for CaFÉ and is excited to move forward with this brand new marketing tactic in the coming weeks.

The MarComm team updated staff on some key departmental highlights and successes from FY21, as well as some of the exciting projects coming down the pike during a presentation earlier this week. The team has been busy answering questions and conducting meetings with interested agencies for the WESTAF rebrand project that was shared via RFP last week and is excited to review proposals next week. We are also in the process of reviewing (and copiously trimming!) website content for the new WESTAF site and collaborating with the AAP, SRI, and Business teams for their feedback on pages that house content relating to their department.

The grants & finance specialist job posting is set to close January 25 and has received several very qualified applicants. The final interview for the PAA coordinator happened last week and Becca is working with Lori and Christina to determine next steps. Becca is also working heavily on tax items: W2 distribution, 1094B/1095B filings, and the IRS 5500 filing. WESTAF’s health insurance plans run on a calendar year, so as of January 1, insurance deductibles reset. Becca is working with Cigna to set up a meeting for staff to receive an overview of their benefits for the year.

The communication cohort met for their first meeting of the new year on Friday. During this meeting, they reviewed their marketing-based discovery presentation, which they hope to share with the firm selected to do the WESTAF rebrand. Horn gave the group an update on the rebrand process and where MarComm was currently at in the selection process for a marketing firm to help with the rebrand. The communication cohort voted to change their meeting format to once quarterly and use meeting time to do cohort projects instead giving homework type tasks to its members. Additionally, they have decided to extend an open invitation to their trustee advisors to attend regular cohort meetings, so that they may be involved throughout the process. The business cohort also met for the first time in the new year on Wednesday, where they welcomed their new cohort member Cynthia Chen. The cohort looked at ways CaFÉ could expand internationally in the future by reviewing potential web based APIs like Shopify and AWS and looked at websites similar to what they hope to accomplish with the expansion. The cohort also started talking about creating an internal wiki for all things WESTAF for staff members. The equity cohort sent out the second quarter Equity Survey to staff to track our goals and progress in equity and inclusion over the last few months. They hope to gather new data to share at the February board meeting. The cohort also approved an equity statement to be added to job postings to help establish WESTAF culture from the start of employment.

The May Planning Committee met for the second time on Tuesday to discuss programming and facilitators for the BOT meeting and the ED Forum. During this meeting, the committee laid the framework for seven different programs including three programs that bring the trustees and the EDs together. Holland is working with Ian David Moss, Randy Engstrom, and NASAA to facilitate programs for the ED forum. Additionally, the group discussed rural and indigenous arts topics to find potential ArtX speakers for the ED and trustee Dinner and a speaker for the trustee dinner. Green and Horn approved of the initial catering proposal by Under My Umbrella for the trustee dinner at the Hawai’i State Art Museum in February. Finally, Green and Holland have started the process of discussing potential planning committee members for the September executive committee and WAAN meeting in Wyoming. They hope to have the committee formed soon.

Respectfully Submitted,