Board of Trustees Bi-Weekly Recap

Bi-Weekly Recap: June 28, 2021

By June 29, 2021No Comments

Dear WESTAF community:

Oh my gosh! We’re just a few days out from the beginning of Q4! Where did the year go?! If you feel like I do, you are bubbling over with pride about the superb work that WESTAF is doing right now in granting and advocacy, as well as across our business platforms. If you read on below, you’ll learn more about our real-world impact as an essential regional and federal advocate as we secure and distribute funds across the western states while making sure our collective voices are heard in Washington DC, as well. On the business side of things, CaFE and ZAPP are navigating themselves nicely out of pandemic mode and look primed to end the year strong. Immense gratitude goes to every WESTAF-er, each with a critical role to play in our current success and in our future plans. Here are some more details about these and other developments from the past two weeks:

WESTAF ARP will start accepting applications on July 1.  The program will focus on funding to organizations that serve and/or are led by the following categories:

  • Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC); 
  • Queer and Trans BIPOC; 
  • LGBTQ+  constituencies; 
  • Low income communities;
  • Remote and rural communities (communities with fewer than 50,000 in population and isolated from metropolitan areas);
  • Individuals with Disabilities;
  • Individuals in Institutions;
  • Individuals below the Poverty Line;
  • Individuals with limited English Proficiency;
  • Military Veterans/Active Duty Personnel;
  • Opportunity Youth 

WESTAF launched an optional Intent to Apply (due Monday, June 28) and has received 165 responses thus far. Here are some detailed statistics so far from these Intents to Apply.

With an over $50 million recent additional arts and cultural relief package being appropriated in Oregon, our estimate of state relief programs garnered across the region during the pandemic has risen to over $230 million. Budget decisions are imminent in some states in the region, in particular California and Arizona. So these totals could rise yet higher by the end of FY21. Early on, WESTAF had WAAN members agree to prioritize state relief packages in their advocacy work; convened knowledge sharing sessions about the specific strategies successful states had been using; and since that time has been engaged in conversations with some individual states  to support their efforts. The topic has regularly been the focal point of discussion in WAAN meetings, and we were asked to support direct advocacy in some states. In Colorado, we manage the lobbyist directly and have been involved in direct advocacy including our own letters to legislators, activation of our CO advocacy list, and giving testimony at committee hearings. David along with leaders from Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, and the lobbying firm Brandeberry McKenna Public Affairs exchanged messages in an active group text string to organize and respond to each step of the process through the legislature during this session. David also regularly meets to discuss strategy in California as well.

On June 25, WESTAF and WAAN submitted outside written testimony to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in support of the $201 million National Endowment for the Arts budget proposal introduced by the White House. The testimony was drafted by WESTAF in consultation with the WAAN group. 

Rebuilding America’s Arts Infrastructure has been released for endorsement by CAG members and other advocacy and policy contacts nationally with a strong emphasis on national arts organizations. Use this Sign-On Form if your organization is in a position to endorse the statement. The statement will be shared with members of Congress and the White House in advance of anticipated negotiation of an infrastructure bill in the fall. WESTAF played a significant role in the formulation of this latest CAG policy statement with David serving as lead author and point of contact for comments from the field and the endorsement process.

The 2021-2022 TourWest decisions have been finalized and sent out to applicants. A total of 236 out of 248 qualifying applications received awards totaling $538,195.00.  To be responsive to the needs of the field, the team increased the TourWest grant allocation this year and will be able to fund a higher percentage of requests. This year’s program also made accommodations for virtual and in-state performances to give organizations flexibility as we move toward safe reopenings.  Signed grant agreements are due on July 25.  A grantee listing will be posted on WESTAF’s website after that time. Here are some further detailed funding statistics from the qualifying applications.

“The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is announcing two programs to distribute American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. These programs are open to nonprofit arts and culture organizations and local arts agencies, regardless of whether they have received NEA funding in the past. This is a change from previous emergency funding requirements at the NEA and significantly expands access to federal funds for the arts and culture sector. The NEA encourages applications from first-time applicants and will offer workshops, question-and-answer sessions, and other resources for those new to federal funding.”  Read more here.

David met with playwright and actor Matthew Lee Erlbach, director of public policy, government affairs, and communication at Be An Arts Hero to discuss the CAG infrastructure statement and potential ways that WESTAF can intersect with Be An Arts Hero in amplifying the voices of individual artists in the policy arena.  

On June 16, David participated in a League of American Orchestras annual conference session focused on building a case for support that is responsive to the changing priorities of funders, government leaders, and donors alongside colleagues Nadia Elokdah, Vice President and Director of Programs at Grantmakers in the Arts and David Bohnett, chair of the LA-based David Bohnett Foundation.The discussion was moderated by Michelle Miller Burns, President and CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The Leaders of Color Skillshare is an opportunity for ELC Alumni to gather, connect and share practical wisdom and experience.  At the next Leaders of Color Skillshare on Friday, July 9 from 1:00 to 2:30 PM PST, L.T. Martinez (ELC 2021) and Mariana Moscoso (ELC 2017) will co-create a container space with the network.  The facilitators will provide tools to center and ground emotional and physical well being to support the imagining and co-creation of individual and collective liberation. 20+ network members have already confirmed their participation in the session. Here’s a GIF that was created to promote Skillshare to the network.

With Amy Hollrah off on a well-deserved break and treasurer Mike indisposed during this last executive committee meeting, Christian provided a brief finance report through May 31, 2021. Here are the May cash summary report and accompanying notes, as well as cash projections through year-end. May is the eighth month of our FY, which is 67% through the FY. Earned income (SaaS) is currently a bit behind the benchmark at 51%, but this is due in large part to three months of a cash loan from WESTAF to ZAPP, which is a planned withholding of the ZAPP management fee from the WESTAF budget. If you look at the other four SaaS products, they are collectively 11% ahead of last year’s income at this time. CaFE is nicely on track with 69% income and 71% expense. WESTAF continues to maintain a healthy cash balance.

The executive committee met last week for their regular monthly meeting. The discussion covered a range of topics, including our recent Mackenzie Scott and MJ Murdock Trust grants and some other fundraising matters in flight, our imminent stake in the Alliance Center, as well as some board development and bylaw updates, an update on leadership for the EIC, and a finance update. After an explanation from Christian around the reasoning, the committee also made a motion to forgive the FY21 4-month management fee loan made by WESTAF to ZAPP to get it through the worst of the pandemic. The motion carried. The executive committee will be meeting virtually again in July and August, then in-person in Boise, Idaho, from September 22-23.

Chair Tamara, vice chair/chair elect Teniqua and Christian will be attending an in-person board chair and executive director retreat of the six Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) in Fort Collins, CO from September 27 – 29. This is a great and relatively infrequent opportunity for leadership — in particular the board leadership — of the RAOs to meet and align themselves around mutual goals. What are our most pressing collaborative projects? How do we best pool resources in service to the greatest good of our trusting alliance?

Thanks to everyone who completed the October board of trustees survey. It is hugely helpful. Based on the results, and barring any negative developments in our steady emergence from the pandemic, WESTAF will proceed with an in-person board of trustees meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, with committee meetings, in-person social occasions, and the main board meeting event itself from October 26 — 28. The possibility of a tandem virtual feature still exists, although the surveyed interest in this was relatively low. Several respondents expressed a desire to discourage any unvaccinated people from attending and to encourage masking and social distancing where possible.

After research, tours and lots of number crunching, WESTAF has signed a one-year lease with The Alliance Center for two offices and four open-space desks. The Alliance Center is an award-winning coworking and event space, home to many of Colorado’s leading nonprofits focusing on social, economic and environmental wellbeing. It’s located in Denver’s central LoDo district, so it’s close to all the public transportation. They have 16 meeting spaces that can be reserved for use, their administrative and operations infrastructure is impressive, they have larger rooms for board and all-staff meetings and they prioritize a healthy and fun work culture with yoga classes, happy hours and other events! As a reminder, we are looking for just some minimal office space where staff can meet 1:1, in small teams or with the whole group, and where we can onboard new team members. Our plan is for staff to sign up to use the drop-in work desks in the Alliance Center, and then sign up to use conference rooms for larger gatherings. Our lease starts July 1 (their spaces are getting snatched up quickly so we had to jump right in!). Thanks to Justine and the celebration committee for kicking off a plan for all-team tours and orientation of our new space, which will happen throughout July.

The policy cohort met on June 24 to finalize the list of questions for part one of a two-part survey that they will send to state art agencies and state art organizations. The survey is intended to gather feedback about what would be found useful in a Regional Partner Handbook, starting with background information about the organizations and the usefulness of resources already available. They are hoping to send out this survey before our next meeting in July. The equity cohort is currently working on a Living Values statement. In the last meeting, they had a conversation about distinguishing between the value statement and guiding principles. Trevor and Becca are currently acting as interim leaders of the cohort, and they are meeting with Anika in July to discuss an equity cohort “retreat”. Cohort roles will be discussed as new members are onboarded. Cohort leaders met in their first formal meeting together on Monday. The cohort leaders provided overviews of the current projects and brief history of the cohort. Cameron explained to the cohort leaders that the cohort leadership meeting was a space of collaboration between the cohorts. The cohort leaders discussed ways to mainstream surveys to reduce the number of cohort surveys throughout the year and brainstormed ways to create more engagement with cohort members. Additionally, cohort leadership began brainstorming possible workshop ideas for the annual meeting.

As many of you saw, WESTAF released news of our gift from Mackenzie Scott and Dan Jewett this past week. We also plan to release news of our MJ Murdock Trust grant after the July 4 holiday. This will be an opportunity for interested candidates to link to the position description and apply for the role. Additionally, this timing is good for us to have the news shared across other channels, including the National Endowment for the Arts’ July newsletter, for increased visibility and broader reach. Thank you to Leah and the MarComm team for sorting all of this out! This next week, we should get out our AWS Imagine Grant proposal (thank you, Lori, for driving this) in time for their June 30 deadline, and we continue to noodle along with several other in-flight LOIs.

Christina, Natalie V., and Blair worked together to update the OKR process for FY21. After process and brainstorming meetings with the SaaS teams, we finalized FY22 OKRs for each program. We’re also in the process of cleaning up Asana and building out goals based on OKRs, that connect to tasks and allow us to easily track progress. Later, we’ll also build out our budget goals in Asana, allowing for cross-WESTAF visibility of the business department’s goals and work plans. 

The CaFE team is on the final stretch of testing and preparation for the updated admin UI scheduled for release in the third week in July. We’re also starting to see organizations come back to CaFE after a year or two hiatus. This month we welcomed back the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency, Denver Botanic Gardens, PrintAustin Collective, Josephine Sculpture Park, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, and Aurora Artists Guild, and nine new organizations signed up. 

CVSuite has reached out to a list of creative economy “influencers” and offered a limited-time license of CVSuite for free for their research projects. The CVSuite Influencer Project provides CVSuite data at a free or reduced cost to influential, well-regarded leaders in the creative economy field to increase CVSuite’s visibility in important creative sector/policy discussions. So far, the team has been in communication with Michael Seman and Jen Cole. Michael is interested in using the data with his students in the fall, and Jen has a call with us in July. In tech news, our latest data release is scheduled for the end of June. CVSuite decided that our last enhancement of the fiscal year will be focused on tool maintenance and updating the snapshot report. 

GO Smart was informed by Massachusetts Cultural Council that they would not be renewing, marking three state arts agencies that have left GO Smart in the last year (North Dakota and Vermont terminated earlier this year). Marketing initiatives have ramped up with solid video campaigns on Facebook and LinkedIn that are driving traffic to the sales site, which we hope will result in promising sales leads. Jessica is continuing to aid the SRI team by rebuilding the TourWest Discretionary Fund application and final report in the system. Jessica has completed the first draft of GO Smart’s FY22 budget for income and business expenses.

PAA is finalizing an implementation plan for its newest CMS client, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. The team expects to onboard the organization in mid-July. PAA is working through testing on the new LYRASIS converter tool used to import batch data into the collection management system. If there is continued success with this tool, the PAA should see substantial improvements in the onboarding and import workflow shortly, alleviating higher level staff to work on sales, marketing, and future development campaigns and plans.

We saw a promising month of sales in June, with the addition of three new clients. One of the clients signed a promoter contract, meaning they will add 10 or more shows to the site. Julia created a dropped clients sales campaign that began June 24, with targeted messages going out to all dropped clients and an offer to waive reactivation fees through July 31. We also launched a new, exciting enhancement to the artist profile that captures their social media account links and shop website information so administrators don’t have to build it into the application. This enhancement also introduced optional demographic information that we will encourage artists to complete so we can better understand our user base.


Respectfully Submitted,