Young Associates is thrilled to be partnering with WorkInCulture to launch Take the Lead: Principles for Administrative Leadership for the Arts, a new two day seminar series for increasing managerial and governance skills in arts administration. Running October 12 & 13, 2017, instructors from Young Associates and WorkInCulture will deliver sessions on understanding financial statements, payroll, WSIB, and HR. Get more details here.
By Heather Young
In addition to being Principal at Young Associates, I am also a proud member of Arts Consultants Canada / Consultants Canadiens en arts, as are my colleagues Samantha Zimmerman, Anna Mathew, and Jerry Smith. I was privileged to be part of ACCA’s most recent strategic planning retreat, in my capacity as outgoing treasurer. Twelve of us, the current board plus “graduating” directors, shared a day of focused discussion and more than a few bursts of laughter, engaging in a three-year planning process.
As I expect many of us have done with strat planning clients, we began with a review of ACCA’s mission, vision and values. I confess that I’ve always been a little hazy on how to delineate those terms, especially when mandate is added to the mix – so I was relieved that we spent a few minutes confirming a common set of definitions.
At last, it all makes sense!
Mission captures the practical, desired outcome: what should happen because of what we do? Who are we serving, and who benefits from our work? It is an expression of structure, and appeals to the head – our rational side.
The vision is aspirational. It’s a dream that may or may not come true. Captured in a brief, inspiring sentence – think postcard, not novel – it appeals to the heart.
Values are the principles that guide our actions: the compass that helps ensure we stay on the right track.
As for mandate, there was a small difference of views. Some would see it as synonymous with mission. Another view positions it as a legal term that captures our relationship with the government. This makes complete sense to me: for most organizations, the mandate statement in their articles of incorporation or letters patent is drier and more general than the directive they articulate for their strategic plan.
Remember Star Trek?
Well, the vision of the Federation might run something like, “that humanity achieve a more complete understanding of itself through exploring the universe.”
The five-year mission is articulated in Captain Kirk’s iconic opening narration: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
The values, embodied in the Prime Directive, have inspired endless discussion in fan literature to this day, as a quick Google search will confirm!
And, I expect that somewhere within the files of the Federation’s legal department we could find a mandate statement, couched in formal terms, capturing all of the above from a governance standpoint.
As for ACCA, we had a productive and exciting day that yielded renewed mission and vision statements for the association. ACCA has now released the final version:
Arts Consultants Canada / Consultants canadiens en arts (ACCA) members are valued contributors in a thriving, creative Canada.
Les membres de Arts Consultants Canada / Consultants canadiens en arts (ACCA) contribuent au rayonnement d'un Canada créatif et florissant.
ACCA strengthens the arts in Canada by connecting a network of experts with Canada’s arts community and by encouraging the active exchange of its members’ expertise to advance and promote the development of the sector.
L’ACCA renforce les arts au Canada en raccordant un réseau d’expert(e)s au secteur artistique canadien ainsi qu’en encourageant un échange actif d’expertise parmi ses membres pour favoriser le secteur.
Read more about the ACCA Strategic Plan here.
In December, the Canada Council published their newly redesigned funding model, with which they hope:
...to more strategically support the creation and wide dissemination of excellent Canadian artworks, to more directly and efficiently support Canadian artists, and to more flexibly and effectively support the development of a diversity of high performing arts organizations.
A year ago, the council announced its plan to move away from its pre-existing model, one which was based around artistic discipline, and streamline its funding structure with a goal to more effectively serve grantees and the arts community. The new model is composed of six new programs:
- Creating, Knowing, and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples
- Explore and Create
- Engage and Sustain
- Supporting Artistic Practice
- Arts Across Canada
- Arts Abroad
You can access information about the six new programs, their objectives, candidate and entrance activity requirements, the maximum grant allowance, application deadlines and assessment criteria here: newfundingmodel.canadacouncil.ca and you can email the Canada Council at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 613-566-4414, ext. 5060 if you have questions.
Empowering Arts Organizations in an Information Age
By Anna Mathew, Knowledge Associate (Young Associates)
Originally published in the February 2015 ACCA e-bulletin
Technically, I’m a librarian. So why have I joined Arts Consultants Canada?
Well, I work for Young Associates, a team of consultants working primarily with arts organizations in a variety of areas, most significantly financial and data management. I believe the field of library science - now more frequently referred to as information science, information studies, or even just ‘information’, has broad applications to sectors beyond the public, academic, school, and traditional corporate (e.g. legal and medical) settings to which we are accustomed. The information specialist is no longer restricted to within the library walls and now frequently finds him/herself in an embedded role within an organization which has a non-information related mandate but needs someone to perform information retrieval and information management duties to support that mandate. What I’m saying is, in our ‘information age’, a librarian can find him or herself working anywhere.
It’s no surprise that we don’t come across too many arts organizations who can afford to keep a permanent, embedded information specialist on staff. Sure, some of the larger organizations have a researcher or two, but for the most part, arts organizations have too much administrative overload and too many budget constraints to deal with to consider creating a formalized role for an information manager. Enter the arts consultant.
In the Spring 2014 ACCA newsletter, my Young Associates colleague Samantha Zimmerman wrote about how consultants can play a leadership role in getting arts organizations to consider their statistical data as ‘SMART’ data, and to set goals and put systems in place to make data part of a larger picture in preserving and communicating an organization’s story. That sentiment is echoed by Negin Zebarjad, a consultant at Nordicity, a consulting firm that earlier this month hosted a panel for Artscape Launchpad on “The Power of Data on Communicating Your Impact”. Zebarjad focuses on good design and clear goal-setting, and emphasizes that arts organizations need to become aware of what data they are already collecting and think about how it can be threaded into the narrative they want to tell about themselves. During the panel, representatives from major funding bodies stressed the importance of seeing a balance of qualitative and quantitative information from organizations when assessing impact. Smartly organized data - which is collected, preserved, analysed, and presented according to well-designed systems and in support of clearly articulated goals - makes that qualitative-quantitative balance possible; this is becoming more relevant as CADAC is looking for correlations between the financial and the statistical data they receive.
The information specialist’s role in consulting with arts organizations goes beyond accessing and manipulating a client’s database. We can offer arts organizations assistance in understanding how information moves through their organizational ecosystems and how it is affected by software, hardware, and, most importantly, people. By undertaking strategic exercises like organizational data flow visualizations and goal setting, and hands on activities like database design and cleanup, we can increase efficiency and strengthen identity.
A favourite instructor at the University of Toronto’s iSchool said: “A librarian helps people find stuff”. (Full disclosure, he might not have used the word ‘stuff’). Another memorable instructor put forth a ‘cocktail party’ definition for the term information architect (a kind of information specialist) as someone who: “is supposed to make sure that people can find what they’re looking for without getting lost or confused.”
Arts consultants armed with information skills can do both those things by helping organizations become information literate and empowering their stakeholders to use that information to operate efficiently, to advance their mandates, and to extend their reach.
By Anna Mathew
The Canada Council for the Arts has just announced that it is "moving towards the implementation of a new suite of national, non-disciplinary programs", which will reduce the number of funding programs significantly. The Council indicates a number of motivations behind the changes, including increased flexibility and a lessened administrative burden on artists, arts administrators, and Council staff. The Council is working towards a 2017 implementation schedule, with specific plan announcements to be made in summer 2015.
Read more about the Council's announcement on their website.
Update: Read about the New Funding Model
DATA SMART: More Than “Show me the Money.”
By Samantha Zimmerman, Practice Manager, Senior Associate & Data Management Consultant (Young Associates)
Originally published in the May 2014 ACCA e-bulletin
We’ve all heard about data: the importance of data; the need to keep data safe; the value of turning raw data into actionable information. But what does it mean for our clients? Most organizations are already comfortable making strategic decisions based on their financial data, because GAAP provides guidelines for maintaining financial data so that it is viewed as SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely); but what about our statistical data? Not only is there no one set of rules for dealing with statistical data, there are also privacy laws that dictate how we must collect, store and use data. It can all be very overwhelming.
The arts sector must also conform to CADAC which requires our clients to analyze and report their statistical and financial data to Government funders. CADAC and its partner funders across the country are becoming more rigorous and demanding in reconciling and verifying statistical data, which makes it even more important for organizations to properly track the necessary data required for CADAC reporting. More and more, clients have been reaching out to Young Associates in search of either full service data entry and processing, or targeted data management support with assistance in collecting data, pulling and reviewing periodic reports (monthly, annual), and reconciliation with bookkeeping software, as well as staff training or prospect research.
There is so much potential for data collection, but the majority of small and mid-size not-for-profit organizations often lack the human resources, the technology/software packages or the time to deal with all the data. We’ve all seen those organizations that are tracking their donations, event attendance and other lists in Excel spreadsheets. Much of the data stored in these Excel spreadsheets lives independently from other organizational data, and many of the lists lack standardization in the collection and presentation of the data.
While most of us are using Excel adequately, the majority will never use it to its full potential. Generally it’s seen as a tool for tracking static data; a moment in time, an individual project, or small pieces of information from a single cycle. How many years has a patron attended that event? How many donors are attending our events as well, and vice versa, are program participants returning as supporters? Young Associates has developed a proven system for helping organizations determine their data goals, and develop systems that work within the means of the organization to collect and analyze the data that gives the true picture. Where the mindset needs to change is not thinking of those Excel spreadsheets as a moment in time, but as a piece of a larger picture. Just as the financial information of the organization tells a story, the statistical data of an organization also has a story to tell.