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Increase Your Financial Resilience

Hello, and welcome to summer? Or, if you’re struggling with time losing all meaning–like I am–then welcome to sometime in March when I stopped counting. I’m back from my brief medical break and am feeling strong and ready to dig in. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of recent content I’ve created to help you increase your financial resilience; including two items to write your representatives about that (if passed) will increase funding for libraries, archives, and museums.

Amos enjoys soaking his feet in the pool and crushing all the pink colored balls.

Increase Your Financial Resilience with These New Resources

A screenshot of Rachael Cristine Consulting's Get into Grants registration page. The page includes notes on course content and the registration form.

In order to become more financially resilient, we must build up our funding muscles. This includes knowing where your organization’s money comes from and how you can get more of it. To that end, I have new funding related content to share with you:

1. Over at Lucidea’s Think Clearly blog (where I’m a regular guest blogger) I’ve written a series of posts breaking down the American Alliance of Museums’ TrendsWatch2020 report. This year focused on financial sustainability and was written pre-COVID. I’ve taken each each income stream covered by AAM, summarized the content, and have added my recommendations for how to adapt and increase the health of these income streams in this new economic reality. No matter what your job is, it’s always a good idea to understand where your organization’s money is coming from and what you can do to strengthen each income stream toward a more resilient financial future. Here are the first four of six posts:

An Introduction to Financial Sustainability

Earned Income

Charitable Income

Government Income

Catch the final two in the series via the Think Clearly blog on July 22 (Financial Capital) and July 29 (Fostering Financial Sustainability).

2. My course content site has launched and is now available to everyone. A huge thank you to those who’ve joined me in the first course: Get into Grants! This course is free and open to everyone so please feel free to share the link with colleagues who may need this resource. Given that grants make up a majority of funds from both charitable and government income streams, it’s critical for you to get into and master grant funding. Need more help? Don’t worry, I have two more courses that help you create a competitive grant project and teach you how to develop a compelling grant story. Stay tuned!


Advocacy Alert

A black and white photograph depicting an empty museum gallery hall with a portrait in the far distance flanked by two windows and with a chair positioned in front of it.
Photograph by David Yu, accessed July 16, 2020, via Canva.com.

Library Stabilization Fund Act

The LSFA funds would help keep nearly 370,000 library workers on the job, defray costs related to safe re-opening, and support a range of library services to millions of patrons, including high-speed internet access and digital literacy training.

You can read more via the Society of American Archivists here.

Museum Pandemic Relief and FY2021 Funding

This request to two-pronged: 1. Approve another round of pandemic relief funding ($6-billion) to be distributed via the Institute of Library and Museum Services (IMLS) and expand existing pandemic programs such as PPP and increased charitable giving incentives; and 2. Increases FY 2021 funding to $382.7-million to IMLS, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

You can read more via the American Alliance of Museums here.

Resources to Get Started

Our collective strength relies of each of us advocating for our libraries, archives, and museums–and that advocacy work includes contacting your representatives. Need help getting started? No problem! Check out this post for how to contact your rep and what to say. And you can always snag my fill in the blank template here. Remember: Being in regular contact with our representatives about our funding needs is a necessary part of increasing our financial resilience.


What’s Next?

A colorful picture showing a hand holding a lightbulb against a sky backdrop with clouds showing white, orange, and purple coloration.
Photograph by fotographierende, accessed July 16, 2020, via Canva.com.

I’m nearing the completion of my grant course suite which leads me to: What’s Next? I’ve received requests to speak to resilient job searching tactics, tips for when to know it’s time to leave (the job or profession), and how to recruit and engage volunteers. What else would you like to see? What can I help support you on? Please comment or send me an email ([email protected]) and let me know.

And if you haven’t already, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter so that you’re first in line for any future offerings and free resource drops.

Thanks and be well!

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Action Alert: Preserve the Oregon Heritage Commission and Support Oregon Arts and Culture

Oregon colleagues, it’s time to write our representatives again.

Action

For those who are free to do so, I’m requesting that you join me in writing OPRD Director Lisa Sumption, Governor Brown, and your local Oregon legislators to fund the OPRD department and preserve the Oregon Heritage Commission. I’ve copied a version of my letter below–you are welcome to copy and adapt. I’ve sent this letter to the Oregonian, OPRD Director Lisa Sumption, Governor Brown, Senator Burdick, and Representative Doherty.

Contact Information

Director of OPRD, Lisa Sumption’s email: [email protected]
Gov. Brown: https://www.oregon.gov/gov/pages/share-your-opinion.aspx
Find your Oregon legislator: https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/findyourlegislator/leg-districts.html

Letter to Director Lisa Sumption of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

Dear Director Sumption,

I can only imagine how challenging this time is for you. I know you oversee the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), and I know it can’t be easy for you to make decisions that impact people’s lives. I’m writing this letter to advocate for the preservation of the Oregon Heritage Commission branch of OPRD. But, I know you can’t do it alone. So, I’ve also written Gov. Brown, Senator Burdick, and Representative Doherty. Additionally, I have submitted an Op-ed to the Oregonian. In each I have advocated for the financial support of the OPRD.

I’m Rachael Woody and I run a certified women-owned business in Oregon that provides services to Oregon’s 1400 art and culture organizations. On June 5, the OPRD reported in their Heritage Digest (Volume 207 Issue 1) a $22 million revenue gap, and has announced layoffs and the freezing of “other programs such as grants”.  It’s not a surprise that Oregon’s parks and recreation unit is financially suffering due to COVID-19, but it is disturbing that our elected officials have moved so slowly to stop a potentially catastrophic loss in Oregon employment, recreation services, and Oregon heritage preservation.

As you likely know, the Oregon arts and culture sector is an economic engine for Oregon. According to the Culture Advocacy Coalition (CAC) the sector annually brings in $343 million in tourism-related expenses, employs 13,939 Full Time Employees (FTE), and expends $364 million back into Oregon’s economy.  Just last year, Oregon legislators demonstrated their support of the sector by passing six major Oregon art and culture bills. The bills renewed the unique Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT) tax credit for another 6-years, and approved more than $5.1 million in restoration and expansion projects for performance and cultural centers across the state.

But, this economic engine is facing financial ruin. There are two Oregon-specific arts and culture impact studies available: 1. The COVID-19 Impact on Oregon Culture, by OCT; and 2. The COVID-19 Oregon | Arts & Culture Sector Impacts, by the CAC. Both surveys capture the bleak financial picture facing 1400 Oregon arts and culture organizations. From March to May organizations estimate their total revenue loss at $51 million. Of the CAC respondents, 70% report the COVID-19 crisis as having a “severe impact” on their ability to operate, and 83% have already initiated financial mitigation efforts such as layoffs and furloughs.  The OCT study confirms that many organizations have (at most) 2-3 months of financial reserves saved up. Oregon’s stay-at-home measures were implemented in mid-March and it’s now mid-June, many of those organizations have exhausted their reserves and have already laid off 1,385 of 13,939 FTE. Many of these organizations are facing the permanent closing of their doors and Oregonians are on the precipice of a catastrophic loss in Oregon arts and culture.

This is why what’s been done is not enough. At the federal-level, programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program and $200-million in the initial CARES Act for emergency relief funding via federal granting agencies provide limited support to the Oregon arts and culture sector. Notably, this relief falls far short of the $4 billion-dollar request made by the arts and culture field and the American Alliance of Museums estimates “[A]s many as 30 percent of museums, mostly in small and rural communities, will not re-open without significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.”  On the local level, nine Oregon public and private funders have released $1.3 million in relief funds , and the OCT has submitted a $10 million Emergency Cultural Relief Fund proposal for legislative approval.

But, when facing a $50 million gap, the emergency financial programs available is simply not enough. First, there must be additional government relief funds allocated to Oregon arts and culture organizations. Second, we must rectify how we currently support heritage at the state-level. According to Heritage Digest, the OPRD budget is composed of lottery funds (44%), recreation fees (50%), and federal funds (6% directed to heritage grants).  Oregonians need to critically reexamine how we fund what we profess to value, and adjust our spending to reflect those values. The OPRD cannot sustainably run on funds that fluctuate with the economy. OPRD must receive more substantial and stable funding allocated by the government from tax revenue.

As the Director, you know the OPRD is a critical lynch pin to the Oregon arts and culture sector. The Oregon Heritage Commission (ran under OPRD) provides a substantial amount of services and administers several grant programs to 1400 organizations across the state—many in small, rural areas that are the most at risk for permanent closure. You can see then, how alarming it is to learn OPRD is forced to consider cuts in staff and has frozen the grant program. If the OPRD cuts staff positions in the heritage unit and continues the hold on grant programs, then it’s signaling its abandonment of 1400 Oregon arts and culture organizations. We are at a critical juncture. If we’re not successful in securing the protection and funding of Oregon heritage, then Oregon will irrevocably lose a significant number of our arts and culture organizations. And we, as Oregonians, will be the lesser for it.

Director Sumption, please demonstrate your support of Oregon’s art and culture, and preserve a fully functioning Oregon Heritage Commission. There are 1400 Oregon art and culture associations are depending on it.

Sample Letter to Elected Official

On June 5, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) reported in their Heritage Digest (Volume 207 Issue 1) a $22 million revenue gap, and has announced layoffs and the freezing of “other programs such as grants”. It’s not a surprise that Oregon’s parks and recreation unit is financially suffering due to COVID-19, but it is disturbing that our elected officials have moved so slowly to stop a potentially catastrophic loss in Oregon employment, recreation services, and Oregon heritage preservation.

The Oregon arts and culture sector is an economic engine for Oregon. According to the Culture Advocacy Coalition (CAC) the sector annually brings in $343 million in tourism-related expenses, employs 13,939 Full Time Employees (FTE), and expends $364 million back into Oregon’s economy. Just last year, Oregon legislators demonstrated their support of the sector by passing six major Oregon art and culture bills. The bills renewed the unique Oregon Cultural Trust (OCT) tax credit for another 6-years, and approved more than $5.1 million in restoration and expansion projects for performance and cultural centers across the state.

But, this economic engine is facing financial ruin. There are two Oregon-specific arts and culture impact studies available: 1. The COVID-19 Impact on Oregon Culture, by OCT; and 2. The COVID-19 Oregon | Arts & Culture Sector Impacts, by the CAC. Both surveys capture the bleak financial picture facing 1400 Oregon arts and culture organizations. From March to May organizations estimate their total revenue loss at $51 million. Of the CAC respondents, 70% report the COVID-19 crisis as having a “severe impact” on their ability to operate, and 83% have already initiated financial mitigation efforts such as layoffs and furloughs. The OCT study confirms that many organizations have (at most) 2-3 months of financial reserves saved up. Oregon’s stay-at-home measures were implemented in mid-March and it’s now mid-June, many of those organizations have exhausted their reserves and have already laid off 1,385 of 13,939 FTE. Many of these organizations are facing the permanent closing of their doors and Oregonians are on the precipice of a catastrophic loss in Oregon arts and culture.

This is why what’s been done is not enough. At the federal-level, programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program and $200-million in the initial CARES Act for emergency relief funding via federal granting agencies provide limited support to the Oregon arts and culture sector. Notably, this relief falls far short of the $4 billion-dollar request made by the arts and culture field and the American Alliance of Museums estimates “[A]s many as 30 percent of museums, mostly in small and rural communities, will not re-open without significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.” On the local level, nine Oregon public and private funders have released $1.3 million in relief funds , and the OCT has submitted a $10 million Emergency Cultural Relief Fund proposal for legislative approval.

But, when facing a $50 million gap, the emergency financial programs available is simply not enough. First, there must be additional government relief funds allocated to Oregon arts and culture organizations. Second, we must rectify how we currently support heritage at the state-level. According to Heritage Digest, the OPRD budget is composed of lottery funds (44%), recreation fees (50%), and federal funds (6% directed to heritage grants). Oregonians need to critically reexamine how we fund what we profess to value, and adjust our spending to reflect those values. The OPRD cannot sustainably run on funds that fluctuate with the economy. OPRD must receive more substantial and stable funding allocated by the government from tax revenue.

The OPRD is a critical lynch pin to the Oregon arts and culture sector. The Oregon Heritage Commission (ran under OPRD) provides a substantial amount of services and administers several grant programs to 1400 organizations across the state—many in small, rural areas that are the most at risk for permanent closure. You can see then, how alarming it is to hear OPRD is forced to consider cuts in staff and has frozen the grant program. If the OPRD cuts staff positions in the heritage unit and continues the hold on grant programs, then it’s signaling its abandonment of 1400 Oregon arts and culture organizations. We are at a critical juncture. If we’re not successful in securing for the protection and funding of Oregon heritage, then Oregon will irrevocably lose a significant number of our arts and culture organizations. And we, as Oregonians, will be the lesser for it.

[Insert Name], please demonstrate your support of Oregon’s art and culture, and please work with Oregon legislators to deploy relief funding to OPRD. A fully functioning Oregon Heritage Commission (under OPRD) and additional emergency relief funding is needed to support the 1400 Oregon art and culture associations struggling to survive.

Thank you,
Rachael Woody, Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC
Tigard, Oregon

Sources

1. Oregon Heritage Commission, Heritage Digest, Volume 207 Issue 1, sent by email on June 5, 2020.
2. Culture Advocacy Coalition, The COVID-19 Oregon | Arts & Culture Sector Impacts, accessed June 12, 2020, via https://www.oregonculture.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/FINAL_COVID-19-Oregon-Impacts-1.pdf.
3. Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Arts and Culture Sector Scores Big, published July 2019, accessed June 12, 2020, via https://culturaltrust.org/blog/news/oregons-arts-and-culture-sector-scores-big/.
4. Oregon Cultural Trust, COVID-19 Impact on Oregon Culture, accessed June 12, 2020, via https://culturaltrust.org/wp-content/uploads/ECRF_SurveyFindings_DataViz_Layout.pdf.
5. American Alliance of Museums, Museums Included in Economic Relief Legislation, accessed June 12, 2020, via https://t.congressweb.com/w/?GRPQLGOFCH.
6. Oregon Cultural Trust, Cultural Organizations Cite Devastating COVID-19 Losses in Statewide Cultural Trust Impact Survey, accessed June 12, 2020, via https://culturaltrust.org/blog/news/cultural-organizations-cite-devastating-covid-19-losses-in-statewide-cultural-trust-impact-survey/.

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Strategies for How to Capture and Communicate the Value of Collection Work

Thank you to everyone who registered and attended this webinar! If you missed it or are here to view it again, you can find the recording below as well as a link to the slide deck, a list of links referenced, and a recap of the Q&A.

Abstract

Archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations across the world are struggling with the impact of COVID-19.  As public spaces remain closed, archives and museums are challenged with fulfilling their mission while seeking economic relief. Many archives and museum professionals are facing precarious employment as they struggle to prove the value of their work. This webinar is a follow up to the Society of American Archivists’ “Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19)” (view: https://youtu.be/vhK2ww1_ZR8).  Please join me for a deeper dive into strategies for how to capture and communicate the value of collection work. The webinar will offer a framework to define the value of your work, discuss mechanisms for capturing value, and offer strategies for communicating the value of your work to your boss, your board, your fellow staff, and your community stakeholders.

Don’t Miss Another Webinar or Workshop

If this webinar is helpful to you, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter so that you’re first in line for any future offerings and free resource drops.

Slide Deck

To get a copy of the slide deck please download the PDF via Google Drive.

Links Referenced in the Webinar

American Alliance of Museums’ TrendsWatch 2020
American Alliance of Museums Advocacy Resources
Resources for Museums on How to Identify and Articulate Value
Resources on How to Convey the Value of Archives
Society of American Archivists Resources and Toolkits
Regional Example from Oregon Heritage Commission Toolkit
Free e-copy of A Survivor’s Guide to Museum Grant Writing

Q&A Section

This section includes a summary of the questions and answers reviewed during the webinar. Please view or listen to the webinar for a fuller account of the answers.

Q. Rachael, have you had experience in situations where self advocacy is seen by higher-ups as being a “squeaky wheel” rather than a voice which deserves attention? 

A. There is always a chance that someone will perceive you as the “squeaky wheel”. If we’re doing our job, if we’re communicating the value of our work and our collection regularly, then by the time we make an ask we will have demonstrated our value. However, I also acknowledge that we’re in a position right now where a lot of us do need to ask for financial resources and it’s a difficult position to be in if you’ve not had a chance to implement strategies for capturing and communicating the value of your collection and your work. I do encourage you to try it though, even if you need to make an ask. Be clear on the value of your work and be ready with the evidence as to why collections work is so critical. If you’re showing your value as you make the request then at the very least it will be recognized as legitimate.

Q. I’m curious about strategies for initiating conversations about budgeting and revenue streams when this information isn’t readily offered to mid-level staff.

A. For some organizations, the financial records are publically available usually in the form of an annual report. If that’s not the case then I encourage you to ask questions. If your boss isn’t available or open to sharing that information, I recommend you go straight to the source–your accounting or financial department. The reason you are asking is because you want to use the information to inform your work and bring in even more revenue into the organization. Any reasonable person will want to help you achieve that outcome and will provide you the information you need.

Comment: Great points about demonstrating how archives/collection work supports institutional income and mission. I found that it also helps to track the amount of staff time and other resources spent on specific engagement events.

A. Yes! I’m so glad you raised this as it can help with your ask. If you’re tracking staff time and other costs for your work and you can tie that work (and costs) to the revenue generating event, then you’re able to backup your request with detailed numbers on how much it costs you to do your work and can demonstrate how that work is of value to the institution. I definitely recommend tracking these types of costs to “do business” as they will help you understand the finances required to operate and provide value at current levels.

Q. Would you have any comments on how to connect the development/origins of an archives or a collection with current work and initiatives? It seems there are good opportunities to demonstrate value through time (with a longer timeline) though it might be a challenge to keep focus and could lost stakeholder interest.

A. I think this could be a great opportunity for you to show value of the collection over time. You could approach it like a retrospective, using the organization’s mission (or similar) to tie the archives’ beginning to and then review the collections acquired, projects, and other milestones (where the collection has provided value) along the way. Seeing the value delivered over time could be very impactful and is a great reminder to the organization that the archives is the department that secures the organization’s legacy.

A Note About the Presenter

Rachael Cristine Woody of Rachael Cristine Consulting smiles at the camera as she poses in front of her laptop displaying Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19) webinar.
Rachael Cristine Woody of Rachael Cristine Consulting

Rachael Woody is the owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC. After a successful tenure at the Smithsonian Institution and the Oregon Wine History Archive, Woody established her consultancy to teach archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations how to take care of their collections and advocate for their value. Woody has experienced precariously funded positions first-hand and has proven tactical strategies to demonstrate the value of collection work. As a result of her experience, Woody has dedicated herself to advocating for the value of collection work. She serves on SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, established the Archivist-in-Residence (paid internship) program at Northwest Archivists, and serves on several salary advocacy committees.

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Register for My New Webinar and A Gift for You!

I hope this post finds you well during this challenging time. I’m writing to share a few new resources with you: 1. A new webinar focused on how to communicate and capture the value of your work; 2. A Collective Responsibility Labor Toolkit built to support library, archives, and museum professionals; and 3. A mini-course gift for you in celebration of my 3rd anniversary!


Insta Strategies for How to Capture and Communicate the Value of Collection Work

Webinar: Strategies for How to Capture and Communicate the Value of Collection Work

Archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations across the world are struggling with the impact of COVID-19. As public spaces remain closed, archives and museums are challenged with fulfilling their mission while seeking economic relief. Many archives and museum professionals are facing precarious employment as they struggle to prove the value of their work. This webinar is a follow up to the Society of American Archivists’ Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19).

Please join me for a deeper dive into strategies for how to capture and communicate the value of collection work. The webinar will:

1. Offer a framework to define the value of your work.

2. Discuss mechanisms for capturing value.

3. Offer strategies for communicating the value of your work to your boss, your board, your fellow staff, and your community stakeholders.

THIS WEBINAR HAS A 100 PARTICIPANT RESTRICTION

REGISTER NOW


Collective Responsibility Labor Toolkit

The Collective Responsibility Labor Toolkit offers: a collection of COVID-19 resources, “Collective Equity: A Handbook for Designing and Evaluating Grant-Funded Positions,” and a white paper “Collective Responsibility: Seeking Equity for Contingent Labor in Libraries, Archives, and Museums.”

This resource is brought to you by members of the DLF Labor Working Group and informed by feedback from the Collective Responsibility forum. Contributors in alphabetical order: Hillel Arnold, Dorothy J. Berry, Elizabeth M. Caringola, Angel Diaz, Sarah Hamerman, Erin Hurley, Anna Neatrour, Rebecca Pattillo, Sandy Rodriguez, Megan Senseney, Ruth Tillman, Amy Wickner, Karly Wildenhaus, and Elliot Williams.


3rd Anniversary Celebration

Rachael Woody, profile picture
Photo by Rachael Woody

On May 2, 2020, Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC celebrated its 3rd Anniversary! It’s been an incredible year filled with exciting projects, wonderful client relationships, and growing my business. And then COVID-19 happened. This calendar year has not been what any of us expected, let alone what we hoped for. What will the rest of this year hold? I can’t tell the future, but I can give you gift to help:

A Grants Mini-Course Just for You!

For my business, there’s one goal that remains unaltered–I intend to remake my workshops and trainings into an online suite of courses. The first of which will be a free mini-course on grant writing. Why? Because archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations need grants now more than ever. And, given the urgency of organizations needing funding, I intend to launch this mini-course in the next 2-3 weeks. I’ll release signup information then and invite you to join.

In the meantime, what would be most helpful to you? What do you need support around when it comes to grants? I want to make sure this mini-course is as helpful as possible. Please email me with your requests.


If you know colleagues who could use access to these resources please share this post with them. They can also sign up for my newsletter here.

All images and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.
Hands covered with fingerless gloves pictured on a notebook.
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A Letter to My Congressional Representatives on Our Failure to Support Small Businesses

Headshot of Rachael Woody.

The following is a letter I wrote to my congressional representatives. As someone who encourages archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations to write to their representatives, I felt it was only fair I share this letter with you.

April 21, 2020

Dear [Representative],

You may know me as the consultant who helped Astoria Public Library win a $17,000 award from Oregon Cultural trust and a $50,000 award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services; which led to a $250,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Or, as the consultant who brought in more than $750,000 from the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and local Portland foundations to Portland’s historically designated Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church to help preserve and share their Civil Rights history.

I’m a small business owner of a certified women-owned business. I provide services to archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations who can’t afford a specialist on a permanent basis. I teach them how to take care of their historical artifacts, how to manage digital collections online, and how to apply for grant funding successfully. My business will reach its three-year anniversary on May 2, 2020, and until recently, had been flourishing.

Building a business isn’t easy. Building a business that serves the nonprofit sector—a sector known for being cash-strapped—is even harder. But, I did it. I attended business classes offered by Mercy Corps., I taught myself business basics, and I created a successful consultancy that supports local heritage organizations. After my first year I was able to hire a local business coach, a tax accountant, and then a lawyer. After two years, I began to make a profit and invested that profit both into my business as well as my professional community. I acquired new systems to grow my services online and I was about to hire staff. Additionally, I supplied 50% of the funding for the new Archivist-in-Residence program at Northwest Archivists—a program that will pay a new professional $18/hour for 264-hours to work with a local heritage organization.

The pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of nonprofit organizations I work with has caused a rapid and spectacular shutdown of my business. Within four weeks I went from my busiest quarter to date, to hardly operating in Quarter 2.

I can’t even begin to tell you how demoralizing it is to have something you’ve built completely crumble through no fault of your own. The three years of hustle, sweat equity, and ingenuity that went into building my successful business feels as if it’s been nullified. It’s devastating to think I may have to relive that period of my life over again. It’s almost inconceivable.

The effects of this pandemic and economic crisis will be long-lived, especially in the nonprofit sector. Studies from the American Alliance of Museums show that it took museums 10-years to recover from the 2008 recession. TEN YEARS. How long will it take us to recover from this one?

The short-term support offered to small businesses is not enough.

The stimulus check meant to help Americans fill financial gaps was based on last year’s tax filings. As stated above, I owned a flourishing and successful business last year. But, I’m hardly working now. That $1200 meant to help Americans? I saw less than $200. That’s not even enough to cover a week of groceries for my family. Basing the stimulus check amount on anything other than our current financial reality is ridiculously unhelpful for Americans.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), ran out of money in less than two-weeks. Oregon Live reports that while more than 18,000 Oregon small businesses received loans, it amounts to Oregon receiving approximately 1.1% of the $3.8-billion available. Analysis conducted by Bloomberg concludes Oregon is near the bottom of the list (along with our west coast counterparts) in terms of money received. PPP’s definition of “small business” currently includes 99% of American businesses. When evaluating American small businesses through the US Census Bureau and IRS Statistics, we learn that 88% of small businesses have 20 or less employees and 40% revenue $100,000 or less annually. At the same time, these small businesses account for 44% of the gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Small Business Administration. Congress must develop narrower parameters for how a small business is defined, or else there’s little chance for the PPP to successfully save the small businesses that help fuel our local economy.

I applied for unemployment two-weeks ago. My claim hasn’t been processed yet, which is understandable given that 15% of previously employed Oregonians are now unemployed. Even if my claim is approved the unemployment maximum benefit—regardless of past revenue generated—is $648/week. That’s $2.50 above Portland’s minimum wage. The amount will be barely enough to meet my basic business operating costs for services, contracts, and utilities that remain unchanged in our current crisis. Very little of this money will actually be available to me to help with my family and our household expenses. Unemployment benefits must be adjusted to account for actual wages—or for small businesses, their revenue—lost.

The three economic mechanisms meant to help protect my small business and by extension, my family, have failed completely. I received less than $200 for my stimulus check, I can’t currently secure a small business loan from the evaporated Paycheck Protection Program, and I will only receive the maximum amount of unemployment of $648/week (once my claim is processed). But this isn’t just about me. This is about the nonprofit community I support through service and philanthropy so that they, in turn, can serve their local communities.

The services I provide to nonprofit cultural institutions, the money my family donates regularly to philanthropy, and the fellow small businesses I support are now also jeopardized. I went from a successful community-minded business looking to hire local staff to a business on life support.

Tell me. What am I support to do? Wait another 10-years for the cultural heritage sector to recuperate to pre-COVID levels? Put in even more sweat equity, knowing this could happen again and there are no supports in place to protect my small business?

I urge you to support legislative policies that are for small business owners. Please more narrowly define “small business” and adequately fund the PPP. Please fix the broken way of calculating stimulus checks to account for the current financial reality. Please expand unemployment benefits to be based on actual wages or self-employed revenue. And finally, please fully fund the $4-billion-dollar request put forth by the American Alliance of Museums as the last stimulus package funded less than 5% of the request.

If these requests aren’t addressed in the near-future then we’re at risk to lose a significant portion of our small businesses and local heritage institutions.

Thank you,
Rachael Cristine Woody
Owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC
Portland, Oregon