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.

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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.

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.

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

A red robot holding two pieces of a broken heart with a tear falling down its face.

How to Reject Grant and Job Applicants with Compassion During This Time

A couple of weeks ago, it was my responsibility to deliver bad news to a couple dozen people. This is an already challenging time for many and I was very sensitive to how I was about to make them feel. You see, the Archivist-in-Residence (AiR) program, received 10 highly qualified joint applications and we could only pick one. (Joint meaning a new professional and host site applied as a team = 20+ people). This meant that not only were we rejecting grant applications, we were also rejecting job applicants.

Prepare Your Compassionate Rejection Ahead of Time

The AiR team is comprised of highly emotionally intelligent people and we decided a couple months ago (pre-COVID) that we wanted to offer support to the applicants who weren’t selected. This decision is in keeping with our mission which is to advocate for new professionals in the field and support the institutions who are working to build paid internships. When I sent out the bad news I was prepared with the support offer the team came up with. I began the email notice in the usual way: “Thank you for applying, unfortunately you were not selected, it was a highly competitive application pool that helps to prove just how important this program is…” and then I got real. “I know this is crappy news during an already challenging time.” I delivered our prepared offer to share a summary of application notes, and I offered an hour of my time to both the new professional and the host site to strategize on anything they wished–from networking to other grant opportunities.

My Experience with Rejecting Compassionately

All but two applicants have responded back asking for application notes and took me up on the offer of my time and knowledge. So far, I’ve had several email and phone conversations where I’ve pointed host sites to grants they would be an excellent fit for and offered advice on how to make an even stronger application. And for newer professionals I openly and honestly answered all of their questions from what skills to acquire, to how to job seek, to how to be professionally involved; and I connected them to peers and resources to help propel them forward. I’m so proud that each of these people who received discouraging news, bravely took me up on my offer and really used the opportunity to get the support they needed. After each conversation I’ve felt joy that I could be of help, and optimistic that my advice may make a real difference to them during this hard time.

What I Learned

This whole experience has taught me two things: 1. That you really can give the gift of time; and 2. You can reject an applicant compassionately by still offering them support.

Now It’s Your Turn

During this time of extreme hardship for many, I encourage granting agencies and hiring organizations to brainstorm how they can imbue compassion into the rejections that must inevitably be sent out. First, acknowledge that this is a very difficult time for many and make a statement of empathy. Next, think of what resources you can provide to unsuccessful applicants. What knowledge can you offer to support them? Can you give the gift of 30-60 minutes of your time? Or send an introduction email to help connect people? There are likely actions you can take and resources at your fingertips that can make a difference to the person you’re sharing them with. I realize many of you are dealing with much larger numbers than a couple dozen, so I encourage you to think strategically as to how you can scale your delivery of support. Perhaps a blog post, how to video, or place on your website can host supportive material. Or, perhaps there’s enough staff to offer a few appointment slots on a first come, first served basis. Or, you can solicit questions and deliver a Q&A. My point is, there are many ways you can offer support smartly without it requiring significant labor, and if ever there was a time for you to incorporate compassion into your rejection practices, now is the time.

Stock photographs by Burak Kostak, via Canva. Image downloaded for use April 2020, and was not purposefully altered. All other image and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.

An Update on Webinars, LAM Relief Funds, and a New Advocacy Call

I hope this post finds you as well as can be expected during this time. I know I’m writing more frequently right now and that’s an intentional choice on my part. We all need support to stay engaged in our work so that together we can survive this pandemic and economic disaster. I want to make sure you have the latest news and resources at your fingertips to help you pivot your work and advocate for what you need. With that in mind, if you’re new to my site, thank you for joining me. I invite you to sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any critical information or valuable resource drops. You can catch up on my previous two COVID-19 posts with resources here:

COVID-19: Five Actions to Take Right Now for Archives, Museums, and Cultural Heritage Organizations

An Evaluation of the Stimulus Package and Resources for LAM Professionals

If you’re not familiar with the LAM acronym it means: Libraries, Archives, and Museums.


TOPICS

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This post covers the following topics: 1. Free webinars built specifically to help museum professionals, archivists, and cultural heritage professionals navigate this challenging time; 2. New resources available to help financially support LAM organizations and professionals; and 3. The most recent call to action for phase 4 of the US economic relief plan.


FREE WEBINARS TO HELP US WORK

This crisis has challenged us to approach our work in new ways. What can we do while physically separated from our collections? How can we show the value of the collection and our work when repositories are closed and our work out of sight? This week there are two new webinars available for free on-demand.

The first webinar is one I participated in with fellow co-panelists Margot Note and Chris Cummings. We received an overwhelming response of 680 registrants and 501 who joined us live on April 7, 2020. Thank you so much for attending and engaging with your thoughtful questions. I’m pleased to be able to offer this video to you and our colleagues.

Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona (COVID-19),” offered by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, featuring Rachael Woody (myself) or Rachael Cristine Consulting, Margot Note of Margot Note Consulting, and Chris Cummings of Pass it Down. The webinar is a call to action for enhancing museum and archives collection programs online through adaption and repurposing of content, reviewing digital usership and digital collection best practices, and capturing the value of your online collections work to broadcast to administrative stakeholders. The aim of the webinar is to help archivists and museum professionals cultivate their skills to become better promoters of themselves, their repositories, and their profession. Watch via YouTube or click the video above.

How to Craft Meaningful and Mindful Digital Content in the Age of Coronavirus,” offered by Cuseum, featuring Brendan Ciecko (CEO & Founder of Cuseum), Ryan Dodge (Head of Digital Experiences at the Canadian Museum of History), and Kat Harding (Public Relations & Social Media Manager at North Carolina Museum of Art). Panelists discuss how to develop effective content and messaging that aligns with your organization’s mission while resonating in the hearts and minds of audiences. This webinar will address questions like, what does your audience want and need from you? How do you communicate with consistency and compassion? And, how do you continue to imbue your mission into your content? Available on-demand via this link.

Looking for more webinars, trainings, and ideas on how to do your work? A comprehensive list is being collated with all COVID-19 generated resources. “What to do during COVID-19?” a list of online courses, videos, podcasts and other activities for archivists during COVID-19. The list is updated daily.


NEW FINANCIAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE

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As of April 10, 2020, more than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks. The US unemployment rate is now at 13% and will continue to increase until the coronavirus pandemic is contained. LAM organizations across the country are in dire need of financial relief. So far, the financial relief available has been minimal (more on this below). As of this week, federal funds have been disbursed to federal agencies, the Society of American Archivists has launched an Archival Worker Emergency Fund (thanks to the ad hoc team who led that initiative), and a few local crowd source campaigns have been launched.

ARCHIVAL WORKERS EMERGENCY FUND APPLICATION

Archival Workers Emergency Fund Application Guidelines: Created in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, the Archival Workers Emergency Fund was established to provide financial assistance for archival workers experiencing acute, unanticipated financial hardship due to the crisis.

The number of recipients and award amounts will be determined by the SAA Foundation AWEF Grant Review Committee in collaboration with the SAA Foundation Board of Directors based on need and available funds. During the initial period (April 15 to December 31, 2020), the award amount will be up to a maximum of $1,000. Nonmembers will also receive a complimentary year-long membership in SAA.

Application Deadlines: Due to the unpredictability of the crisis and times of acute need, applications for AWEF will be considered on a rolling basis up to December 31, 2020.

WHERE’S THE MUSEUM WORKERS EMERGENCY FUND?

At the time of this writing I’ve not found a similar museum workers fund (on a national level). I’ve located a couple hyper-local funds being collected in a crowd sourced fashion, such as the Greater Philadelphia Museum Worker Fund.

AN UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS FEDERAL RELIEF FUNDS

On March 27, the US passed a $2-trillion-dollar stimulus package with $2-million earmarked for National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). NEA and NEH have released preliminary information for the distribution of their funds.

NEA ANNOUNCES INITIAL CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND INFORMATION

With the $75 million appropriated to the National Endowment for the Arts through the CARES Act, the Arts Endowment will award 40 percent of the funds directly to state and regional arts agencies by April 30th to distribute through their funding programs. Sixty percent of the funds are designated for direct grants to nonprofit arts organizations all across the United States and will be announced by June 30th. Read more here.

NEH ANNOUNCES INITIAL CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND INFORMATION

Approximately 40 percent of the appropriation, or $30 million, will go directly to the 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils, based on the standard population formula used for their annual appropriation. The remaining 60 percent, or $45 million, will support at-risk humanities positions and projects at museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, colleges and universities, and other cultural nonprofits that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus. All NEH supplemental funds must be obligated to projects by September 30, 2021. Read more here.


IT’S TIME TO WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVES (AGAIN)

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The US stimulus package passed on March 27, 2020, allocated less than 5% of our $4-billion-dollar request. The American Alliance of Museums has put out an Advocacy Call and it’s time to write your representatives (again). Our US congressional representatives are working on the fourth phase of economic relief packages. For the health of the LAM fields, your organization, and yourself; it’s imperative you write your representatives. You can use AAM’s proforma letter with easy-to-send button. Or, you can personalize the letter using my easy fill in the blank template. More information on this important action can be found in my previous post here.


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

I know there’s not been a lot of reasons to smile lately. Just to see myself smiling in this picture is jarring. I took this photo right before the live webinar last week (linked above). I found myself lighter in that moment–having found a little bit of peace in the awareness that I was about to help at least a few of my colleagues during this challenging time.

From the positive feedback I’ve received since Tuesday’s webinar, I’ve been inspired to overhaul my content plan for the year. I have a few ideas in the hopper and hope to drop more easy-to-follow strategies and advocacy resources in the coming weeks. If there’s something you need, please let me know.

Finally, if you know colleagues who need access to these resources please share this post. They can also sign up for my newsletter here. Thank you.

Stock photographs by Bongkarn Thanyakij and Steve Johnson, via Canva. Images downloaded for use April 2020, and was not purposefully altered. All other image and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.