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

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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.
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.

An Evaluation of the Stimulus Package and Resources for LAM Professionals

A lot has happened since my last post on March 26. (If you’re new or wish to read it again, you can find it here). On Friday night the $2-trillion dollar stimulus bill was passed by the House and signed by the President. It’s the largest bill in US history and was passed in record time out of necessity. As a result, many pundits acknowledge it’s far from perfect and that there’s still more work to be done in the long-term. As a profession that’s heavily impacted by this current crisis, it’s very important that we understand what resources are available in the stimulus package and identify what we still need.

This post covers the following topics: 1. The stimulus package and what it means for archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations; 2. Surveys that are tracking impacted professionals; and 3. Free webinars to help you get through this challenging time.

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


THE STIMULUS PACKAGE AND WHAT’S IN IT FOR US

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the National Council of Nonprofits, and the National Humanities Alliance have all weighed in with their initial thoughts. To summarize, the National Endowment for Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the IMLS will collectively receive $200-million from this stimulus package. Details are forthcoming on how and when the money will be distributed from these agencies. Additionally, nonprofits can apply for loans that include a forgiveness component, with certain eligibility parameters in place. And, a charitable giving provision was put in place for an above-the-line deduction up to $300 in cash donations.

This is viewed as a good start, but much more is needed to fully support LAMs. As a point of comparison, Germany approved a $50-billion aid package with more substantial funds allocated to support their small businesses, freelance artists, and cultural organizations.

KEEP WRITING YOUR REPRESENTATIVES — MORE AID IS NEEDED

Considering US cultural organizations asked for $4-billion and received less than 5% of their request, you can see we have a long way to go toward getting the resources we need to navigate the economic part of this crisis. As AAM stated in their letter last week, “We estimate as many as 30 percent of museums, mostly in small and rural communities, will not re-open without significant and immediate emergency financial assistance.” This is still true unless more resources are provided. If your organization is struggling, it’s imperative you write your representatives. Please use this easy fill in the blank template to contact your representatives. More information on this important action can be found in my previous post, here.


THE HUMAN IMPACT

As with many industries, archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations have been unexpectedly thrust into an economic crisis on top of the pandemic crisis. There is the very real human toll on us physically and psychologically. And there is the economic toll on us as the organizations we work for begin to shutter operations and furlough staff in an effort to slow the quick trip to bankruptcy. As of this week, 3.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment and we’re just in the first few weeks of the pandemic impacting the economy.

Several surveys have been created by grassroots organizers to help capture the human and economic toll, and I’m sharing them with you here (below). If you are one of the many who have lost their job, please fill out these surveys so that we can know the full extent of this economic crisis. Any future plans for economic recovery will need this information. Please participate and share with your peers so that they can be counted too.

TRACKING LAYOFF/FURLOUGH SURVEYS

Contingent Archival Workers and COVID-19

Archives Staff Impact During COVID-19

Museum Staff Impact During COVID-19

RELATED RESOURCES FOR PEOPLE

Art + Museum Transparency Twitter thread is tracking museum layoff news.

Archives Workers Emergency Fund is a group of peers preparing to set up an emergency fund for archival workers in contingent positions who may be affected by COVID-19, have limited workplace protections or sick time, and may suffer the loss of income as institutions close and move to remote work in response to the pandemic.

The Americans for the Arts’ dashboard for The Economic Impact of Coronavirus on the Arts and Culture Sector provides the latest results from Americans for the Arts’ ongoing survey. They hope to capture coronavirus-related economic impact reports from artists, arts organizations, and arts agencies of all types, genres, sizes, and tax statuses. To participate you can fill out their survey here.

RELATED RESOURCES FOR ORGANIZATIONS

AAM’s Strategies for Short-term Financial Survival, a collection of resources and information to help you create short-term strategies for navigating the coming weeks and months.

AAM’s Financial Relief and Resources, a living list with updates made regularly. The resources listed are to help museums develop short-term and long-term fiscal strategies to keep your museum afloat.


FREE WEBINARS

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This crisis has helped to inspire multiple free webinar opportunities for archives, museums, and cultural heritage staff to learn new things. Here are a few upcoming webinars to help you navigate this crisis.

“Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections,” offered by IMLS, featuring Dr. David Berendes and Dr. Catherine Rasberry from the Centers for Disease Control. March 30 @11am Pacific. Register here.

“Deriving Value from Collections in the Time of Corona,” offered by SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness, featuring Rachael Woody (myself), Margot Note of Margot Note Consulting, and Chris Cummings of Pass it Down. April 7 @12pm Pacific. RSVP here. Join here.

“How to Captivate, Connect, and Communicate with Your Audience During Coronavirus,” offered by Cuseum, featuring Brendan Ciecko (CEO & Founder @ Cuseum), with special guests Susan Edwards (Associate Director, Digital Content @ Hammer Museum) and Koven Smith (Museum & Nonprofit Digital Strategy Consultant). On-Demand.

And related AAM article, “4 Ways Museums Can Successfully Leverage Digital Content and Channels During Coronavirus (COVID-19),” by Brendan Ciecko of Cuseum.


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Many of us are entering into week 3 of social distancing. As we make our way through this I hope that you are finding solace in your friends, family, and community. If I can help support you better, please tell me how. Until then, here’s a picture from when my babies we’re young. Through them I try to find small moments of joy.

If you know colleagues who need access to these resources please send them a link to this post. They can also sign up for my newsletter here.

Image courtesy of Regan Vercruysse, via Flickr’s Creative Commons, and follows the Creative Commons Attribution License. Image downloaded for use March 2020, and was not purposefully altered. All other image and text owned by Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC.