In today’s landscape, managing the increased cost of operating a nonprofit can be a challenge to any organization, even the arts. Still, research and experiences continue to prove that they make profound impacts on communities and an individual’s overall well-being and identity.
California Arts Council made one the largest investments in arts and culture in nearly two decades, reinforcing the state’s commitment to organizations trying to address societal challenges and shaping the future of our next generations with arts.
Relative to this, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), one of the nation’s most innovative contemporary arts centers, strives to reinvent the role an arts institution can play in the community it serves through local programs within local San Francisco schools and communities. Since its founding in 1993, YBCA has been on a mission to generate culture that moves people through year-round performing arts, civic engagement programming and visual arts.
Today, the center’s initiatives range from fighting for food justice with art and cooking alongside the Healthy Corner Store Coalition of San Francisco to developing a curriculum focused on community memory, using art and gardening as tools for local youth with Bessie Carmichael Elementary School. The center also spotlights artists and activists across the community, hosting a multitude of performances, programs and exhibitions.
Evolving the Arts Through Technology
It’s critical for nonprofit organizations to effectively manage grants and donations, as well as continue their initiatives to secure the necessary funds to expand their services and offerings. As a premier performing arts center, it was essential for the YBCA to remain extremely organized and establish strong financial visibility and accountability in order to continue supporting current activities and scale their operations. Doing so required an approach to adopting technologies that allow them to derive deep insights into operational expenses and use the data to inform business actions that align with the company’s future goals.
Looking to grow their organization, streamline its systems, move to the cloud, and modernize its financial management, the YBCA needed to implement new technology that both fit where they were at, as well as support the organization’s goals for the future.
Honing in on Culture by Eliminating Siloed Finances
The YBCA team decided to turn to Sage Intacct to implement radical changes the growing organization needed to track against its goal to generate a culture that spurs and supports societal movement. With Sage Intacct, YBCA was able to analyze the operational context for every transaction, introduce automated processes, develop meaningful key performance indicators (KPI) and bring together datasets that were thought to be unimaginable before. By doing so, the team was able to dedicate more time to strategic activities, sped up its lengthy financial processes while increasing budget accuracy by 30% and improving finance productivity by 25%.
For nonprofits, having a granular view into whether funds are being used effectively and efficiently is vital. The ability to generate insights into the fluidity of key operational tasks and functions, including the center’s grants, projects, programs, departments, revenue types, and donor activities all within one platform, enables organizations like the YBCA to inject efficient processes across its operations. For example, with this streamlined process, the center’s finance team can quickly deliver any information the city requires before releasing grant funding each year, which prevents the interruption of funding that could ultimately result in the delay of vital programs. The elimination of duplicate data entry led to a 60% faster close, saving $30,000 on extra employee costs to help execute their financial processes and instead get to the core of the mission they strive to accomplish on a daily basis.
These tools also offer a window into important trends and provide valuable data for future campaigns and assisting when establishing realistic goals. YBCA is now able to better target their audiences by importing individual donor demographics and event attendance data into Sage Intacct. This enables the organization to progress while keeping its mission in clear view, ensuring that important movements have the opportunity to be showcased for years to come.
Chris Safford is currently the finance director at YBCA. At YBCA, he streamlines and innovates the center’s financial and management systems. Previously, he was the CFO of Pivot Learning Partners, where he developed a wide range of HR and training procedures. He has also led the development of accounting and budgeting systems at the California Art Institute.