2014 Cultural Information Meeting Presentation


  • Overview of EACAB Charge/Mission
  • Positive Trends
  • Negative Trends
  • Foreshadowing 2015 Cultural Funding
  • Comments/Questions

Erie Arts & Cultural Advisory Board (EACAB) 


  • Hardworking, dedicated group of volunteers with a wide variety of background and skills
    • Media professionals
    • Non-profit leaders
    • Educators
    • Bankers
    • Lawyers
    • Community volunteers
  • Excellent support from Erie County
  • Deep Commitment from the County Executive

Reviewing the Application:

  • Each application requires a minimum of 10 hours to read
  • Every application has a lead reviewer and is assigned to a committee
  • Recommendations & concerns are brought to the entire board for discussion

Who are the people who accept this responsibility?

  • They are your audience
  • They are your members
  • They are your donors
  • They are your supporters and advocates for the sector
  • They want you to be successful

So if there is a bit of “leaning in favor” of something, it is in favor of finding support for the wide variety of organizations funded by the County.

Overview: EACAB Charge & Mission

  • Erie Arts & Cultural Advisory Board (EACAB) does not evaluate your art
  • Reviews your organization
    • Governance
    • Management/Planning
    • Fiscal Health
    • Community Impact
    • Alignment of programming with mission

Feedback Letters

  • Letters were sent to all organizations who applied for 2014 Erie County Cultural Funding
  • Exemplary Items / Issues & Concerns
  • No Response Required
  • Purpose:
    • Feedback offered to organizations
    • May help improve future applications to any source
    • To provide continuity for future EACAB reviews of applications


  • 73% of applicants completed CDP
  • Financial Impact
    • $52 million – unrestricted revenue
    • $34.2 million – total contributed revenue
    • $17.3 million – total earned revenue
    • $38.8 million – total program expense
    • $ 3.6 million – total fundraising expense
    • $ 9.55 million – total general & admin expense
  • People
    • 435 full time employees
    • 1,268 part time/seasonal employees
    • 731 independent contractors
    • 293 interns
    • 4,958 volunteers
  • Audiences
    • Total Audience: 1,714,502
    • Paid Attendance: 1,206,599
  • Budgets ranged from $25,000 to $11 million
  • Staffing: all volunteer to dozens of employees
  • Some exciting, young organizations
  • Some serious organizational challenges

Positive Trends

  • The amount of money going into the sector from various sources is impressive!
  • $5.5 million from Erie County/$52 million
  •  REDC Buffalo Billion - Leading areas for growth include:
    • Advanced Manufacturing
    • Life Sciences
    • Tourism – Cultural Attractions and Assets
  • Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan – Strategy 3
    • “Buffalo’s natural and cultural assets match the needs of the largest, fastest growing customer segment (outdoor adventure/heritage)”
    • “Expand and enhance programming that leverages tourism assets to encourage longer stays and increased spending by visitors.”
  • Fresh leadership at many organizations
  • Robust programming returning after recent economic distress
  • Growing Audiences
  • Some exceptional strategic plans
  • National Accreditation
  • Good use of working boards and volunteers to advance the mission of smaller organizations
  • Increased programmatic & operational partnerships
  • Tourism connections & potential
  • Increasing national & international media attention on sector
  • Rich variety of mission & activity
  • Anticipated investments in physical places, care of collections, exhibits, increasing staff, etc.

Negative Trends

  • Governance Concerns
  • Financial Concerns
  • Not Completing Application
  • Sloppiness

Negative Trends: Focus on Governance

Essay Questions:

  • Opportunity to use questions to your benefit
  • “Describe your biggest challenges and how you plan to address them.”
  • “Please describe if and how your governing board performs an annual self-evaluation.”

Board Self-Evaluation

  • Process for and evidence of board self-evaluations
  • Essay Question Ignored, Misunderstood
  • 1/3 - ok, but uninspired
  • 1/3 – NO answer at all
  • 10% - gave program evaluation, not Board
  • 13% - honest answer “no”
  • Excellence 4: response & process described
    • CEPA
    • Explore & More
    • Just Buffalo
    • Squeaky Wheel

Board Leadership

  • Questionable independence of governing boards (see new NYS law)
  • Bylaws in effect? Compliance with document?
  • Bylaws not dated or have not been updated
  • Number of trustees
  • Membership corporations

Gender diversity on boards

  • Erie County is 48% Male, 52% Female (2010 US Census)
  • Used 60/40 as benchmark
  • Board Chair: 60% male; 40% female
  • CEO: 56% male; 44% female
  • 874 total trustees:
    • 502 male – 57%
    • 372 female – 42%
  • Largest organizations by budget size have least gender balance on governing boards

Board Contributions

  • Board members as donors
  • Underreported?
  • Not tracked?
  • 5 organizations do not receive financial support from their leaders/board?
  • 15 appear to have 100% support
  • Well-documented in kind support

Negative Trends: Focus on Finance

  • Increasing estimates of support from NYS
  • Funding Requests above 30% of most recent expense budget suggests over reliance on one source of funding
  • Federal funding for NEA is at risk
  • Multi-year operational deficits
  • Forecasting – overly optimistic?
  • Cash flow statement vs. forecast
  • 990s – Compliance with 2008 changes
  • Erie County is a significant donor
  • Largest donor for X organizations

Lack of acknowledgement, recognition of Erie County’s support.

  • 2014 application states: Please also be advised that if your Organization is awarded funding, you must commit to acknowledging Erie County as a funding source on your organization’s website, marketing materials, and/or other publications.
  • Tone of essays suggests taxpayer support can be taken for granted.
    • Example:
      • While we acknowledge the County’s financial constraints and limited monies available, increased operational support for the next 2-3 years is critical.
      • Our request for YYY, a modest increase (43%), is mindful of that, but at some point the economic cultural development of the community would suggest additional funding, especially now as we “grow the business” of XXX.
      • It seems appropriate to note that by every measure of outside evaluation, XXX is identified in league with other leading organizations . . . As such, XXX should be funded at higher levels if the county wishes to promote its truly world-class assets.

Incomplete Applications

  • Absence of required, supporting documents
  • 1 year of financial data (3 is optimal)
  • Dates for filing 990 & CHAR 500
  • Ignoring essay question on board self-evaluation


  • Include best/current attachments
  • Bylaws sent with strike-outs
  • Previous version of by-laws, 10 years old
  • Think ahead, prepare now
  • Update documents routinely

Help & Assistance

  • Applicant Briefing held May 10, 2013
  • Arts Services Initiative (ASI)
  • Introduction to strategic planning
  • Half day training on cash flow
  • Half day training on CDP
  • Offered technical assistance for completing/uploading electronic application
  • Ongoing communications supported process
  • CDP “help desk” and online tutorials
  • Application cannot be undertaken at last minute

2014 Contracts

  • Will be mailed by the end of February 2014

Foreshadowing: NYS Nonprofit Revitalization Act

  • Signed by Gov. Cuomo December 31, 2013
  • Effective July 1, 2014
  • Mandatory conflict of interest policy
    • Required for ALL nonprofits & trusts
    • Must cover directors, officers & key employees
  • Disclosure Statements
    • Prior to initial election of any director
    • Signed, collected, evaluated, recorded annually
  • Mandatory Whistleblower Policy
  • New definition of “entire board”
  • If bylaws provide board size range between minimum and maximum number
  • Determines quorum
  • No employee may serve as Board Chair
  • New definition of independent director/trustee
    • Not an employee in past 3 yrs.
    • Not a relative of a key employee of past 3 yrs.
    • Not received $10,000 or more in direct compensation
    • Not a current employee or having a substantial financial interest

Foreshadowing: 2015 Cultural Funding - Cultural Data Project

  • Separation of capital expenses from operating budget
  • CDP does not require that you enter the balance sheet, but we would prefer that you do for review purposes
  • May consider requiring 3-years of data in CDP

Shifts in Scope of EACAB

  • In past years, have recommended fund/not fund; in 2014 process, EACAB has also recommended  consistent/increased/decreased  funding.
  • The administration has favored sharing constructive feedback with applicants.
  • Feedback letters contained comments on exemplary qualities/accomplishments as well as items of concern to help guide future funding applications and reviews

Foreshadowing: 2015 Cultural Funding

  • Anticipated release of 2015 Cultural Funding Application in early May 2014
  • Orientation will be held shortly thereafter to highlight changes

Contact Information

Disclaimer: In some cases, the numbers above have been rounded and without CDP reports for approximately 25% of applicants, the aggregate numbers are not complete.