ArtCore: Chicago's Community Collaborative



Industry Non Profit
Location Chicago, IL
Customer since 2017
Employees 11-50
Zenefits solutions
Payroll, Core HR, Benefits, Paid Time Off, Contractors

ArtCore is a collaborative composed of three of Chicago’s most respected non-profit organizations, Arts & Business Council of Chicago, See Chicago Dance and Chicago Cultural Alliance. For over five years, ArtCore has navigated the nuances of the non-profit sector in a way that has served the community, garnered recognition, and earned funding from philanthropic frontrunners like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


Successfully administering HR processes for one organization takes dedication and commitment; finding someone to manage three separate entities was a whole different challenge to optimize this innovative model. Ivonne Romo, who accepted the role as ArtCore’s Director of Finance & Operations, was ready for her wide set of responsibilities, including: book-keeping, payroll, managing audit, payables, receivables, benefits management, staff onboarding, HR, finance committee, and intern management.  But when she found that the three organizations had three separate payroll providers, requiring three different schedules, she flagged to leadership that they needed a robust HR platform to smoothly navigate between the three entities without duplicating efforts or disrupting their processes.


With the blessing of her bosses, Ivonne began the task of consolidating her systems. Their dance organization, See Chicago Dance, was already using the full Zenefits People Platform. Arts & Business Council of Chicago was also a Zenefits client but was not utilizing payroll. Ivonne upgraded Arts & Business Council of Chicago’s Zenefits subscription and added Chicago Cultural Alliance to the Zenefits fold.

In fact, after implementing the full Zenefits platform, the Arts & Business Council actually saved 15%+ (including set up costs) by switching providers.

 There is something for everyone

There was a lot of clean up involved when Ivonne joined the organization. “Before Zenefits, everything was scattered. Information was processed at different times and in different ways. Now everything is neatly in one place.”

Executive directors for each organization have appreciated the efficiency Zenefits has provided. “One of our directors —even though she’d had benefits administration previously— had never done open enrollment online before. Once we integrated with Zenefits, it was an ‘ah-ha’ for her to shift some of the responsibility from the administrator to the employees. With Zenefits, once the administer initiates open enrollment and numbers are loaded by the broker, there is nothing to worry about, and it’s at employees’ fingertips.”

Employees also really appreciate the mobility and ease that Zenefits offers. Many often work sponsoring events all over the city.  So the convenience to request time off, and view documents like their insurance and pay stubs, gives them the peace of mind so they can focus on the bigger picture: the community.

Support is another important feature. Her experience has been that Zenefits’ support will always work to get her the answers she needs. “If we have questions, Zenefits will get back to me and with the right answer.”

Consolidating costs

ArtCore has also observed a real cost-saving since bringing all entities under one platform.

  • Arts & Business Council of Chicago is saving 15% in payroll costs and now have everything integrated into one system.
  • Payroll processing time used to take up to a week. Now, they can process everything in about 6 hours for all three organizations.
  • Paid time off request processing could take a week; now, it takes as little as a few minutes.

Having three groups under the same system is great! Once I learn to do something for one organization, I have figured it out for the other two. One phone call can resolve three problems. That is priceless.

Ivonne Romo,
Director of Finance & Operations

Growing to meet community needs

With HR administration and processes under control, ArtCore can focus on the goals set by each organization. Arts & Business Council of Chicago currently has programs and/or services in 51 of Chicago’s 77 communities. Their goal is to expand into all  77 by the end of 2020. For the Chicago Cultural Alliance, they would love to position cultural museums as centers of neighborhood-based economic development. This means having a better way to connect the centers in each community (i.e., create sustainable revenue streams). Lastly, See Chicago Dance plans to increase revenue and services to the non-profit dance organizations throughout Chicago. All of this is achievable with the help of partners like Zenefits, who are committed to leveling the playing field for engaged community partners like ArtCore. “Zenefits keeps things organized so that we can focus on our mission.”

“I share HR responsibilities with our executive directors, so beyond the product we appreciate the access to the Zenefits HR Library and the ClubZen community to gain compliance perspective, collaborate and ask questions.”

 Focusing on the future

. “I came to this role as a former volunteer. I wanted to work for an organization that was an intersection between art and the business world. Arts & Business Council of Chicago does pro bono consulting projects for other Arts non-profits. I appreciate that.”

In fact, to share her learning with others, Ivonne offers workshops about building collaboratives: right down to the technologies, like Zenefits, that can maximize limited people and financial resources. Paying it forward to others looking to do more good works for their communities.