The world is made up of many diverse communities who have different missions but who share a common goal; contribute in ways that create a positive impact while celebrating the unique attributes of those whom they serve. For over five years, ArtCore has navigated the nuances of the non-profit sector in a way that has allotted the recognition, as well as funding from philanthropic frontrunners like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. ArtCore is a non-merging collaborative composed of three of Chicago’s most respected non-profit organizations, Arts & Business Council of Chicago, See Chicago Dance and Chicago Cultural Alliance. This innovative collaborative has aspirations to be a model for other organizations that are of similar size and scope and interested in sharing office resources.
Successfully administering HR processes for one organization takes dedication and commitment; managing THREE separate entities presented not only a challenge for hiring but also a need to find someone with experience and expertise who would benefit and build upon the success of this business model. As the Director of Finance & Operations, Ivonne Romo wears many hats; book-keeping, payroll, managing audit, payables, receivables, benefits management, staff onboarding, some HR functions, finance committee, as well as intern management. She joined the organization a little over a year ago and was tasked with managing three separate payroll providers, which required three different schedules. This process created not only a stressful work scenario but also a time-consuming one. After discussing her payroll pains with leadership, all agreed that they needed a robust HR platform that could provide all the necessary tools needed to smoothly navigate between the three entities without 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 a fully onboarded Zenefits client. Arts & Business Council of Chicago was also a Zenefits client but was only utilizing some (not including payroll) of Zenefits many features. Ivonne upgraded Arts & Business Council of Chicago’s Zenefits subscription and added Chicago Cultural Alliance to the Zenefits fold. Chicago Cultural Alliance understood there would be a cost increase to do this. Still, after comparing platforms and determining value, they decided to move forward and are VERY happy they did so. Arts & Business Council 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; processed at different times and in different ways. Now everything is neatly in one place
Director of Finance & Operations
Executive directors for each organization have appreciated the efficiency Zenefits has provided. “One of my directors gave an ah-ha moment recently… even though we had benefits administration previously; she had not utilized open enrollment online before. Once we integrated with Zenefits last year, she found it was great to shift some of the responsibility from the administrator to the employees. It allowed them to get things done by a certain time as well as set up deadline (as opposed to doing it all manually)”. One thing Ivonne loves about 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 are often out and about sponsoring events all over the city. The convenience mobility offers SO importantly…employees can request time off, view documents like their insurance and pay stubs, which gives them the peace of mind needed so they can focus on the bigger picture; community. Ivonne believes, “Systems like this help improve communication and empower employees to manage their wellbeing,”
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.”
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 (sometimes less); and that is for all three organizations. Having one place to process eliminates a lot of worries and allows Ivonne to focus on other things. When it came to time off, it wasn’t unheard of for it to take a week to process requests; now, it takes as little as a few minutes. For Ivonne, “The synergies of our collaborative and having everyone 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.
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 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 for good references so that we can focus on our mission.”
The Onboarding App facilitates the opportunity to grow all three organizations because it offers a very good, simple process to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. As those within the organization experience, different life events, tools like compliance, and HR library offer resources they will use often. “I share HR responsibilities with our executive directors, and options like ClubZen are a great place to collaborate and ask questions,”
Focusing on the Future
With every milestone achieved, ArtCore creates a roadmap of success for others to follow. Ivonne expressed a real need to share their prosperity with others. There are plans to advertise this model so that other non-profits can share in this type of setup. Ivonne will be leading a workshop next year for those interested in learning more about ArtCore and how collaboratives can work for them. “We will be sharing Zenefits and referring the platform to others.”.
As Ivonne reflects on her time with ArtCore, she fondly recollects how she landed in this role. “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.” It appears that Culture is the motivation and the wow; the finances provide the how. It is the ‘circle of life’ for many non-profit organizations, and for ArtCore, this cycle is one that will serve the city of Chicago well for generations to come.