by Tom Kuder, AOTL Treasurer
As you might expect, the year 2020 had plenty of negative impact on our Art of the Lakes organization: Gallery closings. No Art & Craft Affair. No Studio Tour. Cancelled workshops. Less revenue. (Perhaps your own artistic pursuits suffered as well.)
But the challenges of last year also prompted some positive change at AOTL: a concerted effort to transform our operations, communications and member services to become more resilient and efficient.
Nowhere is that more evident than in our shift to digital technology.
It started in 2020
At the beginning of last year, the AOTL Facebook page and website were pretty much our only digital outlets. With the onset of Covid-19, the first of many new technologies suddenly became important: we began to hold virtual board meetings via Zoom.
In late 2020 we added an online Shop to our website, a significant upgrade that enables members to display and sell art even when the gallery is closed (as it was during much of our 2020 season).
Now, as we begin 2021, there’s even more positive change in the works.
Grants enable online shift
Arts funding organizations have been quick to recognize the impact of the pandemic, awarding AOTL several grants that enable us to move more of our operations and marketing online.
We used some of those funds to advertise our new e-commerce Shop on Facebook, helping to drive our first-ever online revenues right before Christmas.
With the success of those ads, we’ve budgeted quarterly social media advertising in 2021 to promote the Shop, the Gallery and this year’s events.
Online membership management
In January, we licensed a membership management application called Wild Apricot, which is used by over 25,000 other member organizations. This system allows us to conduct annual member renewals on our website, with both online registration and payment.
That’s a boon for our efficiency, eliminating costly paper mailings, paper check processing and manual registration tasks.
Online event registration and donations
In addition, we now have the ability to conduct event registration and payments online.
This is already in use for the 2021 Studio Tour. And it will be a huge factor in successfully managing multiple event registrations for the exciting new Prairie Lakes en Plein Aire Festival, as well as many new workshops.
Online donations are also more easily managed. Using this capability, we plan to expand our online fundraising efforts later this year.
Email communication & online forums
Our Wild Apricot system now automatically sends out confirmation and reminder emails for membership renewals, event sign-ups and donations. This eliminates a lot of manual emails and phone calls!
We also now have an easy way to email announcements and news to members, donors, event attendees and AOTL supporters.
In the future, we might even use Wild Apricot to set up online discussion forums for members to keep in touch virtually while discussing items of interest to the organization.
Back office goes digital, too
Behind the scenes, Debbie Ness has successfully migrated our old desktop accounting system to Quickbooks Online. This allows easy access to bookkeeping, reporting and other financial functions from anywhere – without requiring a physical presence in the Gallery.
Change can be hard
While all of these changes are exciting, it’s normal to have a few hiccups. Not everyone is equally comfortable or adept at digital communication. Problems will inevitably pop up. And we’re all learning new ways of doing things.
But your Board and staff are committed to making this digital transformation as smooth as we can. To survive and thrive, we must become a more efficient organization, able to operate even when we can’t be together in person.
Your patience and support during these changes is appreciated!
Digital marketing for artists
One of the ways you can help your AOTL organization make this transition is to build your own skills in digital technology. A great way to do that is to attend our upcoming workshop, Digital marketing for AOTL artists.
I’ll be presenting this free workshop online (using Zoom) on March 23. For more information, click the button below.
Focused on our mission
Throughout all this change, Art of the Lakes remains focused on our mission to promote artists, the visual arts and community engagement. With the help of digital technology, we’re better positioned than ever to meet our goals now and into the future!