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ARTIE: Year One in Review

ARTIE: Year One in Review

In late 2015, the OAC launched the ARTIE online grantmaking system, built by SmartSimple. During 2016 we got to know ARTIE, as applicants, panelists, and staff put it through its paces. Now with a full year under our belts, let’s look back and ask: how did it go? Here’s a snapshot of how the system looks after its first year, and a few thoughts on what comes next for ARTIE.

Big Data

First and foremost, ARTIE provides the agency with a powerful storage tool for grants data dating back to 2005. The system currently stores more than 9,000 grant applications spanning the dozens of programs that have existed over that time. It also houses more than 19,700 grant applications and reports created under the agency’s prior system, so that a complete archive exists of both the data as well as the actual reports. This ever-expanding cloud-based archive of millions of discrete data points—all now searchable, sortable, and easily reported on—gives us a formidable tool for describing the evolving state of the arts in Ohio over time. Future research, trend analysis, and other inquiries are now possible—along with the security of being able to safeguard the stories of so many meaningful OAC-funded projects over the years.

A Vibrant Community

ARTIE will never replace the agency’s social networking spaces, blogs, newsletters, or other interactive outlets. But on any given day, it is attracting a lot of users! Today there are more than 7,700 user profiles in the system representing both individual artists and the representatives of 2,000+ organizations from all over Ohio. During its first 12 months, more than 2,200 active users made more than 7,300 separate logins to the system to prepare applications, upload support materials, complete final reports, participate in panel reviews, and more. The OAC staff could never provide individualized services for each of these users on their own, so we’re thrilled the system gives us a streamlined, intuitive interface for applicants and grantees to access our resources efficiently and effectively.

More Bang for the Buck

Not every OAC program had an application deadline last year, but we nonetheless gave ARTIE a thorough panel meeting workout. During its first 12 months, the system handled 1,300 grant applications across 20 separate funding programs, managing budgeting, reporting, communications, and award generation for each. We also created and held 15 separate panel review processes via ARTIE involving nearly 70 outside panelists, each of whom read applications, reviewed electronic support materials, and then scored proposals across 12 criteria in the system.

After receiving an historic 27.5 percent biennial budget increase from the Ohio governor and Ohio legislature in 2015—as well as securing the 2nd largest state arts grant in the nation for the 7th consecutive year from the National Endowment for the Arts (all of which is returned to constituents via grant awards)—we knew our application and grant activity would continue to be as robust as ever. And ARTIE proved more than capable—in fact, the system actually saved us money. ARTIE allowed panelists to review support materials online at their own pace, rather than in-person with OAC staff assistance. This meant that in-person panel meetings required less time, and our costs for holding them decreased. And after one year, we are pleased to report that those accumulated panel savings more than offset the annual fees to host the entire ARTIE system! It literally paid for itself.

What You Said

In the end, ARTIE’s storage capacity, application numbers, and cost savings only tell part of the story. For us to be effective as a grantmaker, constituents who apply for and receive grants have to be satisfied with the process we use. To that end, we were pleased at the volume of positive responses from ARTIE’s users, including applicants, grantees, and panelists. While there were certainly suggestions for improvement—and users definitely shared candid feedback, including some very helpful, specific ideas—we were gratified that so much feedback was encouraging. One anonymous user wrote, “This was the first time that I personally used the ARTIE system and I found the process smooth, efficient, and intuitive.” Another commented, “ARTIE is SO GOOD! I wish every organization used a system like this!” Another user shared, “I LOVE the new system. I wish all online grant applications were like it!” And another told us, “I've applied to arts councils and grants in several other states and this is the best by far.”

Coming Soon

Upbeat comments aside, we know the system is far from perfect, and we still have work to do. We heard from individual artists that wished the system handled images and multimedia files differently, so we’re very excited about a new media library feature currently in the final stages of development. New graphical features to help applicants track a grant’s progress are in the works, along with improvements to error-checking for proposals about to be submitted. We also asked panelists what additional features they wanted, and are working to streamline scoring and allow video and audio streaming and annotation.

And that’s just the beginning. ARTIE’s first year starting out with us is just that – a start. With your help, we plan to continue to add improvements and make it as easy as possible to use. Want to help? We’re also open to your feedback, and welcome suggestions on any part of the system or the programs it supports. Year Two, here we come!

CONTRIBUTOR: Dan Katona | Deputy Director

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