Live Webinar: Beyond the Spreadsheet: Finance and Organizational Priorities

Many of us recognize the utility of financial management, but struggle with how to best engage it with other organizational activities like strategic planning, operational needs related to programming and community engagement, messaging, and preparation for institutional change. This webinar helps participants foresee and tackle challenges of incohesive financial planning, such as fragmentation within the institution (the “silo effect”), lack of proper fundraising strategy, and potentially weak and even uncompliant organizational management.

In this 75-minute webinar, instructor Becky Beaulieu, author of Financial Fundamentals for Historic House Museums (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) will help participants learn to identify financial priorities as they relate to institutional needs and goals. She will also address building buy-in amongst internal and external stakeholders to best position your organization for financial stability and strong partnerships.

This webinar is designed for participants of all levels, including staff, volunteers, and board members.

This webinar is part of the StEPs Lab series of online continuing education offered to both StEPs program participants and all others interested in the topic of financial management. This is StEPs Lab 19.

Details:

DATE: December 12, 2019

TIME: 3:00 - 4:15 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone)

COST: $40 Members / $65 Nonmembers / $15 discount for StEPs participants with promo code found on StEPs Community website

We will record this event. Access the Recorded Webinar in the AASLH Resource Center after the event has passed. Registrants of this event receive complimentary access to the recording in their Dashboard. 

Closed captioning is provided for this event.

REGISTER HERE

Participant Outcomes:

After taking part in this webinar, participants will:

  • Learn how to engage financial systems with organizational planning.
  • Ensure effective alignment between financial best practices and the needs and responsibilities of paid/unpaid staff and board members.
  • Become more familiar with standards related to financial management and learn best practices for meeting those standards.

Speaker:

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Rebekah Beaulieu, Ph.D. is the Director of Florence Griswold Museum, an art museum, National Landmark historic house, and thirteen acres of gardens and grounds in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Becky is on the boards of the New England Museum Association and Connecticut Humanities, on the faculty of AASLH’s History Leadership Institute, and a member of the AASLH Finance Committee. She is an AAM Accreditation Commissioner and board member for the AAM Historic Houses and Sites Professional Network.


StEPs Spotlight: McHenry County Historical Society & Museum

Exciting changes are happening at the more than 1,000 organizations taking part in the StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations).

Our “StEPs Spotlight” blog series highlights accomplishments by participating organizations.

Below is another example of how StEPs is helping organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication, and setting goals for a bright future.

McHenry County Historical Society & Museum
Union, Illinois

By Kurt Begalka, McHenry County Historical Society & Museum

Since the mid-1960s, the McHenry County Historical Society & Museum has striven to engage and educate current and future generations about the history of their county. Besides operating the museum, the society places plaques at historic sites and structures, hosts workshops and classes, hosts two large festivals a year, runs a research library, makes available satellite exhibits, and arranges a wide variety of school and other group programs. With four staff, MCHS has been a member of AASLH since 1964 and began the StEPs program in 2017.

Can you describe how your organization is making its way through the program?

In a nutshell, we are tackling StEPS like a beaver fells an aspen: chipping away one section at a time! MCHS created a task force to evaluate each section that was made up of board and staff members. Each task force was led by a chairperson. It took two to three meetings to cover each section which occurred once a month. Each task force evaluated MCHS among the Basic, Good, and Better categories. After each section was completed, the task force wrote up a list of project recommendations for every standard. The evaluation of the StEPs sections was completed in late spring of 2018.

The MCHS strategic planning committee reviewed all the project recommendations and prioritized them into three categories. Priority 1 was to be worked on during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Priority 2 is to be worked on during our current fiscal year 2019-2020. Priority 3 is to be worked on next fiscal year 2020-2021. The priorities were all compiled into charts and the MCHS committees were assigned to priorities by the strategic planning committee. In late summer of 2018, all board members and staff received binders detailing the priorities and project recommendations. Each committee was directed to review the StEPs projects and select 2-3 goals. The strategic plan committee advised the MCHS committees to focus on Priority 1’s that covered key areas of focus: data gathering, policy reviewing and revising, volunteer management, and buildings and grounds. Committees were asked to submit their goals to the strategic planning committee in October 2018. Each month, before a board meeting, committee chairs were asked to submit reports detailing progress on their StEPs goals to the strategic planning committee. Committees that reported progress were acknowledged at each board meeting. Committees that did not provide reports were identified and reminded to submit their reports. The 2018-2019 fiscal year helped MCHS review, revise, or create several policies, began data collection with surveys and focus groups, and write a new Strategic Plan for 2019-2022.

The Gannon cabin, built in 1842, was moved to Union in 1966.

What would you say is the most significant change or improvement within your organization as a result of taking part in StEPs?

Most boards are a little like teenagers. They have to hear it from someone else before they really believe it. StEPs provided us with a sounding board and road map for making tangible improvements. Self-improvement is now front and center in our work.

Which section of the workbook has been your favorite, and why?

The policy part of the Mission, Vision, and Governance section demanded that we re-examine our mission, vision, and values... and make sure that ALL of our actions aligned with them. StEPs can be brutal, in a way. It shines a light on everything, even the warts. But wouldn't you rather tackle these issues now rather than wait for a "crisis" in the future?

What advice do you have for organizations just starting in StEPs?

It is easy to get overwhelmed. Take it section by section, topic by topic. You'll find most things are interconnected. But, then again, you knew that already. For us, tackling this process as part of our strategic planning process and utilizing a board retreat to help lay that foundation were pivotal.

Learn more about StEPs...

The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Three Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in November

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Berman Museum, Anniston, AL: Stewardship of Collections Bronze

The Historical Cherryvale Museum, Inc., Cherryvale, KS: Audience and Interpretation Bronze

Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, Lakehurst, NJ: Audience Gold


StEPs Spotlight: Our Latest Gold Graduate, the Manitowoc County Historical Society

Exciting changes are happening at the more than 1,000 organizations taking part in the StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations).

Our “StEPs Spotlight” blog series highlights accomplishments by participating organizations.

Below is another example of how StEPs is helping organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication, and setting goals for a bright future.

AASLH is proud to announce our eighth national StEPs graduate!

Manitowoc County Historical Society
Manitowoc, Wisconsin

By Amy Meyer, Director, Manitowoc County Historical Society

The Manitowoc County Historical Society, formed in 1906, is one of the oldest historical societies in Wisconsin. Formed by early community and civic leaders, the society began acquiring Civil War and early immigrant items to preserve and display. Throughout the 1970s, the society grew with the donation of forty acres to create a historical village. Enthusiasm for Pinecrest Historical Village continued to build as various structures were carefully moved, preserved, and furnished as living history exhibits. All of the work was completed by volunteers to create this unique museum. Today this sixty-acre interpretive museum of local history features a welcome center with local history exhibits and research services and the outdoor Pinecrest Historical Village, now a collection of over thirty historic buildings with period furnishings from Manitowoc County's early settlers. With two paid staff and over 100 registered volunteers, MCHS has been a member of AASLH since 1986 and began the StEPs program in 2015.

Can you describe how your organization is making its way through the program?

The staff, Board of Directors, and key volunteers worked through the program by tackling one section at a time. In addition to staff and volunteer work, early on each board of directors meeting featured a chapter where the case study was discussed and the performance indicators were reviewed.

What would you say is the most significant change or improvement within your organization as a result of taking part in StEPs?

Various types of volunteers may not fully understand what other key types of volunteers all do, but through the performance indicators in StEPs, all those involved with our museum's operation can have an idea of what each area needs and the work involved. We were able to work on a lot of internal organization (such as where files and documents are located). One of the most beneficial parts of participating in StEPs was gathering needed documents, policies, and compiling procedures in one location. We were also better able to engage our volunteers on best practices and have discussions about what our museum's role is and should be in the community. StEPs helps our volunteers, members, and greater community know that we are on the right track. We may be a small museum, but we are following best practices and our volunteers are incredibly proud of our success.

Which section of the workbook has been your favorite, and why?

The Interpretation section was a staff and volunteer favorite as it involved a core part of what our museum does and very much related to many of the areas our volunteers are actively a part of. The Historic Structures and Landscapes section was certainly the most challenging because of our open-air museum environment. Our team did a great job in talking through some of the issues. We hope to revisit the sections to use the case studies as talking points with our board and volunteers.

What advice do you have for organizations just starting in StEPs?

All too often small museums are consumed with daily operations and we don't take a step back to ensure we have the fundamentals in place. Being a part of StEPs helps you pay attention to what you are doing well (and celebrate small victories) and where you can focus attention for growth.

Learn more about StEPs...

The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Seven Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in October

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

African American Cultural and Historical Museum, Ann Arbor, MI: Management Bronze

City of Greeley Museums, Greeley, CO: Stewardship of Collections Silver

Farmers Branch Historical Park, Farmers Branch, TX: Audience Silver and Interpretation Gold

The Griot Museum of Black History, St. Louis, MO: Audience Bronze and Silver, Interpretation Bronze and Silver, Stewardship of Collections Bronze, and MVG Bronze

Johnston Historical Society, Johnston, IA: Interpretation Silver

Uintah County Heritage Museum, Vernal, UT: Stewardship of Collections Bronze and Silver, and Audience Bronze

Union County Historical Society, Lewisburg, PA: Stewardship of Collections Bronze, and MVG, Interpretation, and Management Silver


Best Practices for StEPs Success

By Cherie Cook, Senior Program Manager, AASLH

When I think about best practices for museums, my curatorial work from years ago kicks in and I picture white gloves, padded hangers, and other techniques used to avoid damage to artifacts and (hopefully) slow down their natural deterioration.

Best practice: a reliable method or technique for achieving a desired result

If we crowdsourced a list of collections care best practices, I’m sure we could compile hundreds of entries. Indeed, that is why we stopped short of listing best practices in the workbook created for the StEPs program, a self-study assessment program created especially for small- to mid-sized museums, historic houses, and sites. If we had included best practices, we might never have finished the project―or it would have become encyclopedic!

At the annual StEPs Friday Morning MeetUP during AASLH’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this year, the topic of discussion was best practices. But instead of best practices for collections care or any of the other five workbook sections, we addressed the question, “What are reliable methods or techniques for achieving success with the StEPs program?” Are there factors that increase the likelihood that an organization will not only earn Bronze, Silver, and Gold certificates, but more importantly, will emerge from the StEPs process a stronger and more sustainable institution?

In response, the MeetUP participants compiled the following list of best practices for using the StEPs program:

  • Stakeholders, especially board members and paid and unpaid staff, are involved in the process. If an organization doesn’t have board members, then members of the governing authority take part. It is advisable that at some point in the assessment process, members of the community, funders, and other stakeholders also participate.
  • A structure for the assessment process is created prior to the start of the project. The structure addresses who is involved in the assessment, how the assessment will proceed, and how the results will be used. Be sure to read the Introduction and How to Use sections of the workbook for help in creating your project structure.
  • A schedule, including a target date for completion, is set. One MeetUP participant emphasized that a schedule that conveys a sense of urgency is particularly helpful. Both best practices are especially valuable given that StEPs is a self-study program, which can be a double-edged sword in terms of completion.
  • Attention is paid to buy-in. Assuming stakeholders are on board with the assessment is risky. Create buy-in by starting the project with an orientation where your board president or whoever is championing the assessment sets the vision and makes sure they place all stakeholders in that vision as critical assets to the success of the project.
  • The assessment is integrated with strategic planning.
  • The organization communicates its progress to all stakeholders throughout the assessment project.

If your organization is one of the 1,050 using the StEPs program, do you have best practices to add to the above list?


StEPs Spotlight: Jackson County Historical Society

Exciting changes are happening at the more than 1,000 organizations taking part in the StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations).

Our “StEPs Spotlight” blog series highlights accomplishments by participating organizations.

Below is another example of how StEPs is helping organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication, and setting goals for a bright future.

Jackson County Historical Society
Independence, Missouri

By Caitlin Eckard, Jackson County Historical Society

The Jackson County Historical Society formally organized January 19, 1940, when Roger T. Sermon, then mayor of Independence, Missouri, called an organizational meeting to choose officers and prepare by-laws. The headquarters were to be at the County Seat in Independence, and its historical records (now its archives and research library) were then maintained in one fireproof cabinet in the Jackson County Library. The Society ramped up its activity and officially incorporated in 1958 when the oldest structure on Independence Square, the 1859 Jackson County Jail and adjoining Marshal’s Home, was slated for demolition. After a fervent capital campaign under the leadership of Society President W. Howard Adams, the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum opened to the public in June 1959, in the building’s 100th year. The one-room schoolhouse used for ninety years on the William B. Howard farm near Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was also relocated to the site for preservation and interpretation. The restored structures and period rooms were furnished through the acquisition of significant Jackson County-related artifacts from the late nineteenth Century. The society’s archival collection also grew significantly during the surging interest in historic preservation.

Inside the 1859 Jackson County Jail.

In 1972, the society’s Archives and Research Library, which had outgrown temporary quarters in the basement of the Harry S Truman Presidential Museum and Library, relocated to space provided by Jackson County government in the historic courthouse on Independence Square. Today, the Jackson County Historical Society collections continue to grow and we are moving into the twenty-first century with exciting technological projects that will make our collections available to a worldwide audience. In successive years the quantity and quality of the society’s products, services, sites, and programs have adapted to meet the needs of its patrons. Generous benefactors have also helped establish permanent endowment funds for the long-term care of the society’s historic sites and collections. With six paid staff and twenty-five volunteers, JCHS joined AASLH and began the StEPs program in 2018.

Can you describe how your organization is making its way through the program?

We are going through the Basic level indicators by section, meeting the second Monday of every month to complete each section. Updates on our progress go out to the board members each month. StEPs is helping to define the differences between the board of directors' work and staff work. This is the largest staff size the organization has ever seen, so the board has less daily oversight and has focused on other tangible goals to help our staff succeed.

What would you say is the most significant change or improvement within your organization as a result of taking part in StEPs?

We realized we have a lot of out date policies and procedures. Our organization has grown a lot in the past few years, so StEPs is really helping us navigate the ups and downs of that process.

Which section of the workbook has been your favorite, and why?

Although we've only done the Audience and Mission, Vision, and Governance sections at this time, MVG has been my favorite because it is helping our board understand their role.

What advice do you have for organizations just starting in StEPs?

Just pick a time and get started!

Learn more about StEPs...

The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Webinar: Is Your Organization Ready for StEPs?

Assessment programs like AASLH’s StEPs program are road maps. They are a valuable tool for moving an organization forward along a path and helping paid and unpaid staff, volunteers, and board members stay focused as they travel together along that path toward a set of common goals.

Organizations that can connect planning and fundraising to an assessment program gain credibility. Funders like to know that your proposed project is based upon goals that are supported by an assessment program, and that your organization’s progress can be measured.

StEPs is a self-study assessment program open to any museum, historical society, historic house, site, or related organization. It is intended for small- and mid-sized organizations that do not feel ready for other assessment programs, but larger museums may find it useful for prioritizing and as a refresher checklist or training tool. Enrollment in StEPs is a one-time fee of $175 for institutional members of AASLH.

Is your organization ready for StEPs? Join us for this free, one-hour webinar to hear how StEPs can help your organization create a road map for meaningful change.

Speaker: Cherie Cook, AASLH Senior Program Manager

Note: This webinar is for organizations that are considering using the StEPs program. Organizations already enrolled in the program should register for the free webinar, “StEPs Welcome or Refresher" on November 6, 2019:

Details:

DATE: October 9, 2019

TIME: 3:00 - 4:00 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone)

COST: FREE

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

REGISTER HERE

About the Instructor:

Cherie Cook is AASLH Senior Program Manager. Prior to joining the Association, Cherie worked with museums in Oklahoma for more than sixteen years, first as field services coordinator and then as executive director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Much of Cherie’s work at AASLH focuses on smaller history organizations and is influenced not only by her years in Oklahoma but also her experience as a county historical society curator.


The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Nine Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in September

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Delhi Historical Society, Cincinnati, OH: MVG Bronze

Dickinson County Historical Society, Abilene, KS: Bronze in all six categories

Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association, Effingham, IL: Audience Bronze

Farmers Branch Historical Park, Farmers Branch, TX: MVG Silver

Fort Douglas Military Museum, Salt Lake City, UT: MVG, Management, and Audience Bronze

Hyrum City Museum, Hyrum UT: MVG Bronze and Silver

Jackson County Historical Society, Independence, MO: Interpretation Bronze

Lafayette Miners Museum, Lafayette, CO: MVG Bronze

Ogden Union Station Museum, Ogden, UT: MVG, Management, and Audience Bronze


The StEPs logo, in which the letters of S-T-E-P-S are typed above a curved brush stroke that is lower on the left and higher on the right. Text below logo reads Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations.

Seven Organizations Earn StEPs Certificates in August

We congratulate these members who earned StEPs certificates last month!

The Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is AASLH’s self-study standards program designed specifically for small to mid-sized history organizations, including volunteer-run institutions. Through a workbook, online resources, and an online community, organizations enrolled in StEPs assess their policies and practices and benchmark themselves against nationally recognized standards. StEPs certificates mark an institution’s progress towards enhancing standards and management of their resources.

Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, Bainbridge Island, WA: MVG Silver

Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Seattle, WA: Management and MVG Bronze

Cache Pioneer Museum, Logan, UT: Audience, Management, and MVG Bronze

Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, Loudonville, OH: Audience and Stewardship of Collections Silver

Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association, Effingham, IL: MVG Bronze

Hyrum City Museum, Hyrum UT: Audience and Management Bronze, MVG Gold

Jackson County Historical Society, Independence, MO: Audience Bronze