SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, RI. Photo by Rhode Island Historical Society. Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, RI. Photo by Rhode Island Historical Society.

Rhode Island Historical Society

  • Posted May 18, 2016

The Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) is the United States’ fourth oldest state historical society. It is a private, membership organization, founded in 1822. The RIHS owns and maintains the John Brown House Museum; the Aldrich House; and the Robinson Research Center. The organization also manages the Museum of Work and Culture, a regional history museum devoted to the history of northern Rhode Island. Additionally, the RIHS is the steward of four properties related to King Philip’s War.

The Challenge

As is the case for many cultural nonprofits, many members of RIHS’s Board were rich in for-profit business experience, but lacked deep knowledge of nonprofit finance and management. In 2011, having recently hired a new, and first time, Executive Director, and having successfully identified a new Board Treasurer/Finance Committee Chair, the leadership team needed to establish common ground and a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing this complex history institution.

How DataArts Helps

“DataArts reports were a lifesaver at a time when I needed to gain the trust and understanding of my new Finance Committee Chair. They provided a familiar language and business-friendly format for us to talk about the distinct issues facing our nonprofit organization. Once we were on the same page, the Finance Chair and I worked together using DataArts reports to help guide conversations, Finance Committee meeting and Board presentations,” said Grefe. “The reports helped us use the language of finance to build a bridge between the world of business and the world of nonprofit museums. Thanks to DataArts, the working relationship with our Board became much more productive and informed. What’s more, the data and reports enabled us to answer donors’ questions in ways that built trust and confidence in our management and business practices.”

DataArts, in a Word

Empowering. To our staff, our trustees, and our funders. Overall we have become more comfortable collecting
data and planning for data collection and evaluation at the beginning of a project, rather than as an afterthought. The data we collect also tells us how we did with new or tried and true programs, and helps us determine when we need to refresh and retool.”


Read the case study here.