You asked for a survey that takes less time to complete, we heard you. SMU DataArts is planning to pare down our flagship survey, the Cultural Data Profile (CDP), which is used by arts leaders across the country to report data for grant application processes, measure organizational performance, and understand sector-wide trends and insights.
Our goal is to streamline the CDP to make data entry easier for arts and cultural organizations, while preserving the data points used to generate valuable insights for all of our stakeholders.
High-quality data and research is essential to furthering our understanding of how the sector functions, building strong advocacy narratives, and informing cultural leaders facing tough decisions. At the same time, capacity and people-power is a scarce resource in our sector now more than ever, and the value of sector-wide data must be balanced with the efforts and resources required to collect it. The planned changes to our Cultural Data Profile are a part of finding that balance.
In addition to a new survey, you can also expect a facelift to its visual design, as well as expanded definitions and help text. We will be hosting a series of webinars to walk through the new survey and provide tips to make data entry easier this fall.
Get a head start and download a PDF or Excel version of the streamlined survey to help prepare your data for 2021. These documents are intended to provide advance notice of upcoming changes for our users. Choose the version that best matches your organization below:
Organization set-up for all organizations - completed one time only
CDP for very small organizations - expenses less than $50,000 annually
CDP for un-audited organizations - expenses over $50,000 annually who do not receive an audit or review from a nonprofit accounting firm
CDP for audited organizations - receive an audit or review from a nonprofit accounting firm
This is the final list of line items and questions, but the visual layout of the survey may change. We will continue to provide access to your notes and prior year information in all surveys and we are working on a complete user guide with full definitions and instructions for every line item. This guide will be provided in fall 2020 and will be made easily accessible in the new survey.
This new version of the CDP survey is targeted for release in December 2020.
November-December 2019: One-on-one calls and focus groups to solicit feedback on the new survey
March 17-April 7, 2020: Open comment period
June 2020: CDP survey finalized and available for reference
Late 2020: Streamlined CDP Survey goes live for all users
SMU DataArts is committed to enabling organizational and field-wide insights derived from longitudinal data on the cultural sector. However, we recognize that our current CDP survey places too large a burden on the arts and cultural organizations that contribute their data. Right now, we ask for a LOT of data, and it can be challenging for organizations to reconcile the way they track data internally with the categories used in our survey. The streamlined survey will reduce the types of data collected, the specificity of line items in key sections, and the complexity of our questions. We hope that these changes will lighten the burden considerably.
Our research team identified the data points used most frequently in the Funder reports, the KIPI Dashboard, and our regular field research. These comprise the starting point for the new CDP survey. We subsequently held initial feedback conversations with arts and cultural organizations and grantmakers, which informed the current draft of the streamlined CDP.
All existing CDP profiles will be migrated to the new format and will remain available on our online platform. Changes to data fields will be retroactive so that past and current year data profiles can continue to be used for trend reporting. CDP data in its original format will be available to current users by request.
We are committed to minimizing disruption in the grants reporting process and will be working with our partners to ensure that the release of the streamlined survey does not interfere with any grant deadlines. All users will receive notice of the exact release date and any anticipated downtime at least one month in advance.
We’re counting on it! That is our goal. We are investing significant time this year in gathering user experience knowledge, reactions, questions, and concerns from a wide array of stakeholders to ensure that this streamline will make a real difference to the data entry process. Everyone who has participated in a phone call, focus group, or open comment process is providing valuable feedback that will help us get this right. We are simultaneously designing updates to our online platform to make it easier to use. The back-end structural changes we’re making to the survey as part of this streamline will also enable us to pursue the future development of other platform features, such as the ability to upload data from a spreadsheet, to further reduce the data reporting burden. While data entry is unlikely to ever be instantaneous, we are invested in making the process smoother so that arts leaders can spend less time reporting and more time learning from their organizational data.
We recognize that the revenue portion of the survey is one of the most detailed, and will remain so in the streamlined version. This is because the detail provided through these questions is a key component of our research on the cultural sector, our KIPI Dashboard, and the analytics reports available to our users. Detailed tracking of revenue by source is an essential aspect of planning for arts and cultural organizations and this data can help arts leaders understand their own business model and how it compares to their peers, as well as inform planning to keep their organizations sustainable over the long term.
The expense section of the streamlined survey is much reduced, but maintains the three column presentation by functional groupings found in the IRS 990 and GAAP standards: Program, Management and General, and Fundraising (these columns are optional for organizations with annual expenses over $50,000). Understanding how organizations are allocating resources across these three main functions is essential for much of our research, insights, and tools. For example, our Fundraising Report relies on the fundraising expenses figure to assess the return on investment in fundraising across the sector, key metrics in our KIPI Dashboard assess organization performance in relation to its investment in programming, and the breakdown by functional groupings is also a key feature of many of our reports used by grantmakers and cultural organizations alike.
This streamline of the CDP represents a first step towards our goal of allowing users to directly upload data into the Cultural Data Profile. Once our streamlined survey is launched at the end of 2020, exploring the direct upload of data will be among our top organizational priorities for 2021. User financial data is stored in a wide variety of systems and formats, and users have expressed concern about allowing the CDP direct access to accounting and other data collecting systems. For these reasons, we will be starting with a financial data system agnostic spreadsheet upload tool to allow users to upload their data via spreadsheet.
We have reduced the survey by approximately 39 sections and 109 line items. Some of the sections and line items we removed were optional, or were not available for all organizations. It’s difficult to quantify the overall effects this will have on how long users spend completing the CDP because of the many variables involved, including the different versions of the survey completed by different users, and the different types of data that users have access to at their organizations to complete the form. But we are confident that the overall reduction in complexity will save time for the majority of our users. There are a few key changes, such as a drastic reduction in complexity in the expense section and the more straightforward approach to program activity, where we hope users will find significant time savings.