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Financial Totals Section

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New Financial Totals Section

We have added a new section of the Cultural Data Profile (CDP) for audited organizations to ensure the accuracy of financial totals in the CDP. This new Financial Totals section will appear at the beginning of the data entry process, and audited organizations will input key totals directly from their audit or review. It will include revenue totals, expense totals, and balance sheet totals. At the end of each subsequent financial section, the system will check to ensure that the detailed financial data matches the key totals entered in the initial Financial Totals section.

The Financial Totals section will only appear for audited or reviewed organizations. If you are an audited organization with an in progress CDP, and the Financial Totals section does not appear, click on the "Survey Settings" tab in the navigation and the button to "Rerun Survey Wizard". Confirm that you would like to run the profile wizard, and then click "Continue to Survey" at the bottom of the page. When the profile appears again it will include the Financial Totals section. 

For additional information, please see this recorded webinar. Our Support Center will also continue to be available and ready to assist you if you encounter errors in the Financial Totals section.

An Experiment

When we re-launched the Cultural Data Profile (CDP) on our new DataArts platform in 2016, one of our main goals was to reduce the amount of time it takes for arts and cultural organizations to complete their data entry. We made a variety of changes to reach that goal, which included eliminating questions about the full time equivalency (FTE) for independent contractors, reducing the number of expense line items, and removing the detailed list of government revenue sources.

We also removed a section of the profile that was designed to check whether our audited users had correctly entered their financial data. This section asked users to enter large totals from their audit, and then once users finished entering their data it would trigger an error if revenue and expense totals did not match audit totals. This feature caught many errors in data entry for our audited users. It also was a pain point for our users because they needed to take time at the end of the data entry process to resolve these errors.

In the original launch of our new platform, we decided to remove the audit verification sheet and replace it with a review section displaying financial totals. Our goal was to encourage users to verify the accuracy of their data without requiring that they do so. In the end the data that organizations enter into the CDP represents their organizations in the grant application process, and it is ultimately up to organizations to ensure that their data is accurate.

Lessons Learned

We have now experienced more than a year of data entry with the new platform and CDP. Many users have reported that it has taken them less time to complete the CDP, and we continue to work on ways to ease the data entry process. However, users have shared with us experiences of finishing data entry and marking their CDP as complete, receiving no errors, and then noticing issues with their financial totals when they created a report for internal use or to deliver to funders. This means that users still have to take time to fix their data, only later in the process. In the worst-case scenario, users are more likely to submit incorrect data to their funders. Reflecting on our decision to remove the audit verification section, we realized that this choice to speed up the data entry process had adversely affected the accuracy of our dataset, which is a negative outcome for all of our partners: arts and cultural organizations, grantmakers, and researchers.

Philosophy of Data Collection

In our role as data collectors, we seek to balance the effort it takes from arts and cultural organizations to provide data with the accuracy needed to ensure that the data is useful. We take very seriously the investment of time on the part of our users, which is why our focus for the last three years has been to ease the burden of data entry. In this case, our attempt to strike a better balance between these two goals had unintended results, and we’ve decided we need to change course to address these issues.



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