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Organizational Strategic Planning with JointPivot

Published September 30, 2021

In August, the AAFF staff had two working days devoted to understanding holistically what we do in a year as an organization. We have 3 new staff members to the festival (including myself), and the timing was perfect. We worked with Jenn Tankanow at JointPivot and we went through every aspect of the organization, who was responsible for each part, and how well each function currently operates.

[Photo by Jenn Tankanow]

It may not sound like fun, but they were two of my favorite days I’ve had since starting at the festival in May. I’d like to share a few pieces of what the Ann Arbor Film Festival looks at in a full year.

Our fiscal year goes from June 1st - May 31st, so we divided up the year into the following quarters:

Q1 June | July | August

The beginning of our fiscal year vaults us right into our Call For Entries for the next festival. We also plan the AAFF Tour and our AAFF Presents screening series, which both feature films from our previous festival. We start the design process for the next film festival’s look and feel, and we start contacting spaces for our Off The Screen! program. This also marks the beginning of the screening process - planning how we get through over 2,500 films to narrow it down to the final festival program! We also get started on contacting our sponsors, and begin the process for fundraising with grant writing and donor meetings.

Q2 September | October | November

Now we get into the planning of the festival itself! This runs the gamut from selecting our Off The Screen! program, contacting and finalizing jurors, and hiring seasonal contract workers and interns. We also get our ducks in a row when it comes to marketing, which includes creating our print ads, working with media partners on sponsorships, and arranging March coverage of the festival. We also set up our ticketing process and begin planning housing for any filmmakers who come from out of town to attend the festival!

Q3 December | January | February

Continuing along into the end of the year, we complete the calendar year with our Year End Appeal, and then we jump right into the festival itself. Once the selection of films have been decided and filmmakers notified, we create the festival poster, program book, passes, and actually put together the films in competition programs. Alongside this planning, we also plan a donor cultivation event, and finish planning the execution of the festival!

Q4 March | April | May

Now we reach the festival! Tickets go on sale March 1st, and the festival runs at the end of the month - this year it’ll be March 22-27, 2022. However, our work isn’t quite finished come March 28th. Festival wrap up includes following up with filmmakers, donor & sponsor thank yous, and a thank you to our festival volunteers. We also create our archive of physical materials with the Bentley Historical Library, then close out our books at the end of the fiscal year, plan our budget for next year, and create a plan for our touring program, and AAFF Presents.

And then the year starts all over again.

As you can see, we’ve got a full plate - and this isn’t even everything! It’s great to have a plan and know what works and what needs a little TLC.

Thanks again to Jenn at JointPivot and many thanks to Office Evolution for giving us the conference room space for the full two days!


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