Monday, July 25, 2011

Customer service standards

I wrote several months back regarding new customer service standards that were in the works, and they have recently been published on the Equity website. You can find all the details here, but these are the basics:
  1. All persons dealing with Equity may expect to be treated in a courteous manner.
  2. All persons dealing with Equity may expect a knowledgeable response to their inquiry.
  3. All persons dealing with Equity should expect to receive a timely response to their request for services or in response to their communication.
Just as importantly, there is now a clearly identified process for dealing with complaints.
As with all policies, Council will regularly monitor results from this change, and that will be added to our review of policy EL-2, in June of each year.

In the context of the thousands of service interactions each year, problems are fortunately rare. However, we do recognise the impact that a even minor issues can have in the context of an individual production or members' livelihood. Equity is committed to identifying issues as they occur and working toward improvement. These new service standards are an important step in that process.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Philanthropic policy

For a while now, Council has been looking at the possibility of writing a new philanthropic policy, one that would allow Equity to use a small portion of its resources for charitable purposes.

In truth, Equity already does this in some measure, but it is peculiarly self-serving type of charity. In pursuit of specific goals (assistance with career transition, affordable housing, and financial crisis), Equity either directly contributes to t
he Dancer Transition Resource Centre, PAL and The Actors Fund of Canada, and/or specifically recognises them as preferred fundraising recipients. All three certainly qualify as charities, but we know that our own members are significant beneficiaries of their work.

What Council was exploring, however, were activities solely to the benefit of third parties. Many members will recall the 2006 Oruuano project as an example of this, where we assisted a fledgling sister artists' association in Namibia. By the way, if you are not familiar with that project, you can read about it here.

The topic engendered some spirited discussion at Council. Representing artists with precarious livelihoods, and being no different ourselves, there is a natural desire to assist those less fortunate. However, there is also a recognition that Equity works with very slim resources, and shouldn't charity begin at home?

In the end, we decided to go out and do a quickie poll of the membership, using the various regional CPAGs. We asked about member interest in this kind of activity, preferred targets, level of resource use, and whether we should seek Canadian or international beneficiaries.

Although two-thirds of respondents felt that Equity should be devoting some portion of its resources to philanthropic activity, the results on the various detail points (who, when, how, etc.) expressed a wide range of opinion. Without reproducing all the results here, it summarises the situation nicely to note that with 66% of members surveyed supporting regular philanthropic work, quite a few of the summary comments that came back expressed reservation about using association resources for anyone other than members, for activities elsewhere as opposed to here, for using resources for this purpose at all, and so on. A very mixed message.

What Council has taken from this feedback is that support exists, but it is hardly overwhelming and is significantly qualified in many respects. In April, Council passed new policy approving philanthropic activities, but respecting the following limitations:
  • that fulfilment of this policy is not an annual obligation, so Equity can wait until a worthy project presents itself;
  • that activities under this policy are capped at 0.5% of the previous year's revenues;
  • that projects needed to be of a clearly philanthropic nature; and 
  • that fulfilment of this policy may not compromise achievement of other key policies which benefit members.
What all this means is that such projects are now permitted, but within strict resource limits and only when the resources so used will not have a negative impact on our core services. 

In other words, Council intends to take the same approach most of us do in our own giving when someone shows up at the door: if we can afford to contribute, we will; but if our circumstances do not so allow, we will wait until they do.