One-of-a-kind Programming and Arts Partnerships Made Easy

Submittable helps Starkville Area Arts Council save over 80 hours per year, with big savings resulting from integrated payment processing.

Founded in 1996, the Starkville Area Arts Council (SAAC) serves Starkville, MS and Oktibbeha County, in its mission to build a strong, creative, connected community through art. Before adopting Submittable, SAAC used a combination of free online forms and postal submissions for a variety of programs including grants, scholarships, festivals, and exhibits, but that system failed to meet their needs. Submittable’s solution was affordable and user-friendly for everyone—it also helped SAAC improve organization and efficiency across the board.

Submittable has been super helpful for external jurors. They love the fact that they can sit in their jammies on a Saturday with coffee and review through the system. They also LOVE that they can message us without having to open up their email.

John W. Bateman

Executive Director of Starkville Area Arts Council

A simple, modern solution

SAAC was founded in 1996 when a group of art-enthusiasts put together a small festival in downtown Starkville. The festival grew and developed over the years, and SAAC has continually added unique and exciting programming to further serve its community. Today, SAAC facilitates a wide variety of events, as well as providing arts education and outreach, overseeing public art projects, offering artistic excellence awards, and funding arts-related grants and scholarships.

Executive Director John Bateman joined the team in 2017 and introduced SAAC to Submittable.

“We’re on a tight budget,” says SAAC Executive Director John Bateman, “but I had to get something in place besides Google Forms, which just didn’t work for us.”

Bateman was familiar with Submittable’s user-friendly platform from sending out his own creative work and the software offered exactly what SAAC needed.

As he says, “Deciding to adopt Submittable was really about price and its simplicity, especially the drag and drop tools. Plus, with Submittable, we have a record of everything. When I want to email everyone who submitted with a particular form, I have an easy way to do that.”

Collaboration and efficiency

Adopting a submission management solution has offered SAAC’s team the results they needed, especially in terms of streamlining.

“Submittable has helped us with reducing paper files and improving workflow,” Bateman says. “For example, when we're doing press releases for an exhibit, we don't have to go through email to look for pictures. The submitters can attach pictures and we've got them there in the system.”

SAAC has also found the software to be useful for a wide variety of important processes—plus, it encourages partnerships. 

“We now use Submittable,” says Bateman, “for scholarships, grants, festival booths, and exhibits. We’ve also used it to collaborate on an exhibit with another organization up in Oxford, Mississippi that had been using Google Forms.”

Although some stakeholders, including the council’s board, were initially resistant to going fully digital, they've come to really appreciate the change.

According to Bateman, “One said ‘Oh my gosh, I hated this but now I love it. Please tell John that I've completely changed my mind.’ Several jurors have been super relieved when they realize how easy it makes reviews. An artist who helps run a festival’s artisan village absolutely loves the platform and the voting. Once we got auto-labels going, she said, “this is amazing.” She's my current board president and she's now a huge advocate for Submittable.”

Bateman recognizes that ease of use is essential for the partnerships that help SAAC succeed.

“Submittable is key for our volunteer retention,” he says. “If the process is easy on my volunteers, I keep them.”

Saving time helps fund SAAC

Going fully digital has resulted in a huge time-savings for SAAC, helping the team conserve 80-100 hours of work per year across opportunities. This increased efficiency allows SAAC to focus on sustaining and growing the organization.

“With Submittable,” Bateman says, “I have more time that I can devote to other tasks, and ultimately, I want those tasks dedicated to fundraising. As a nonprofit, I really need to be building relationships and finding money, not moving paperwork. For us, the real value of Submittable isn’t necessarily about saved money—it’s about having more opportunities to get money.”

The platform’s integrated payment processing is huge for helping Bateman and SAAC economize and improve security.

As he shares, “Taking payments through the platform saves me probably eight to ten hours during the spring. It saves me from lost checks and trips to the bank. The festival’s application fee pays for Submittable, and booth fees provided needed fundraising. All of that money goes directly into our bank account. It's not sitting here on my desk and that reduces risk.”

SAAC Festival

SAAC Festival

Adapting for growth

As a long-time Submittable user, Bateman appreciates how the platform has evolved.

“I really like improvements Submittable has made,” he says, “especially in-app messaging which makes it easy to reply within the platform.”

Bateman also notes that using the software has helped SAAC connect with a larger base of creative professionals.

“The platform has increased our reach,” says Bateman. “We've had artists from outside of the state find us on Submittable and submit to us and that's been kind of cool.”

Using Submittable has helped SAAC be flexible and continue to grow from year to year. 

“As my needs change, Bateman says, “I like that I can add a different person with a different email to my team. I can include a different juror each year for our juried exhibit or use different teaching artists to help with a student art show, so that's been great.”

For SAAC, this type of evolution also involves a move towards stronger partnerships within the industry.

According to Bateman, “One thing we’re really pushing hard for is collaboration across arts organizations and we have already used Submittable to partner with another arts organization. We're hoping that it sort of shows a model for other arts organizations how they can do that too.”   

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