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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Annual Report

2014 Annual Report

This City Club's 102nd year was marked by innovation and experimentation, progress towards some important strategic goals, and clear evidence that our community is becoming ever more deeply engaged. The numbers tell an important story about what we accomplished from July '13 to June '14, but they're really only the beginning of the story. Let's dig in.

113 Programs

In 113 programs over the year, we reached some 18,359 audience members. Some of those audience members were at free events--our Happy Dog Takes on the World series, for instance, which we produce in partnership with the Cleveland Council on World Affairs and the Happy Dog. That usually attracts 100-200 people who enjoy beer and hot dogs with their international dialogue. In that number are also the roughly 2,900 people who were at the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival and attended one of 11 Film Forums (you know, the informative, locally connected panel conversations that happen after a handful of the documentaries that are screened--we do those in partnership with ideastream, which usually supplies most of the moderators).

Thanks to a very intentional focus, we experienced some significant year over year growth in speakers who represent some form of diversity (i.e. they aren't white males). Back in the FY2013, 23 percent of our speakers were either women or people of color. In FY2014, that number was 47 percent. A total of 65 women spoke at City Club events. That's 24 percent of all speakers. We also had 91 minority speakers (some of whom were women). That's 37 percent of all speakers. While we are proud of these numbers, we don't feel we can declare victory. But these numbers do represent the kind of growth we planned on when we created a Strategic Plan back in 2012 and 2013.

When it comes to political diversity, we're doing pretty well. Though we continue to battle a perception that our programming leans left, of the events that we held that were dedicated to specific elected offices or the representatives who sit in those offices, eight were devoted to Republicans and six were devoted to Democrats or democratic party primaries.


(Where does the perception come from? We're not sure, though it might be the vocal lefties in our audience who ask a lot of questions.)


In terms of topics, politics and policy continue to be our mainstay, but other areas saw significant growth. We did eight healthcare programs, 16 education programs, and six programs on the economy and entrepreneurship, and a series on sports.


There's also some speakers whose stories are difficult to just put into a number. Last year was the first time we grew the State of the Schools to turn it into one of our big, marquee events, going from an audience of 200 to an audience of over 800. We experimented with more off-site programs, too, not only in bars and movie theaters. We took two speakers in our Business Leaders Series to the new A-Loft Hotel in the Flats. We took two speakers to the new Convention Center. We hosted the Chief of Naval Operations, arguably the most famous landscape architect in the world, two White House correspondents, the woman who won the gay marriage fight at the U.S. Supreme Court, one stand up comedian, one priest, one Puerto Rican Congressman, and the man credited with inventing the SuperPAC (Adm. Jonathan Greenert, James Corner, Tamara Keith and Peter Baker, Roberta Kaplan, Ricky Smith, Fr. Helmut Schuller, Pedro Pierluisi, and Steve Phillips).


It was a great year of City Club Forums (Fora?), and all of it is available on this site.

Community Partners

The community partnership program at the City Club has improved participation in programming while fostering deeper, more engaged relationships with members of the community. By collaborating on outreach for various programs, we strengthen our mission to connect and motivate citizens to take action on important regional and national issues.


We took the idea from the Cleveland International Film Festival and adapted it to meet our needs. Program by program, we identify potential partners whose mission is relevant to that program's topic. For last year's State of the Great LakesEco WatchGreen City Blue Lake and the Alliance for Water Future teamed up to help promote the program. Environmental advocates and “green” enthusiasts alike gathered and discuss that huge natural resource of ours to the north. We placed their logos in our programs, gave ticket discounts to their networks and gave them the opportunity to give an elevator pitch about their work in the community to our audience members.


This year, for a forum with Jamie Bennett, Executive Director of ArtPlace AmericaSt. Clair Superior Development and Northeast Shores Development Corporation teamed up to help promote the program and sell tickets. That day, the room was full of artists and art enthusiasts who successfully participated in civic dialogue about the role of art in our communities. They discussed the national work of ArtPlace but also connected it back our Cleveland communities. Collinwood Rising and Upcycle St. Clair, (ArtPlace funded projects of the aforementioned CDCs) had representatives present to talk about their work before and after the forum. The room buzzed with mentions of Cleveland-based projects, and the role art plays in nurturing these projects and building relationships.


Getting people with similar interests (and perhaps dissimilar opinions on those interests) in the same room is vital to a strong community and an informed democracy. Once people are together for some lunch and civic dialogue, ideas grow. Change happens collectively, and sometimes that change happens here.

Our Board

We added five new board members during the course of the last fiscal year. Karen Allport of Nortech, Jerry Gootee of Ernst and Young, Steve Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic, Kaye Ridolfi of the Cleveland Foundation and Molly Walsh of Standout Consulting. Factoring in turnover, that puts us at 21 board members.


All around community support has contributed to the financial success and stability of the City Club this past fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. In fact, we are happy to report that the financial results are favorable to the projected balanced budget--in other words, we ended the year in the black. Often times, people want to know how much of our budget goes to overhead and how much to programming--this last year, 79 percent of our expenses directly supported our program services.


Revenue at the City Club comes from six places. On the earned revenue side of things, increased attendance numbers mean more people buying more tickets to more events. Our catering operations also continue to bring in significant dollars. In terms of contributed revenue, our 776 members made a significant impact through membership and donations. Our 99 corporate partners also made a huge impact through program sponsorship and membership. Lastly, philanthropy continues to support specific initiatives and programs, and our endowment--the Forum Foundation--continues to provide operational support.

New Membership Structure

Among all of the great things happening at the City Club, the launch of our new membership structure in May was a significant step forward in making membership more inclusive to all members of the community. We’ve created seven new levels of membership starting at $25 for students all the way up to the $2,500 Civic Leadership Circle, which offers VIP invitations, free parking and best of all, complimentary admission to all City Club programs. 


The new membership structure was driven by feedback from members and community partners includes significantly improved value as the benefits of each level increase to offer discounts and access that creates the best membership experience possible. Practically speaking, this makes us more like other cultural institutions (Cleveland Museum of Art, for instance, or ideastream), and less like the local social clubs among which we once counted ourselves.


That's not to say membership isn't still important! At the City Club, members are empowered to become involved in one our many member led committees that plan many of the high quality programs we produce each week. Without the support of members, none of this would be possible.


If you haven't checked out the new membership levels, you really should. More here:

This New Website

Probably the biggest innovation is this new website. Development was funded by Eaton CorporationSaint Luke's Foundation and produced by Level 7. Our goals were to provide a better content experience for our community, to effectively promote our programs, increase engagement with the content and streamline transactions for community members. We think we accomplished that. In the coming year, we will be getting as much as we can of our digital archive up on the site, as well. What do we still need? Your help--we could always use your help blogging here about our programs and forums.

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