2021 SANCA Tent Hall Transcript

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Watch the Event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa8ailAwUY0

John Tannous, Executive Director
Tania Nambo-Escobar, IDEA Committee Chair, Coach
Adam Noble, Board Chair for Development Committee
Jeff Deveaux, Development Director
Octavia Graham, Director of Staff Success

John Tannous (JT): Welcome to our second-ever Tent Hall!
(Shares two videos)

Updates from the IDEA Committee

  • IDEA = Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Anti-Racism
  • Tania Nambo-Escobar Chairs the 15-member IDEA Committee

Tania: Since the last tent hall in August, the IDEA Committee has:

  • Developed and adopted a land acknowledgement for SANCA.
  • Created a goal-oriented Anti-Racist Strategic Plan for SANCA, including:
    • Aiding the Board in recruiting diverse Board members.
    • Adding a staff liaison position to the Board (Octavia Graham).
  • Subcommittee developed a selection process that included staff input.
  • Provided educational opportunities for staff and students, including:
    • Discussion groups led by Lilly Baumgart. The group reads and discusses literature during the meeting.
    • Power of Three social media posts to share resources (books, videos, & podcasts) that focus on anti-racism.
    • Black-Out Tuesday social media posts that focus on Black circus artists and other Black artists.
  • Thank you to Manjit Golden for her leadership as co-chair in 2020.

This year the IDEA Committee is:

  • Developing plans to have more forums.
  • Continuing our work to be transparent through the website and increased communication with our community. 

Development Team Update

Adam Noble, Board Committee Chair, Jeff Deveaux, Development Director

JT: The past year probably should have forced SANCA out of business, but we had unprecedented support from our community ― a record-breaking year in fundraising. I’d like to especially thank:

  • Our landlords Orcas Business Park helped SANCA with rent reductions and even rent-forgiveness during the spring closure.
  • King County and 4Culture provided multiple relief grants.

Adam: I’d also like to thank our Youth Troupe families past and present who have continued to support SANCA with volunteering and financial support.

Jeff: I’d like to thank several families who’ve been with SANCA since the beginning and who really helped us in 2020: the McClintock Family, the Forbes Family, The Taft Family, and the Cunningham & O’Leary Family.

JT: In 2020, we more than doubled contributed revenue! Why? What did we hear from the community?

Adam: I heard from several donors that they loved SANCA and felt it had contributed much to themselves or their families — in developing strength and confidence as well as being a fun place to learn cool things. They recognized that SANCA is valuable to our local community and culture and wanted to help make sure we are still there when this COVID crisis passes.  We are fortunate that we have a generous and wide SANCA family, and incredibly thankful for the continued support. In fact, we are very pleased that while the pandemic has changed SANCA in many ways, we are finally at a point where we are able to offer scholarships again and are back to where we are turning no one away who is in need.  That is exciting both because it is one of the tenets of SANCA’s mission, and also because based on the feedback we know how important SANCA can be to help manage the stress and improve the mental health of our extended circus family that is sorely needed right now.

Jeff: Many of our supporters have shared two things that really stand out to me. One is that they feel SANCA went above and beyond in our safety measures to address the pandemic and make sure that our students would be confident in their ability to safely continue circus classes under Public Health guidelines. The other is how many of our families dearly love their circus classes. They deeply appreciated SANCA’s quick pivot to online circus classes in the spring. They’ve even called it “sanity-saving” because it gave their kids fun activities to do, and for themselves, opportunities to get a “Circus-Strong” workout, release stress, and have moments of social connection with their other circus friends and classmates. Ultimately, that’s a testimony to SANCA’s wonderful coaches who take great care of their students, and that’s what I think inspired such strong support for SANCA in a very difficult year.

JT: Adam, I’d like to thank you for your leadership of the Development Committee and all the members of Development Committee who helped us in 2020. I’d also like to thank Jeff for his work as Development Director.

SANCA’s Financial Status & 2020 Annual Report


JT: Our 2020 Annual Report was published on our website today! It covers all areas of the school, and includes messages from our Board President and our Staff Directors, and our donor list.

JT: Back in November when Washington State shut down again, we wondered if we could survive with limited enrollment capacity. Then the fall appeal brought in more donations than we expected. In early January, 2021, we were approved for a second PPP loan/grant, a $209,500 forgivable federal loan, which really helped us start the year in a much better financial position. Now we are able to weather the pandemic through the end of 2021 even if we are under occupancy restrictions for the rest of the year.

Could we be at risk again? Yes if: 

  • If we have to close for a long period of time.
  • If we are not able to raise enough funds this year. Continued support is essential.

We are not budgeting for another year of record-breaking donations and grants. Our planning is in line with 2019-level contributed income. Right now SANCA has an operating reserve of almost $400,000 — the largest operating reserve we have ever had. We would like to hold on to that reserve through the end of 2021, because that is close to industry standard for a non-profit organization of our size. Our eventual goal for the reserve fund is $1M which is six months of operating expenses.

I also want to give an update about our gala fundraiser, Up with a Twist:

  • We are hoping to hold the gala later this year this year in late summer or early fall.
  • It may be virtual or in-person (outside), or we may postpone it entirely until 2022.
  • We’ll make a decision in the next two months, and we’ll also be reaching out to everyone who loves being a part of Twist, because your annual contributions are key to making it through the year.

HR & Staffing Update

Dr. Octavia Graham, Director of Staff Success

JT: Many of you have known Octavia from her role in the Front Office. We’ve recently promoted Octavia to be our Director of Staff Success, where she is part of our directors’ team and responsible for HR and staffing issues. Octavia, can you tell us about the impact of the pandemic on our staff?

Octavia: Early in pandemic, SANCA needed to streamline operations. We furloughed about 50% of our staff.

  • Many staff members left to secure more stable employment, including coaches, front office staff, and Integrated Circus Director Amber Parker.
  • Going into 2021, we are working on attracting and retaining a diverse and energetic staff. We just hired:
    • Two new front office administrative assistants.
    • A new camp coach.
  • We are also currently hiring for a flying trapeze coach to join our team in the tent.

We are working to create the kind of employment environment that allows staff to thrive and enjoy the work they are doing. The connection between coach and student is where the real magic at SANCA happens. We are:

  • Increasing the amount of staff training we provide.
  • Reworking the employee manual and compensation policies to give coaches a better living wage.
  • Actively reducing systemic biases in hiring practices; for example, we’re looking at where we are posting jobs, what can we change in terms of hiring requirements, and how we reach more diverse populations with employment opportunities.

Community Q&A

 Annie Drummond

  • Votes for Up with a Twist outside.
  • Glad to hear about the focus on coaches, including efforts to provide a living wage.

Q: Is there any thought about having a program that is an internship for students who would like to be teachers/coaches?

A: We have had several coaches who grew up with SANCA as students, like Julaine Hall, who is on the call tonight. We’re also exploring the merits of hiring interns to support other functions like Marketing. A coaching internship is a great idea that I’ll take to Tom and Max to discuss.

Michelle Harvey, Orcas Business Park
Q: How is the new space configuration working out for SANCA and students?

A: In some ways, the more room we have to spread out and do circus, the more we can do. The reduced footprint is a little more cramped; but, before the move, we were not really maximizing our space and using it efficiently. Even before the pandemic, we had thoughts about better space use. We are not losing any circus disciplines with less space. Once we are back to full operations, we will still be able to comfortably fit in this space. Some students really like the smaller space because they get to see disciplines being practiced that they haven’t been able to watch before because they were in the other room; for example, tumbling classes can now observe the trampoline classes, and that might even inspire them to sign up for another class.

David Drummond
Q: What about changing areas and parental viewing?

A: Parent viewing will move downstairs and possibly to the blue or green room in South Annex. We’ll be able to create a smaller viewing space, but this won’t happen until we’re after pandemic occupancy restrictions.

Dylan Forbes
Q: Where is the high wire? That’s a valuable apparatus for students who have that focus.

A: It is temporarily put away. Some of our specialty classes, like tightwire, are not seeing many enrollments during the pandemic, but we can bring it out and set it up when we need it. We do have the space.