Key Findings


Overall, the Symposium fostered a spirit of communication and collaboration that helped the attendees to accomplish the following goals:

a. Learn more about the ecosystem, key stakeholders, and top trends.
b. Share opportunities, challenges, and ideas about best practices.
c. Build connections, networks, and enduring initiatives together.

Topics and Key Questions:


Funding — How do we develop our revenue sources, partnerships, and broaden/engage our base of supporters?

  • Attendees highlighted the need to have more research on different types of funders –foundations, corporations, and individuals. They would also like to better track and understand key issues, outcomes, and impact so that they can focus their value propositions to potential funders. Attendees would also like more training on developing partnerships for support.

  • Some promising ideas for research and education included: a centralized website with resources such as funder databases, case studies, and training; Chicagoland-focused Facebook or Google Groups; Speed dating with funders and mentorship programs for development including training on getting recurring funding and obtaining sponsorship matches; revenue sharing between organizations.


Staffing — How do we optimize our staffing model to fulfill our mission?

  • Attendees highlighted the need to have more visibility in the labor market to find skilled staff and motivated volunteers throughout the year. They also talked about how you have to get creative with incentives for staff and volunteers. They would like to better connect staffing needs with development efforts.

  • Some promising ideas for sourcing talent included: a centralized website for job listings and volunteer opportunities; Chicagoland Facebook or Google Groups; collaborative screenings and partnerships with cinemas and nonprofits to help share staffing needs; partnerships with universities to build the pipeline; partnerships with local, city, and state government to develop workforce development programs and incentives; partnering with filmmakers so that they stay in the Chicagoland, which would raise the film industry as a whole; using LinkedIn to source potential board members.

  • Some promising ideas for incentives included: training and tracking the careers that both staff and volunteers have within our film industry; building centralized communities of contractors and volunteers so that they can get gigs and barter services; hold gatherings with partners to promote the social element and thank volunteers; Shared development resources so that organizations can build sustainable business models to properly pay and reward staff.


Programming Model — How do we create vibrant programming, offerings, and events to meet the needs and key trends in the community?

  • Attendees highlighted the need to understand audiences and their interests, so that they can develop robust events and integrated experiences. They expressed the need to learn more about available content and key trends like technology, social issues, and niche markets. They would also like to find ways to better track impact of their programming.

  • Some promising ideas to better understand audiences and access content included: a centralized calendar of film festivals and their films; a best practices guide with trainings; a robust film database that shows why films were accepted/rejected; partnerships with service organizations, other festivals and venues; accessibility and diversity training.

  • Some promising ideas to improve communication between festivals and help learn about key trends included: partnerships with groups that do audience research and marketing; engagement with filmmakers to share their feedback and boost marketing efforts; industry gatherings – informal (quarterly) and formal (annual).


Audience Development — How do we engage and grow our audience base in effective and efficient ways?

  • Attendees highlighted the need to better understand and develop tools to reach audiences so they can grow existing segments as well as reach new segments. They expressed the need to better align programming with partners from the greater film industry and the need to coordinate efforts across festivals and organizations. They also talked about the need to create sustainable engagement models and support the film industry as a whole.

  • Some promising ideas to foster better communication and collaboration included: a centralized calendar of film festivals; gatherings such as an annual conference to promote networking, partnerships, skill sharing, and vendors.

  • Some promising ideas for better understanding your audience and developing marketing expertise included: audience data project among festivals that could be analyzed and shared with each member of the film industry, including filmmakers, distributors, cinemas, and potential partners; shared services for marketing including tools and processes to analyze local markets, trends and issues; repository for stories of impact using quantitative and qualitative data that can be shared with potential partners and supporters; partnerships with filmmakers and the broader film ecosystem to promote and scale sustainable models.