Author Archives: Monica Diorio

How to Avoid Program Complacency

It can be rewarding providing a program or service that is meeting an important need in the community! Part of providing your program or service is meeting the contractual and grant obligations laid out, but how do you go beyond that and ensure you keep things fresh? This is essential as you manage the program overtime.

4 Steps

Using a program we manage, we outline how we have refreshed our approach and avoided being complacent to achieve greater impact:

Focus on Mission

It is vital to understand the purpose and mission of the program being implemented, especially as you look to make updates.

    • 1762937-Pat-Riley-Quote-Complacency-is-the-last-hurdle-standing-betweenThe Indiana Heart Gallery (aka Heart Gallery) is a program created by the Indiana Department of Child Services in 2007 as one way to help children in foster care across Indiana find a family to call their own. Many of the children featured in the Heart Gallery are older or special needs children, minorities, or members of a sibling group. The Heart Gallery is unique because of the professional portraits of these youth that create the display, which connects a face to a sometimes invisible need.
    • The primary purpose of the Heart Gallery is to raise awareness about foster-adoption in Indiana and to help find families for the children featured.  As we consider changes and opportunities for the program, we continue to go back to how this would support the purpose of the Heart Gallery.
Evaluate Program Implementation

A big part of meeting your goals is how you deliver the services.  It can be helpful to reassess your processes, procedures, and systems that support your program. Ask yourself, “Is this the best process to implement __, or do we do it this way because it’s always been done this way?”; “What are the opportunities for growth?”

    • We partner with organizations across the state to host the Heart Gallery.  After some review and discussion, we found that the same types of venues tended to be the ones hosting the Heart Gallery: churches, YMCAs, and libraries . While those venues had the target audience of the Heart Gallery (venues where families frequent and can take a moment to visit the display), we wanted to expand beyond those venues to reach other potential adoptive families across the state.
    • Not only did we review the types of venues the Heart Gallery was on display, but we took a deeper look at where those venues were located. For example, we found we were visiting all of the DCS regions of the state, but had not been on display at every county across the state.
Gather Feedback

Find out what your staff and external partners would like to see different about the project.

    • With the Heart Gallery, we send a survey to the main contact who hosts the Heart Gallery.  This helps us understand how we can better support our host partners and solicit new ideas. As well, we have a tracking sheet dedicated to venue feedback for staff to share thoughts and ideas on each venue. Through this we learned that front-line staff at some venues wanted more information on the Heart Gallery in order to better answer common questions. This resulted in the development of a Host Packet, which is shared electronically with the contact for the venue to pass along to staff, and in hard copy when the display is setup to leave on-site.
    • The Project Manager also had conversations with staff about what is working and what could be improved. Through those conversations it was discovered that the collateral materials (banner, brochure, swag) would benefit from a revamp in design and use, including the development of new outreach tools.
Plan for Change

Use feedback gathered and meet with staff to outline the priorities of suggested changes. Take into consideration the updates that will have the biggest impact on the purpose of the project, as well as efficiencies for staff.

    • Through conversations with Heart Gallery staff, it was determined that updating the collateral materials and processes for targeting locations would have the most immediate impact on the purpose of the project and staff efficiencies. Mainly, rebranding the materials in place, developing a few new tools, and implementing outreach tours for targeted outreach.
    • The Project Manager developed an Outreach Tour Proposal, based on the upcoming Heart Gallery schedule to find new host partners in specific geographic areas. The team discussed how to make it a successful event to reach the program’s goals.  After the first outreach tour, the team reconvened to assess how it went, what changes to make to the next one and systems/processes to put into make to standardize it for other team members. Through planning and reassessing, the outreach tours are now an effective outreach strategy for the Heart Gallery.
    • We are scheduling a planning retreat for the Heart Gallery this fall to discuss 2018 goals.  Making time to reflect on your programs, services, their impact and how they are delivered can get your staff reenergized and get you closer to accomplishing your goals.

Contact Us

Does it feel like your programs or staff are stuck in a rut?  It might be time to reassess your programs, how they are delivered and the impact you want to accomplish.  At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help give your programs a boost. Contact us today for a free consultation!

 

If you would like to learn more about the Heart Gallery, you can go to http://www.in.gov/dcs/3033.htm or www.adoptachild.in.gov.

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Two-Generational Approach for Greater Impact

There are amazing organizations working hard to support the development and achievements of young children. Similarly, there are outstanding organizations working hard to connect adults with proper resources to attain success.

It might seem like supporting each of those populations separately would naturally complement the other. However, a recent reflection on this topic has shown that intentionally supporting the development and personal growth of the children and adults together (a two-generational approach) can have a larger, positive impact for both generations. By working simultaneously together, it ensures that programs and services are not fragmented and therefore do not leave either the child(ren) or adult(s) behind.

Research has documented the impact of a parent’s education level, financial stability, and even overall health as having a negative or positive impact on their child’s outcomes. Similarly, children’s education and healthy development have major implications for the parents.

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WHAT IS A TWO-GENERATIONAL APPROACH?

The Ascend program at the Aspen Institute gives an overview of a two-generational approach:

Two-generation approaches provide opportunities for and meet the needs of children and their parents together. They build education, economic assets, social capital, and health and well-being to create a legacy of economic security that passes from one generation to the next.”  

Ascend identifies four core components needed to create a successful two-generational approach:

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  1. Education
  2. Economic assets
  3. Social capital
  4. Health and well-being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is another organization that has analyzed a two-generational approach and has outlined three key components:

  1. Provide parents with multiple pathways to get family-supporting jobs. This leads to achieving financial stability.

    – One study found that children whose family income was below the federal poverty level — which today      is about $24,000 for a family of four — completed fewer years of school, worked and earned less as adults, relied more on food assistance and suffered from poorer health than kids whose family income was at least twice that level. But an extra $3,000 annually for these families during a child’s earliest years could translate into an increase of more than 15 percent in what that same child earns as an adult.

  2. Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education and enriching elementary school experiences.

    – Greater coordination among early learning centers, schools and other programs for kids can further support healthy development from birth through the early elementary years.

  3. Equip parents to better support their children socially and emotionally and to advocate for their kids’ education.

     When parents are able to reduce their stress and anxiety, they can better respond to their children’s emotional needs.

Simply put, a two-generational approach looks at what both the parent(s) and child(ren) needs, and works to provide the necessary resources (education, healthcare, childcare, etc.) for both generations to be successful.

GREAT FAMILIES 2020

United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) is applying this emerging research of a two-generation approach and modeling it in their Great Families 2020 Social Innovation Fund initiative. Great Families 2020 is a five-year initiative aimed at improving family stability for vulnerable children and their parents living in four neighborhoods in Indianapolis. Great Families 2020 will be piloting a two-generation approach, where neighborhood networks in education (including high-quality early childhood education), financial stability (Center for Working Families), and health services are integrated to serve the whole family.

Funding for this initiative consists of a federal Social Innovation Fund grant totaling $7 million and matching dollars from the community for a total investment of approximately $20.6 million.

UWCI just announced their final four programs that will implement the Great Families model in their neighborhood.  Our President, Amanda Lopez, was invited to help select the community grantees.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

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Your organization may not have a multi-million dollar federal grant to implement this research, but there are still steps that you can take:

    1. Review the research. Become familiar with this approach and initiatives underway nationally and locally to stay informed. Knowledge is power!
    2. Review your current programs and funding focus. Perhaps you will see that you have fragmented services that are missing that other generation. Can you partner with other agencies to accelerate the accomplishment of your goals? Can you apply for funding that supports a two-generation approach?
    3. Reach out. Sometimes the best way to reflect on opportunities for growth is to connect with organizations that are successfully modeling your ideal funding stream/program/outreach strategy, etc. So use the research you will do to connect with organizations that are successfully using a two-generation approach to achieve greater impact to hear how they are doing it.

At Transform Consulting Group, our clients are working with both populations: young children and their parents.  We are helping our clients increase their partnerships internally within their organization or externally with other partners to improve outcomes for children and parents. If you are interested in learning more about two-generation approaches or funding opportunities to support your work, please contact us for a free consultation!

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Event Spotlight: 2017 Indiana Coalition Summit

In this new blog series on community coalitions, we start by highlighting the recent Indiana Coalition Summit. Be on the lookout for future blog posts related to community coalitions!

In 2016, Transform Consulting Group managed the planning for the first annual Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions (aka the Indiana Coalition Summit), hosted at the Horizon Convention Center in Muncie, in partnership with Muncie BY5, Early Learning Indiana, and Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC). This was the first statewide event dedicated to bringing together early learning, business, education, civic, and other community leaders to understand the business case for investment in early childhood. As well, the Indiana Coalition Summit delivered ways to develop and sustain an early learning coalition in one’s community, whether rural, suburban or urban. That gathering attracted over 500 attendees across all sectors and 2017 Summit Attendee Infographic (1)affirmed the need for early learning coalitions in the state.  

Continuing with that momentum, Transform Consulting Group led the planning and execution of the second annual Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions, this time held on June 5, 2017 at the Monroe County Convention Center in Bloomington. The Summit attracted close to 400 attendees, many of them connecting to the Summit for the first time. This year, Transform Consulting Group and the planning team, consisting of representatives from Monroe Smart Start, Muncie BY5, ELAC, and Early Learning Indiana, honed in on connecting the “soft skills” (or executive functioning skills) that employers desire in today’s workforce with investing in early learning.

Featured Speakers

The morning of the Indiana Coalition Summit focused on building awareness around the need for early learning support, especially for the non-early-learning professionals in attendance. Erin Ramsey with Mind in the Making, The Bezos Family Foundation kicked off the day with a presentation outlining how investing in early learning shapes the workforce, linking executive functioning skills in children to skills desired by employees (i.e. reflecting, analyzing, and evaluating). This was followed by a short presentation about the current landscape for economic development and early learning from the State’s perspective by Kevin Bain, CEO and Executive Director of the Welborn Baptist Foundation in Evansville and the Chairman of ELAC.

In his presentation, Bain highlighted information shared in the most recent ELAC Annual Report including the online county profiles (now available through the ELAC website) about where Indiana currently is related to key early learning measures, and what Indiana should do to improve.

IMG_6207The lunch presentations kicked off with Jeffery Connor-Naylor from ReadyNation debuting a recent Indiana brief outlining how developing social-emotional skills in early childhood positively impacts future workforce success. Particularly,  the necessity of employees being capable of developing and sustaining relationships. The keynote presentation was given by Dr. Tim Bartik from the W.E. Upjohn Institute in which he made the economic case for investing in early learning. He shared data such as per dollar invested, early childhood programs increase the present value of state per capita earnings by $5.00 – $9.00. Dr. Bartik also shared that the costs for investing in early learning are modest, giving the example of universal full-day pre-K for 4-year-olds costs about 4% of what we pay for K-12.

Community Coalition Workshop Sessions

The afternoon breakout sessions focused on supporting attendees who are developing community early learning coalitions. These sessions were framed around the forthcoming Community Coalition Building Toolkit being developed by the ELAC Provider Participation and Advancement workgroup.

Transform Consulting Group’s President, Amanda Lopez, led the session “Creating a Collective Vision/Plan”, utilizing her experience developing strategic plans and working with community coalitions. In her presentation, Lopez reviewed the four steps of strategic planning (detailed in this previous blog): 1) Collaborate; 2) Assess; 3) Facilitate Consensus; and 4) Create the Plan.

The Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions is a shining example of an event that brings together stakeholders from different sectors for a common goal: to have thriving communities by investing in early learning. It laid the groundwork for how to have different, and even unusual, partners work together while also giving attendees the chance to network and receive training on developing their community coalition.

If your organization is interested in connecting with or starting a community coalition with a focus on early learning, check out the resources available from the Indiana Coalition Summit on the Indiana Summit Resource Page or contact us at Transform Consulting Group to get connected!

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Why More Funders Should Collaborate

“Partner” and “collaborate” are the buzzwords in the non-profit sector.  The idea of partnership is not limited to the individual organizations administering programming and services, but also applies to the funders awarding grants and funding. AfiStock-588266018ter years of funders encouraging grantees to partner, they are taking their own advice and working collaboratively.

Funding in the non-profit world can be siloed, with organizations often competing for limited funding for similar programs or services. At the same time many funders focus on similar issues and have a common desire to make a difference.  An after-school youth tutoring program can easily apply to a dozen funders seeking resources for their program, because all of those funders have some interest in youth development and education. This means that after-school program is completing twelve separate grant applications that all request somewhat similar information in a slightly different package.  Some funders are taking note of this trend and working collaboratively to support common causes.

The idea that funders can make a bigger impact with their resources by working together rather than independently is enticing.  In Central Indiana, this is exactly what has happened through the launching of the  Summer Youth Program Fund. The Summer Youth Program Fund (SYPF) is a collaborative effort among funders who support organizations that provide summer programming for Marion County youth.  The funding effort is made up of 11 funding partners (public and private) who support over 200 summer youth programs in Marion County. These individual funders have come together all with a common interest to support programs working with youth over the summer.  

The benefits of this type of funding partnership include the following:

  • Efficiency for the grantees.  There is one application that the grantees complete to be considered for all funding opportunities.  The grantees can spend more time on their programming and staff development and less time writing applications.
  • Collective impact.  Through a unified application, the funders have an opportunity to clarify and unite the intended focus, goals, and outcomes, which could lead to greater impact in the community.
  • Improved programming.  By working together, the funders could share capacity building resources made available to the grantees, such as combined professional development and technology.
  • Accountability and monitoring.  With a unified grant application and clear focus for the services, the evaluation, monitoring, and reporting is transparent and upfront. Common assessments and evaluation tools could be shared with grantees to implement.Blog infographic

Collaborative funding certainly has several benefits for the organizations receiving funding and the funders.  If a funder is interested in a collaborative, there are some lessons learned to consider:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Establish operational procedures (e.g., application process, grantmaking, contracts)
  3. Identify affinity funders to potentially join the collaboration and share common interest
  4. Keep the focus on the grantees and adding value to the grantmaking process

GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Centers, has created a Guide on Funder Collaboratives: Why and How Funders Work Together.  There are some great strategies and resources to help guide the process.   
We have worked with funders to develop and manage their grantmaking process.  If you would like to talk about enhancing your current grantmaking program or exploring a funder collaborative, give us a call or send us an email!  We would love to help you think through the process and see how we can improve your impact.

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Is Your Non-profit a Cooperator or a Competitor?

harvard_collaborationWith the continued growth of non-profits over the past several years (as we recently discussed in this blog article), some organizations view themselves in competition with other community organizations.  While this might not be the intention of Executive Directors or board members, often non-profits are competing for funding, clients, and even volunteers. However, a new trend is starting to emerge where non-profits are cooperating in partnership and not competing.

Our office is doing a book club, and the current book that we are reading is Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. In their research of exemplary non-profits across the nation, they identified six effective practices identified in all twelve high-performing non-profits.  One of the six effective practices identified is the importance of nurturing the non-profit networks.

All twelve exemplary organizations were not just focused on making their non-profit the best, but  working to build formal and informal non-profit networks to advance their mission and cause.  Some might think that this is contrary to what makes a high-performing non-profit (to focus externally instead of internally).

Benefits of Cultivating Non-profit Networks

  • Greater ability to impact social change
  • Increased workforce of allies with shared knowledge and skills
  • Expansion of funding opportunities through partnerships
  • Unified force working toward common goals
  • Extended support outside your organization
  • Increased public awareness

Are you interested in developing a non-profit network? Crutchfield and McLeod outline four strategies to nurture this network:

  1. Grow the pieFunders are very interested and supportive of joint partnerships for programming and services. Focus on expanding funding for the greater cause over your individual organization in order to achieve greater impact for the cause. This can be done through joint grant applications, redistributing funds to other organizations, or partnering with other non-profits in their fundraising efforts.  High-impact non-profits will often serve as the “backbone” fiscal support for the network.Team Unity Friends Meeting Partnership Concept
  2. Share knowledge – Consider other non-profits as allies and share your expertise, research, etc. to strengthen the system. In looking toward a collective impact model, having a network that is consistent with related knowledge only helps further the cause.
  3. Develop leadership – Often non-profits have one leader that holds all of the knowledge, including historical knowledge of trends and partnerships. It is essential to cultivate the leadership of the next generation across the network. Again, this strengthens the cause by increasing the capabilities of the workforce.
  4. Work in coalitions – Often the causes that non-profits are working to address are complex and multi-faceted. Once a non-profit network is established, the next step is to broaden the network. It takes a unified community to make change happen and to sustain its impact.

There is no question that leading a non-profit organization is a challenge, and the concept of developing a network of non-profits might seem too hard to conceptualize. Building a strong network of non-profits to collaborate with is a great strategy to expand the social impact of your cause. Looking to other non-profits as allies in the overarching goal of improving the community and offering your strengths to them will create a unified, cohesive network that together can mobilize the entire community and sustain a greater impact.

At Transform Consulting Group, we work with many non-profits on program development, which often includes an emphasis on cultivating partnerships with local organizations. If you are interested in learning more about cultivating partnerships and the collective impact model, contact us today for a free consultation!

 

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Using A Needs Assessment Process to Plan a New Program

When a business plans to open a new store or restaurant, the business first conducts market research to ensure a good fit and a successful venture. In the public sector, we call this a “needs assessment”.

Whether your organization is a non-profit, hospital, school or government agency, more than likely you have been asked or initiated a needs assessment.  Why?  The needs assessment is a great opportunity to step back and build understanding about the target population (aka, intended client), their strengths, needs, concerns and goals, as well as taking a look internally at your own organization to ensure a good fit.

In Indianapolis, we have a Center for Working Families (CWF) program model that was developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to help low-income families achieve long-term financial stability. A group of local funders and partners help support and coordinate the CWF model to ensure a good fit with communities and strong fidelity at implementation.

Transform Consulting Group has helped a few organizations complete a needs assessment and project implementation plan to implement CWF in Indianapolis.  Most recently, we worked with Shepherd Community Center, a multi-service center on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. Achieving CWF status would designate Shepherd Community Center as a location where low-income families could access a coordinated or bundled set of three key services to help lift them out of poverty and achieve long-term financial stability. In order to demonstrate the need for CWF in the neighborhood that Shepherd Community Center supports, Transform Consulting Group conducted a community needs assessment within the Near Eastside neighborhood of Indianapolis and completed an internal assessment of the organization.

Completing the needs assessment allowed Transform Consulting Group staff an opportunity to connect with the target audience through in-person focus groups and surveys at key community gatherings as well as meetings with key community partners.  We also gathered key indicators from the Census and other external data sources. The information collected included demographics, income levels, education levels and goals, goals, and perceived gaps in community services. Combined with the stakeholder feedback, we developed a comprehensive profile of the targeted community.   Data was analyzed and key findings shared with Shepherd Community Center leadership.  Results from the needs assessment not only demonstrated a strong need in the community, but will also serve as a baseline of information for future CWF planning and programming within this community.

Understanding the needs of your community or “market” is the foundation for successful organizational programming that will have the greatest, long-lasting impact. Transform Consulting Group looks forward to new opportunities helping organizations like Shepherd Community Center get a pulse on their community needs and effectively provide support. Contact Transform Consulting Group today to learn more about how we can assist your organization.

 

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