Author Archives: Sara Anderson

4 Steps to Build Your Asset Map

Have you ever moved to a new community and wanted to get connected, but didn’t know where to start? Maybe you have had a tangible need presented to you by a friend or family member, but you didn’t know where to direct them to get help? For many communities, an asset map serves as the perfect connection point between individuals and services.

An asset map contains the details of available resources, organizations, clubs, boards, and more. This map can help individuals find specific organizations, such as home assistance or guidance on a committee to join. The map can also serve as a decision-making tool, bringing to light any potential strengths and/ or gaps in the community.

We helped a local United Fund organization create their own asset map focused around their three main areas of service. During our work, we developed a list of steps that can be used to assist other organizations building their own asset map.

Four Steps to Build Your Asset Map

1. Consider the Assets to IncludeAsset Map Focus Areas

Start by determining the purpose of the asset map you’re creating and who the map will serve. Consider the focus area the assets will be framed around. For the United Fund, we built the asset map around their three pillars of focus: health, education, and financial stability.

Once the audience and purpose are identified, begin researching functioning assets. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Community and individual serving organizations
  • Boards
  • Coalitions
  • Committees
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Other local businesses
2. Determine the Level of Detail for Each Asset

Now that you know what type of assets you want, consider the level of detail that should be included with each asset as you make a list. An asset map serves as a one-stop-shop for people to learn the necessary details about community assets before they pursue options.

Here are categories we included in the United Fund asset map:

  • Contact name, phone number, and email
  • Location
  • Hours of operation or meeting time
  • Eligibility criteria (ages served, genders served, income level accepted, residence, etc.)
  • Service area(s) (health, mental health, early childhood, housing, etc.)
  • Website url

Also consider a process to regularly check the validity of the detailed information. Scheduled maintenance may be necessary to make sure asset information is up to date.

3. Find the Asset Information

Finding accurate information can be time consuming and may require several approaches. Consider calling organizations, performing web searches, and connect with contacts in the community to determine if there are current resource lists to serve as a starting point. For example, the local Community Foundation may have a running list of potential funders. You can also hold a focus group with a local board or committee. These groups make up a variety of members who can bring insight and suggestions to contribute to the asset map. We held a focus group meeting with the United Fund’s board members. We gave them an overview about the purpose of the asset map, then asked them to brainstorm any and all resources benefiting the community. They wrote each one on a sticky note and placed them on a sheet labeled with one of the three service areas. We combined like resources, then this helped us know specifically what resource information to gather.

4. Build and Store the Assets

Once you have your complete list of assets, you’ll need to determine a way to house the information and make it accessible to the community. There are several options to build an asset map depending what fits with your organization, staffing, and budget. At TCG, we love interactive platforms that allow people to easily locate specific resources based on applied filters and criteria. We use Tableau to develop interactive dashboards. Once the workbook is published, the dashboard is embedded onto the host’s website. The United Fund’s Asset Map is built across three main tabs with filters and search boxes to help people navigate to their desired resource. 3 Tabs

Are you ready to start building an asset map to benefit your community? We’d love to hear from you, and walk you through the process!

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3 Steps to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Retreat

17855554_690376437789787_5551209555832880363_oWhat comes to mind when someone says the word “retreat”? In the dictionary, “retreat” has a few different meanings: an act of moving back or withdrawing; a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax; an act of changing one’s decisions, plans, or attitude, especially as a result of criticism from others. If we apply these definitions to a “planning retreat”, we can conclude that it is a meeting where a group can step back from regular daily activities to discuss decisions, plans and goals to help inform a strategic plan and future decisions. This means you don’t need to leave town to have an effective planning retreat!

Whether you are leading a planning retreat or participating in one, what makes an effective planning retreat? The facilitator can ensure the group has a plan and accomplishes their goals. A participant can help keep the conversation on topic, as it is common for a group to want to jump into the solutions of a plan before determining the focus areas.

Earlier this year, we discussed the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning. Step three is to “facilitate consensus”, which usually occurs at a planning retreat. The main purpose of this step is for the planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction for the organization, including goals and strategies. We follow three key steps to lead an effective planning retreat.

1. Provide Summarized Materials

First, create a pre-read packet of summarized materials from the first two steps of the strategic planning process. This helps equip the planning team with rich feedback from the key stakeholders (step 1: collaborate) and understand the context (step 2: assess). You also want to give your planning team enough time to review and process the information before the day-of retreat. This allows the group to make thoughtful recommendations. There are several ways to present a pre-read packet: a narrative report, a PowerPoint presentation or an interactive online file.

During a project with the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we created a Tableau Public file titled the “Impact of Early Childhood Education in Wabash County”. This included five tabs summarizing key community demographic data, program information and stakeholder feedback from employers and parents. The titles for visuals were worded as a question to help the audience pull out key messages from the information. During the planning retreat, we reviewed this information but they had already seen it and digested the information. This allowed us to start having some meaningful conversations.

2. Identify “What” You Want to Accomplish

After leading the team through a review of the information, the majority of time is spent to make meaning with the data and identify goals and strategies for the future. Having some great discussion questions is helpful to focus the conversation with participants and help them use the information presented.

Many participants at planning retreats want to jump right into strategies or solutions. We work hard to help steer the conversation to reaching agreement first on the “what” we want to accomplish with the strategic plan. Help the group to narrow their ideas to 3-5 key focus areas or goals to help carry the strategic plan forward. By bringing the team together, they will have consensus. As we have mentioned earlier, buy-in from the team is crucial to keep momentum going for the strategic plan.

This discussion time can be done as a full team, split into small groups or partners depending on the size of the planning team. If you do break into small groups make sure you come back together as a large group and collectively reach consensus about the goals/ focus areas. We like to use stickers to help participants “vote” or prioritize their top choices.

3. Determine “How” You Will Accomplish It

Finally, after the “what” is determined, transition the team to discuss the development of key strategies and solutions that address the focus areas. This is the “how” we will accomplish the goals of the strategic plan. Similar to the previous step, discussion can be as a group or broken up into teams.

The timeline of your strategic plan will help determine how many strategies are appropriate for each goal/ focus area. Again, we encourage participants to narrow the focus to 5-7 key strategies. If you have 5 goals and 5-7 strategies per goal, then there could be upwards of 35 strategies that your organization will be working to implement. We work really hard to support organizations in having aspirational strategic plans as well as realistic and achievable.18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_o

Once you have your top goals and strategies identified, then you can “workshop” them into a more detailed operations or implementation plan that explains the who, what, and when in much more detail. This is what sets apart a strategic plan from sitting on the shelf and not being implemented to a strategic plan that truly moves the organization or community forward.

There are different tools and activities that can be used during the facilitation step of the strategic planning process. Depending on what works best, the main thing to remember is to engage, focus and prioritize.

Now that you have hosted an effective planning retreat you are ready for the final step of the strategic planning process – create. If you need assistance with facilitating an effective planning retreat, or with any step of the planning process, Transform Consulting Group is here to help. Contact us today!

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2018 Indy Big Data Conference Visualization Challenge Summary

Our TCG team recently presented at the Fifth Annual Indy Big Data Conference for the Visualization Challenge (read about some of our lessons learned here). This year’s challenge focused on improving Indiana’s talent pipeline and workforce. fullsizeoutput_3b6

Participating teams were provided several datasets to analyze and interpret, and then present to a panel of judges. Following the first round of presentations, the judges then awarded five teams the opportunity to present to 500+ conference attendees. Our TCG was one of those top five teams selected! Read more about the Visualization Challenge and data sets here: https://www.indybigdata.com/visualization-challenge/.

Our team used our Tableau expertise to create this interactive dashboard, and then we presented on our findings. The interactive dashboard addresses several key questions about the future of Indiana’s workforce and talent pipeline, including:

  1. What will be the top jobs in demand in 10 years?
  2. What is the education requirement for those top in demand jobs?
  3. What is the earning potential of those top in demand jobs?
  4. What is the return on investment on education for those top in demand jobs?

The following is a summary of TCG’s findings to these questions based on the data provided.

1. What will be the top jobs in demand in 10 years?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.03.45 AM

Indiana’s top projected jobs are found primarily in the healthcare, food service and business industry. TCG found that the top projected jobs in 10 years varies depending on how you look at the data. For example, Wind Turbine Service Technicians looks like the top in demand job, because of a 71% expected increase in positions in 10 years. However, when you look at the actual number of new jobs for Wind Turbine Service Technicians,  there are only 66 total positions expected to be added over 10 years. This is not actually enough individual positions to create new higher education programs to encourage individuals to pursue this career. In this visual chart, you can scroll down to see the top projected jobs and how they compare. Hover over the number for more information about that occupation.

2. What is the education requirement for those top in demand jobs?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.06.28 AM

The U.S. Census Bureau reports one-third of working adults ages 18-64 have an associate degree or higher. An additional 25% of this population have some education beyond high school. Interestingly, we found that six out of ten of the top 25 projected jobs only require a high school diploma. This doesn’t mean that we should stop encouraging young people to pursue higher education. Instead, the trend looks like the largest amount of new positions will be entry level or positions that do not immediately require an education beyond high school.

3. What is the earning potential of those top in demand jobs?

TCG created a box and whisker plot chart to show the earning potential by occupation. For all occupations the median annual salary is about $40,000. The top 25 projected jobs based on the number of new positions shows a median annual salary at $31,000 which is below the current median annual salary. Again, this somewhat relates to the education level requirements in the previous section. The largest increase in projected new jobs are not high earning jobs. Visit the interactive dashboard to explore the different wage levels, experience levels, and hourly rates of the projected top jobs.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.07.08 AM

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.07.23 AM
4. What is the return on investment on education for those top in demand jobs?

The costs of education can feel like a burden to individuals, especially when the costs drag on through student loans for several years. The average timeframe expected to pay off the cost of postsecondary education is over two years. Our TCG team was interested in calculating the return on investment (ROI) of pursuing higher education for the top 25 occupations. You can rank the list by the jobs with the highest and lowest ROI. The average ROI for all jobs is $1.4 million.

Recommendations

TCG made several recommendations from the data analyzed. (This list can also be viewed on the second tab in the interactive dashboard).

  1. Review employment projections in multiple ways, like reviewing the expected growth based on the number of new jobs and the percentage growth of new jobs (e.g., Wind Turbine Service Technicians example) to ensure informed decision making. This can assist with decision making when developing or removing educational degree or certification programs and when encouraging individuals to enter a certain field.
  2. Offer more certificates and associate degrees both independently and as a part of bachelor’s degree curriculum. It would align with required educational needs of the workforce, contribute to less debt for students, and help improve higher education completion rate.
  3. Increase partnerships with employers (like IU Health) to do more direct career pipelines and apprenticeship programs. This could also potentially reduce the student cost. For example, Graduate Assistant positions are partially funded by the organization that receives a graduate student.
  4. Include more experiential learning in degree programs. It would help the student decide if they are in the right major or explore a secondary interest. It could also get industries to partner with other majors/ disciplines. For example, get the “creatives” into STEM activities – increasing the workforce pipeline.
  5. Consider offering incentives to attract individuals in the top projected jobs, especially those jobs with a low ROI. Look at ways to make these jobs more attractive to meet the future workforce needs.

Learn more about the Indy Big Data Challenge in this article by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. At TCG, we are data nerds. Check out our research and analysis services, and learn how we can develop visual reports and dashboards to inform your decision-making and help you tell your story of impact.

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3 Financial Health Indicators to Track for Your Organization

Is your organization financially healthy? How do you measure the financial health of your organization? Nonprofit, education and other community organizations can look at the financial health of their organization and its relationship to your impact. Financial health also helps make sure programs are being run efficiently and if any program changes need to be made.

For many organizations, financial information is used with staff and administrators and shared with boards, potential funders and clients. It is not always necessary to give each audience the detailed level view of an organization’s financial information. However, it is critical that the leadership of the organization is aware of and tracking some critical indicators that determine your financial health.

While working with ten early childhood education programs on reaching their financial goals, we first had to look at the overall financial health of the organization. We asked to see income statements, balance sheets, client/ service information and any other key financial indicators. It can be hard to make sense of all of this information, especially for staff and board members who are not accountants or financial advisors.

We saw a gap and need to summarize the most important financial indicators in a one-page overview that can be regularly (and automatically) updated for board meetings, funder reports, and other key reports. We were able to identify three key areas of information to highlight for different. While every organization is different, we believe these three financial areas are critical for every organization to track and monitor.

Three Financial Health Areas to Track for Your Organization

1. Participation

If you are an organization that receives funding based on participation or enrollment numbers, then this is a critical indicator for you to track. Just like a hotel tracks their vacancy rate, your organization should have set goals and benchmarks for participation or enrollment rates. These should be based on your budget and what is needed to “break even”. Then you can look more closely at your participation by different population groups and a calendar of enrollment.

The chart example below shows the trend in children served by month. The trend shows how the capacity fluctuated. It may be useful to take closer look at multiple years to see if the monthly trends are consistent by year. This will help organizations plan for the future.

OrgDash1

2. Revenue & Expenses

Looking at the overall revenue and expenses helps organizations see when more money is coming in compared to what is being spent. Comparing these funding sources helps make informed decisions on program changes when necessary.

For example, when we looked at the revenue sources for an early childhood education program, we saw a majority of funds were coming from government subsidized programs. This might be a risky revenue source to rely on for a program. We helped the leaders discuss what might be a healthier percentage to set as a goal for government funding and other funding sources. We encouraged the program to increase regular parent-pay enrollment and fundraising initiatives to create more balanced revenue streams.

The sample dashboard section below takes a deeper dive into the revenue and expenses of an organization. This includes:

  • Budget versus actual revenue and expenses,
  • Net income (revenue minus expenses) trend, and
  • Sources of revenue and expenses.

As seen in the donut chart, the revenue and expense sources are each categorized into four main buckets. This makes the categories more understandable for a variety of audiences.

OrgDash23. Account standings

Looking at the organization’s account standings is a simple way to monitor any large fluctuations in the account. It also helps decision makers see how much money the organization has to work with at any given time. For example, a fundraising event that will have to be funded from the account can be approved if the board knows the appropriate funding is available in the accounts.

The dashboard below shows fairly consistent account amounts. The dip in checking in September could raise some questions. This is an opportunity for the organization to go back to the original sources to understand why.

OrgDash3

We encourage organizations to collect information beyond these three areas. These areas are meant to give a snapshot and raise questions within the organization when necessary. As seen in the examples, we like to display these areas in a visually-appealing dashboard using Tableau Software. Interactive dashboards allow users to apply filters and easily update the dashboard every month or quarter. Organizations can use other methods to display information depending on the intended audience and the amount of information being shared. View our Dashboard Services page to find out how we can help you with your dashboard needs.

If your organization does not know where to start, this blog post may be helpful for understanding why financial goals are important. At TCG, we can help your organization identify what financial information to collect and recognize key areas to share with the intended stakeholders. If your program needs support evaluating your financial stability or creating a visually appealing financial dashboard, contact us today!

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3 Tips to Evaluate Multi-Site Programs

Evaluation is one of many services we provide for clients at Transform Consulting Group. Evaluation is important for any program because it helps organizations determine if a program is effective or if the change they set to accomplish actually occurred. In a previous blog we shared the 4 key steps to evaluation that we follow. These steps are (1) establish clear outcomes, (2) create or modify data tools and systems, (3) analyze the data, and (4) use data to make informed decisions.

Some of our clients offer their program Multisite Programservices across multiple sites. This program model can be useful because it can save time, money and resources (i.e. hiring one director to manage multiple sites). As evaluators, we appreciate multi-site programs as well. Here are some reasons why multi-site evaluations are important and useful for evaluators:

  • Increases knowledge about what works in different settings
  • Allows for larger sample size when gathering data
  • Creates opportunities for sharing experience and knowledge about what works
  • Helps evaluators see sustainability on a wider scale

At TCG, we are currently evaluating a coupleY Observations 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) Program grantees. The clients implement the program across multiple sites, usually different schools within a school district. We use the following tips to help us evaluate multiple sites for one program.

3 Tips to Evaluate Multi-Site Programs

  1. Observe each program site: Site observations help evaluators see how a program is implemented across each site. Is the approach and curriculum consistently followed? What is each site doing well compared to other sites? Where do improvements need to be made? Observations give evaluators important context and understanding when it is time to analyze the data. For the 21st CCLC program, the clients operate both summer, before and after school programs. We have built into our evaluation plan time to observe each site during the summer, at the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year.
  2. Collect data by site: Each site will have unique factors that may influence the program and overall data. When we are able to look at  data by individual site, it will help inform recommendations for improvement and possible best practices. For example, we recently worked with a multi-site program to assess their workforce retention data. They identified several locations that had really high turnover and a few sites with lower turnover rates. By disaggregating the data by each site, we were equipped to inform some strategic decision-making.  
  3. Solicit stakeholder feedback: Gathering input from key stakeholders is a critical component of our evaluation process (see these past blog posts: How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders in your Planning and 4 Tools to Collaborate with Key Stakeholders). For the 21st CCLC program, we sought feedback from program staff. We wanted to know if all staff understand the goals and outcomes of the program since it’s a new program for the organization and they have hired several new staff. If the responses differed, we can report back to the administrators that better messaging may be needed to ensure the program is being implemented effectively and meeting the state requirements.

Once data and information has been collected by site, the evaluator determines the best way to report the information. Depending on the audience for the evaluation report, the data may be presented differently.  For an external audience (public, the funder, etc.), program summary results may be reported. For internal audiences (staff, board of directors, volunteers), it may be helpful to present the data at a disaggregated level by each site or location. There may be steps to take to better align sites to meet program goals and outcomes.
4 step evalWhile there may be some additional steps needed to evaluate multi-site programs, our overall four-step approach to evaluation stays the same. Good evaluations often lead to recommendations for improvement. This is an opportunity to discuss data collected and implications for future programming, including ongoing program evaluation practices within the organization. If you like our approach, contact us today to learn about how we can help you with your next evaluation.

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Assessing the Stress Levels of Staff

It is argued that the United States is the most overworked country in the world. Some individuals may be fine with putting in extra hours, but for many it’s about finding a balance between work, family, and other personal activities. The unbalance can often lead to stress, in turn affecting each area of a person’s life. Regardless of your job title, it can be beneficial to be aware of employee stress levels to result in effective program outcomes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful, and 25% viewed their job as the number one stressor in their lives (Stress…At Work, 4-5). Stress on employees can lead to burnout, a lack of productivity and increased risk of health problems.

At TCG, we serve government, non-profits, education, and communities. When working with clients, we often find that the pressure to meet program outcomes and the passion for clients and the cause can increase stress beyond those of other businesses. We suggest that if you truly want to equip your employees to accelerate your impact, then assessing the stress and well-being of staff is a good place to start.

We recently worked with a local school who was seeking grant funding to improve the health and well-being of their students from the Lilly Endowment. In the process of assessing the needs of the students, we also wanted to assess the health and well-being of the teachers. The staff have a direct impact on students and the school culture/ climate.

When is the right time to assess staff stress in the workplace?

Assessing staff stress should be an ongoing practice at organizations. Make it an annual occurrence or incorporate staff check-ins regularly. You can also reevaluate staff workloads and overall health during your strategic planning process or when there is a serious event.

During our work with the local school to apply for a comprehensive counseling grant, we realized that before we could meet the goals we set for the students (emotional health, academic success, etc.), we had to ensure that the teachers had the capability to support the program. This is an example of why it is important to bring staff in during the strategic planning process.

If a need is recognized, such as annual tracking or a serious event, management can be intentional about assessing the stress levels of staff. Have you heard  the line, “It’s not you, it’s me”? Sometimes the organization may not be at fault for staff stress, but this is not always the case. Personal factors, like finances, family, social, or other reasons, in life can cause employee stress. These can be distracting during work or cause work absences. Assessing staff and finding the root cause for distractions will help employers better understand how to work with and provide support to employees.

How should staff stress be assessed?

Stress, like pain, is relative to every individual and can be difficult to measure. We recommend using evidence-based questions and assessment tools to develop a survey. Craft general questions related to workplace stress or more personal questions to help get a better understanding of employees’ personal experiences.

Within your organization’s respective industry there is more than likely some standard questionnaires to assess your workforce. For example, when we were working with the schools, we found several assessments geared to questions for teachers.

We created an electronic survey to assess the workplace stress of teachers and support staff. We included general questions about workplace stress, along with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) survey (which we spotlighted in this blog). The results gave us a comprehensive look at how stressful staff felt in the workplace and revealed any adverse childhood experiences that affected their overall health and ability to work.

What should you do with the results of staff stress feedback?

Like any data collection process, it should serve a purpose. If stress seems to be a workplace issue, try to determine what situations are flexible to ease the stress of staff within the limits of the organization and mission. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Adjust management style
  • Alter staff responsibilities
  • Hire extra staff
  • Offer pay increases, bonus incentives, or extra time-off
  • Change program models
  • Include staff on program model decisions (like choosing a curriculum or other materials)
  • Ensure necessities are being provided, like food, water, and bathroom breaks!

When working with the local school, we analyzed their staff feedback and other data in Tableau, a data visualization software. We discovered that a majority (59%) of staff felt always or often stressed at work. We also asked identifying questions so each school administrator would be able to pinpoint the specific work areas that cause stress to their employees. This knowledge helped develop an action to address staff well-being to benefit each school.

One method may not work for every organization or individual. Find what works best and continue to monitor progress and make adjusts as necessary.

At TCG, we want to help you move your mission forward and that often starts by taking care of your staff! We support organizations who want to have healthy staff, reduce turnover, increase productivity and engagement to accomplish their goals/ accelerate their impact! Do you need help accessing your team? Or maybe you already know your staff is stretched and you’re ready for additional support? Learn more about our services here, and Contact us today!

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4 Tools to Collaborate with Key Stakeholders

Do you ever find yourself on a path with no direction? A strategic plan may be what you need to put you on the path to success. A strategic plan is essentially a road map for an organization’s program and goals. Transform Consulting Group helps programs develop their strategic plans with our 4 step process, which you can read more about in a previous blog. This blog focuses on step one in the process: Collaborate.

Collaborate Highlighted

We pride ourselves on step one, collaboration, to work with our clients and not for them. During the strategic planning process we work with you to identify the appropriate key stakeholders to inform the planning process. By engaging diverse stakeholders in organization’s planning process we not only help to increase buy in and ownership from those key stakeholders but also solicit rich feedback to inform the final plan.

The key stakeholders will vary depending on your organization, but typically they consist of external and internal stakeholders: involve some of the following individuals or groups:

Internal Stakeholders
External Stakeholders
  • Staff at different position levels in the organization
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Board of Directors
  • Key community partners
  • Volunteers
  • Public
  • Clients

Once the key stakeholders are identified, how do we gather feedback from them to inform the planning process? We like to use a variety of methods to solicit stakeholder feedback. We ultimately select the tool based on appropriateness for the audience (for example a focus group may not be a better method for students and parents depending on literacy levels), timeline and budget. Our go to four tools for collecting stakeholder feedback are the following:

1. Surveys

This is a common method to use but to get really great feedback from surveys you need to hone your approach of how you administer it and the types of questions asked.

  • When creating a survey, consider the audience. For example, if you plan to survey youth, assess the reading level of the questions to make sure it is developmentally appropriate.
  • While you are considering the audience, think about the best method to share the survey. Is there a time when the audience regularly meets when a survey could be shared and collected in person at a meeting? Is the audience a broad community group making it difficult to reach the audience in one place?
  • You may need to connect with community resources to distribute the survey. We have partnered with the local economic development group to share online surveys to get local employer feedback.
  • Once you have determined the audience and the best way to distribute the survey, decide the most effective platform to create the survey. Platforms include printed copies or electronic. Electronically, we use SurveyMonkey, but there are several free, online tools available.

2. Focus Groups

If you want to get more in depth feedback beyond basic survey questions, a focus group or listening session may be the appropriate tool.

  • Create guided open-ended questions that prompt conversation during the focus group.
  • Again, identify if the stakeholder group has a regular meeting time when you could be added to the agenda to ask some questions and gather their feedback. We have done these at conferences, community meetings, and parent councils just to name a few.
  • Focus groups can be done in combination with surveys. We’ve done focus groups first to ask broad questions to a small group that will then inform a survey that goes out to the large group. We’ve also done focus groups after a survey to go deeper on the some of the questions asked in a survey.

3. Interviews

There is often a community member or business leader with expertise around the area of a strategic plan.

  • If they are not already a part of the planning process, invite them for an interview to gather feedback and information related to the strategic plan topic.
  • The stakeholders for individual interviews are typically people who have deep history, knowledge, experience or stake with the organization.
  • Similar to the focus group, outline open-ended questions, but leave room for unguided conversation as well depending on what they want to share.

4. Invitation to Planning Meetings

Some stakeholders are key decision makers and influencers in the community.

  • Bringing them to the table throughout the process will help keep them informed to know how to better share the message and goals of the strategic plan.
  • They will also be able to bring a different perspective from those within the organization, which helps avoid groupthink.
  • You could invite these stakeholders to one of your planning retreats to unpack all of the data and feedback collected and assist with identifying the key goals and strategies.

By5 Big PictureTo get more ideas about how to collaborate on a strategic plan, look at other successful organizations.

By5 is a leading organization for early childhood awareness in Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana. They have created a strategic plan through the collaboration of task force and volunteer efforts to improve the developmental opportunities for children ages 0-5.

When we were working with the Community Foundation of Wabash County to create a strategic plan for their coalition focused on early education we benchmarked other communities for lessons learned and strategies.

fullsizeoutput_3b5

Once the key stakeholders are identified and tools have been distributed for feedback, move onto step two, Assess. Follow our blog posts to find out effective methods for assessing your organization and community to inform your strategic plan. Contact us today to learn more about our strategic planning process and how we can work together to identify the appropriate key stakeholders and tools to inform the planning process.

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3 Steps to Consider Before Relocating or Launching in a New Community

You may not consider this, but the non-profit public sector is competitive. With over 1.5 million registered tax exempt organizations in the United States there are several organizations in place committed to doing good.  If your non-profit organization is considering a move to a new community either through expansion or relocation, please consider these 3 steps first to ensure continued success of expanding your impact.

Map Plots1. Study your community – you want to determine if the new community is the right fit for your services. Is there sufficient demand for the services you are offering? Does the community have the population you are targeting?

Tips:
  • The Census Bureau provides quality data about the people and the economy. It features a few data resource tools, including Quick Facts, the American FactFinder, and the American Community Survey. Information is available at a variety of geographic levels, including national, state, county, city and town, township, region, census tract and more. For more data source ideas around a variety of topics, read a previous blog about our go-to sources for data.
  • If data around a specific area is not readily available, develop a tool  to collect your own data.  One common tool example is a survey, which allows you to customize questions to help you gather the feedback you need.
  • Once you have finished collecting data, you can begin to analyze the information. We recommend using a software tool, such as Tableau, to help visualize the data. When visualizing the data, we recommend focusing on 4 key areas (1) determine the audience, (2) decide what the dashboard is tracking, (3) Determine the visuals that will be most effective in communicating the message, and (4) Determine the delivery of the dashboard. Read more in our blog, here: http://transformconsultinggroup.com/2017/03/31/4-steps-create-dashboard/.

Real estate agency - Stock image2. Know your competition – are there similar organizations like yours serving the targeted community? Do they have waitlists or empty spots? Are your services complementary to what is currently being offered or the same?

Tips:
  • Talk with the local United Way organization, Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Hospital or other relevant sources based on your industry. They often have a good idea of who is currently offering services, the need for more services and what kind. They may even have a resource book or some other list that could be helpful.
  • Depending on your industry, there are some great online resources. For example, if you are an early learning program you can search other child care programs on the Child Care Finder site. If you provide before and after school care, you can search here: https://www.indianaafterschool.org/state/mapping-database/

Fund_Development_Graphic3. Assess impact on your funding – you may see a positive or negative impact on your funding from foundations and individual donors. Some funders have very specific geographic preference, so moving to a new community may open up funding opportunities or close them. You will want to study this before you make the change. Depending on your target population in the new community, you may also see new funding opportunities.

Tips:
  • Review your current funders and see if any of them have geographic restrictions. This is especially important if you are moving to a new county or city.
  • If you have money in the budget, invest in a membership to funding information websites, such as the Foundations Directory Online or GrantWatch. These sites provide information on grant opportunities, the history of grants awarded or information on upcoming grant opportunities.
  • Whether you are needing funding at the moment or not, don’t be afraid to personally reach out to funders in the community to begin to build relationships. Have a short call or coffee date to find out what type of programs they prefer to fund or ways you can get involved. This is a great opportunity to share why you’ve decided to move to the community and how you could possibly partner together!

The extra time spent researching before making a move can make all the difference in success or failure, and we only want to see you succeed. If you need assistance understanding your community and completing a market analysis or needs assessment, contact us today to learn more.

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Summarizing the 2018 ELAC Interactive Annual Report

Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) recently released its new 2018 Annual Report that was discussed in this blog post.

interactive-reportThis year, a new feature was developed along with the Annual Report – an Interactive Annual Report dashboard using Tableau. This dashboard allows the audience to take a deeper dive into the early childhood education data included in the Annual Report.

While the visualization of a data dashboard can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming. The interactive dashboards were inspired by the Indiana Commission of Higher Education’s use of dashboards. ELAC saw the opportunity to share the data that has been collected in a user-friendly format for community stakeholders. When you are browsing the new interactive dashboard, make sure to check out these eight key features!

8 Key Features of the ELAC Interactive Dashboard:

  1. There are five main sections of the dashboard: (1) Young Children and Families (2) Accessibility (3) High-Quality (4) Affordability and (5) Kindergarten Readiness. Simply, select the rectangle tab for the section you want to see.
  2. Data is compiled from multiple sources: The data that ELAC reports comes from multiple sources. A dashboard is a good format to pull together multiple data points and present it in a user-friendly format. ar-sources
  3. Each chart is included to answer a key research question: Check out the gray boxes to identify the questions that the data is answering. This can guide the information that you are seeking to find.
  4. Different charts are utilized to visualize the data: Each tab includes a variety of charts to answer the key research questions. For example, maps are included in each section to display how the data varies across the state.
  5. Data can be filtered by different categories: Charts have the option of being filtered by location, age or program type. There are filtering options throughout the dashboard, at the top of pages or along individual charts. filters
  6. Definitions and data sources are included: The Accessibility, High-Quality and Affordability tabs feature a “Hover for Help” option at the top of the page that features definitions related to content on the page. Throughout any page of the dashboard, hover over charts for more data and definitions. hover-example
  7. Data includes a ranking of counties: Each tab features a county ranking chart to help counties easily identify how they compare to the rest of Indiana’s 92 counties.
  8. Data can be shared or downloaded: The Tableau Toolbar is located on the bottom right of the dashboard. You can click on it Undo/ Redo/ Reset filters applied. You can share the dashboard with the url link and also via social channels, and you can also download it as a PDF.

If you have questions or comments about the ELAC Interactive Annual Report dashboard, email elacindiana@gmail.com or contact Transform Consulting Group.

Like what you see? Transform Consulting Group can help your organization develop a data dashboard customized to your needs. Contact us today for a consultation!

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How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders in your Planning

How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders BlogWhen creating a strategic plan or going through any organizational planning process, who do you engage in that process for feedback? In May, we discussed the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning. Step one is collaboration – Collaborate with key stakeholders to inform the strategic planning process and create buy-in and ownership in the plan.

Who to Engage

There are several different types of stakeholders to consider gathering feedback from during the strategic planning process. While it will vary depending on your organization and industry, there are some common stakeholders that we recommend including. They include the following key stakeholders:

  • Funders – current and past funders who know your organization as well as the industry to provide insight on what’s working well, what’s not working and possible changes to consider based on industry trends.
  • Staff – reach out to your staff at different levels of the organization and in different roles to gather their diverse feedback and perspective.
  • Board Members – some Board members will be engaged in the entire strategic process, while other Boards may only have a select committee or members engaged. Whatever the process, you will want to include all Board members in sharing the feedback in the strategic planning process.
  • Clients – past, current or potential clients who receive your services have a perspective that could be meaningful and inform in the strategic planning process.
  • Community Partners – reach out to other community agencies in your community who intersect with your work. Their perspective adds another layer of insight that could really help inform your planning process as you think about the future.

In the past 4 client strategic planning processes we implemented, we engaged the following different types of key stakeholders:

  • Client A – Government Agency: Direct Service Program Staff, Direct Service Program Managers, Local Community Partners, and Leadership and Advisory Committee.
  • Client B – Statewide Non-Profit: Staff, Funders, Key Community Partners.
  • Client C – Multi-Sector Community Group: Parents, Employers, and Key Community Partners.
  • Client D – Local Non-Profit: Public, Past and Current Client, School District and City, Staff, and Board Members.

Once the key stakeholders are identified, how do you gather their feedback? There are different tools and resources available to make the process efficient and effective. Of course, the use of the tools is dependent upon your budget, time and capacity. We offer a summary of our go-to stakeholder feedback tools and the advantages/ disadvantages of each one.

Stakeholder Feedback Tools

  • Focus Groups – Brings together a targeted group of people to gain insight on specific topics.

Pro: You can get more insightful information than from a survey, such as being able to ask follow-up questions.

Con: It can be more time consuming to hold focus groups from scheduling them, training the team to complete it, documenting the information during the focus group and transcribing/ synthesizing the information shared.

Tip: Find a targeted group that already meets to hold your focus group. For example, while creating a plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we were seeking feedback from different parent groups. We were put on the agenda during a regular parent meeting at an early childhood education program, which allowed us to gather feedback to help inform the planning process. Similarly, we held focus groups of Healthy Families Indiana staff at the Institute for Strengthening Families where many were in attendance.

  • Surveys – Helps reach a wide audience using questions related to a specific topic to help gather feedback.

Pro: Surveys can be completed on the participant’s schedule, compared to a focus group or interview when everyone’s schedules need to align in order to get feedback.

Con: If the survey is anonymous, you cannot ask follow-up questions about a participant’s answer. It can also be a challenge to get people to participate in a survey. Offering an incentive will often help with this problem.

Tip: Find an organization who regularly seeks feedback from a target group. Ask to add your questions onto a survey they already send. When we were seeking feedback for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we reached out to the local economic development group and chamber of commerce to assist us with getting employer feedback. We worked together to create an appropriate survey, and they sent it to their employer contact list. Also, take advantage of local social media and news outlets. It might be difficult to get personal contact information for some target stakeholders. Posting on social media with the survey criteria could help you reach a larger audience for feedback on your strategic plan.

  • Key Informant Interviews – Have a one-on-one interview with a specific person related to the planning process.

Pro: Allows you to have an in-depth conversation about a specific topic. It also engages someone who might not be apart of the regular planning process.

Con: It can be time consuming to schedule and hold these interviews, especially if you need to have more than one.

Tip: When you are deciding which key informants would be best to reach out to, consider people who have lived and learned from a similar cause to your own. You will be able to learn from their success and/or mistakes. It’s also helpful to reach out to key partners and decision makers who are not yet engaged. This will help you gain feedback while also informing them of the planning process.

Stakeholder feedback is useful when completing any planning process. By engaging your key stakeholders at the beginning of the planning process, you will not only have a more comprehensive plan in the end but will also create buy-in from the stakeholders when the new plan is unveiled. If you need assistance with your planning process, we would be happy to help! Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

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