Category Archives: Evaluation

Getting the Most Out of Your Needs Assessment

Recently Transform Consulting Group finished the annual needs assessment for the Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office (IHSSCO).   Each Head Start State Collaboration Office is required to annually submit a needs assessment, which informs their strategic plan goals and objectives.  

IHSSCO uses their needs assessment to inform their annual work plan, and all organizations should make the connection between a needs assessment and the organization’s strategic goals!  Whether you want to conduct a needs assessment, program or organization evaluation, or annual report, don’t miss the chance to do one of the following:  

  1. Use your assessment to solicit new feedback or data.

The IHSSCO needs assessment solicited new feedback this year.  We interviewed and surveyed external stakeholders and Head Start partners.  If you’re going to request feedback, make sure you show you’re doing something with it.  No one likes to provide feedback, and then see that nothing changes. For Head Start partners and stakeholders, they will soon be able to read the needs assessment report and see the recommendations for solutions that address some of their feedback.

  1. Take the time to learn from your data.

Data is collected and reported on, but beyond totals and percentages, what does your data say?  What questions does it raise to inform your assessment and planning efforts? For example, we wanted to know:

  • How do Indiana Early Head Start and Head Start programs compare to national statistics?
  • Where are Early Head Start and Head Start centers located across the state, and is it proportionate to the population and need?  Image
  • What percentage of children are being served?  
  • Is there more of a demand for Early Head Start and Head Start in rural or urban areas?

Besides the demographics of your program participants and the outputs of a program, look for issues and barriers, gaps or overlap in services or clients, layer the data with other relevant indicators, and don’t forget to look at outcomes as well!

  1. Make sure you share the report – internally and externally.  

A needs assessment can take a great deal of time, effort, and resources from multiple individuals.  Once the process is completed, it is easy to do a quick review of the findings with program staff and then put it on the shelf.  The needs assessment report and its findings are not only important to program staff; it can also provide insight to all staff, program participants, funders, and external stakeholders/partners.  Check out this past blog for more ideas!

Make the report accessible and relevant.  Many people may only be interested in reading an executive summary of the report or skipping straight to the recommendations.  Others may be more attracted to infographics or dashboards. Decide how to best present your data for your audience, and then post these materials on your website, link to them in a newsletter, or mention them on social media.
If you’re ready to do things differently with your needs assessment but are not sure where to start, contact us today to discuss ways Transform Consulting Group can help!

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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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5 W’s of a Process Evaluation: Part 1

When it comes to program evaluation, people often think of evaluating the effectiveness and outcomes of their program. They may not think about evaluating how the program was administered or delivered, which may affect the program outcomes. There are several types of valuable evaluations that do not focus on outcomes. One type of evaluation, called “process or formative evaluation”, assesses how a program is being implemented.

In this two part blog series, we are going to cover the 5 W’s of a Process Evaluation:

  1. Why conduct a process evaluation
  2. Who should conduct a process evaluation
  3. What methods to use to conduct a process evaluation
  4. Where to conduct a process evaluation
  5. When to conduct a process evaluation

In this first blog in the series we will cover the first two W’s. The next blog will discuss the other three.

WHY CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

Let’s start with the “why”. A process evaluation helps an organization better understand how their program is functioning and operating. Process evaluations also serve as an accountability measure and can answer key questions, such as:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 4.38.23 PM

  • Is the program operating as it was designed and intended?
  • Is the current implementation adhering to program fidelity?
  • Is the program being implemented consistently across multiple sites and staff, if applicable?
  • What type and frequency of services are provided?
  • What program procedures are followed?
  • Is the program serving its targeted population?

 

It is important to determine what you want to learn from your process evaluation. Maybe you want to assess if the program is being implemented as it was intended or you want to know if the program model is being followed. Whatever the reason, you want to be clear about why you are completing the process evaluation and what you hope to learn.

We are currently working with the Wabash YMCA’s 21st Century Community Learning Center to evaluate their program implementation. Each center is required to work with an external evaluator to conduct a process evaluation. Here is what we hope to learn and the why of this evaluation:

  1. The evaluation will assess if the program has been implemented as it was intended and if it is adhering to state standards;
  2. This evaluation will capture the population served through the assessment of attendance trends;
  3. The findings from the process evaluation will be used for program improvement in subsequent years.

WHO SHOULD CONDUCT YOUR PROCESS EVALUATION

When determining who will conduct your process evaluation, you have the option of either identifying an internal staff member (e.g., program manager or quality assurance) from your organization or hiring an external evaluator. Many organizations find that there are challenges with an internal team member: they may not be objective, they don’t have a fresh perspective, and they often have other job responsibilities beyond the evaluation.

For the reasons mentioned above, it is beneficial to have an external evaluator (like TCG!). An external evaluator will be able to assess the operations of your program from an unbiased lens. This is especially helpful if a program has multiple sites. An external evaluator can assess all sites/facilitators for consistency more objectively than a program staff member. (If you’re interested in learning more about how to evaluate multi-site programs, view our blog post here!).

In our evaluation project with the Wabash YMCA, the decision to conduct an evaluation with an external group was made by their funders. This decision ensures that the evaluation is high quality and objective.

The other three W’s will be discussed in a later blog post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, contact us today to learn more about our evaluation services!

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3 Strategic Plan Tools to Create

Congratulations! You have journeyed through the 4 steps of our Strategic Planning Process and you’re ready for the final step: Create. (We covered step 1, step 2, and step 3 in previous blogs).

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.19 PM

The goal of a strategic plan is to develop timely, relevant and action-oriented plans for the future of your organization. Once you have a clear direction, it is time to make sense of the information and package it in a way that is meaningful and possible to implement.  

At TCG, we believe a strategic plan has little value if it is a report that sits on your shelf, never to be seen again. We don’t create long strategic plan reports that you can’t use. We want you to use it, share it and review it on a regular basis.

When working with clients, we recommend and create 3 different strategic plan tools:

1. One-page strategic plan – This is a one-page summary of your goals and top strategies. This tool can be shared externally with partners, funders, and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.

When creating a strategic plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we wanted a one-page overview that highlighted the following key elements:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.33 PM

a. Stakeholders involved (especially since this is a collective impact, multi-sector plan)

b. Goals

c. Strategies

d. Outcomes

Each one-pager for the strategic plan that we create is unique to the client but essentially covers their top goals and strategies.

2. Strategic plan report – This report explains the process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information that was collected, and more details about the goals and strategies. This is typically an internal document that is shared with staff and the board to use when reflecting on the process. It’s especially helpful to document this information for when there are leadership transitions with the staff and board.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.53 PM

3. Implementation plan – Too often we find that organizations get stuck with figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. We create an “implementation plan” to unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board. The main audience for the implementation plan is staff, board and committee members who are most likely responsible for implementation.  Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.04.09 PM


This could be set up like a calendar or a chart that describes who is responsible for each step. We also love using Tableau to create a strategic plan dashboard to track and monitor action items and milestones. The point is that we want all parties involved to have a clear understanding of the timeline, so that they can put the plan in motion.

Is your organization ready to jump into a strategic planning process? Learn more about our strategic planning services here. Contact us today, and we’d love to chat about how our team can meet your needs.

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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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3 Steps to Establish Clear Outcomes

Evaluation is key in determining if your program is making the desired impact. While critical, evaluation can be an overwhelming and intimidating process for organizations. We have worked with several clients to help them embark on the journey of evaluating their program(s). At Transform Consulting Group, we follow a four-step evaluation process. The first step of establishing clear outcomes can be one of the most difficult. You know what your mission is and you know your vision for a better community, but how do these translate into measurable outcomes?

4 eval steps

 

1. Establish clear outcomes

2.  Create or modify data tools and system

3. Analyze the data

4. Use data to make informed decisions

 

Outputs vs. Outcomes

When determining outcomes, the conversation usually starts with program outputs. Outputs are what your program produces: activities, services and participants. Tracking, analyzing and reporting your program outputs is a valuable way of displaying an organization’s work! For example, let’s say an after-school tutoring program served 650 students during the 2017-2018 school year. You could further break that number down by age and frequency of services:

Age group Session Frequency Number of participants Total number of sessions provided
3rd-5th grades Weekly for 10 weeks 320 320×10=3,200
6th-8th grades Weekly for 15 weeks 330 330×15=4,950
Total tutoring sessions provided= 8,150

With a few simple calculations, we have a powerful representation of the work this tutoring team has accomplished! However, outputs alone don’t display programmatic impact.

Outcomes go one more step in showing impact. Outcomes are the changes in knowledge or behavior that you want your clients to experience as a result of your program. They are the “so what” of your services and activities. There are three levels of outcomes that you want to set and measure:

  1. Short-term: What changes in knowledge, attitude or behavior do you want to see in your clients by the time they complete your program or service?
  2. Intermediate: What changes do you want to see in client knowledge, attitude or behavior 6 months-12 months following program completion?
  3. Long-term: What changes do you want to see in client knowledge, attitude or behavior 1+ years after program completion?

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We recently worked with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) to develop short-term, intermediate and long-term outcomes. They are focused on helping get more students of color to and through postsecondary education. Here are three steps that we used to help them establish clear outcomes that assess the impact of their organization.

1. Align to Organizational Mission and Purpose

When you set outcomes, you want to make sure that they align with your organizational mission and benchmarks. CLD’s programming and organizational benchmarks are centered around five principles for success: character development, educational excellence, leadership effectiveness, community service, and career achievement. We helped them establish several outcomes that aligned with their programs, missions, and key principles. 

2. Review Funder’s Priorities 

When receiving grant funding or large donations, organizations often make commitments about what they will accomplish with those funds. Therefore, you want to make sure that future outcomes still align with your current funding priorities and commitments. We worked with CLD to make sure that their many outcomes aligned with the commitments they had made with their current funders.

3. Develop SMART Outcomes

When working with clients to develop outcomes, we follow the “SMART” rubric. We plan to write a full blog to go more in-depth about the SMART rubric, but for now the main takeaway is that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

One of CLD’s long-term desired outcomes is for 75% of their participants to earn a bachelor’s degree or credential within six years of high school graduation. This outcome aligns perfectly with their mission and funding commitments, but is it SMART? Let’s check!

Copy of Establishing Clear Outcomes draft (2)With their clear outcomes established, CLD now has a road map of where they want their participants to go. This road map not only helps CLD stay on course, but it also helps to paint a picture of their desired impact for their funders and supporters. Now they are ready to move on to the next step of their evaluation: Creating or modifying data tools and systems!

If you’re ready to evaluate your program, but are hesitant to take the first step, contact us today!

 

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Training Your Team

As a new employee (week 8 on the job), I’m learning more and more about Transform Consulting Group. I have found that we don’t stop working where other consultants might.

At other consulting groups, the typical client engagement cycle is this: Research is finished. Meeting is over. Report is delivered. On to the next client.

Client:  Now what?

Consultant:  I wonder what they did with our recommendations.

TCG goes further – we help you implement change.

At Transform Consulting Group we go further in helping our clients implement change. One way we do this is through training our client’s staff.

CLD TrainingJust like no funder wants to adopt a grantee forever, no client wants to hire a consultant forever. We want to make sure that the work we have completed for the client will be sustained beyond our engagement with the client.  

We work with several clients to support their evaluation needs. This might include evaluating a program for a grant, developing an evaluation plan and process, or developing a data dashboard. Evaluation can be intimidating for many of our client’s staff, so we make sure we develop data tools and plans that they can manage and implement beyond our engagement. In order to accomplish this, we might embed a series of trainings for staff throughout our evaluation project.

We are currently doing this right now for the Center for Leadership Development. We have provided the following training topics mainly around analyzing data:

Our trainings include detailed slides, a recording of our training, and handouts. These are all useful tools that can be shared with new staff at an organization.

We also offer trainings on other topics for which we provide services. Some of our popular trainings include:CQI Training UW Central IN

Not only does the organization benefit, but according to research, employees want professional development!  It makes them feel that the company is investing in them and their development, which can increase employee retention.  A win-win!

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the importance of evaluation and the critical step of implementation.  If your organization needs help developing its staff or would like to engage with a consultant that can help you through the entire evaluation process, contact us today to learn more!

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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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Benchmarking Organizations Similar To Yours

If you are looking to make a change in your organization, then you may want to start by benchmarking the practices of organizations similar to yours. There’s no need to spend your valuable time and energy reinventing the wheel. There are other organizations with programs similar to yours, in regions similar to yours, with funding needs similar to yours. Learn from them!CHIP

Transform Consulting Group recently went through the process of benchmarking other nonprofit organizations for our client, CHIP: The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention. CHIP is in the process of growing its programming and is seeking to partner with new funders.

2 Reasons You May Benefit From Benchmarking

  1. One reason you might benefit from benchmarking is if you want to change your programming or expand to serve different clients or another location. Start by benchmarking the best practices of organizations with similar programming—both locally and in other regions similar to yours. Then, focus on nonprofits that have already successfully navigated a comparable change or expansion.

    For our work with CHIP, they were already experts on funding sources of local homeless service providers since they function as a leader in the homelessness system in Indianapolis. We were able to help them by benchmarking other homeless service system leaders in similar cities across the country. Through this process, we identified different funding streams that CHIP is now leveraging. We also investigated various ways that other organizations have developed partnerships with homeless service providers, as well as public-private partnerships. Then, we analyzed the aspects of these structures that aligned with CHIP’s goals for development and expansion.
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  2. Another reason benchmarking may benefit your organization is if you want to diversify your funding streams. First, research organizations with similar programming in different regions to learn about funders and funding sources that may also be available to you. Then, benchmark other organizations in your region with programming that is different from yours. Some of those organizations’ funding strategies may be applicable to you.

3 Strategies For Conducting Benchmarking Research

  1. Online Research – In today’s Information Age, the majority of information that we want to know is readily available at our fingertips. Doing research online goes beyond just looking at an organization’s website. You can dig deeper by looking at their annual reports and other publications. In addition, remember to check out their social media posts for more information about how they operate. Also, use a search engine, such as Google, to find out what others are saying about the organization.
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  2. Review 990s – Some nonprofit organizations share detailed information about their funding sources on their website or in their annual reports, but others do not. Most nonprofits have to file an annual tax form called a Form 990. If an organization doesn’t put it on their website, you can find their 990 elsewhere online.
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    Since our work with CHIP is centered on fund development, we paid particular attention to 990s in our research. We analyzed and compared the amount of funding coming from various sources, such as philanthropic grants, member dues, and government grants.
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  3. Key Informant Interviews – Electronic research is very useful, but sometimes you can learn more from a conversation with an expert. If you identify a few organizations that are very relevant to your work and goals, then reach out to staff there. Before your conversation with them, be sure to plan your questions ahead of time. Keep your questions focused on your goals in order to make the most of your time and theirs!

Tracking Key Indicators

Track your findings, and synthesize what you’ve learned! Before starting your research, set up a tracking system that works for you and your team. Then, document what you learn. Finally, figure out how your learnings can positively impact your organization! assess-01

These are some key indicators you may want to track.

  • Organization Nam
  • Location & Service Area
  • Population Served & Demographics
  • Organization Size & Number of Staff
  • Programs, Initiatives, & Focus Areas
  • Funding Sources & Funders
  • Interesting Data & Ideas
  • Collaboration with Partners

If your organization wants to make a change in order to have a bigger impact, Transform Consulting Group can help you with the necessary research & analysis to achieve your goals. Contact us today to get started!

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4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

Too often non-profits and government agencies immediately begin implementing a new program or service area. They see a need with their clients or a gap in the existing services, so they elect to help meet that need. This all sounds good, right? The challenge is that there has not been enough time to complete a comprehensive planning and assessment process to develop the program or service. One service we offer our clients to meet this need is completing a feasibility study.plan-act-do-study-cycle4

We follow the Plan-Do-Study-Act or “PDSA” continuous quality improvement cycle (learn more in this blog).  We help clients assess, design, launch and evaluate programs and services in order to meet community needs and apply the latest research. When following this approach, we most often find that clients tend to skip the first step “Plan” and jump straight to “Do” as mentioned above. We work to help our clients thoughtfully plan out their services, programs, and interventions before they implement them to get the impact and desired change they are working towards.

Implementing a feasibility study is a great tool to complete a thoughtful planning process. A well designed feasibility study will help an organization assess 1) if what they are thinking of implementing is possible and 2) how to consider implementing it.

Shoes at ArrowsWe are currently working with a group of community leaders in Jay County to complete the feasibility of converting an old elementary school building into an early childhood center. Like many rural communities, Jay County has a declining population that has impacted their local schools in continuing to operate multiple school buildings, which has resulted in school consolidations and closures. At the same time, their rural community also struggles with attracting new employers due to a lack of child care for a growing workforce. Their community leaders had the idea of converting a closed elementary school into an early childhood center but wanted assistance in completing a feasibility study first.

4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

 

1. Market Analysis

During this step you want to gather key information about your targeted population. This includes collecting demographic information from online public sources. This helps create a composite of your targeted community and population. We also suggest completing a landscape assessment to identify any other organization providing similar services or working with the target population. Lastly, it’s important to gather some qualitative feedback from various key stakeholders in the community to determine what they think the needs and gaps are as well as build community will for possibly launching a new service. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, and key informant interviews.

The purpose of this step is to ensure that there is in fact a need for your proposed program/ service. Check out this blog for more insight on completing a community needs assessment!

2. Program Design

During this step you will want to complete some research on your targeted service area. For Jay County, we are gathering the latest research on early childhood program models and services that lead to the desired outcomes they are seeking. Our landscape scan is also looking at existing program models in the community so as to not duplicate existing options but to consider complementary program models that will meet the needs of communities. If you are seeking external funding, you may want to adopt or align your program around research-based models that have demonstrated outcomes. This will provide confidence to potential funders in implementing a new program.

The purpose of this step is to determine the best model and design for implementing your program. Check out this blog for more tips on finding evidence-based programs.

3. Business Model

The next step is to develop the business model for operating the program. During this phase of the feasibility study you will gather important financial information that will help you understand what it will cost to implement the program and potential sources of funding. You should create a budget and possibly complete some financial forecasting to show start-up costs and when the program would “break even” or be self-sustaining. This step should also assess the operations behind implementing the program, which includes the staffing model, materials and services, training, facility, technology, equipment and other program needs.

With Jay County, we are completing walk-throughs of three possible locations with an architect and construction group to inform the best location to operate an early childhood center. This will inform the potential capacity to serve children, the staffing needs and ultimately budget the break down for start-up costs versus ongoing maintenance costs. The purpose of this step is to think through all of the components needed to successfully implement the program.

Check out this blog for some tips to establish financial goals.

4. Communications Plan

The last (and sometimes forgotten) step is to develop a communications strategy if you decide to launch the new program. After spending all of this time assessing and planning the design of the program, you want to ensure that the targeted audience knows about the program and enrolls/ participates. The communications plan would include determining the current knowledge base in the community, so there might need to be some education and awareness about why you are providing this service especially if it is new and different.

In Jay County, we are launching a PR Campaign through a series of op-eds penned by different key stakeholders (employers, teachers, judge, doctor, etc.) in the community all talking about why expanding early childhood is critical to meet the community’s needs. Your communications plan should include the different channels (social media, newspaper, radio, text, mailings, etc.) that residents use to gather information. In a parent survey (our potential client for early childhood services), we asked them where they get their information and their preferred method of communication. Based on this assessment, develop a start-up marketing plan and community education plan for the proposed new program that will meet participation goals and engage the key stakeholders and partners in the community.

Check out this blog for tips on creating an op-ed campaign and this blog for getting media attention.

Completing a feasibility study may seem unnecessary or slow down your timeline, but the time you invest up front will see a return in a well thought out model that will be set up for success and to accomplish your goals. Completing intentional design through the PDSA model is a critical differentiator for Transform Consulting Group and many clients point specifically to this process improving their own internal operations which accelerates impact. Contact us if we can help you complete a feasibility study!

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