Category Archives: Fundraising Strategies

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).

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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.

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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 Steps for Creating a Fund Development Case Statement

A fund development case statement is a broad three- to five-page overview of your nonprofit organization that highlights who you are and what sets you apart from other similar nonprofits. Your case statement sets a foundation for grant applications and donation requests.  

Fund Dev Case Statement Blog

At Transform Consulting Group, we use 3 steps when partnering with organizations to create a fund development case statement. We recently used these steps to develop a case statement for the Johnson County Learning Center (JCLC): Early Learning Community. JCLC provides early childhood education for families in Johnson County. Right now, they are seeking to increase their overall funding and diversify their funding streams. They are new to fund development, so one of our solutions was to help develop their case statement.

Step 1: What is the Need?

Address the compelling need for your organization or cause. Why do you exist? What happened to spark the founding of the organization? Why do you continue to operate? What problem(s) in particular are you working to solve? Consider the following:

    • Demographics: Who is your target population? What are some key data points that characterize them and demonstrate their unmet need?
    • Services: Is there a lack of services like yours? Are you filling a critical gap? Do you provide speciality services that are needed and missing?
    • Research: What does the literature say about why your work matters? What studies have been done that demonstrate the importance of your work and cause?

Tip: Use available, relevant information. Perhaps organizations in your community or region have conducted needs assessments. For state and national data sources, check out our blog.

For JCLC’s case statement, we used Census data to help funders and donors get a sense of the community’s demographics. Since they work in the early learning and education industry, we pulled data from the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) county profiles and interactive dashboard and the Indiana Department of Education.

Step 2: What are You Currently Doing?

Address what you are currently doing to meet the need. How does your organization fill the existing gap in your community? Consider the following:

    • Programming: What are the programs and services that you offer? What makes them uniquely effective?
    • Impact: What are your results and accomplishments, including the numbers served and outcomes? What positive trends or recent changes have you identified?
    • Stories: Who can tell personal stories about the positive impact of your organization in their lives?

Tip: Use existing language from your website, annual report, and newsletters.

JCLC had already developed content for their website to communicate their mission and programming. In addition, they pulled some data reports to provide more detail about their reach and partnerships. We were able to use their existing language and data as a foundation for their fund development case statement.

Step 3: What are Your Plans for the Future?

Address what else you hope to accomplish that will better meet the need of your target population. This is why you are asking for grant funding. Consider the following:

    • Unmet Need: Why do you want this grant funding? Is there a population or geographic area you are unable to serve?
    • Your Case: How is what you are currently doing (while great) not enough to meet the compelling need? What are your limitations?
    • Your Proposal: How would you use the funding in order to meet the need?
      • Expand Services: Is the need overwhelming and you need to serve more?
      • Enhance Services: Do you need to refine your services or programs in a particular way, such as specializing or retooling them to meet the needs of the target population?
      • Launch New Services: Do you need to start something new to fill a gap, perhaps based on new research; a new community needs assessment; or a changing target population?

Tip: There’s no need to start from scratch if you don’t have to! Consider if you have written similar information for other grants or reporting requirements. More than likely you have this information in multiple places and just need to thoughtfully pull it together.

Data from ELAC and Child Care Aware of America shows that in Johnson County, there are many families who cannot afford the cost of early childhood education. At the same time, a growing body of research shows the positive impact for children, especially low-income children, attending a high-quality early education program. These children can achieve positive academic, social, and economic outcomes (ELAC Annual Report, 2018). There is a need for community investment to create a more robust scholarship program that would help make sure all families can access the education needed for their youngest children. Now, JCLC will share this data with local funders to seek the specific dollar amounts necessary to increase the number of children served by their scholarship program.

If your nonprofit needs to seek additional funding or you would like help reviewing or creating a fund development case statement, contact us today to get your organization on the way to financial strength and sustainability!

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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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Looking for Grants? Learn About Funders with Foundation Directory Online!

Whether you’re a seasoned grant writer or just starting out, it can be a challenge to find possible grant opportunities. In today’s information age, the internet is an incredible resource to find information on potential funders. However, not all funders who award grants have an online presence. In fact, only 10% of foundations have a website. Another useful strategy for finding possible grants is through word of mouth in your local community and region.

FDO-foundation-directory-onlineIf you rely only on the internet and relationships for possible fuding, then your organization may be missing out on potential grant opportunities to support your fund development goals. One of our “go-to” sources is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) database. FDO is one of the services provided by Foundation Center. There is a fee to access the information in their database, but we find that it is worth it due to the amount of information that you will be able to gather, as well as the ease of searching in their database. 

3 Ways That Foundation Directory Online Can Help You

  1. Find Possible New Funders – You may have an idea for a new project, or you might want to expand an existing part of your programming. In order to accomplish this, you need to find funders with available grant opportunities that could support your goals. The FDO search fields let you specify the subject of your project or program, your geographic area, and the population you serve (e.g. youth or veterans). For example, if you want to find funders that would support your homeless programs in Michigan, you could type in those categories to find possible funders. You can add more layers to the search to narrow the focus or remove restrictions to broaden it. You can save your search criteria each time, allowing you to come back to your results as needed.
     FDO-Michigan-homeless
    Some private and corporate foundations, particularly larger ones, have websites with detailed information about the types of projects and programs they fund, as well as their grant application process. In these cases, it is typically best to rely on the information on funders’ websites, rather than the FDO database, since it may take some time for FDO to be updated. The Joyce Foundation is an example of a funder with a lots of detail about projects they have funded on their website. However, when foundation websites do not exist or do not contain enough information, FDO can fill in those gaps.
  2. Complete Prospect Research on Funders – Let’s say that you FDO-grant-size-chartrecently learned about a local or national funder, and you want to find out if they would be a good partner for your organization. You can search FDO for information about that particular funder, including the types of projects they have previously funded. You may also want to find out how much you should ask for in a grant, so you could use FDO to find information on their past grantee award amounts. FDO lists each grant made by each funder, the dollar amount of each grant, and the reipient of each grant. They also compile data in chartsand graphs, giving you quick access to summaries, along with the option to click for more detail.                 Pro Tip: Sometimes funders have a different legal name than the name you know. If you’re having trouble finding them by their organization name, you can do a keyword search.
  3. Benchmark Other Nonprofit Organizations – Nonprofits can also learn from other similar organizations in the same region or industry. FDO can help you benchmark the funding strategies of those organizations. Search for similar nonprofits by name or keyword to find out what kind of funding they have received in the past.

The process of seeking grants from private and corporate foundations often requires some level of relationship-building with staff at the foundation. Once you have identified potential funders that fit your subject area, geographic region, and population served, then you need to determine how to approach the foundation about funding your project. Many foundations note that they do not accept unsolicited grant applications. This usually means they want to have a conversation with you or receive a Letter of Inquiry from you to get an overview of your organization before you submit a proposal. This will help them determine if it is worth your time to prepare a detailed grant application or if your proposal does not match their funding goals.

FDO compiles information from many sources, including foundation websites and 990 tax forms. If you access FDO, then you do not have to conduct this research yourself. Some of the most helpful information in FDO is found on each funder’s Grantmaker Record page, and we have found some good ways to search for results.

Tips for Making the Most of Foundation Directory Online

  • As you navigate FDO, it is important to remember that what you type into each search field continues to impact the records you pull up. For example, if you type “Indianapolis Colts” into the keyword field and then click on the Grantmaker Record for Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, you will not see the full information about this grantmaker. Instead, now that your “Indianapolis Colts” search pulled up the full name of this grantmaker, copy the full name and then clear that search. Next, go to the “Organization Name” field and paste or begin typing “Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program.” Once that name pops up as a choice, select it, and click search. Now, when you click on that Grantmaker Record, you will see all the details about this funder.
  • Some organizations, like Central Indiana Community Foundation, both receive grants and give grants. Therefore, FDO has both a “Recipient Record” and a “Grantmaker Record” for them. Be sure you are looking at the right record in order to get the information you are seeking.
  • Within the Grantmaker Record, you can filter your results to focus in on only previous grants given to organizations similar to yours, projects like yours, or programs in your geographic area. As you move from screen to screen, be sure that the tabs and filters selected are the ones you want to see.

If your nonprofit organization is on the smaller side, you may find that the costs of a subscription outweigh the benefits. You can always do your own research into prospective funders’ 990 tax forms. Check out our blog on 990s and this free resource for finding 990 forms.

Whether your nonprofit is large or small, Transform Consulting Group can help you navigate grant research and writing! Contact us today to get started.

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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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Why Are Financial Goals Important?

Your organization probably has a mission statement and strategies in place for achieving your program goals, but do you also have concrete financial goals? Whether you administer a nonprofit, faith-based organization, or a small business, you have to think about the financial health of your organization.

Your mission and program goals are, by definition, tied to financial goals. Serving your clients and families, as well as paying your staff, requires funding. If you haven’t thought about the health of your current budget or your future financial goals, now is the time! The 4 steps outlined below can guide you.

Step 1: Assess your organization’s finances.

  • First, you may need to spend time reviewing your current revenue, expenses, and the quality of your bookkeeping. In this process, engage your leadership team, board of directors, and/or financial consultants.
  • If needed, determine how to improve your accounting practices. Keep in mind that accounting and other supportive services are part of what enables your programming to have the desired impact.
  • If your organization is not consistently breaking even, then that will inform your financial goals. If your revenue exceeds your costs, how are you reinvesting it in your mission?

Step 2: Set specific goals for your program, such as increasing funding or serving more clients.

  • Separate from the process of reviewing your budget, do you have ideas for the future of your program?
  • Does your organization have an up-to-date strategic plan? In your planning process, did you start by determining the end results that you want to see?
    • What are your plans for program improvement? Goals for Financial Goals Blog
    • Is your organization looking to replicate its services in another geographic region?
    • Did your needs assessment indicate that you should expand to serve a broader range of clients and families?
  • As you are going through the process of turning big ideas into program goals, be sure that you make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, or SMART.

Step 3: Set financial goals that will enable you to meet your program goals. What will it cost to meet these goals?

  • You may have some goals for your organization that do not require additional funding. Perhaps you need to prioritize your current funding and/or staff time.
  • Other goals, like serving additional clients, expanding to a new region, and increasing staff wages, do require additional funding.
  • Quantify your specific short-term and long-term funding goals. Then, specify how these goals help you achieve your desired outcomes.Financial Goals-Blog image

Step 4: Develop specific strategies to accomplish your financial goals.

  • One possible strategy is decreasing your current costs. Review your spending from the past few years to see if there are opportunities to save money.
    • You may find that your organization is using resources for activities that are not as closely tied to your mission as they should be.
    • Could you negotiate with any of your vendors for lower service fees?
  • Bringing in additional revenue can be a daunting task. Break it down into smaller pieces.
    • What type of funding are you already accessing that could be increased?
      • Could you raise more from individual or corporate donors?
      • Could you increase your fees for services?
    •  What other funding sources are you not already accessing?
      • Could you write a grant for the first time?
      • Is there government funding available that supports your field?

As you assess the overall health of your organization, remember to focus on areas in which your background is not strong. If you are the director of early childhood education program, then your experience and education is likely in the field of child development. You probably have a lot of ideas to improve the quality of education at your program. Also be sure to consult experts in other areas, like finance, to ensure you are making the most impact!

Our team is currently engaged in a project funded by Partnerships for Early Learners, a program of Early Learning Indiana. We are working with 10 early learning programs across Indiana to help them meet their financial goals. Going through this 4-step process is different for each program. The programs are structured differently and bring unique skills to the table. Despite their differences, each program has been able to set specific goals and find funding strategies that will work best for them.

If you’re ready to jump into this process and need some help with goal setting or fund development, contact us at Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

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Why You Should Consider Implementing STEM Curriculum

It’s all the buzz right now, so what is STEM? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s an approach to education that’s designed to revolutionize the typical teaching of subjects like math and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum.

STEM Education shifts the typical teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning and hands-on activities. Some programs have added “A” for art making the acronym “STEAM”. By adding art, educators are promoting creativity and flexible thinking among students in a science and mathematics context.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 9.47.29 PM

Workforce and economic development experts strongly support the need for a STEM/STEAM focus, which may be why it’s such a hot topic right now:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration, career opportunities related to STEM over the past ten years have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs.
  • In 2018, there are projected to be 2.4 million STEM jobs in the U.S that could go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.
  • STEM occupations have wages significantly above the national average wage for all occupations. The national average wage for all STEM occupations was $87,570, nearly double the national average wage for non-STEM occupations ($45,700).

In a recent project, our team worked with an organization to apply for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant. This non-profit organization offers after-school programming for middle school and high school students. Part of their grant application included implementing STEAM in their weekly curriculum and connecting students to local STEAM career pathways. As we worked to implement this curriculum shift, the organization saw four major benefits.

Benefits of STEM / STEAM:

  1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
  2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.
  3. Pave the way for new partnerships.
  4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.
1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
 

By offering STEM / STEAM focused curriculum, you are supporting students’ development of skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career options. This focus encourages strong community partnerships, which allow students to participate in internships and apprenticeships. It also provides additional opportunities for creative and innovative academic enrichment that support students in developmental areas such as academic, social/emotional, civic engagement, wellness, etc. By exposing students to various STEM / STEAM careers, it helps them identify their postsecondary education and career pathway.

2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.

By offering a STEM / STEAM program, you can help set your community up for success by encouraging skills needed for the local workforce. In our example regarding the 21st CCLC grant application, we found that a STEM / STEAM focus for students could really pay off for the entire county. In one school district included in the program, 55% of the students enrolled in college within a year following graduation. Unfortunately, the students are not persisting through completion. Currently, only 29% of the county adults hold an Associate’s degree or higher. That is less than half of the students who enrolled in postsecondary education and the state’s projected goal and need for 60% of adults to have postsecondary education. In this same community, manufacturing jobs – high-skilled and high paying jobs – represent almost half of the employment in the county. Expanding students’ knowledge of STEM-related careers and creating stronger partnerships as well as career pathways will be a game changer in this county!

Boy Assembling Robotic Kit In Bedroom

3. Pave the way for new partnerships.

With a structured STEM / STEAM curriculum, organizations can pull in local partnerships to enhance programming. With the organization mentioned above, we had numerous businesses in the community agree to facilitate field trips, presentations, and hands on activities to enrich the programming for students while also educating the students about local career pathways available. This is invaluable experience for a student who is trying to figure out what their options are after graduation. It is also a beneficial partnership for businesses who need to maintain their workforce pipeline.

4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.

Because STEM / STEAM is all the hype right now, there are numerous funding streams available to support your work. Funders see this as a significant need in our education and workforce systems and are looking to support organizations who can successfully address this need. For the 21st CCLC grant, priority points were given to organizations who included STEM / STEAM in their programming. There is ample data available to convince local businesses and philanthropic partners to invest. Having a clear, focused curriculum in place can open NEW doors for additional funding streams.

As education and technology continues to transform the way we live, work, and learn, STEM / STEAM is something to consider for organizations serving young people. If your organization is ready to take the plunge and shift your curriculum focus, we’d love to work with you. We can help find funding, research programs, write your grant, evaluate existing efforts, and more. Contact us today and let’s chat!

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How to use 990 tax forms for grant writing?

Writing grants can be a long, arduous process.  In this past blog, we talked about five steps for grant writing.  Once you have identified possible funders who share alignment with your organization’s mission and goals, you want to gather more information to make a compelling grant request.

Some helpful things to know about a possible funder before submitting a grant application are the following:

  1. Who have they funded in the past?Tax form image
  2. How much have been their grants?
  3. What have been the projects / services funded?
  4. Who is on their Board of Directors?

This research is not an absolute that would change your grant proposal but would help inform the overall approach and priorities to pitch. In general you want to know the types of organizations that they have funded in the past to see if you fit into the category.  For example, if the funder has only supported direct service organizations then they may not fund an intermediary organization. You would still want to ask the funder to make sure you fit their description of possible grantees but this might provide some good insight.

Secondly, it is really important to find out their typical grant funding range. You don’t want your ask to be too small when you could have asked for a higher amount based on their past funding. At the same time, you don’t want your ask too large if that is well beyond what they have funded.  Again, you still want to talk with the funder about what you are proposing, the need and an appropriate amount.

Third, it is helpful to see the types of projects that they have funded. Typically, the funder will list acceptable areas of focus and uses of the grant funds.  However, sometimes that information is not readily available.  For example, would the funder support capital projects, capacity building projects for the organization, or the types of direct services?

Fourth, grant writing is so much more than the technical writing and submission of grant applications.  It is really about building a relationship with the funder and grantee.  The funder is a partner and extension of the work of your organization.  As such, you will want to build a relationship with the funder including the staff and members of their board of directors.

Some funders do a good job of including this information on their website.  However, we find that not all of this information is readily available. A great tool that we turn to is finding the funder’s “Form 990-PF” tax return.

What is Tax Form 990-PF?

Tax exempt organizations must file some version of the Tax Form 990 with the IRS each year to maintain their standing. Non-profit organizations file Form 990, and private foundations file Form 990-PF. The “PF” stands for Private Foundation.

The 990-PF provides fiscal data for the foundation, names of trustees and officers, application information, and a complete grants list.  The last item is most helpful for your research.

The funder lists all of the organizations who received a grant in the past calendar year.  It essentially answers the three items listed above: who they founded, how much and for what!

The 990-PF can also be useful for relationship building with the funder. For example, an organization’s Form 990 includes the contact information for the private foundation if they do not have a website. In addition, the 990 provides the names of the people on the board and the officers whom you might know and start to build relationships.

Where can you find the Form 990-PF for Funders?

In today’s information age, there are some great online tools to find organization’s 990s.  

  1. Search Engines: You can search an organization’s 990 through different online search engines, such as Google by using keywords.
  2. Funder’s Website: Some funders will post their past 990s directly on their website, so start there.
  3. Foundation Center’s 990 Finder: they have developed an online search tool specifically for 990s. There are other organizations, such as Charity Navigator, that post 990s but they link back to the Foundation Center. 

If you are looking to increase and diversify your funding through grant writing, contact us.  We would love to learn more about your goals and see how we can accelerate your impact!

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How to Create a Fund Development Plan

At Transform Consulting Group, we know how stressful and time consuming it can be to find funding sources that match an organization’s mission and vision that are also sustainable for future growth. We have found that taking the time to create a fund development plan and have some additional resources on-hand can greatly reduce the stress and confusion related to finding (and landing!) funding.

In this blog, we will share some of the tips and strategies we use with clients to formalize their fund development plans.

Start with the END in Mind

Before you choose which fundraising strategy to pursue, you need a clear vision of where you (and your Board) want Shoes at Arrowsyour organization to be as a result of this funding ask. In order to know where you want to end up, start with these two steps:

Step 1: Review your Strategic Plan

Having a clear and updated strategic plan can be a very helpful resource in deciding which funding streams to pursue to support your organization’s goals.

Step 2: Identify Top Program and Financial Goals
  1. What are your program goals for additional funding?
    • Do you want more professional development for staff? To implement a new program? Expand your service capacity? Grow into a new geographic market or target population? Improve your year-end campaign?
  2. What are your financial goals for your organization?
    • Are you relying too heavily on grants and want to diversify your funding streams? Do you want to increase your cash reserve? Strengthen the financial stability of your organization? What are your overall goals for your organization for the next 2-5 years? Do you want to increase staff wages or benefits?

Having goals for your organization helps guide you to the type of funding to pursue.

How it’s Done

At Transform Consulting Group, we have divided the fund development process into three focus areas:

  1. Past: review past and current portfolio of funding to identify themes and potential opportunities.
  2. Present: review the current research, assess industry trends, and benchmark other successful organizations.
  3. Future: create and help implement a fund development plan based on your future goals.

Funding Analysis

Taking a look at past and current funding sources provides historical context into the types of funding partnerships, including opportunities for growth. During this funding analysis, it’s important to review the following:

  1. Funders over the past 5-10 years –  what they funded, the amount funded, and the relationship with the organization.
  2. Prospect list –  which groups or individuals did not agree to funding your organization and reviewing why.
  3. Financial statements – identify the current revenue sources by funding category and pros/cons of each to determine growth area(s) needed.

Research Benchmarks

It is essential to take some time to do an environmental scan of current research and new trends that can support your funding requests. Below we outline the flow of research:

  1. Research current trends in the industry that provide important context for the need for your organization.
  2. Benchmark other similar organizations for funding strategies and opportunities that you could possibly replicate.
  3. Identify the need for targeted funding strategies and sources based on your demographics and supporting research.

Create a Fund Development Plan

You made it! You have done your reflections and outlined where you want to end up. Now it’s time to put a plan in place.

Here are the three pieces included in a fund development plan:

  1. Create: You have done the work to get to this point, so now is when you put it on paper. Using the goals identified in your reflection and the findings from your research, outline prospective funding opportunities, target numbers, strategies, timeline, and responsibilities.
  2. Develop: Now that you have your plan outlined, you need to develop your funding tools (case for support, donor letters, funding campaigns, sponsorship packages, grant proposals, etc.).
  3. Implement:  It is a reward getting to this point! Whether this entails applying for grants, making the ask for shared services, or launching an awareness campaign, you are now ready to move forward!

Creating a fund development plan takes time and energy, but it truly pays off in the end. Being knowledgeable about your organization’s current state and future goals, the latest trends and community needs, and the appropriate funding sources to pursue will greatly increase your chances of being funded and the financial health of your organization.

Whether you are ready to apply for funding or have no clue where to start, we can help! Contact us today for more information on fund development strategies.

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