Category Archives: General Information

Is Your Non-profit a Cooperator or a Competitor?

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

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

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

Benefits of Cultivating Non-profit Networks

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

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

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

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

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

 

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4 Steps to Create a Dashboard

In today’s information age, organizations are overwhelmed with the amount of information that they collect, track and monitor.  Non-profit leaders must decipher through all the data to determine what is meaningful and relevant to share with staff, funders, Board of Directors and other community partners.  A dashboard is a great tool to bring all the critical elements together in a user-friendly report.

Through our program evaluation and research and analysis services, we help organizations create dashboards.  Here are a four steps to create an effective dashboard:

  1. Determine the audience for the dashboard. A dashboard is customized for the audience meant to view and use the dashboard, so first an organization needs to determine the intended audience. Then an organization needs to determine the key takeaways that you want the targeted audience to get from this dashboard.  Lastly, the organization should really focus on the information that is most important and relevant for this audience.
  1. Decide on what the dashboard is tracking now that the audience is determined. A dashboard is meant to communicate progress over time, such as monthly, quarterly or annually. In addition, data in the dashboard can be used to compare different data sets, such as geographic locations, sites or populations. These factors need to be determined to provide the appropriate context for decision makers.
  1. Determine the visuals that will be most effective in communicating the message. In most cases, we work to fit a dashboard on one-page. This does not provide much “real estate”, so you must be intentional about the visuals used to grab the audience’s attention and display the key messages [Sidebar: this is why we use Tableau!]. A dashboard does not have much room for wording and explanation.
  1. Determine the delivery of the dashboard. In most cases, dashboards are “static” or print reports that are shared via handouts or electronically. However, with the growing development of software programs more interactive dashboards are being created.  In some cases, there may be value in creating both a static dashboard that is completed annually and an interactive dashboard that is updated real-time.

Dashboard Blog imageAs we shared in this blog post about creating a needs assessment and annual report, we mentioned the state dashboard and county profile that we created for ELAC.  After conducting the first state needs assessment on young
children, ELAC realized that the amount of data and information was overwhelming. ELAC was inspired by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 16 indicator dashboard in their annual data book and used this to create ELAC’s dashboard.

Following the four steps above and inspired by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s dashboard, we worked with ELAC to create a state dashboard that:

  • Identifies four focus areas related to children and families, high-quality care programs, education workforce, and kindergarten readiness with 16 key indicators.
  • Compares progress over time (dependent upon the release of new/ old data)
  • Uses arrows (a visual tool) to depict if the numbers represent improvement (arrow goes up) or worsening (arrow goes down).

After a few years of creating the ELAC state dashboard, communities across the state of Indiana were asking for this same data at the local level.  We worked with ELAC and our state data partners to gather the county level information to create a two-page county dashboard and profile.  The first page of the county profile mirrors the state dashboard with a few exceptions.

Instead of comparing progress over time, the county dashboards compare the county data to the state data.  Following steps #1 and #2 above, we focused on the audience for the county dashboards who said that having their data in the context of the state data would be helpful to know if they are doing better or worse.  Therefore, that ranked as a higher priority than comparing their data over time.

The second page of the ELAC county dashboard was new and provided the opportunity to add visuals (charts and graphs) to depPicture1ict the key findings in the full narrative report.  The visuals help to communicate complex information in simple charts.

Using a data visualization software program like Tableau is critical to not only help make the dashboards visually appealing but also to automate the process.  In this case, we created 93 unique dashboards for the state and all 92 counties.  While the ELAC dashboards are currently only static reports, there is the option and feature (with Tableau) of making them interactive like the Indiana Commission of Higher Education’s College Readiness Dashboard. One of our good friends, the M.A. Rooney Foundation, has also been working to transpose K-12 data for schools and community partners into meaningful dashboards.
Are you ready to get started in creating a dashboard for your organization? We would love to work with you to help you focus in on the key indicators important for your organization and create a dashboard that informs decision-making! Contact us today for help.

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