Category Archives: General Information

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 Future-Ahead-e1420924231992where you (and your Board) want your 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. fund-development
  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!

FD 2

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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Does Your Organization Have a Continuous Quality Improvement Process?

During a time where communities and policies are changing, it is important to ensure the programs and services within those communities are constantly evolving to meet the needs of families. The Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) model is an on-going process for organizations to be able to determine whether or not a change made led to an improvement in quality. In order to move towards making the necessary improvements, a review of what occurred is conducted through a CQI process like the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

Steps to Complete a PDSA Cycleplan-act-do-study-cycle4

At Transform Consulting Group, we utilize this consistent approach when working with organizations to help them find solutions.

Plan:

Before beginning your PDSA cycle, you will need to have identified a problem you would like to address for quality improvement. The problem identified will guide your purpose for the review. Once you have chosen a change idea to focus on you will need to go through the following steps to plan to test your idea for change:

  • Define the goals
  • Define your research question(s)
  • Make predictions
  • Determine details for implementation of change or intervention
  • Plan of action for data collection

During this phase, we work with the client to thoughtfully plan to implement their new or current program/ service. So often, organizations jump immediately to step 2 – “Do” without completing this critical first step.  During the Planning, we define what we hope to accomplish especially if we are proposing a change.  Then we determine how the proposed change/ intervention will be implemented and work through all of the details.  Lastly, we finalize how data will be collected.

Do:

This phase of the PDSA cycle requires you to conduct the test for the change or intervention. It is during this phase that you will complete the following tasks:

  • Carry out the intervention
  • Collect data
  • Begin data analysis

This step in the process is what most organizations know and are doing. Organizations are delivering interventions everyday with their services. They might be intentionally or unintentionally modifying their intervention.  The “Do” step in this process is not new to organizations.  It is wrapping it around the other three steps that make this work transformational!

Study:

The study phase of the cycle is the time where once you have completed your intervention, you analyze the data and study what did or did not occur.   Organizations will want to review their predictions and assumptions made before conducting the test. You will want to take the following steps during this phase of the cycle:

  • Complete data analysis
  • Compare data to predictions
  • Summarize the information

Organizations often skip over this step in the process or do not spend enough time thoughtfully reviewing the data. For some organizations, their data can be considered “high stakes” and there is a tendency to want to focus on the positive changes/ results that occurred and glance over the changes that did not occur or the benchmarks that were not met.  During this phase, it is so important for an organization to be transparent and honest with themselves when reviewing the data.

Act:

Based on the summarized information, this last phase of the cycle allows you to determine what modifications may need to be made to ensure that the goals you set will be met. Your organization may decide to modify a program element or change how a service is delivered; you may decide to target a different population or use a new curriculum.  Once you have determined whether or not to adapt, adopt, or abandon your intervention, you will be prepared to do the following:

  • Plan next cycle
  • Decide whether the change can be implemented

During this last step, your organization takes all of the information gathered to make data-informed decisions that will ultimately improve your results.  This is the exciting part of the process, and one that you don’t want to skip. This step and the overall PDSA process will help your organization continue to improve the quality of services provided and impact in the community.

In this blog, “Is it time to redesign your program?”, we shared several examples of clients who we used the PDSA process to help them test and implement new interventions/ modifications to make to their programs to improve their outcomes. The CQI process allows organizations to have a plan of action once a problem or service gap has been identified.

At Transform Consulting Group, we follow this consistent approach when helping you find solutions to accelerate your impact. If you are looking to improve the quality of a service or program to facilitate positive change, contact us today!

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Is it time to redesign your program?

Organizations – public and private – go through different stages of development.  During this life cycle, it is not uncommon for an organization to update or modify their programs and services.  At the same time, however, some organizations can be stagnant and need to update their programs. time 3How do you know when it is time for your organization to refresh your program?

Below are three questions you should ask yourself to determine if it is time to update your program.

  1. Are we making the impact that we hoped to make?
  2. Is our program aligned with the latest research?
  3. Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then it might be time to seriously review your program. You may not need a complete redesign of your program, but it’s time to reevaluate.

When we have worked with other organizations to help them improve their impact by updating their program model, there have been a range of changes that we proposed implementing to achieve their results.

In one case, we worked with a large volunteer literacy tutoring program who was not making the impact they had hoped to make.  Through our assessment, we proposed the following changes that were then implemented:

  • Clarify the target population – we learned that the target population to enroll in and receive this literacy tutoring program needed to be more focused.  Students who were reading just below grade level benefited the most from this program.  Students who were more than one grade level behind were not a good fit for this type of tutoring program.  
  • Strengthen the curriculum and training – Since this program relies on volunteers – non-professional educators –  to deliver the tutoring, the curriculum is critical.  After researching other effective literacy tutoring programs delivering the impact we had hoped, we saw a theme in the curriculum and instructional practices that they were implementing.  We adopted a specific model of instruction and updated the training for volunteers.
  • Expand the capacity – the need for this organization’s work was high in the community, but their ability to meet the need was limited to the available volunteers.  They were interested in expanding their capacity through AmeriCorps members who would be able to significantly expand the number of students enrolled in and benefiting from the program.  We helped them determine how AmeriCorps members could enhance the staff capacity of their program and restructure the program model.

With another client who is working to help get first generation college graduate students, they were struggling to deliver the outcomes to their funders.  As we started helping them pull their program data together, the results were not what they had hoped.  After reviewing the data and the program activities, it did not take long to identify some gaps and opportunities in the program.  From our work, we proposed and helped them implement the following changes:

  • Develop new curriculum – Over the years as new staff have worked on the program, the curriculum had “evolved” into a hodge podge of worksheets and lesson plans that were slightly modified each year.  There was not a clear alignment of the curriculum with the identified outcomes.  Rather than modifying what they had in place, we decided to start over in developing a new curriculum that clearly aligned to the outcomes and would be “turn key” for staff to implement.
  • Align multiple programs – This organization operated a school-year program as well as a summer program.  Both programs shared similar objectives of helping get more first generation college graduates.  However, they operated as two separate programs.  We initially started to focus on the school-year program but quickly realized that the “dosage” or impact potential with the summer program was much more focused (40 hours x 6 weeks = 240 hours of “intervention” versus 1.5 hours x 32 weeks = 48 hours of “intervention”).  When we combined the two programs as one overall program, we expanded the “dosage” exposure as well as the possibilities of impact.
  • Focus the target population – The organization was working with multiple schools across a city.  In some cases, it was a middle school in one district and a high school in another district.  Instead, we targeted 2 districts and ensured that we had the middle schools that fed into the high schools for continuity purposes since this program enrolled 7th – 12th grade students with the goal of students enrolling each year.  This change provided efficiencies for the staff and also helped ensure that the students targeted for the program would receive the greatest exposure of enrolling multiple years.

In today’s information era, there is more research that is available to inform our work and ensure that we are implementing best practice strategies to affect change.  In addition, the populations and communities that organizations are serving are changing, and need to evolve with them.  Lastly, local, state and federal policies and priorities are shifting.  Organizations that can adapt to this changing environment can grow and potentially expand their impact.

If you want help assessing the shifting landscape in your community or industry, or you answered ‘no’ to one of the three questions above, then contact us.  We would love to learn more about your program and goals to see how we could support you.

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How to Avoid Program Complacency

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

4 Steps

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

Focus on Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Us

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

 

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

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4 Steps for Creating an Op-Ed Campaign

Is there a cause or issue you’re tackling, and you want to raise public awareness? We talked about gaining media attention by writing press releases in this blog as a way to help communicate your organization’s efforts to your community. Another strategy for building awareness around your work is to kick off an op-ed campaign.

An op-ed is an opinion piece written by a freelance writer, usually on behalf of an organization or nonprofit.
ANYONE can write an op-ed, and it can be a great strategy for educating the public on a cause, an event or sharing opinions about an issue.Op-Ed Blog

Too often nonprofits are so focused on providing great services and programs that they forget about educating others in the community about the important issues they are working to address. You don’t need a marketing firm to implement this work if you follow the steps below.

  1. Narrow your focus

What do you want your op-eds to communicate? While you may have several people contributing letters with different angles (see step 2), you want to communicate a consistent message. Even though the letters submitted will come from a variety of people with various angles, they must have this consistent theme throughout.

  1. Brainstorm possible writers

The number of writers and op-eds aren’t as important as who you choose to write. It is important to have a diverse group of writers who are well-respected and well-known people in your community. You want writers who the public will listen to. You also want different backgrounds and angles so that at the end of your op-ed campaign, you have communicated the FULL story.

The “messengers” are just as important as the “message”. You should think about having folks on the receiving end of your services, if appropriate, share their perspective. You will also want to have unusual stakeholders contribute. For a campaign to raise awareness about early learning, you might want to have your chamber write an op ed about how it affects workforce development.

  1. Determine your writing process

Once you determine your writers, spend time creating a systematic process. We recommend these steps to get you started:

  • Outreach: Someone needs to make the formal “ask.” This could be a staff member, volunteer, or donor, but it’s helpful that the “ask” comes from someone who already has a relationship with your prospect.
  • Educate: Make sure the writer understands your overall goals. Provide the writer with background information and possible data to incorporate in their letter. Brainstorm specific talking points and the angle you want them to take. The more information you can provide, the more likely they are to stay on message and align with your overall goals.
  • Create a template: While you want the writer to feel free to express their own thoughts and opinions, it is helpful to create an outline, talking points or template for them to follow. This will keep them on track and alleviate any confusion they may have as they begin the writing process. Think of some of the questions they may ask: How long should my letter be? What is the timeline? What areas should I focus on? What is the call to action or conclusion?

    Creating a tips sheets for writing op-eds will help your writers draft a compelling story that will engage the audience.
  • Edit: Decide who will edit the letters and make sure they explain any suggested changes to the writer. You want the writer to stay engaged throughout the entire process, and you want them to feel proud to have their name attached to the final piece.
  • Submit the letter: Determine who will submit the letters, and where they will be submitted. In some communities, newspapers ONLY accept letters from locals. Do your research on the submission process and any requirements.

    If the writer is submitting the letter, provide them clear steps for submitting it with all contact information for the local newspapers to make the process as simple as possible.
  1. Maintain authenticity

Real people are going to be attaching their names to these op-eds, and you want their personal voices to shine. Encourage your writers to share real-life examples and their personal experiences about how this issue has impacted them. Nobody wants to pick up the newspaper and read an op-ed that looks like a research paper. Ultimately, readers want a story that engages them and relates to them.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help you communicate your work and build awareness for the important causes you’re working to address. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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Two-Generational Approach for Greater Impact

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

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

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

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WHAT IS A TWO-GENERATIONAL APPROACH?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GREAT FAMILIES 2020

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

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

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

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

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

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

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

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Top Ten Do’s and Don’t’s of Hiring

As a small business owner, I have the opportunity to hire new team members.  I did not take any courses in college or graduate school that taught me how to hire staff.  (Sidebar, I did not even know I was going to be a businessHiring Blog image 2 owner back then!)  However, over the past several years I learned some key strategies on what to do and what not to do when hiring.

Do’s and Don’t’s of Hiring New Team Members

  1. Do: Before you even start the application process, you have to have a clear understanding of your organization’s needs and how this role will fill the gap.  If you are replacing an exiting employee, do you want your new hire to have the same skill set?  Is your organization going in a new direction, and you want your new hire to have a set of skills to support that new direction?  This type of analysis should help inform any revisions to the job posting and the questions you ask during the interview.
  2. Don’t: Use only the standard methods of sharing the job posting.  Know your audience and market to determine the best methods and platforms to share the job opening.  For some organizations, it makes sense to post ads in the local newspaper.  For others, posts on social media platforms and trade associations works better.At TCG, we use a mixed-methods approach of paying a nominal fee to post with a trade association for nonprofit organizations, announcing it in our electronic newsletter and sharing across our social media platforms.  Keep an eye on your response rate and be willing to adjust your methods to get the results needed.
  3. Do: Think beyond the content skills you are seeking to the soft skills necessary to be successful in your organization.  Our staff must be sharp and also have the disposition to work collaboratively internally with their team and externally with our clients.  Therefore, we need team members who have the “smarts” and are also great communicators, problem solvers and partners.
  4. Don’t: Use the standard interview and hiring process. Rethink the traditional interview process and assess how it is working for you.  Are there steps that you can eliminate and still get good results?We diligently scan the best applications and only select the ones who are possible candidates to go through to the first round, which is a phone interview.  After the first round, you may be able to stop here and make a decision.  There’s no reason to drag on the process if you know who to hire and don’t need more information.  This will save you and your team time and money. If you are still unsure, assign a “homework” task to the possible candidates.  This could include a short writing sample, data viz, or blog post – whatever is relevant to the nature of the job.  A “homework” assignment could be more revealing than a second interview and show how much they want the position as well as their skills in action.
  5. Do: Describe the work culture and environment that you have to offer.  More and more employees are looking for a job in a work environment that they will be motivated in and thrive.  Do staff work in their office by themselves all day, or is it a collaborative open space environment? Not all employees are successful in a collaborative, open environment.  More and more employees want a flexible work schedule, ability to work remotely, and collaborate with staff while still working independently.  Do you have a clear sense of your work environment, culture and who will and will not be a good fit?  To your best ability, describe it in your job description or during the interview process.
  6. Don’t: Use the standard interview questions: Where do you see yourself in five years; What are your strengths; What are your weaknesses? The answers are often scripted and don’t really provide the insight necessary. Really think about the skills needed to perform the job and ask questions that give you the information needed. Some of my favorite interview questions include: Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?; We have to quickly learn about new industries and causes for our diverse clients. Tell me how you became informed and knowledgeable about a new issue area.  What would you do differently, if anything, the next time that you needed to learn something new?; Assume that you come to work here. One year from now you finish work one Friday evening thinking that accepting this job was the best thing you ever did. What happened during the year for you to feel that way?; Some of our team works remotely while others work in the office. This means you could be working independently for several days a week and then meeting with a client or a team member on the other days.  What experience do you have working in this type of environment and how would you be successful?
  7. Do: Be open to new possibilities.  In reviewing resumes and applications, the applicant may not “fit” the part on paper, but could be great in your company.  I look for skills that are transferable even if they are not in the same field or industry.  I also look for increasing leadership in the projects and experiences noted.  I have also learned that some more seasoned applicants are looking for career shifts and might be willing to take a pay cut to work with your organization that will help support their career shift.  Others might be looking for less responsibility and more work-life balance.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  8. Don’t: Ignore the applicants.  At every step of the hiring process, it is important to follow-up with all applicants.  Don’t leave anyone wondering if they made it to the next round or not.  I am shocked when I hear friends and colleagues share stories of interviewing for positions and then receiving no response.  I understand that the interview process might take longer to make a decision, so I will check in with the applicants and let them know it is taking longer or tell them then if they are no longer being considered.  I consider all potential applicants as possible clients or employees.  They may not be a fit for the position today, but could be in the future. They could also be a future client depending on their next job, so I want our company to be well represented throughout the interview process.
  9. Do: Say “no” when you know it is not a good fit.  In general, I am a nice person and have a hard time disappointing others. For some applicants, they will convince themselves that this is their dream job, and it is hard to turn someone down.  You will know almost immediately if someone is not the right fit through their application materials and the first interview.  Again, I consider our hiring process an outreach opportunity to meet new individuals in the field.  Therefore, I don’t want to burn any bridges, but at the same time I need to manage expectations for candidates who are not a good or right fit now.
  10. Don’t: Rush the hiring process.  It can be time consuming to thoughtfully review your organization’s needs and prepare a comprehensive job description and posting.  It takes significant time to read each applicant’s materials and respond to every applicant; to set up the interviews and write thoughtful interview questions; to determine the next steps in the hiring process (second interview or homework task); to follow-up with each applicant about next steps; to negotiate “win-win” offers; and to onboard new employees (which is a whole blog in itself!).  However, getting the right candidate is worth it if you invest your time in the front end of the hiring process.  This will hopefully result in more sustainability and productivity in your company, which is something we all want!

Like I said, I never set out to be a business owner hiring employees.  Now that I am in this position, I consider this an awesome responsibility and opportunity.  I have learned that each team member is an extension of our organization — our mission, values and priorities.  I want team members who will represent our organization well and be excited about our work. Learn more about our team and culture here and stay posted on any TCG job openings here

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Grants 101 – Types of Grants

We love seeing our partners accelerate their impact and serve their communities in a variety of ways. However, we understand the challenges you face and know that to do good work, you need money.  Grant writing is one strategy for raising funds to accelerate your organization’s impact.

There are two types of grants: Foundations and Government and both come with their benefits and challenges.

Foundations

Foundation grants can be community and public, private and family, or corporate.  According to Giving USA, foundations gave $59.28 billion in 2016.

Giving-USA-2017-Infographic

Benefits:
  • Foundation grants are usually broad in scope. They cover a variety of causes and are offered to organizations of all sizes.
  • These grants are usually more flexible. There is often freedom in making the grant work best for your goals and needs.
  • Once you receive a foundation grant, you will realize how much more hands-on foundation representatives are with your organization. There is a relational aspect as you go through the process and utilize the funds.  
  • Often the application for foundation grants is less cumbersome.
Challenges:
  • Foundation grants have a limited timeline.  They are typically for one-year and often for smaller amounts.  
  • Foundation grants are more relationship-oriented as noted above, which can be a benefit AND a challenge. If you are a recipient of a grant from a foundation, you will likely work closely with the people gifting the funds and are more susceptible to their opinions and ideas.

Government Grants

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Government grants are awarded at the federal, state and local level. The federal government spends over $500 billion a year distributing grants to state and local governments. 

Benefits:
  • Government grants are usually awarded in larger amounts and are often gifted over multiple years.
  • Government grants are more stable funding sources, and you can use these grants to make goals/plans for the long-term impact of your organization.
  • Government grants can be a great way to scale and expand a program or service.
Challenges:
  • The guidelines and requirements for government grants at any level are often more prescriptive and rigorous than foundation grants.
  • Applications for government grants can be cumbersome and often require more information on your organization, track record of success and results, and strong systems in place.
  • The competition for government grants is often high.
  • There are usually more reporting and accounting requirements with government grants, which can be a challenging process to monitor.

funder_grantee6At Transform Consulting Group, we sit on both sides of the table. We work with the funders to develop, implement and manage funding programs AND grantees (or recipients) of those funding sources. We know looking for, writing, or applying for grants can become a daunting task so stayed tuned for future blogs with helpful tips for taking your next step.

Many clients approach us with unique challenges or opportunities when we begin working together. Because we have worked with the funders and grantees, we are able to bring a holistic perspective and understanding to our clients regardless of what side of the table we sit. This often leads to meaningful engagement and collaboration – which we love!

Is your organization ready to tackle a grant, but don’t have the manpower to work through the application? Are you wondering what grants are available for your specific cause? Contact us today!

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4 Steps of Strategic Planning

We have the privilege of working with a few organizations every year to help them create their “road map” or strategic plan for the next 3-5 years.  In the course of completing these strategic plans, we have developed a formula that guides the process following four key steps.

Our process graphic1. Collaborate

Good strategic plans are not created in isolation in a board room.  We work with you to identify all of the key stakeholders that we need to engage to inform the strategic planning process.  This will vary depending on your organization, but typically involves some of the following key stakeholders:

  • Staff at different levels of the organization
  • Board of Directors
  • Volunteers
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Key community partners/ stakeholders in the community
  • Clients
  • Public

When we worked with HSE S.P.O.R.T.S. on their strategic plan, we wanted to get feedback from a broad group of stakeholders.  We surveyed the public to gauge their understanding and perception of the organization and received a large response rate.  We also met with some of their key community partners for strategic feedback and met with their staff.  Through these efforts, we received rich feedback to inform the strategic planning team and started to create some buy-in and ownership from the community.

2. Assess

This step of the strategic planning process is so important as it provides the necessary context of understanding your organization and environment.  During this phase, it is important to complete an internal and an external assessment.  The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and/or completing a needs assessment of your community or targeted audience.

When we worked with Early Learning Indiana on completing their strategic plan, they wanted their strategic planning team to have a good understanding of the environment in which they operate.  There was a significant amount of change in policies, programming and priorities in the early learning industry that had implications for their work in the future.  Therefore, it was important to understand that context in planning for the future.

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).  

There are a variety of group activities that can be used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

3. Facilitate

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).

There are a variety of group activities used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

4. Create

Now that a clear plan for the future has been reached, it is our job to make sense of all of the information and to package it in a meaningful way for the organization to implement.  We don’t believe in creating long strategic plan reports that sit on shelves.  We want our clients to use and review their strategic plan on a regular basis.  We recommend creating three strategic plan tools:

  1. “Pretty version” strategic plan – this is a one-page overview of your goals and top strategies.  This is a tool that can be shared externally with partners, funders and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.  It can live on your website and be part of your communication tools.
  2. Strategic plan report – this explains the full process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information collected (pre-read packet) and more detailed strategic plan report.  This is an internal document for staff use to reflect on the process and have access to all of the comprehensive information collected.
  3. Implementation plan – this tool helps unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board.  It can sometimes be difficult for organizations to take what is written in the strategic plan and put it into action, often resulting in no action or change.  By creating this more detailed implementation plan there is a road map for how the organization will accomplish the goals identified over the next 3-5 years.

From the wise words in the childhood book and movie of Alice in Wonderland, we learned that if we don’t Alice & Wonderland Quote
know where we are going, any road could take us there.  However, it may not be the most effective or efficient path and the outcome could be different than we hoped.  Developing a strategic plan provides that road map for all organizations – nonprofits, businesses, schools and government agencies – to have clear focus of our goals and strategies to accomplish those goals. 

Completing a strategic plan can be a daunting or exhilarating process for some organizations.  We love to partner with organizations to help you think about the future and create a plan that will get you there.  You can find out more about our strategic planning services here.

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Working Remotely & How to Make it a Reality

What’s your dream job? Does it entail having a flexible schedule and ability to work WHEREVER? That dream is not uncommon which is nudging more and more organizations towards allowing employees to work remotely.  

Recent statistics show 50% of the United States workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency. However, 80% to 90% of the workforce says they would like toTransform (74) telework at least part time.

At Transform Consulting Group, our team gets the best of both worlds. Staff can work remotely or at the office. Since a lot of our work is meeting on-site with clients, we already found ourselves working outside the office.  Staff enjoy collaborating when necessary, but also love the freedom of working at home. We see many benefits in this structure and we’re not the only ones!

Benefits of working remotely:
  • Employees who can choose to work remotely are more satisfied.
    • 2/3 of people report that they WANT to work from home.
    • 36 percent would choose the opportunity to work remote over a pay raise.
  • Working remotely increases employee productivity.
    • 30 percent of employees accomplish more in less time when working remotely.
    • 23 percent are willing to work longer hours than they normally would on-site to accomplish more.
    • 52 percent are less likely to take time off when working remotely. 
  • Working remotely saves money.
    • If a typical business allowed their employees to work remotely just half the time, they would save an average of $11,000 annually in reduced overhead.
    • When your employees are happier, they stay in their positions longer. An average company loses $10,000-$30,000 for each employee who quits.
    • Employees can also save money in reduced transportation and wardrobe costs.

Working remotely isn’t realistic for everyone. However, for those of you who think you may be interested in jumping on this bandwagon, here are some resources our team recommends.  There are many resources Blog-Remote Workersavailable to support teleworking.  These tools and resources have been effective for our team:

  • Reliable computer, high speed internet services and mobile phone
  • Online Email Communication Platform
    • We use Google at TCG, so employees can access their email anywhere.
  • Online file share and access for team collaboration
    • There are many “cloud” storage systems.  Our team uses Google Drive, and we highly recommend you have an external hard drive or server to regularly back-up files.
  • Project Management System
    • We use Asana to assign tasks, track our team’s work and manage projects. This keeps everyone on the same page.  
  • Phone System
    • We use RingCentral for internal and external communications.
  • Time Tracking Software
    • At TCG, we utilize Harvest which is especially useful when allocating staff time for projects and billing purposes.
  • Video Conferencing
    • While our team doesn’t regularly utilize the variety of resources available, we have used Go To Meeting; WebEx, etc. when corresponding with clients.
  • Clear Communication and Expectations
    • Clear understanding of work schedules and when staff is “on” and “off” the clock, so the team knows when everyone is available.
    • Have regular check-in calls and in-person meetings to review tasks and projects.
  • Team Bonding
    • While employees do enjoy the flexibility and freedom of working independently, they still want to feel connected to each other and the organization. Therefore, it is helpful to schedule in-person group activities whether it is annual, quarterly or monthly.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to accelerate your impact and that often starts by creating an empowering work environment for OUR team so that we are better equipped to serve yours.  For a full list of our services click here and let us know your thoughts or recommendations regarding working remotely!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  We were not asked to highlight any of the listed resources and only share our own opinions.

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