Category Archives: Government

Are You Ready for a Federal Grant?

Receiving a federal grant can be a great way to accelerate your impact. There are many positive attributes in applying for and receiving a federal grant. Federal grants tend to be for larger amounts and are often multi-year funding to name a few. However, federal grant applications are complex and not easy to navigate.

We have successfully helped several organizations apply for and receive multi-million dollar federal grants. These grants have really helped to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure, expand their reach, and impact more individuals. There are some times, however, that we recommend a client not pursue a federal grant opportunity.

Before you invest the time and energy with a federal grant application, make sure these four elements are in place to determine if your organization is ready for a federal grant:grant ready blog


1. Compelling Need

Federal grants are very competitive. When they are national, you can be competing with hundreds of proposals. Nearly every federal grant application will begin with a “Need Section” where the applicant is asked to explain the need for this grant funding and support. One of the ways to stand out is to make sure your geographical community and target population fit the profile of need. Then you will want to pull from various public data sources, using citations, to make the case. Depending on the proposal, we might also include some relevant research and citations  that back up the need and proposed intervention (Check out this blog for our go to data sources!). Treat the writing of this section more like an academic college paper.

2. Program Design

When organizations are ready to apply for a federal grant, they need to have a strong design of their program. Many federal agencies are promoting “research-based” and “evidence-based” programs and services (See this blog for more insight!). If your program does not meet those thresholds, which is not always a requirement, then work to make the case for the program’s rigor and (hopefully) close alignment to evidence-based programs and elements of evidence-based programs.

3. Program Impact

There is an overall trend in grant making where more and more funders are wanting to invest their resources in organizations with sound data and results. They want to see the outcomes and solid data to backup your impact. Make sure your program has outcomes and not just outputs (See this blog for some help with outcomes!). If you are a new program or proposing a new intervention, then it is more difficult since you most likely haven’t proven yourself. This is where having a strong, close alignment to an evidence-based program model is helpful and may serve as a proxy for your impact.

4. Fiscal System and Accountinggrants-gov-logo-lg


Last but certainly not least, your organization needs to have strong fiscal controls in place to account for your federal grant dollars. You never know when the federal government will request an audit of your grant funding, so you want to have good systems in place to be able to account for those specific funds. We had one client go through an audit due to some concerning issues with their federal program officer (not anything they were doing wrong), and it was quite laborious and time consuming since this was their first federal grant. They didn’t have all of the separate accounting systems in place. Make sure you are ready to track, monitor and account for your federal funding.

If your organization can check all four boxes, then it may be time for you to consider a federal grant opportunity that could propel your impact and reach forward. If your organization can’t check all of the boxes yet, then you may need some support to help you get ready. The good news is we can help you in either scenario. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation and see how federal grants may be a good fit for your organization!

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5 W’s of a Process Evaluation: Part 2

In a recent blog post, we introduced the first two W’s of a process evaluation:

  1. Why conduct a process evaluation
  2. Who should conduct a process evaluation

This blog post will cover the remaining three W’s:

  1. What methods to use to conduct a process evaluation
  2. Where to conduct a process evaluation
  3. When to conduct a process evaluation
WHAT METHODS TO USE WHEN CONDUCTING A PROCESS EVALUATION

There are several different data tools and methods you can use during a process evaluation. It may be helpful to use a combination of these methods!

  • Review documentation: It can be helpful to review staff logs, notes, attendance data and other program documents during a process evaluation. This method will help you to assess if all staff are following program procedures and documentation requirements.
  • Complete fidelity checks: Many programs/curriculums come with fidelity checklists for assessing program implementation. This is especially important if you are implementing an evidence-based program or model. Programs may have a set number of required sessions and guidelines for how frequently they should occur. You can use fidelity checklists to assess if the program’s implementation is consistent with the original program model.
  • Observe: Observations can be especially helpful when you Y Observationshave multiple sites and/or facilitators. During observations, it’s crucial to have a specific rating sheet or checklist of what you should expect to see. If a program has a fidelity checklist, you can use it during observations! If not, you should create your own rubric.
  • Collect stakeholder feedback: Stakeholder feedback gives you an idea of how each stakeholder group is experiencing your program. Groups to engage include program staff, clients, families of clients and staff from partner programs/organizations. You can use interviews, surveys, and focus groups to collect their feedback. These methods should not focus on your clients’ outcomes, but on their experience in the program. This will include their understanding of the program goals, structure, implementation, operating procedures and other program implementation components.

In our evaluation project with the Wabash YMCA’s 21 Century Community Learning Center, we used a combination of the methods described above. Our staff observed each program site using a guiding rubric. Our team collaborated beforehand to make sure they had a consistent understanding of what components to look for during observations. We also collected stakeholder feedback by conducting surveys with students, parents and teachers. The content of these surveys focused on their experiences and knowledge of the program. After the program was complete, we reviewed documentation, including attendance records and program demographic information.

WHERE TO CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

You should conduct a process evaluation wherever the program takes place. To capture an accurate picture of implementation, an evaluator needs to see how the program operates in the usual program environment. It is important to assess the implementation in all program environments. For example, if a program is being implemented at four different sites, you should assess the implementation at each site.

In our evaluation project with the Wabash YMCA, we assessed the program implementation at three different school sites. This involved physically observing the program at each site as well as reviewing records and documentation from each site. Being in the physical environment allowed us to assess which procedures were used consistently among sites. It also helped us identify program components that needed improvement.

WHEN TO CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

An organization can conduct a process evaluation at any time, but here are a few examples of times when its use would be most beneficial:

  • A few months to a year after starting a new program, you can conduct a process evaluation to assess how well your staff followed the implementation plan.
  • When you’re thinking about making a change to a program, a process evaluation will help you determine in what program areas you need to make changes.
  • If your program is not doing well, conduct a process evaluation to see if something in your process is interfering with program success.
  • When your program is doing well, conduct a process evaluation to see what in your process is making it successful.
  • If you’ve had issues with staff turnover, conducting a process evaluation can help identify gaps in staff training, professional development and ongoing support that may be contributing to the turnover rate.

To determine when to conduct a process evaluation, it is also important to consider the capacity of your organization. Make sure that your staff will have enough time to devote to the evaluation. Even when using an external evaluator, staff may need to spend extra time meeting with evaluators or participating in focus groups/interviews.

We conducted our evaluation with the Wabash YMCA at the end of their first year of program implementation. Evaluating their first year of implementation allows us to provide them with recommendations on how to improve the program’s implementation in future years. We will conduct a similar evaluation during the next three subsequent years to track their operations and processes over time.

If your organization needs support in conducting a process evaluation, contact us today to learn more about our evaluation services!

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5 W’s of a Process Evaluation: Part 1

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

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

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

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

WHY CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

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

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

 

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

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

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

WHO SHOULD CONDUCT YOUR PROCESS EVALUATION

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

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

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

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

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How to Reach Consensus on Your Strategic Plan

We are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 3 of our 4 Step Strategic Planning Process: Facilitate Consensus. Read more about our previous strategic planning blogs in this series here, here, and here.  The main purpose of this third step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach agreement about the future direction.  

Organizations will often form strategic planning committees or task leadership teams to complete their strategic plan. This means that different types of people with various perspectives and insights will have to learn to work together on a common goal. We actually encourage collaboration and engagement in the strategic planning process and discuss it more Step 1 in this blog.

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After you have formed your planning team and gathered some critical information about the organization, your targeted clients and community you are now ready to come together to reach consensus about the future. The following five recommendations will help your team reach consensus:

  1. Issue Homework – Prepare a packet of information that summarizes all of the data and information that has been collected. Most likely there will be some important information that would be helpful for the group to read in advance of coming together. We like to package that information into a “pre-read” report or slide deck presentation (see more here).
  2.  Host Planning Sessions – Set aside time for the planning team to come back together once all of the information has been gathered. Depending on your planning team’s availability, this may need to be broken out into a couple of sessions.
  3.  Facilitate Group Discussion – If your budget allows, it is very helpful to have a consultant (ahem, TCG!) facilitate your planning discussions. This way all members of your team will be able to engage in the discussion. They are also equipped with adult learning strategies and can design a highly engaging and interactive process for your team.

wabash strategic plan4.  Focus on the “What” First – We often see many planning team members who want to jump into the strategies and problem-solve the needs/ gaps identified. The first step in consensus building is to reach agreement on the “What” you want to accomplish. We call this setting your big goals and top areas of focus. We also try to limit our clients to 3-5 big goals/ focus areas. Once you have this set, then you can get into the “How” you will accomplish your goals through strategies.

5. Take the Temperature – As you are moving through this process, it is important to check in with your planning team at these meetings and maybe even afterwards. You want your planning team to be confident in the agreements that have been made and to not have any ill feelings of team members. While not everyone may get what they think is important, everyone should be in collective agreement about the plan. During these planning sessions, your consultant or team lead should check the non-verbal and verbal cues of team members throughout the process and respond as needed.

By the end of step 3, facilitating consensus, your team should feel excitement and enthusiasm about the possibilities for the future and the plan! If not, that might be indicator that the consensus is not there with the whole group. In that case, you may need to come back together and have an honest discussion.

A strategic plan is not something to take lightly or go through the motions. It can set the path for the future of an organization and help bring about transformational change. When you take the time and effort to follow these five recommendations, your organization will be on its way.

If you are ready to start your strategic plan, contact us. We would love to support organization’s strategic planning needs.

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Strategic Planning Process: Step 2

In this past blog we talked about the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning that we follow. A quick recap of the 4 steps are: Collaborate, Assess, Facilitate and Create. A few weeks ago we shared more about Step 1 in that process: “Collaborate”. Today we are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 2 in the process: “Assess”.

Assess Highlighted

 

With many of our clients and partners, we find that they immediately want to jump to Steps 3 and 4 of the process, which is about goal and strategy setting. By skipping over Steps 1 and 2, organizations are missing out on a critical opportunity to get buy in and input from key stakeholders as well as embed a thoughtful review in the planning process.

We divide the assessment phase of the strategic planning process into two parts: Internal and External Assessment.

Internal Assessment

  • Organizational review: The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  This might include summary reports of the organization and programs to determine results accomplished. You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  
  • Stakeholder feedback: We have several blogs that talk about stakeholder feedback here and here. Don’t forget to talk internally within your organization about the strategic plan by reaching out to clients (if appropriate), staff, volunteers, and board of directors.

External Assessment

  • Environmental Scan: The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and sector that the organization operates. It might be helpful to provide a brief update about the latest research, policies and best practices that inform the work of your organization.
  • Community needs assessment: It might be helpful to complete an updated needs assessment of your community or targeted audience to ensure strong alignment with programs and needs. We have some blogs about this here and here.
  • Stakeholder feedback: Just like an internal assessment, there are some key stakeholders to reach out to for feedback and input to inform your planning process. This might include current and past funders, other community partners, and the public.

While completing a new strategic plan for Healthy Families Indiana, we included both an internal and an external assessment. We gathered key data points about the organization to bring to the planning team for review and discussion. We also completed an organizational history timeline exercise to help bring everyone together about the key milestones accomplished over the life of the program in the state. We sought feedback from various stakeholders within the organization, which included staff at different levels (direct service staff, supervisors and program managers) and across the state.

We also sought feedback from external stakeholders by reaching out to community partners who make referrals and have shared goals. These components provided important context to inform the discussion about goals for the future.

Once we gather all of this information, it is important to do some pre- analysis and synthesis of this information before it is shared with the planning team. We do this in a couple of ways for our clients:

  1. Pre-read report – We develop a narrative report that summarizes all of the information collected in the internal and external assessment. We use graphs and tables to make it as user-friendly as possible. It’s helpful to share this report in advance of a planning meeting or retreat, so that the team can review the information before meeting.
  2. Presentation – A presentation can be a simpler way of compiling the information and sharing it with the planning team. Sometimes we create both a narrative report and a presentation that summarizes the information gathered. The slide deck presentation can be helpful to highlight some of the key findings during the assessment phase.
  3. Dashboard – We talk about creating dashboards in this blog. Basically we love dashboards and how helpful they are to display multiple data points in a user-friendly format. We love to create dashboards that summarize internal and external assessment data to share with the planning team. See this one we created for a community strategic plan.

The main purpose of the “Assess” step in the strategic planning process is to gather important information to share with your planning team, so that they are well informed and equipped to develop a plan for the future. We would love to partner with your organization in developing a strategic plan. Contact us for more information!

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Marketing 101: 6 Ways to Improve Your Website

Improve Website ImageAt Transform Consulting Group, we know your work is important. We also know your time and resources can be limited, regardless of the role you play at your organization. We work with many organizations and programs who are stretched thin working on the front lines with individuals and families to make an impact.

We understand that the behind the scenes marketing gig is rarely your top focus. We also see too many programs fail when they see marketing as a luxury instead of a necessity. The reality is, you need to market in some capacity if you want to grow your organization and continue your good work.

At TCG, we’re here to help. We want to make the process of laying your marketing foundation as easy and painless as possible. That’s why we’re continuing with our Marketing 101 blog series. We covered tips for branding here, best practices for enhancing your social media here, and this blog will unpack 6 simple ways to improve your website.

If you don’t already have a website, then set one up as soon as possible! There are two major reasons why you need even the most basic website:

  • Your clients expect it. Six out of ten consumers expect brands to provide online content about their business, and more than half go directly to the website for information.

  • You control the message. You don’t always have power over what people say about you on social media or on other platforms, but on your website, you are in charge of the narrative. This is your space for telling your organization’s story.

If you don’t have a website, check out free sites like WordPress, and get something posted as soon as possible!

If you do already have a website then you’re halfway there! Now it’s time to take things up a notch with these 6 tips:

1. Capture Attention Quickly

You don’t have much time to capture attention online. The average page visit lasts less than a minute. This Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.33.15 PMmeans you must grab the viewers’ attention quickly, and give them reasons to stay on your page. Your homepage should clearly state who you are and who you serve. You can’t necessarily give away all the information on the first page, but a visitor should be able to gain some basic understanding of your organization during that first glance.

Take a look at our TCG homepage. Without even scrolling, visitors can click on a testimonial video and see our mission statement front and center.

2. Use Active Voice

Whenever possible, use active voice when writing the narrative on your website. Passive sentences end up being wordy and vague. Active voice encourages active readers. You want readers who are engaged and who, hopefully, act! Using active voice also helps increase your SEO (search engine optimization – see more in tip #5).

3. Be Personal

People want to know you, like you and trust you before they work with you. Show behind the scene glimpses of Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.46.36 PMwhat goes on at your organization and your culture. Use conversational language and avoid technical terms that aren’t approachable.

At TCG, we’re proud of the culture we have created, and we want to showcase it! One way we do this is by highlighting our perks on the career page. We also have individualized bios for each team member.

4. Make it Mobile Friendly

Nearly 60 percent of online searches happen from a Cell phonemobile device. What does this mean for you? Your website needs to be just as compelling whether someone visits on their desktop or cellphone.

Here are some quick tips for making your site mobile friendly. However, the biggest thing to start doing now is test it. Have your staff members pull up your company’s site on various devices (phones, iPads, laptops of different sizes, etc.) and see how it looks!

5. Improve SEO

You can take courses and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars trying to learn how to make your website searchable, or increase search engine optimization (SEO).

We won’t claim to be website experts. However, there are a few easy (and free!) tricks we’ve learned that you can start doing right now:

  • Publish Relevant Content: Quality content drives your search engine rankings. Create content that is specific to your audience. Identify keyword phrases for each page by thinking through how your readers might search for that specific page.
  • Update Content Regularly: Search engines like to see regularly updated content. This shows your site is relevant and your organization will pop up higher in searches.

6. Track Web Traffic

As with any marketing strategy, spend time assessing if your efforts are working! We use Google Analytics to track monthly data on our website. The setup for Google Analytics is free, but it looks a little different depending on your website host. Here is a tutorial to get started.

Once this is set up on your page, there is SO much information you can collect. Some major data you may want to track includes the following:

  • How many people visit your website daily?
  • How many new or returning visitors come to your site?
  • How many pages are people looking at when they visit your site?
  • How long do visitors stay?
  • What cities are your visitors from?
  • How are your visitors finding you (on social media, organic searches, etc.)?

You can also show side-by-side comparisons of different months or weeks to gain a good understanding of if you’re heading in the right direction.  This is a great method for tracking progress and areas to improve!

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At TCG, we want to help you accelerate your impact – whether that’s with your marketing efforts or through our other services. Contact us today and learn more!

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How Are Indiana’s Youngest Children Doing? The 2018 ELAC Annual Report Gives Insight.

Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) just released its 2018 Annual Report—the fifth since ELAC’s inception in 2013. Annually, ELAC completes a needs assessment for the state’s early learning system and recommends solutions. The goal is to baseline where Indiana is using key indicators and to make best practice recommendations to address the gaps. The result of this year’s annual needs assessment is three key reports and tools: 

ELAC’s seven appointed members work alongside 150 workgroup volunteers who focus on different aspects of the state’s early learning system. All this energy centers on providing early childhood care and education that is accessible, high-quality, and affordable to all families.

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How Are Children Ages 0-5 Doing Today?

  • Of the 506,761 children in Indiana ages 0-5, 65% need care because all parents are working. This includes working parents who are single as well as households where both parents work outside the home.Figure 3
  • Of those children who need care, only 41% are enrolled in known programs. The other three-fifths of children are in informal care settings—with a relative, friend, or neighbor—where the quality of care is unknown.
  • Of the young children who need care, only 15% are enrolled in high-quality programs. A high-quality program not only ensures that children are safe, but also supports their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development for kindergarten readiness and beyond.

What Are Some Of Indiana’s Accomplishments On Behalf Of Young Children?Figure 15

  • There are more high-quality early childhood care and education programs available. In 2012, Indiana had just over 700 high-quality programs. There are now almost 1,200.
  • Today there are 4.5 times more children enrolled in high-quality programs than there were five years ago.
  • Over half of the counties increased their number of high-quality programs.

What Is The Unmet Need Identified In The 2018 ELAC Annual Report?

  • There are communities in Indiana with no high-quality programs.
  • The tuition cost of high-quality early childhood care and education programs is unaffordable, and the available financial assistance for low-income families is  insufficient.
  • There is a lack of high-quality seats for infants. Only 7% of children ages 0-5 in high-quality programs are infants. Tuition Comparison

How Can I Find Out More?

  • As in past years, ELAC has published a full annual report, which includes statewide data on Indiana.
  • ELAC has also compiled updated 2018 county-level data for all 92 Indiana counties to aid local stakeholders and coalitions in their work. Use the map to select your county. You can review your county’s profile in an interactive dashboard or a PDF report!
  • There is a newly created feature this year! ELAC published an interactive dashboard with all of the data in the annual report—allowing you to learn more about specific data points and easily present data to stakeholders. There are also comparisons between counties to see how well your community is doing compared to others.

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support ELAC’s work to help each of our youngest learners reach their full potential!

Transform Consulting Group can also help your organization or coalition with data analysis, creating dashboards to visualize your data, and meaningful reporting. Contact us to multiply your impact!

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Federal Grant Opportunity: YouthBuild

Nationally, there are more than 2.3 million low-income 16-24 year-olds who are not pursuing education, employment or training. In communities across the country, there are less young people who are educated, high skilled, and actively employed contributing citizens. This means communities are limiting their growth potential, and young people are limiting their possibility.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.50.01 AMThis is where the national program, YouthBuild, can be a solution. Through YouthBuild programs, young people earn their education, learn construction skills and gain skills needed for future, long-term employment. The youth work with partners to build affordable housing in their neighborhoods as well as other community assets like schools, playgrounds, and community centers. As a result, the YouthBuild program has a ripple effect in communities by not just helping the youth, but the individuals and families getting access to affordable housing and the communities gaining important infrastructure as well as a skilled workforce.

YouthBuild formed a partnership with AmeriCorps, so many of the YouthBuild program sites are able to obtain valuable education awards for postsecondary education. In addition, the AmeriCorps program helps young people develop an identity as a community leader and active citizen in giving back to their communities.

Research on the program has shown positive outcomes for the youth participate in the program. YouthBuild programs lower recidivism rates by 40 percent. For every dollar invested in YouthBuild produces a return on investment of $7.80 up to $43.90.

YouthBuild Sites
YouthBuild Sites

For the past twenty years, YouthBuild has become a model program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor through a competitive grant process. The US Department of Labor just released the grant application for the next round of funding for YouthBuild grants and below is more information to know about the grant.

Some Key Facts to Know about this Federal Grant:

  • Grant applications are due May 9, 2017.
  • Eligible applicants are public or private non-profit agencies.
  • Individual grants will range from $700,000 to $1.1 million and require a 25 percent match from applicants, using sources other than federal funding.
  • For a more complete list of eligibility requirements and application details, download the Grant Opportunity Package here.

Transform Consulting Group has helped organizations apply for and receive federal grants. We use our program development and research and analysis services to help write a compelling grant proposal for our clients. If you are interested in moving forward on this grant or other grant initiatives, contact us today for a free consultation.

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3 Tips for Creating Needs Assessment and Technical Reports

Transform Consulting Group is fortunate to work with clients who desire to better understand their targeted population, assess their needs, and develop recommendations for improvement.  Our research and analysis service includes completing a needs assessment, conducting literature review, and developing technical reports.

In doing this work, there are some common themes and steps with our approach that are applicable for anyone completing a needs assessment or writing technical reports:

  1. Define the audience. Who is the intended audience for this report?  How will they use this information?  How do we want them to use this information?
  2. Determine the key indicators. What information do we want to collect and gather during this process?  What questions do we want to answer?
  3. Decide on the format. Do we want a slide deck presentation with visuals, such as charts and graphs?  Do we want a formal written report?  How long should it be?  Would a one-page dashboard be sufficient?

Below are some case studies where we helped clients with one of these services.

  1. Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) – Annual Report

annual report coverTransform Consulting Group provides “backbone” project management support for ELAC.  Part of our work includes helping ELAC complete an annual needs assessment on the quality and availability of early education programs for young children in the state of Indiana.  After completing the fourth annual ELAC needs assessment, we have significantly improved the data collected and reported by following the three steps above.

ELAC has narrowed its focus on 16 key indicators to track annually and monitor progress (as evidenced in the dashboard).  ELAC wanted to create individual county-level dashboards that mirror the state report and inform local coalitions, so we launched the ELAC County Early Childhood Profile late last year.  Now the state and all 92 counties have information on the accessibility and affordability of high quality early childhood education and is using that information to make best practice recommendations.  Lastly, the audience for the annual report is policy makers who have limited time and capacity to read a lengthy report.  Therefore, we created a short Executive Summary of the key findings and also worked to make the report visually appealing (using Tableau data visualization) with charts and graphics that are easy to digest and understand.  We have helped ELAC create other technical reports, such as Indiana’s Early Childhood Program Funding Analysis) to inform their target audience.

  1. Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office – Needs Assessment Report

HS CoverEach Head Start State Collaboration Office is tasked with conducting a needs assessment of Early Head Start and Head Start grantees based on specific priorities from the federal Office of Head Start and the State Collaboration Office.  Transform Consulting Group helped Indiana’s Head Start State Collaboration Office complete the 2016 Head Start Needs Assessment.  The audience for this report included multiple stakeholders from state partners to Head Start grantees.  HS assessment map 2

The purpose of the needs assessment was to understand the landscape of Head Start grantees in Indiana, identify key findings that support ongoing collaboration and provide recommendations for future planning. We pulled out key elements of the Head Start Program Information Report to understand the  Head Start programs and used that information to create some helpful tools: a map of the Head Start grantees and a table that helps stakeholders understand Head Start grants across the state. We also gathered feedback from the grantees themselves on their assessment of the strengths, gaps and opportunities around the federal and state priorities.  This work culminated in recommendations that the state used to create a five-year strategic plan.

  1. Indiana Happy Babies Brain Trust – Infant Toddler Issue Briefhappy babies

The Indiana Happy Babies Brain Trust (HBBT) workgroup was formed in 2014 with the generous support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Zero to Three to raise awareness of infants and toddlers in Indiana.  One of the priorities of the HBBT workgroup was to create an issue brief to raise awareness about the youngest Hoosiers in the state and solutions to support their positive development.

Transform Consulting Group worked with the HBBT workgroup for about a year to complete the technical report that resulted in: Getting Ready for School Begins at Birth.  The report combined the key findings of the research, a snapshot on the state of the youngest Hoosier children (ages 0-3) and solutions that include “easy wins” with “long-term strategies”.

If your organization needs help in completing technical reports or a needs assessment with our research and analysis services, please contact us at (317) 324-4070.

 

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Federal Program Spotlight: AmeriCorps

acThis post is part of Transform Consulting Group’s blog series highlighting federal programs that provide education opportunities and/or youth development services in communities.

AmeriCorps is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that leverages community service to tackle critical community issues such as poverty, education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps programs are located in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, community centers, and faith-based groups across the country.

AmeriCorps was created under President Bill Clinton through the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, incorporating Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). AmeriCorps just celebrated its 20th Anniversary, with over 900,000 Americans contributing to over 1 billion service hours. AmeriCorps VISTA also celebrated a recent anniversary, highlighting 50 years of volunteers serving to fight poverty across America.

AmeriCorps VISTA aims to combat poverty in local communities through capacity building. VISTA members commit to serving an agency for one year, working full-time on a specific project aimed at improving their organizational, financial, or administrative reach. Some examples include grant management, volunteer coordination, and food program design.

AmeriCorps VISTA differs from AmeriCorps State and NCCC service programs because VISTA members do not provide direct service. NCCC programs are available to citizens between the ages of 18 and 24, whereas AmeriCorps and VISTA only have a minimum age of 18 to serve.

AmeriCorps programs benefit nonprofits by providing service members that design, implement, and evaluate an organization’s programs to expand its impact. In addition, AmeriCorps programs provide citizens an opportunity to learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop a greater appreciation for service. It is clear that AmeriCorps programs benefit organizations and service members alike.

Organizations may apply for a grant directly from the Corporation for National and Community Service if they are:

  • A national nonprofit organization that operates in two or more states
  • An Indian tribe
  • A consortia formed across two or more states, consisting of institutions of higher education or other nonprofits, including labor, faith-based, and other community organizations
  • A state or territory without a State Service Commission

Organizations may apply for a grant through the State Service Commission (i.e. Serve Indiana) if program activities take place in a single state and the organization is a:

  • State and local nonprofit organization
  • Community and faith-based organization
  • State, local, and higher education institution
  • State and local government
  • U.S. territory

Transform Consulting Group can help you plan and strategize how to use AmeriCorps resources to meet your organization’s goals, as well as help you write your next AmeriCorps grant application. Transform Consulting Group has successfully helped other organizations like the United Way of Central Indiana and Early Learning Indiana receive AmeriCorps funding. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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