Category Archives: Nonprofit

4 Steps of Strategic Planning

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. 

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.

4 Steps of Strategic Planning

 

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. 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.

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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Five Steps for Nonprofits to Decide to Merge or Not to Merge

handshakeIn March, we released a blog about why organizations in the nonprofit sector might want to consider a merger and discussed the different types of restructure options.  Once a nonprofit decides to move forward in considering a merger, how do you reach consensus on this decision and if a merger is the best fit?

Deciding to merge can be emotional and sometimes political for everyone involved. Therefore, nonprofits often hire a third-party entity to facilitate the decision-making process from an impartial standpoint.  

Transform Consulting Group has helped nonprofits navigate the process of a merger or acquisition.  Last year, we helped Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis (MHA Indy) decide on whether or not to merge or restructure their organization to remain a separate entity.  Below are five steps we used with MHA Indy, and you can use these tips to help your nonprofit work through the process of a merger or organizational restructure.  

Step 1: Determine the goal(s)

First, your nonprofit needs to determine what you want to accomplish. Why are you having this conversation now?

  • Is your nonprofit in financial crisis, and you need to partner with another nonprofit to become financially stable?
  • Are you looking to expand your reach and want to acquire/merge with another nonprofit or for-profit entity that could potentially grow your footprint?  
  • Is your nonprofit going in a new direction, and you want to spin off a program that doesn’t “fit” with the new direction?   

When MHA Indy reached out to us, they were very clear on their goal.  They wanted to reach agreement with their board on the best path forward for their organization.  They need a third-party, impartial entity to do the research and due diligence and help them identify their options to increase the future vitality of the organization.

To help answer these critical questions, we talked with the staff and board.  You may also want to reach out externally to current/past funders and key donors.  Having a third party entity ask these tough questions can help elicit honest and transparent feedback that is often difficult to share within an organization.

Step 2: Understand the current state

Start with the basics.  It is important to fully understand the organizational cause (mission and vision), overall goal(s) of the nonprofit, and the audience being served.  Answering the questions in the first step will really help direct a deep dive into the organization.

  • Review the nonprofit’s current programs and services to assess impact, value and relevance in the industry.
  • Review the nonprofit’s financials, including fundraising and programming strategies over the past 5 and 10 years to identify trends and noticeable changes.  
  • Who are you serving?  Have there been changes to your targeted population?  If yes, what are the implications?  
  • What perspectives do your staff, board and funders have about your nonprofit?

We reviewed MHA Indy’s past funding, history of programming in Indy and also changes occurring nationally and within the state.  Due to some changes with a large funder’s priorities, they had seen a significant decline in their funding that they had not been able to recoup.  There had also been a change to the status of other MHA chapters in their area that affected their funding and programming.  All of this culminated in the “perfect storm” that got them to this point of critical decision-making.

This step in the process helps everyone understand the important context and answer “how did we get here”.

Step 3: Research

During this step you want to gather as much information as possible to inform the decision-making process.  The key is to be objective and have an open mind to think outside the box as well as stay true to your answer(s) in Step 1.

  • Are there a lot of nonprofits providing similar services in your geographic area?  Identify if the service(s) you are providing is a “crowded” market.  If yes, what makes your nonprofit stand out (or not) from others?
  • Has there been a policy shift in your arena where services or programming are no longer needed or being provided in a different way?  What have other similar nonprofits like yours done to adapt to the change that you could potentially replicate?  
  • Are there organizations that share a common mission but might be missing your services (e.g., mental health or parent education) and could provide a comprehensive array of services if you joined forces?  Look at the landscape in your geographic area to see if there might be some natural allies to consider a merger or partnership.
  • If you are looking to increase your reach either through a new service, geographic area or target population, identify who is doing it well in any of those categories for a possible merger opportunity.

MHA Indy wanted to know if there were other nonprofits (whether they were MHA chapters or a nonprofit) that had successfully “reinvented” themselves to turn around their financials and programming.  They were also interested in possible merger/ acquisition opportunities with nonprofits who shared similar values and could complement each other other.  They wanted to know their options for restructuring, so we did all of the research to gather this information.  We talked with key stakeholders: national and state contacts, past and current funders and board members to also get their input and insight.

Step 4: Assess all the options

Review all of the viable options identified in Step 3, and discuss the opportunities and concerns with each.

  • Summarize all of the research and stakeholder input about options for the future of the organization.  
  • Narrow down the possible paths forward, such as merger, acquisition, closure, “spin off” or no change.
  • Discuss strategies for each possible path forward and the pros/cons of each option.

We summarized all of the information collected in a report and slide deck to help the board consider their options and determine what, if any, additional information was needed to make a decision.  We had identified a potential partner to merge and began some initial exploratory conversations.Shoes at Arrows

Step 5: Reach consensus

Bring together the leadership team (staff and Board) to reach agreement on the path forward for the organization. By the time you arrive at this step, those involved have started to reach consensus about the best direction for the nonprofit’s future and there aren’t any surprises. Having completed this due diligence process of engagement with all key stakeholders and a comprehensive research period, should help bring everyone together on the same page.  

  • Consult your organization’s by-laws to ensure you understand the decision-making process to take the necessary action.
  • Bring the necessary stakeholders (e.g., Executive Committee or Board of Directors) to vote on any changes for the organization.
  • Engage outside experts, such as lawyers and accountants, to better understand the legal and technical aspects of a merger or partnership (i.e. What would be required of each organization involved?

Based on all of the due diligence and engagement with the key stakeholders throughout the whole process, the MHA Indy board was able to reach consensus pretty quickly at our decision-making/ planning meeting.  When we started the process, the MHA Indy board was very split on their decision about the future of the organization.  Therefore, we were thrilled that we helped them reach unanimous consensus!

Change for any organization is difficult.  Any type of possible organizational restructuring like a merger can be an emotional decision.  Following a comprehensive assessment process like this helps to provide the objective information necessary to make a thoughtful decision about the future of the organization.  

Based on the outcome decided, a consultant may be retained to assist the organization with determining next steps and developing an action plan for moving forward with the merger/acquisition process.  We were excited to continue working with MHA Indy and Families First as they worked through all of the details of the merger.  You can read more about their merger here.

With the continued growth of nonprofits over the past several years, some nonprofits are often unknowingly becoming each other’s competitors for funding, clients, and volunteers.  Few nonprofits are considering organizational realignment in a strategic way to strengthen their effectiveness, reach, and impact.  

Transform Consulting Group can help you determine if a merger would be the best course of action for your organization.  Give us a call or send us an email today!

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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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Why More Funders Should Collaborate

“Partner” and “collaborate” are the buzzwords in the non-profit sector.  The idea of partnership is not limited to the individual organizations administering programming and services, but also applies to the funders awarding grants and funding. AfiStock-588266018ter years of funders encouraging grantees to partner, they are taking their own advice and working collaboratively.

Funding in the non-profit world can be siloed, with organizations often competing for limited funding for similar programs or services. At the same time many funders focus on similar issues and have a common desire to make a difference.  An after-school youth tutoring program can easily apply to a dozen funders seeking resources for their program, because all of those funders have some interest in youth development and education. This means that after-school program is completing twelve separate grant applications that all request somewhat similar information in a slightly different package.  Some funders are taking note of this trend and working collaboratively to support common causes.

The idea that funders can make a bigger impact with their resources by working together rather than independently is enticing.  In Central Indiana, this is exactly what has happened through the launching of the  Summer Youth Program Fund. The Summer Youth Program Fund (SYPF) is a collaborative effort among funders who support organizations that provide summer programming for Marion County youth.  The funding effort is made up of 11 funding partners (public and private) who support over 200 summer youth programs in Marion County. These individual funders have come together all with a common interest to support programs working with youth over the summer.  

The benefits of this type of funding partnership include the following:

  • Efficiency for the grantees.  There is one application that the grantees complete to be considered for all funding opportunities.  The grantees can spend more time on their programming and staff development and less time writing applications.
  • Collective impact.  Through a unified application, the funders have an opportunity to clarify and unite the intended focus, goals, and outcomes, which could lead to greater impact in the community.
  • Improved programming.  By working together, the funders could share capacity building resources made available to the grantees, such as combined professional development and technology.
  • Accountability and monitoring.  With a unified grant application and clear focus for the services, the evaluation, monitoring, and reporting is transparent and upfront. Common assessments and evaluation tools could be shared with grantees to implement.Blog infographic

Collaborative funding certainly has several benefits for the organizations receiving funding and the funders.  If a funder is interested in a collaborative, there are some lessons learned to consider:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Establish operational procedures (e.g., application process, grantmaking, contracts)
  3. Identify affinity funders to potentially join the collaboration and share common interest
  4. Keep the focus on the grantees and adding value to the grantmaking process

GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Centers, has created a Guide on Funder Collaboratives: Why and How Funders Work Together.  There are some great strategies and resources to help guide the process.   
We have worked with funders to develop and manage their grantmaking process.  If you would like to talk about enhancing your current grantmaking program or exploring a funder collaborative, give us a call or send us an email!  We would love to help you think through the process and see how we can improve your impact.

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Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Enrollment in Your Program

Nonprofit organizations offer wonderful programs and services to help individuals with a variety of needs often at no or low cost.  It might be surprising to learn that some nonprofits struggle filling the spots for these services.  For example, a scholarship program is unable to distribute all of their funding due to a lack of applicants; a library summer reading program has free books to give away but not enough people show up; a community launches a “promise” program to promote college savings accounts with financial matches but parents don’t enroll.

An emerging concept in the social science arena is growing that combines the research of economics and behavior science called “behavioral economics”.  Through a meeting at the Wabash County YMCA with Duke University’s Common Cents Lab, some of the Transform Consulting Group team learned more about behavioral economics to improve program outcomes.

Now we realize that most nonprofits don’t have an economist on staff that could review their programs and services to implement behavioral science principles.  Fear not.  There are some simple solutions that all nonprofits could implement on their own – without an economist on staff – to increase their uptake or enrollment in programming utilizing these simple behavioral economic principles below.

5 Behavioral Economic Principles

  1. Action-Goals – People have good intentions, but they do notPicture1 do what they intend to do. For example, families want their children to go to college and intend to put some money away in a college savings account but they never get around to it. Individuals get stuck on a now versus later mindset, and it is difficult for people to imagine long term savings when the current costs are adding up. In order to avoid the action-goals gap, avoid providing more information and help individuals take specific actions towards the program goals. If a family wants to save for college, help them set up a specific savings plan. Connect them with a bank to open a savings account and offer a small deposit to get them started. 
  2. Decision Paralysis – When given too many options, people tend to make the easiest decision, which is often no decision at all.  Some programs offer great benefits, but the application process is cumbersome and overwhelming.  When was the last time that your nonprofit reviewed all of the steps you are asking clients to complete to receive your program and service?  Perhaps there are some items or steps that you can remove or condense to make it less difficult to enroll. 
  3. Personalization – People are more likely to respond to messages or services that are tailored to them. A one size fits all motto does not tailor to everyone. Individuals have different lifestyles and needs. So a program might benefit a variety of people, but what will attract them to the program to begin with and what will help each person along the process? Personal interactions with each client will help create a clear focus of the program and how it relates to and will benefit the client. 
  4. Herding – Behavior is impacted by what others are doing. We are social people and whether or not we realize it, we are socialized based on our environments.  If we learn about a neighbor enrolling their child in a camp, then we might do it as well.  We watch and listenA team leader showing direction.to what others do and often follow. There is a convenience factor here where people are comfortable with what they know.  Is your program leveraging the “social” aspect of your programs and services with your current clients and connections? If you have a college savings account program, are the parents who are contributing sharing that message so that the parents in their network realize that others are contributing and it’s a “normal” behavior to do so?
  5. Reciprocity – People have the inherent desire to help those who have helped them in some way. We like to “pay it back”.  If your nonprofit can help an individual or a group, there is a greater chance they will return the favor. They might participate in your fundraisers, join another program within your nonprofit, volunteer, or donate money.

There are many more behavioral economics principles to consider when developing, assessing or improving a program at your nonprofit. If you want to learn about more behavioral economics, visit the Common Cents Lab resources page. Want more help in reviewing your programming and thinking about how to enhance it, we can help! Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

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Tools Your Board of Directors Need to be Effective

Every nonprofit organization and school has a Board of Directors that is meant to help govern the organization. There are many companies, books, and webinars that solely focus on supporting Board of Directors. Over the years, we have found and developed some key tools that are easy to apply to help organization and their Boards govern more effectively.

Board of DirectorsWhile some of these Board tools might seem standard, we still find that these are missing and/or have not been well developed. We could write a blog post about each of these tools (and maybe we will!). This is a quick overview of the value and purpose of each tool to help your organization think about how you might integrate them into your Board of Directors.

8 Tools to Strengthen Your Board of Directors

  1. Bylaws: This is a legal document and also a roadmap for actions that the organization can take. While there are plenty of bylaw templates online, your organization should customize the bylaws. Some basic items to include in bylaws include: number of board members, how board members are selected, board meetings, committees, voting procedures, conflicts of interest, etc. We recommend that organizations annually review their bylaws and make sure that they are clear and provide good instruction to guide the Board of Directors.
  2. Board Manual or Handbook: The Board handbook is the “toolbox” for Board members that provides more detail than the bylaws. This is a great resource to review during new Board member orientation. Some of the key elements that we look for and include in Board Handbooks are: Organization Overview, Contact Information, Board Meetings, Finances and Fundraising, Governance, Committees, Board Policies, and Board Resources.
  3. Board Member Job Description: The last thing that an Executive Director or Board President wants to hear from a Board member is, “I didn’t know I was joining the Board to do ______.” One of the most prominent issues that we come across in working with Board of Directors is a lack of clear expectations for the Board of Directors. A Board Member Job Description is exactly as it sounds and similar to an employee job description. It clearly articulates what is expected of the Board member, such as meeting attendance, committee involvement, other organization involvement (e.g, attendance at certain events), a “give or get” policy (related to fundraising), and member terms. This information should all be communicated during the recruitment process, so that when the Board member is signing the form there are no surprises and everyone is in agreement about expectations.
  4. Board Self-Assessment: In healthy organizations, there are ongoing performance reviews and assessments to check-in on how well the organization and its employees are functioning. The Board Self-Assessment is a good exercise for the Board to reflect on how well the Board is functioning against some key best practices. This could be a good practice to complete with
    a 3-year strategic plan. We have developed a 3-page Board self-assessment tool, and there are many online. Indiana Youth Institute has a self-assessment tool online here. The Boys and Girls Club of America developed A Framework for Continuous Improvement of Nonprofit Board Effectiveness that could also be used as a self-assessment.
  5. 1:1 Individual Board Member Check In: One strategy to engage current Board members is to schedule individual annual meetings with each Board member and the Executive Director and Board President/ Vice President. These individual check-in meetings provide a great opportunity to review the expectations of being a Board member, celebrate the successes and engagement of the last year and follow-up on any concerns. It is also a great time for the Board member to affirm their commitment for the coming year, such as financial pledge, leadership and/or committee roles and any connections to make.
  6. Board Meeting Calendar and Key Decisions Meeting Calendar: This is a “two-fer”. Yes, it may seem simple to state that a Board tool is a meeting calendar/ schedule, but you would be surprised by how many organizations do not have a clear meeting schedule and then struggle with attendance. We suggest sending out the Board meeting calendar for the year to all Board members and including any additional important dates (e.g., annual member meeting, required fundraising event, etc.). In addition, in order to help drive strategic decisions at the Board meeting we suggest developing a “key decision meeting calendar”. Every organization has some key decisions that the Board will need to vote on and/or participate in, so it is helpful to put those on the calendar, such as annual budget review, program evaluation reports, and strategic plans (planning, check-in or updates).
  7. Board Member Recruitment Process: While the bylaws should outline at a high-level the process to approve new Board members a more detailed recruitment plan is helpful to standardize the process. We often work with many organizations who struggle with small Board of Directors and are wanting to recruit more Board members but lack a clear understanding of the type of Board member that would be a good fit and a process to recruit. We have developed several Board recruitment tools: a board composition assessment (what are your current “assets” and “strengths” on the Board and then your “gaps”); a nomination form that Board members can submit when they want to recommend a candidate; a new member application to gather some key information from prospects; and interview questions that Board members use when meeting with a prospective member.
  8. Communication Flowchart: The last thing that an organization wants is to have one of their board members approached by a volunteer or staff member making a request, and the board member not know the procedure for how certain decisions are made. A communication flowchart explains how decisions are made within the organization and the role of the Board of Directors and its Committees.

How well is your Board functioning? Would any of these help improve the effectiveness of your Board? Transform Consulting Group would love to work with your organization to identify opportunities to strengthen your Board and ultimately the impact of your organization. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Is Your Non-profit a Cooperator or a Competitor?

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

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

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

Benefits of Cultivating Non-profit Networks

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How to Gain Media Attention with a Compelling Press Release

At Transform Consulting Group, we are honored to serve many clients who are working hard to make a difference in the lives of children, families and their communities. While we partner with them on behind the scenes work (see our services here), we also want to help them promote the good work that they do. A press release can be the quickest and easiest way to get FREE publicity and raise awareness about your cause or nonprofit.

You should not be the best kept secret in town.  If the community is unaware of your great services and impact, then your efforts will fall short every time. We often encourage our clients to share their mission by writing a press release that can lead to media coverage, future leads, dollars, etc.C1aQDIiVQAACKa6.jpg-large

The reality is that reporters and news editors are sifting through hundreds (yes, hundreds) of press releases and very few will make the cut for the 6pm news or front page. Keeping that in mind, here are some rules to make sure you’re capturing their attention when you write your next press release:

  1. Have a newsworthy story. YOU may think a program, service or event is really great, but what is the impact beyond your organization or the clients you serve? Why would anyone else care? While composing your press release, make sure you are communicating that your story is newsworthy. It needs to appeal to everyone who is tuning in to that TV station or picking up the newspaper.
  1. Make it timely. Timing is everything, and you can definitely use this to your advantage. Keep up with national news and maybe you can put your own local spin on something that people are already talking about. For example, if you want to get the word out about free student programs, connect your press release with the back-to-school conversation.    
  1. Write like a reporter. Notice how the reporters deliver their stories next time you turn on your local news. You’ll probably hear how many of the stories they read have a very conversational feel to them—and so should your press release. Avoid fancy words, business jargon, technical terms, or formal statements that no one uses in real conversation. Write like you talk.
  1. Make it personal. Think about the news stories that capture YOUR attention. Usually, it will be the story with a face. You can ramble on and on in a press release about how your organization is offering this new program for free to this many people, but what really appeals to the viewer is if you put a face to the cause. In your press release, quote a single mother whose life is changed because of your program or a college student who against all odds graduated with honors through your college readiness program. Those are the true stories; so tell them!
  1. Offer a complete package. There are several elements needed for a reporter to successfully tell a story. First, they need people to interview. It is helpful to have an official “voice” who can be the spokesperson at your organization or person heading up the program. This interview will cover the facts about the story, but you need to provide a personal voice as well. The personal interview may include a client or family who is benefitting from your program. Along with the interviews, any newspaper or TV reporter will need some sort of visual. Make it easy for them to take photos or get video that helps tell the story. If they can’t cover the story in person, then offer to send them photos yourself. It may require more planning on your part, but if it means positive publicity, then it is worth it. Have all these elements ready to present when you pitch your story to the news.
  1.  Follow up. In addition to sending a press release and having the right elements, you need to make follow up calls to media outlets. We recommend sending a press release at least one week before your event and then send it again on the day of the event, followed by a personal call. Compile a list of emails from all the newspapers, TV stations and radio stations in your area and then continue to add to the list as you make connections. Reach out separately to any contacts you’ve worked with on past stories. If you hand a story over to a reporter with all the elements in place, who can turn you down?  

HG DisplayAs we previously mentioned (here), we are honored to manage the Indiana Heart Gallery for the Indiana Department of Child Services. The Heart Gallery is a traveling photo exhibit featuring children in foster care who are available for adoption. It’s a great, heart-touching story, right? BUT if we don’t adequately promote the display and get the word out, then all of our efforts are wasted. People have to KNOW we are bringing the gallery to their community, and we use the media to help get the word out.

You’ll often see stories about foster care and adoption in the news, which tells us we aren’t the only ones who view 16403080_10154891081438954_8143934484048982860_othis as a compelling, newsworthy story. However, it can be challenging to make this story timely as this is a year-round project, so we have to get creative. For example, we displayed the Heart Gallery at the South Bend Airport during March and April and tied it in with Spring Break travelers. We are constantly reworking our releases to be easy to read and understandable. While our display literally puts a face to the story, we also call on volunteer photographers or parents who have adopted foster children to be interviewed and provide a unique element to the story.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help tell the story of your cause. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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Why Your Organization Might Consider a Merger

In the for-profit sector, mergers and acquisitions are common.  However, in the non-profit sector, mergers and acquisitions are hardly discussed, often have a negative connotation and seen as a “last option” when non-profits are in distress.  Relatively few non-profits are using mergers and acquisitions in a strategic way to strengthen their effectiveness, spread best practices, expand reach, and be cost-effective.  Based on the increasing number of non-profits, more public sector organizations should consider a merger or organizational realignment.

According to recent data from the National Center on Charitable Statistics (NCCS), nearly 1.6 million non-profit organizations wScreen Shot 2017-03-27 at 1.08.51 PMere registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  This number continues to grow annually with an estimation of 30,000 new non-profit organizations being created each year in the United States, which is about 1 nonprofit for every 175 Americans!

Many of these new non-profit organizations share similar missions with existing organizations.  As a result, there is a growing increase in duplicating efforts and competing for limited funds and clients.   Non-profits are having to work harder, and sometimes in competition with similar organizations, to raise funds and recruit clients for services… chasing a smaller and smaller piece of the proverbial “pie” of available resources and funding that exist.  This environment of increasing non-profits has resulted in a rising trend of stagnating (or failing) organizations, ultimately diminishing the potential to accelerate impact.

By continually forming new nonprofits rather than evaluating existing organizations to modify or support, can threaten the future viability of the non-profit sector.  It is expensive and time consuming to build any sort of basic infrastructure, to say nothing of doing actual program work.  What if instead of duplicating services and risking inefficiency, non-profit organizations leveraged partnerships through shared, transferred, or combined services, resources or programs?

Benefits of a Merger or Organizational Restructure:

  • Expand geographic reach
  • Expand programming (either the range/scope of programs offered, or the numbers served)
  • Increase cost efficiency
  • Develop new skills
  • Increase funding

There are several types of strategic restructuring that goes beyond simple collaboration to bringing organizations into more formal and long-lasting forms of partnership.  In some cases, realignments are mergers of relatively equal organization; in others, smaller non-profits are folded into larger ones.

Common Types of Organizational Restructures:

  1. Administrative consolidation: Sharing, exchanging, or contracting of administrative functions to support the administrative efficiency of an organization. For example, one organization serves as the fiscal agent of another organization.
  2. Acquisition: Acquiring one organization into an existing organization.  For example, a prevention program is acquired by a residential treatment program.
  3. Consolidation: Combining two separate organizations into a single new entity.  For example, two separate school corporations forming a new consolidated school corporation.
  4. Joint programming: Launching and managing of one or more programs together. For example, two non-profits coming together to offer a combined summer camp program.
  5. Joint venture corporation: Creating a new organization with at least one other organization with a shared common purpose. A joint venture may include a cross-sector joint venture between a non-profit and for-profit organization.
  6. Merger: Combining all programmatic and administrative functions of two or more organizations.  For example, a mental health agency and multi-service agency merge to create a new and more comprehensive non-profit.
  7. Program transfer: Separating one or more of a non-profit’s programs and transferring it to another organization.  For example, a suicide/ crisis line program is transferred from a 211 agency to a mental health agency.

The process of considering a merger or other organizational restructure can be a political and emotional decision for all involved, so it is helpful to have a third-party individual or organization like a consultant facilitate the discussion.Stay tuned for the next blog in this series about how we worked with two organizations to facilitate consensus on their decision to restructure and steps you can apply!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about mergers and partnerships please contact us.

Some of this information was adapted from MergeMinnesota: Nonprofit merger as an opportunity for survival and growth.

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The 6 Myths of Nonprofit Management

 

Head in the Sand GraphicRecently, Transform Consulting Group blogged about Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits. While Forces for Good focuses on these practices, the book also notes that there are also pervasive myths in the industry about what nonprofits should be doing. While these underlying organizational issues are worthy of some consideration, they don’t determine whether an organization has true effectiveness. Perpetuating these myths allows us to focus too much on process rather than on impact. These 6 myths of nonprofit management include:

Myth #1: A Nonprofit Needs Perfect Management. Although adequate management is necessary, it is not sufficient for creating significant social impact.

Myth #2: A Cause Should Have Brand-Name Awareness. For some, traditional mass marketing is a critical part of their impact strategy; for others, it’s unimportant.

Myth #3: You Need A Breakthrough New Idea. Although some groups come up with radical innovations, others take old ideas and tweak them until they achieve success.

Myth #4: Write a Textbook Mission Statement. High impact nonprofits have compelling missions, visions, and shared values, but what is most important is whether the organization is busy living it.

Myth #5: Achieve High Ratings on Conventional “Vanity” Metrics. Many high impact groups don’t score well on traditional “vanity metrics” such as number programs on the calendar and bodies in the room, but these are misleading and not a true measure of impact.

Myth #6: Large Budgets Are Necessary to Provide the Biggest Impact. Size doesn’t correlate with impact. Some of nonprofits have made a big impact with large budgets; others have achieved similar impact with much smaller budgets.

This summary of the six practices of high-impact nonprofits is from an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. We’ve highlighted several Transformational Organizations that are making an impact like – Summer Advantage USA, The Patachou Foundation, EcO15, and The Mind Trust.

Does your organization aspire to change the world and attack and eliminate the root causes of social ills? Transform Consulting Group understands what makes an effective organization and can offer solutions across the organization and service areas. Contact us today about how we can help expand your organization’s impact!

 

 

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