Category Archives: Nonprofit

Why is a Program Evaluation Impact Team so Important?

Impact Image- blogHow does an organization know it’s meeting its goals and objectives?  An outside team can be hired to put tools and systems in place, which is a good start, but investing money in outside consulting only can leave organizations floundering in a constantly evolving reality.  What if instead of investing solely in an outside group, an organization invests simultaneously in its own people?  It is exceedingly important to invest in the right team of people to help an organization to push forward, to evaluate and sustain systems, while keeping a “pulse” on the organization.  That’s what an impact team does.     

In a past blog, we talk about the 4 steps of a program evaluation. The impact team would work closely with the outside evaluator to complete the four steps and keep the evaluation cycle going beyond the consultation engagement! They are essentially your internal “CQI” or continuous quality improvement team.

An impact team is a cross-cutting team of staff that come together on a regular basis (e.g., quarterly) to ask critical questions, review data, and make meaning of the information; basically, to integrate program evaluation into the organization.  They would discuss how the data is being collected to ensure the processes and systems in place are being followed. They would also review the big goals identified in the logic model and discuss if the targets have been met and why/ why not.  Lastly, and most importantly, they would identify data-informed recommendations to improve the outcomes.

Transform Consulting Group worked closely with Center for Leadership and Development to implement a system for in-house evaluation and train their impact team to ensure integration of evaluation within the organization and cross-department alignment. Policies and procedures were put into place to guide system processes and outline impact team member roles and responsibilities. The team was trained on how to collect data using the agreed-upon tools.  A data management plan and schedule were created to align with the organization’s programming schedule and keep the impact team on track with data collection and analysis throughput the year.  This ensured new evaluation results would always be ready in accordance with important fundraising events and annual strategic planning sessions.

Who should be on an impact team?  The executive decision-makers?  All management?  Maybe just the staff who worked on the programs being evaluated?  Only if you want a myopic view of your organization’s reach.  The impact team should consist of staff at all levels to have different perspectives.  Information will be interpreted differently by each person on the team based on their unique capabilities, experiences and strengths.

What is interesting?  What stands out?  Some results may be more obvious to different members of the team.  This is what makes a great impact team.  Take time to think about the best people at each level of the organization and don’t be afraid to adjust those involved as things change.  An impact team will be engaged in the most crucial elements of the organization.  Make sure to include members capable of critical thinking and connecting the dots—systems level thinkers, not just task-masters.  Those who can perform high-level analysis, problem solving, and decision making are essential, but don’t exclude those doing work on the ground floor.  Their understanding of what it takes to execute the organization’s vision on a daily basis is invaluable.  Build a team from all levels that is excited, engaged, and willing to be honest about what works and what doesn’t.

This is the start of where the big decisions are made.  The informational “tools” to make big decisions start with the evaluation data (the hard evidence) and the folks who can interpret what the data is saying.  An organization’s impact team would present evaluation results and subsequent recommendations to the board and leadership team regularly.  Organizations are equipped with make data-informed recommendations for decision making, such as modifying programming elements, letting go of a program, refining the target population, requiring more professional development for program staff, adjusting program dosage for participants, and other organizational or programmatic changes.

Transform Consulting Group can help you create and sustain a winning program evaluation impact team for your organization.  Please contact us today to learn more!

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Grants 101 – Types of Grants

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

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

Foundations

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

Giving-USA-2017-Infographic

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

Government Grants

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 9.43.29 AM
Government grants are awarded at the federal, state and local level. The federal government spends over $500 billion a year distributing grants to state and local governments. 

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

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

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

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

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4 Ways to Share Data Publicly

Congratulations! You successfully gathered data to look deeper into the effectiveness of your programs, decided WHO you’re sharing the information with and now it’s time to figure out HOW to share the data.

We talked about the different audiences you should share your data with in this blog, such as internally with staff and volunteers and externally with funders and partners. Once you determine your audience, you may decide on a variety of ways to communicate your latest information.

First, it’s important to know your audience and be willing to shape your message in a way that is easy to understand and compelling. Some things to consider about your audience may include their age, educational background, industry or non-industry, and economic levels. For example, the way you communicate to a wealthy, influential donor should look different than the way you communicate to your staff or clients.

Here are some examples of how you can share data with a variety of audiences:

  1. Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.27.32 AMAnnual Report

An annual report is a great way to package your year’s efforts and data. You can use several visual elements to make important data stand out, include photos of the people you serve, while also including descriptive text to provide additional information. For tips on how to spice up your annual report, check out this blog

  1. Email BlastScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.00.23 AM

Many of you are already regularly emailing your target audience, so consider using those email blasts to spotlight recent data. If your data shows positive results of a programs, then share it! Include photos or success stories from clients to highlight and make sure you’re presenting the facts in an “easy-to-read”, visual way.

We did this at TCG and sent out a “Year in Review” email blast to current and potential clients highlighting our efforts and successes throughout the calendar year.

  1. Marketing Materials

If your data is showing huge successes, then you want to make sure EVERYONE hears about it!

  • Brochures: Consider re-creating marketing materials to highlight specific results and outcomes beyond just the standard details about programs provided and “numbers served”.
  • Letterhead: Add a simple line at the bottom of your organization’s letterhead such as “95% of students enrolled in our summer programs saw significant improvements in test scores.”
  • Email Signatures: Have all staff members update their email signatures to include a link to the Annual Report or another statement on a specific data point.

The great thing about using marketing materials is that you are able to communicate data to people outside your circle. EVERYONE who receives an email or letter from you can see your data and it doesn’t have to be a person who already has a stake in your organization.

  1. Social Media Campaign

Your data tells a story about your organization and social media platforms are great for sharing!

  • Upload your Annual Report online and share the link often on your channels.
  • Share pieces of data from the annual report on a weekly basis through a specific data point or graphic.
  • Swap out your Facebook or Twitter banner to highlight a specific success.
  • Make your social media posts visual!  One tip to keep in mind: before you post long winded paragraphsScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 10.50.34 AM packed full of numbers, try creating infographics to communicate the data in a visual way. You can then upload your infographics as photos on your social media channels and make it easy for your followers to share.

We did this recently when sharing 2016 stats for the Indiana Heart Gallery to our social media followers. While the infographic to the right doesn’t tell the whole story, it does gives a quick look at the numbers. For more tips on creating infographics, check out our past blogs here and here.

It’s important to note that the examples listed above are just a starting point. The great thing about sharing data and telling your story is that the possibilities for HOW you do it are endless. Get creative and don’t be afraid to try out new things!

Whether you’re at step one and need help gathering data or you already have great data compiled and need help sharing it, contact Transform Consulting Group today and we’d love to chat!

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You Finally Have Data! Who Should You Share It With and Why?

Data-BlogImagine your organization recently conducted a program evaluation.  Data was gathered from one of the programs offered and an analysis of the data revealed your program outcomes were met, some even exceeded!  This is exciting news and you want to shout it out from the nearest rooftop… We understand this urge, but there are better (and safer) ways to share your evaluation data.  In this blog, we discuss different audiences with whom an organization might share their evaluation results and the benefits of sharing them. Stay tuned for a future post discussing how to share your evaluation data.

At Transform Consulting Group, we love seeing organizations use data to measure and achieve success!  We also love helping organizations “visualize” success in easy-to-understand ways using simple charts and graphics.  Once these data visuals are audience-ready, what are the next steps?  Does an organization need to be intentional about sharing program evaluation data?  Why?

Data is only as good as how it is used.  If an organization collects data, analyzes it and makes beautiful visuals with it, but few people actually see the results, what is gained from the experience?  Probably not much!  This connects back to a blog we wrote called, 4 Steps to Complete a Program Evaluation.  Step number four in the process is to discuss the results of an evaluation and make data-informed decisions.  In order to do this, evaluation data must be shared with the right people.  

Our team typically compile a summary report and/or slide presentation of an organization’s evaluation data for stakeholders to review the results and discuss their implications.  A stakeholder is anyone who has a “stake”—an interest, concern, or investment—in an organization and/or program achieving (or not achieving) its goals.   We categorize data sharing into two different “buckets” -internal and external.  As it sounds, sharing data internally is with folks on the inside of an organization, and external data sharing is with folks on the outside looking in. Within each bucket, we’ve identified three important stakeholder groups and how sharing evaluation results can be beneficial, no matter what the data “says”.

Internal Stakeholders

1. Employees:  It would be challenging to find a dedicated employee who would not care to see evidence of their daily efforts actually paying off and leading to positive change.  The achievement of program outcomes reflected in data can help validate the combined efforts of all staff involved in a program’s design (if applicable) and delivery.  It is important to share evaluation results with staff at all levels and not just employees at the top.  Too often, we see that the information does not trickle down.  Sharing, showcasing and celebrating success builds morale and encourages staff to continue doing great work.  In the business sector, this would be akin to celebrating a top-sales month! 

On the other hand, results of an evaluation may reveal that a program is not achieving its intended outcomes and uncover potential reasons why not.  Evaluation data can “shed light” on issues that staff and/or leadership were not even aware of that could hinder the ability to make an impact.  Based on sharing these results, employees will know to expect workflow or programmatic changes in the near future without confusion or surprise.

At TCG, we recently worked with an organization that provides college and career readiness counseling for high-school students to evaluate their 8-week summer program.  During orientation, students were given a pre-survey to assess their knowledge of college and career readiness subject matter before participating in the program.  On the last day, students were given a post-survey to measure knowledge gained as a result of completing the program.  Evaluation data was presented to program staff and leadership in easy to understand charts and graphs.  Staff became excited when they saw how much college and career readiness knowledge students gained as a result of participating in the program!  They were also glad to find out which areas students reported knowing the least about.  As a result, staff could strengthen those areas of the program prior to the next round of incoming students.  

2. Volunteers:  Organizations that depend on volunteer work are always on the lookout for more help.  Unfortunately, unpaid labor can be hard to come by, especially if volunteers don’t feel like their time and effort is making a difference.  If an organization can show community impact as a result of volunteerism, their volunteers are more likely to feel validated and remain committed to the organization.  Then they may even recruit more volunteers!  In this case, evaluation data helps to promote satisfaction and the feeling of reward.  Volunteers are motivated to stay put and not seek out other volunteer opportunities when they know that their time and talent is making a difference.

3. Board of Directors:  The Board can use evaluation data to begin planning and discussing the future of an organization.  If the data supports outcomes consistently being met, a Board may decide to expand the program’s service delivery to a larger area or broader audience.  If the expansion is successful, the organization sustains a larger community impact and the Board (hopefully) feels a sense of accomplishment and pride in the organization.

For evaluations resulting in unmet program outcomes, the Board may recommend program model changes, or commit to focus on a problem area (i.e. staff professional development) during the upcoming year.  Either way, sharing program evaluation results with Board members equips them to make informed decisions about what is best for the organization going forward.

External Stakeholders

1. Funders:  Funders want to see a return on their investment into any organization.  Many funders require organizations to conduct program evaluations to remain accountable for the results that their funds are directly supporting.  Bottom line, funders want to know if the program is worth the resources that it costs.  Evaluation results help “quantify” worth for funders by showcasing to what extent the desired program changes are occurring.  If a program performs as expected, it is likely that funding dollars will keep flowing.  

Alternatively, if evaluation data shows program outcomes not being met and insignificant or no change is occurring, a funder may decide not to invest or discontinue investing in an organization.  Funders are often supporting multiple organizations at once and want to feel confident their money is well-spent and producing the best results!

2. Partners:  Evaluation data may help make a case for two or more organizations to join forces and provide combined programs or services within a community to maximize impact.  Sharing data can be a positive step in the direction of collaborating and working towards common goals.  Local programs may unknowingly be competing for clients, resources or limited funding.  Some are likely struggling to meet goals.  Awareness of such issues, made apparent through evaluation data, could spark ideas to collaborate and leverage partnerships to provide joint programming.  The result?  Sharing data may lead organizations to do what is best for the community, while also doing what is best for their budget!  

Ideally, routine program evaluation and data sharing will keep organizations accountable to each other in the future.  On the other hand, evaluation data can show when partnerships are no longer working and should be realigned or dissolved.

3. The Public:  Sharing data with communities helps to legitimize an organization’s purpose in the public eye.  Program evaluations are one way to demonstrate community impact.  Evaluation data goes a step farther to show how much impact an organization or program is making.  Nonprofit organizations are public agencies with a responsibility to communicate back to the public about the goodwill that they are making from the public’s investment in them!

Foundations, grant makers and other funders research shared public data about an organization or program to determine whether or not to invest in it.  Evidence of successful programming can suggest an organization itself is well-managed.  This inspires confidence that funding dollars will also be used wisely and generate the greatest return on investment.

Internally, sharing evaluation results can galvanize an organization–arming employees (program staff and management) and the Board of Directors with data they need to ensure program outcomes are being met and take appropriate actions when issues arise.  External stakeholders use data to verify an organization’s credibility and hold it accountable to the outcomes it seeks to achieve.  Ultimately, stakeholders use data to keep an organization on track to accomplish its overall goals.

It’s hard to win a game if your team has no idea of the score—or even worse, what game they are playing.  Sharing evaluation data helps to keep an organization’s impact transparent and everyone involved on the same page.  Stay tuned for our next blog in this series about how to share data and use it to tell your story within different communication channels!  Talk with one of our team members today and learn how you can get the word out about your evaluation results!

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4 Steps of Strategic Planning

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

Our process graphic1. Collaborate

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

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

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

2. Assess

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

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

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

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

3. Facilitate

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

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

4. Create

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

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

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

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

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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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