Category Archives: Nonprofit

4 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Volunteer Committee

When was the last time you were asked to join a committee? Did you have a deep sigh of angst or a smile of excitement. Your reaction was probably the former, which is not uncommon. Most professionals I know are involved in one if not multiple volunteer committees and seem either frustrated or lukewarm about the purpose or progress of the committee.volunteer committee blog

Participating in committees is a great opportunity to get diverse voices and perspectives to inform complicated issues and bring forward new solutions. Committee work can also be a great leadership development and community engagement opportunity for staff. When we take the time to be thoughtful about our role and involvement, then we can accelerate the impact of our committee work.

Part of our project management work includes providing staff support for different volunteer committees. These include the Governor-appointed Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee, Healthy Families Indiana Think Tank, and community-based coalitions (read more here).

Many of my team members are also involved in committees as a volunteer. As a result, we sit on both sides of the table. It’s with this broad perspective that we share the following tips for how you can make the most of your committee work!

1. CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS  

You or your organization were hopefully strategically asked to join this committee. Do you have a clear understanding of your purpose for being on the committee? Are you representing a specific perspective (industry type, stakeholder type, subject matter expertise, etc.), and the leaders are wanting you to share your perspective on behalf of this group? If you are not clear, ask the leaders up front when you are joining.

In addition, what are the leaders expecting you to do on this committee? Is this a working committee that is developing a proposal or reworking policies/ programs? How much time and involvement is expected of you on this committee? Are the leaders of the committee expecting you to share information you learn at the committee with others in your circle or industry?

I was recently asked to join the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Steering Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strategic plan and supporting the working committees. When I joined, I was informed of the reason I was being asked to join, the purpose of our work, and the time commitment for the Steering Committee. I understand my role and the purpose of the group.

A well-run committee should have these expectations and obligations clearly articulated from the beginning, so there is no “gotcha” later when they ask you to do something you didn’t know you were supposed to do. By having this clarity, you should have a stronger sense of purpose and meaning for participating on this committee.

2. ASSESS YOUR ROLE

Once you know the purpose of the committee and your expectations for involvement, now it is time to assess your personal role and contribution. What type of “talent” can you contribute to the committee?

Do you bring a unique perspective that no one else on the committee shares? Can you gather information or review information in a way that no one else can contribute?

My colleague, Sara Anderson, was asked to join our local county’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Data Committee. Leaders of the committee became aware of our data expertise and had a need for more assistance. Sara learned more about the committee’s data needs, helped them organize the data into a dashboard (see more here and here about our dashboard work!) to visualize and share with the other committees the impact of their work and made recommendations to improve the data being collected.

Reflect on what ways you can add value to the committee’s work and offer it to the leadership and the group. This will provide more purpose and meaning with the committee and also improve the overall work of the group.

3. PREP AND PLAN

Usually before each committee meeting, the leadership will send out meeting materials (agenda, handouts, etc.) in advance of the committee meeting. If you make the time to review those materials and any other follow-up from the last meeting, you will be able to contribute more in the committee meeting. It will give you a sense of purpose for the meeting and how you can participate/ add to the discussion.

By preparing for the committee in advance, you can also be prepared to ask thoughtful questions or gather other helpful information that could contribute to the discussion. Nothing is worse than showing up to a committee meeting where action is supposed to be taken and feeling like the other members did not do the prep needed to have a meaningful discussion.

4. SHARE YOUR LEARNINGS

Hopefully through your engagement on your committees you are learning new information. Now you are informed and equipped to share this information with your colleagues and industry. Again, you might strategically be asked to share information with your network. Even if you are not asked, odds are that they would still benefit from learning about your work.

For the state advisory groups that we staff and provide backbone support, many committee members find value in participating in the groups because they learn what is happening across the state. Then they are more informed to take that information back to their community and network to help get everyone on the same page and expand the discussion.

Assess the information that you have received and learned through your committee work and think about who in your network could find value in it. Maybe it is simply a quick post on a social media channel, including a blurb in your next e-newsletter or sending out an email. Whatever the communication medium, make sure to pass along what you are learning with relevant parties involved!

Do you have a committee that has stalled and needs some help? Contact us for a free consultation to see if we might be able to help you!

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Besides an ask, did you say thank you?

Research shows nearly a third of giving happens at the end of the year, so now is the time to focus on communication and donor stewardship. Hopefully your year-end campaign will bring in new donors as well as repeat donors. Throughout your campaign, don’t forget to circle back to those who give and follow up with your gratitude.

According to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report, retention rates for first time donors are between 25-30%, but for multi-year donors, the retention rate doubles. We know it’s a busy time of year, but at TCG we recommend building in time to thank your donors and begin (or continue) building a relationship that will continue throughout the year and for years to come. Ultimately, this continued engagement will help grow your donor base.

Ways to Stay In Touch

  1. Celebrate your success
    Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 8.17.13 PM
    During the end of the year frenzy, don’t forget to thank your supporters and volunteers! Dedicate one of your emails to celebrating what your organization has achieved this year. Include a list of highlights, pictures from events, or a holiday picture of staff, and start building excitement for the coming year.
  1. Send a thank you
    Once you receive a donation, the job is not done yet. Make sure that each donor receives a receipt with their donation. That is required. But don’t stop there. Send your donors a dedicated thank you email or letter. Sooner than later. Want to really say thank you and engage your board? Have board members call or write major donors to express appreciation for their gifts.
  1. Add another communication check in
    It is also part of good donor stewardship to communicate regularly with your donors. Engage (or reengage) your donors in your nonprofit as it is obviously a cause they care about. After the first of the year, welcome new donors. They might have given because a friend or family member supports the cause without knowing the details of what you do. Create a welcome series of emails to get them better acquainted with your organization. And for all donors, connect with them throughout the year and include a call to action – to sign up for your newsletter, tour the facility, attend a program, or volunteer!

TIMELINE. For Follow-Up

You have your campaign strategy and a plan for following up with donors. Here’s a timeline of how everything works together!

Timeline:

  • Start campaign week of Thanksgiving (11/19)
  • Giving Tuesday outreach (11/27)
  • Touches throughout December until December 31st
  • January-February:  Review the data to see how your campaign performed. How many new donors, recaptured donors, and repeat donors did you have?
  • Keep in touch throughout the year!

Want more ideas for your year-end campaign? Check out our latest blogs on Giving Tuesday and 10 Tips for Year-End Giving Campaign. If you want to learn more about how your campaign performed this year or to improve your organization’s fundraising next year, check out our services and contact us today!  

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7 Strategies to Maximize #GivingTuesday

As 2018 comes to an end, we’ve talked a lot about how to end the year with a bang when it comes to your fund development goals. (Find our 10 tips for your year-end giving campaign here). This blog is all about Giving Tuesday – the National Day of Giving.Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 3.41.39 PM

Giving Tuesday falls on the Tuesday right after Thanksgiving. The idea is to have a day for giving thanks (Thanksgiving), followed by two days for deals (Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and then there is a day dedicated to giving back (Giving Tuesday!).

Giving Tuesday provides a unique opportunity for your organization to engage with donors, partners, and volunteers – and hopefully raise some money! To get the most out of your Giving Tuesday strategy, we recommend implementing these seven strategies:

  1. Set a giving goal
    Decide how much money your organization wants to raise on Giving Tuesday and what the money raised will go toward funding. Once you decide your goals, share them with your supporters! Donors want to know where their money is going and the difference it will make. This strategy will also help build excitement throughout the day as you creep closer and closer to your day’s goal.
  2. Focus on new donors
    Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to engage with new donors, no matter the size of the gift! Use messaging that clearly illustrates your mission and work for individuals who may not know much about your organization. Talk about the importance of your services and your impact in the community. Include options for gifts as small as $5 on your donation pages to get new supporters in the door.
  3. Engage millennials Giving Tuesday is a very social and hashtag friendly day of giving. It may not connect with all donors (which is why Giving Tuesday should only be one piece of your year-end giving campaign), but it is a perfect opportunity to get millennials excited about your mission AND sharing your campaign.
  4. Use various communication mediums Videos, pictures, and testimonialsScreen Shot 2018-11-12 at 3.39.46 PM are all great tools for sharing your organization’s story. Since Giving Tuesday is primarily an online campaign, you will need to think of how you’re engaging supporters in a way that stands out in the often-distracting digital world. Check out case studies from Giving Tuesday campaigns in 2017 here. Notice the unique messaging, visuals, and strategies used. You’ll see that not everyone focuses on raising dollars during their campaign. In-kind donations may be just as valuable for your organization. You can frame your entire campaign around your organization’s specific need.
  5. Schedule “pushes”
    Tuesday, November 27th may be the big giving day, but planning content to promote leading up to Giving Tuesday will really increase your impact. We recommend 1-2 additional communications in the weeks prior to Giving Tuesday. Promote on your social media platforms that your organization is participating in Giving Tuesday, and share what the day is all about. Send an email blast to your contact list to get them excited about participating. It’s not too early to start building excitement!
  6. Implement peer-to-peer fundraising
    Giving Tuesday is the day to rally the troops and get your network engaged in your fundraising goals. Encourage volunteers, board of directors, staff, and partners to share why they support your organization on their own personal social media platforms. Provide your supporters with content and language to share that is consistent with your messaging. Encourage key contacts to create their own fundraisers on your organization’s behalf.
  7. Follow up with donors We know it’s a busy time of year, but don’t neglect your donors. Acknowledge every gift, no matter the size. Have a process in place for depositing gifts in a timely manner and issuing gift receipts for tax purposes.

As the holiday season approaches, our team would love to support your fundraising efforts. Check out our services here, and contact us today for a free consultation!

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4 Free Ways to Increase Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising

Nonprofit leaders know that fundraising is critical to success. There are some easy and free electronic giving options that you can start using now! Regardless of how small or large your organization is, you can benefit from your supporters’ regular shopping habits. These donations can become a consistent part of your comprehensive fund development plan.

We have identified 4 such platforms making these donations possible—either through retail companies or third party businesses. The basic formula for all of them is the same. You register your nonprofit with the platform for free. You let your supporters know that they can register themselves with the platform for free. Your supporters choose your nonprofit as the donation recipient. They make purchases, and you receive a small donation with each purchase. The donations come from either your supporters themselves or the retailers.

4 Apps and Websites That Help Nonprofits Raise Money

  1. RoundUp App – This app allows nonprofit supporters to donate the change from credit and debit card purchases to help fund a nonprofit of their choice. Shoppers use the app’s secure connection to link their bank or credit card. At the end of the month, RoundUp tallies the change from your supporters’ transactions. Then, the company sends you a donation from your supporters in that amount. On average, each RoundUp App user donates $20-$30 per month.  
  1. Giving Assistant – Nonprofit supporters first create an account with Giving Assistant. When they shop at online stores, such as Target, Macy’s, and Best Buy, they earn cash back. Then, users have the option to donate part or all of their cash back to the nonprofit they choose. Giving Assistant states that organizations receive an average of 10% of sales from supporters’ everyday purchases. This can add up to around $100 in donations per year from each user.
  1. AmazonSmile – When Amazon customers register for AmazonSmile, the customers designate a nonprofit to receive a percentage of their purchases. When users shop, they go to smile.amazon.com. Then, Amazon donates 0.5% of customers’ purchase prices on eligible items to the supporters’ nonprofits of choice.
  1. eScrip – When nonprofit supporters create an eScrip account, they don’t get an eScrip card to use with purchases. Instead, they securely connect their existing store loyalty cards, credit cards, and bank cards to their eScrip account. Then, users choose which registered nonprofit or school they want to support. When customers shop at participating retailers with their registered cards, those retailers donate to the selected nonprofits.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of These Fundraising Tools

Once you have these accounts set up for your nonprofit, let your supporters know how to use them!

  1. Tell your staff, board, and volunteers!
  2. Add clear instructions on your website’s giving page.
  3. Post them on your social media channels with links and directions.
  4. Put them in your newsletters and other communications.
  5. Track your donations to see how active your supporters are. Link their giving amounts with the promotion work you’ve done. Then, you can see which promotional activities (e.g., social media posts, newsletters) have the greatest return on the investment of your time.

When you promote the use of these fundraising platforms among your existing and prospective supporters, you are also raising awareness for your cause. Check out our blog on this topic for more tips!

Using these platforms can also be a good entry point for getting all your staff, board, and volunteers engaged in fundraising. Everyone who supports your organization has an important part to play in fund development. Encourage them to recognize and embrace their role!

Do you need help in determining how to maximize your funds across all your fund development efforts? Check out our fundraising strategies services, and contact us to learn how we can help you meet your goals!

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10 Tips for Your Year-End Giving Campaign

2018 is quickly coming to an end! Before you know it, we’ll be saying “Happy New Year” and plans for 2019 will be underway.

We’re heading into the season of giving. It is that time of year where donor dollars increase significantly. Year-end giving trends suggest blog infographic 1that nearly one third of annual giving happens in December.

At Transform Consulting Group, we highlighted tips for ending your fiscal year strong in this blog. One way to finish the year on a high note, is to kick off a year-end campaign with these simple tips (view our video recap of these tips here):

  1. Start Planning Now: You can’t wait until the last few weeks of December to reach out to donors or to make the first “ask.” Get a plan in place today that you can implement over the next few weeks.blog infographic 2
  2. Send Something: Whether it’s a holiday greeting in the mail or an email blast wrapping up the year, your current donors need to hear from you. You can highlight an accomplishment from this year, share a specific need heading into the New Year, or just thank the donor for their past generosity. Most likely your donors are hearing from other organizations too, and you need to be on their radar.
  3. Engage Volunteers: Take the time to appreciate your volunteers this year. Thank them for the time they
    invested in your organization. You may even decide to give a special gift to those who met X amount of service hours. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to your organization. These are the people who are already engaged in your mission and have seen first-hand the work you do.
  4. Enlist Your Board: Your board of directors can be your biggest asset this time of year. Have board members write personal thank you notes, make phone calls or accompany you to meetings with donors.
  5. Segment Your Contact List: Your strategy should be different for different donors or partners. Organize your contacts into specific lists and plan your approach for each group such as: major donors, once a year donors, volunteers, alumni (past clients if appropriate), board, etc.
  6. Go Visual: Create consistent images and visuals for all aspects of your campaign. Try highlighting major accomplishments or data using infographics (check out our blog series on infographics here). Feature client success stories and quotes with photos (if appropriate). Create images and banners to display on all social media platforms. You can even set up a microsite just for your holiday campaign that clearly showcases your goals and progress over the next few weeks.
  7. Plan A Giving Day: We highlighted tips for implementing your own “Giving Day” in this blog. This can be a unique day that your organization chooses to ramp up efforts or you may decide to take advantage of Giving Tuesday (read our blog with tips here). Regardless of what you choose, make sure you continue promoting your cause until December 31st. Surveys show 12% of funding comes in during the last 3 days of the year, so you shouldn’t just rely on one day for giving, but it can be a great tool to kickstart your efforts.
  8. Make It Easy To Give: Provide your donors with several options for giving and make the options clear! Create a button on your website for donations. Have a link on your social media pages that directs followers to give. Send pre-stamped envelopes for those donors who you know would rather give via check or cash.
  9. Focus On Donor Stewardship: It’s very rare that you can ask a person for money, and they give it to you on the spot. You need to steward a relationship with them first. Build trust and learn about the causes they are interested in. Donor stewardship is important for engaging new donors but also for helping to move current donors to the next level of giving. Don’t expect that your holiday postcard sent in December will be enough to gain significant traction. Make plans to meet up with specific people who you know can give more or should be giving period. Start those conversations today.
  10. Make It Personal: Regardless of what methods you use to ask for gifts (email blast, mailings, one-on-one meetings), you need to bring the focus back to the people you serve and causes you are working to impact. Put a face to your mission and make it personal. Share specific stories of how your programs changed a family’s life. Introduce a donor to that single mom who went back to school. Highlight exactly where the donor’s dollars are going and who will be impacted. Along with the personal anecdotal stories, don’t forget to include your outcome results. Need help with having good data to share? Check out this blog or our services.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the many challenges that organizations face and often it begins with funding limitations. We want to work with you on ways to maximize your funding, so that you can move your cause forward. We love thinking outside of the box to come up with unique ways to engage current and new donors. Contact us today and let’s put your year-end campaign into motion!

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5 Tips to Implement an Evidence-based Program

When awarding funding, philanthropic funders want to invest in “what works” and is proven effective. Many funders show preference for programs and practices that are evidence-based. Implementing an evidence-based program is a great way for grant seekers to demonstrate that they are also committed to “what works”.

For example, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation recently awarded funding to over 20 schools and school districts as part of their Prevention Matters initiative.  Prevention Matters is a three-year grant initiative aiming to help Marion County schools identify, implement and sustain proven substance use prevention programs.

To apply for this funding, schools selected an evidence-based substance use prevention program that aligned with their needs. In their proposal, schools had to demonstrate that they had a strong plan for implementation and sustainability. Developing such a plan can be a daunting task, but is crucial for successful implementation. We worked with Bishop Chatard and the North Deanery Schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to help them develop their implementation plan and proposal (Which was fully funded by the Fairbanks Foundation! Learn more about our fundraising services here.). Here are 5 tips we used to help them prepare to successfully implement their evidence-based program!

1. Select an Evidence-based ProgramWhat Works Image (1)

First, you need to find a program that aligns with the needs you are trying to address. For example, if you are a school looking to prevent substance use and violence, while also promoting positive youth development, you may choose to implement the Botvin LifeSkills Training curriculum.

Taking the time to research available programs is crucial to ensuring successful implementation and maximum impact. To learn more about how to find an evidence based program, check out this blog!

2. Assess your Organization’s Capacity

Once you have selected an appropriate evidence-based program, it is important to assess your current funding and staffing capacity. You want to assess if your current organizational capacity will allow you to implement the program with fidelity. Fidelity refers to the extent to which you deliver your program as the original program model intended. Evidence-based programs are  proven effective and that effectiveness relates to how the program is implemented. Therefore, fidelity to the model is crucial to successful implementation.

Completing a feasibility study is a great way to assess your capacity and readiness. A well designed feasibility study will help an organization assess 1) if what they are thinking of implementing is possible and 2) how to consider implementing it. Check out this blog to learn more about completing a feasibility study.

The assessment of your capacity may indicate that you need to make some organizational changes. For example, you might need to tweak your program budget to purchase necessary materials and/or hire additional staff. Making these operational and workforce investments will lead to more successful implementation and program outcomes.

3. Create an Implementation Plan

Next, it’s time to flesh out your implementation plan. This plan should include a timeline and should specify staff members’ responsibilities for program related tasks. Many evidence-based programs have a set number of required sessions and guidelines for how frequently they should occur. Make sure that your implementation plan aligns with program requirements.

4. Train and Prepare Staff

Once you create your implementation plan, provide training for staff involved in the implementation. Involved staff should have a clear understanding of the program goals, activities, and their responsibilities throughout implementation. Your implementation plan should also include continued professional development opportunities and training for staff, to ensure continued high quality implementation.

5. Establish Continuous Monitoring Procedures

Once you begin implementing the program, you want to continuously monitor your fidelity to the program model. Many evidence-based programs come with accompanying fidelity checklists. It is important to identify a staff member, or an outside evaluator, who will conduct observations of the program to evaluate the implementation. You can use observations and fidelity checklists to assess if the program’s implementation is consistent with the original program model.

If your organization is looking for support in choosing, implementing or evaluating an evidence-based program, contact us today to learn more about our program development and evaluation services!

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7 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Work

We cover tips for enhancing your overall social media presence in our Marketing 101 blog series here. You’ll want to keep those tips in mind as we take a deeper dive into the perks of promoting your organization on LinkedIn.

We know there are many social media platforms you can use to promote your work. It quickly gets overwhelming when you try and keep up with everything. We recommend choosing 1-2 platforms to engage with your targeted audience (whether that’s donors, clients, etc.), and do those really well.

We are big fans of LinkedIn at Transform Consulting Group, and we choose to invest time and resources into connecting with our audience through this platform. Why? For TCG, LinkedIN is where our target population is spending time and the best use for our efforts. It will vary depending on your client audience. For example, if your audience is younger, then Instagram or Twitter might be a better fit.

LinkedIn also relies on staff and employees to help promote the organization’s presence. Because our team works across the state, we often have colleagues attending different events or meetings. Our team is on the go, and LinkedIn is a great platform for everyone to share what they are learning and doing related to TCG.

To ensure that we are best leveraging this platform, we follow these 7 practices and think you should too!

7 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Work

  1. Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 4.28.16 PMAdd Visuals – When setting up your organization’s profile, include your logo and a cover image on your organization’s page. Your logo appears when members search for you as well as on your employees’ profiles. Research shows that companies with logo images get six times more traffic to their pages
  2. Be Consistent – When we talk about consistency, we’re talking about two areas: 1) in the content posted and 2) in the way your staff engages online.

    As with any social media content or marketing effort, it is important to stay true to your brand (check out tips in this blog). Your content should be relevant to your work and the sector you serve. Share articles and reports that are related to your cause. Snap photos of clients and share your story of impact. Always remember who you’re targeting to determine if the content is relevant and appropriate.

    Consistency also applies to your staff because LinkedIn really encourages “networks.” As mentioned earlier, this is what makes LinkedIn work. The way to expand your network is by having staff link their personal profiles to your organization’s page.

    One of the first things we do at TCG when we have a new hire is share step-by-step instructions for adding their new position with our company to their personal profile. You can search any of our staff and you’ll find consistent language explaining TCG and our work. Because everyone is expected to link our organization page in their work history, we want to make sure that their networks are getting an accurate picture of who we are.

    If you do a quick scan of your employee’s LinkedIN profile, are they all consistently and accurately explaining your organization? If not, then this is an opportunity to strengthen the branding and awareness of your organization. Add this step to your staff orientation checklist!
  3. Optimize for Search – Company pages on LinkedIn are search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly. Google previews up to 156 characters of your page text, so fill in your descriptions with powerful, keyword-rich copy to uniquely explain your organization.

    On LinkedIn members can search for companies by keyword. Include words and phrases that describe your organization, expertise, and industry focus. 
  4. Encourage Engagement – Your engagement on LinkedIn relies heavily on your network. (Are you sensing a theme here?) The easiest way to get your content shared with new people is to encourage participation from your team. Challenge your staff to “like”, comment and share your organization’s posts. When they do this, their individual networks are then able to view and engage with your content. This is vital to growing your following!

    We have a weekly social media challenge among our TCG team. Everyone is asked to post one time a week and link our company. We do this to hold our team accountable to helping grow our organization’s online presence, while also having clear, simple expectations. It’s easy to get sucked into social media. This allows for healthy boundaries that keep everyone on task!
  5. Share Content Regularly – Plan to post on LinkedIn organization page 3-5 times per week. Consistent posting encourages engagement. Updates posted in the morning usually earn the highest engagement.
  6. Experiment with Ads – As with most Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 4.00.56 PMsocial media platforms, LinkedIn ads are low cost and can open doors for new clients, donors, etc. LinkedIn offers different options for their campaigns. You can target a specific audience to promote content, create actual ads that will pop up viewers’ homepage, or send target messages directly to people outside of your network.

    As with any advertisement, use engaging, colorful language and visuals that are specifically geared toward your audience. If you’re going to spend money, make sure there is a clear call to action in your ad so you can easily track your return on investment.  
  7. Track Progress – LinkedIn has free analytic tools for tracking engagement. You’ll find this tab in the top left corner. This tool will help you track what content your followers are engaging with, demographics of your visitors, best times to post, etc. We pull a monthly report from this tool to ensure that our efforts on LinkedIn are working and identify areas we can improve our approach. Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 4.30.26 PM

We believe social media is a great method for telling your organization’s story. At TCG, we want to help you accelerate your impact – whether that’s with your marketing efforts or through our other servicesContact us today and learn more!

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Are You Ready for a Federal Grant?

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

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

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


1. Compelling Need

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

2. Program Design

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

3. Program Impact

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

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


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

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

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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Internship Program

As a college student, I believe it is important to gain valuable experience in the workforce. My internship at Transform Consulting Group (TCG) has wrapped up, and I feel better prepared for graduation because  of this summer experience. I am grateful for companies like TCG who provide opportunities to interns (like myself) to build our skills, network with other professionals and strengthen our resumes.

I understand that hiring interns can be a gamble for organizations. You invest time and resources into someone who is often a college student, has little experience and is still sharpening their skillset. While interns do make more work, there are some benefits for hosting an intern:

  • Build your talent pipeline: An internship program is a great recruiting tool and can help you create an ongoing pipeline for your workforce.
  • Increase productivity: There is extra time needed on the front-end of an internship program to get the intern ready to dive into the work. However, once you have done the proper training, it can be nice to have extra hands on deck for projects.Group 4
  • Save money: Interns can be a low cost (TCG pays their interns!) resource for your organization while still being highly motivated workers.
  • Build leadership development opportunities: Having an intern can be a great way to encourage leadership growth among your team by assigning different (maybe even unlikely) employees to supervise an intern.

Now that I have sold you on the benefits of having interns, there are certain things that organizations can do to make it a meaningful experience for everyone! Here are 5 ways to help strengthen your internship programs:

1. Develop an in-depth orientation

Your intern has (hopefully) already studied the company prior to their first day, but it’s important to spend time catching them up to speed on who you are and the work your organization does in the community. You want them to feel confident right away, and it equips them to accurately explain your organization’s work when they share their experiences with fellow students, professors, and future employers.

On day one of my internship, I had a complete employee onboarding. I received collateral materials that tell the story of TCG, and had an opportunity to ask questions about the company.

thumb_IMG_0015_10242. Treat the intern as a real employee

It benefits both the intern and your organization if you provide them with real-world tasks and tangible projects. It is important to remember that even if they will be an employee for a short period of time, their work will still have an impact on the organization. Give your intern opportunities to contribute and walk away from the experience with work they can add to their portfolios. 

3. Schedule regular check-ins

Not only is an internship a great way for a young professional to gain work experience, but it can be a way for them to learn from other professionals in your organization. Allow for times of discussion, share your story, and be transparent about lessons you learned along the way in your career.

4. Practice patience

Every organization has a different way of doing things.  It takes time for any new employee to understand the culture and work environment at a new organization. Be patient with your interns as they learn the ins and outs of your organization and how they can contribute. More than likely it will take them longer to complete a task, and there will probably be some additional reviews involved.

5. Provide time for networking

Along with connecting interns within your organization (if you have more than one), it is also beneficial to allow for opportunities to build their network outside of your walls.

I was able to enjoy social events like Rotary meetings, educational conferences, and networking specific events with other local interns. To make the most of time out of the office, be intentional about scheduling time to debrief.

Internships are a critical step in a young professional’s learning and a company’s talent pipeline. Overall, my experience at TCG as a marketing intern provided opportunities to strengthen my skills and abilities, learn more about the type of work I want to do in the future, and gave me practical experiences that I can share in my portfolio as I begin the job search. It’s the type of experience I hope my fellow classmates are able to find!

Learn more about the team and culture at TCG here, and stay posted on any job opportunities here.

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5 W’s of a Process Evaluation: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE TO CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

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

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

WHEN TO CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

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

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

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

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

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

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