Category Archives: Nonprofit

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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Marketing 101: 4 Steps for Your New Year Marketing Efforts

Happy New Year! Now is the perfect time for setting goals and focusing in on priorities specific to your New Year Marketingmarketing efforts. At Transform Consulting Group, we know your work is important. We also understand that your time and resources may be limited, regardless of the role you play at your organization. Your marketing strategies cannot be a luxury that you ignore. With these quick tips, you can make the most of your efforts this year!

4 Steps for Your New Year Marketing Efforts

  1. Reflect

    Push the brakes and spend time reflecting on your marketing efforts last year similar to what you would do for your organization’s programs and services. What worked? What didn’t work? Did you reach your target audience and participation numbers? Did you accomplish your fundraising goals and how was marketing a part of that effort? FINAL New Year in Review (4.5x6.5) front

    If you set goals last year, did you meet them? If you didn’t set specific goals last year, spend time looking back on your efforts. Take inventory of your social media platforms, your web traffic, other digital efforts, advertisement efforts, created collateral, etc. What are trends you can recognize? Specific marketing “wins”?

    Make sure you have a clear idea of where you’re at before you start taking those next steps into the new year. At TCG, we do a year-end review to share with our clients. This is a great opportunity for us to highlight our successes and share in a visual way.

  1. Plan

    Now that you’ve put in the necessary time for reflection of the past year, it’s time for the fun part – planning!

    Brainstorm – Team up! Your organization may not have the luxury of a huge marketing department, but Marketing brainstormingyour colleagues can offer fresh perspective to your planning. Bring new people to the table, and start dreaming up possibilities that align with your goals. You could invite staff from different departments, board members, volunteers and possibly clients, if appropriate. The more voices and perspectives you include might provide fresh insights to inform your marketing efforts.

  1. Set Goals

    We wrote a whole blog on setting SMART goals here. You’re probably setting goals for your programs. Don’t forget your marketing goals! Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Look at the systems you have in place to be able to help you report out on your marketing goals: Google analytics for your website traffic, social media platform analytics, customer feedback surveys, and any other data collection methodologies.

    Schedule – Once you have goals determined, break out action items that will need to happen to ensure success. It can be intimidating to have a year goal, but monthly or even weekly goals may seem more realistic. At TCG, we like to use a monthly plan and highlight the theme or goals for every month of the year. We then break down specific tasks and put them on the calendar for reminders and regular check ins to ensure we stay on task.  

  1. Budget

    There are a lot of ideas you can implement for the new year without additional money (check out our other blogs here: list your organization online, improve your website, enhance your social media, and build your brand). However, you should have a budget allocated to support your organization’s marketing and communication strategies. Some line items on our budget include:

  • Dedicated FTE (staffing – either internal or hired out contractors)
  • Conferences and special events
  • Advertising
  • Collateral/Swag (printed materials, pens, banners, signage, etc.)


    Your budget should align with your goals and the schedule you implemented earlier. Space out the expenses throughout the year and make sure you factor in any additional expenses to avoid surprises. Once you begin to collect some data against your goals, you can start to determine which marketing investments are “worth it” and redirect funds accordingly.

Is your organization ready for the new year? Are you prepared with a marketing strategy to elevate the importance of your work and cause? If not, contact us and let’s put some plans in place!

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Putting Data into Context

At Transform Consulting Group, we are proud data nerds. Through our evaluation services, we help clients collect, analyze, and share meaningful data. In this blog post, we explained who to share your data with and why. In today’s post, we will go one step further by providing tips on how to present your data in a meaningful way. More specifically, we’ll discuss how to put your data in context and why it is important to do so.

Impact Image- blogWhen presenting your data, you shouldn’t share it in isolation. For example, an after school tutoring program might find that 75% of their students pass their required standardized tests. If the program shared this data point by itself, their audience might have a lot of unanswered questions, like:

  • How does this pass rate compare to other students who don’t receive tutoring services?
  • How does this rate compare to local and national data?
  • What standardized tests is the statistic referring to?

 

To avoid this problem and present their data it a meaningful way, it would be best for the tutoring program to cite outside data sources to provide comparison, credibility, and context. By including this additional information, the program could more fully illustrate their impact and outcomes.

We are currently working with the Center for Leadership Development to develop an evaluation plan. Through this process, we have helped them demonstrate their impact by presenting their data within context. Here are three tips we shared with them that can also help you use outside data sources to put your data into context.

1. Find credible data sources that add meaning to your data.

When citing outside data, it’s important to make sure the data is credible, accurate, and relevant to your organization’s work. When working with clients like CLD, we often provide a resource sheet listing different data sources they can cite for comparison and context. An example of a data source we shared with CLD is the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s College Readiness Dashboard. This was an appropriate choice because it is a reliable interactive data set that can be used to compare the outcomes CLD students experience to other students in their state and county in similar demographic groups. Check out this blog post for a list of our go-to data sources. This list may help you identify which data sources you can cite to move your organization forward.

2. Benchmark similar programs.

In a previous blog post, we explained that you may want to benchmark the practices of organizations similar to yours when making a programmatic change or looking to diversify your funding. Benchmarking can also be helpful when creating an evaluation plan and reporting your data. Looking at the outcomes of similar programs gives you comparable data to assess your program’s efficacy.

When working with CLD, we benchmarked similar programs such as College Bound in St. Louis. Their programming aims to help low-income students get into and graduate from college. Not only were they a similar program for CLD to compare their outcomes to, but they are also a great example of an organization who puts their data into context to make it more meaningful. For example, they compare their data to St. Louis Public School data and low-income students across the nation:

94% of College Bound students have matriculated to college immediately after high school, compared to 66% of St. Louis Public School graduates and only 51% of low-income graduates nationwide.

By presenting this statistic in the context of the students’ school system and other low-income students, College Bound is displaying the impact they are having and the success of their students relative to their peers.

3. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

We always tell clients to make sure they’re not trying to compare apples to oranges. This phrase refers to the comparison of items that aren’t really comparable. An example of this came up in our work with CLD when reporting their alumni’s postsecondary persistence rates. When comparing their persistence data to local and national data, we needed to make sure the outside data set was defining persistence in the same way they were. They define it as persisting from Freshman to Sophomore year of college. Other sources defined persistent students as those who were enrolled at any institution or had attained a degree 3 years after first enrolling. Therefore, these two data points aren’t really talking about the same thing and aren’t comparable. By finding the right data sources to compare your data to, you ensure that the data and context is meaningful.

If you need help presenting your data in a meaningful way and using it to make data-informed decisions, give us a call to see how we can help through this process!

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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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