Category Archives: Program Development

Why Are Financial Goals Important?

Your organization probably has a mission statement and strategies in place for achieving your program goals, but do you also have concrete financial goals? Whether you administer a nonprofit, faith-based organization, or a small business, you have to think about the financial health of your organization.

Your mission and program goals are, by definition, tied to financial goals. Serving your clients and families, as well as paying your staff, requires funding. If you haven’t thought about the health of your current budget or your future financial goals, now is the time! The 4 steps outlined below can guide you.

Step 1: Assess your organization’s finances.

  • First, you may need to spend time reviewing your current revenue, expenses, and the quality of your bookkeeping. In this process, engage your leadership team, board of directors, and/or financial consultants.
  • If needed, determine how to improve your accounting practices. Keep in mind that accounting and other supportive services are part of what enables your programming to have the desired impact.
  • If your organization is not consistently breaking even, then that will inform your financial goals. If your revenue exceeds your costs, how are you reinvesting it in your mission?

Step 2: Set specific goals for your program, such as increasing funding or serving more clients.

  • Separate from the process of reviewing your budget, do you have ideas for the future of your program?
  • Does your organization have an up-to-date strategic plan? In your planning process, did you start by determining the end results that you want to see?
    • What are your plans for program improvement? Goals for Financial Goals Blog
    • Is your organization looking to replicate its services in another geographic region?
    • Did your needs assessment indicate that you should expand to serve a broader range of clients and families?
  • As you are going through the process of turning big ideas into program goals, be sure that you make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, or SMART.

Step 3: Set financial goals that will enable you to meet your program goals. What will it cost to meet these goals?

  • You may have some goals for your organization that do not require additional funding. Perhaps you need to prioritize your current funding and/or staff time.
  • Other goals, like serving additional clients, expanding to a new region, and increasing staff wages, do require additional funding.
  • Quantify your specific short-term and long-term funding goals. Then, specify how these goals help you achieve your desired outcomes.Financial Goals-Blog image

Step 4: Develop specific strategies to accomplish your financial goals.

  • One possible strategy is decreasing your current costs. Review your spending from the past few years to see if there are opportunities to save money.
    • You may find that your organization is using resources for activities that are not as closely tied to your mission as they should be.
    • Could you negotiate with any of your vendors for lower service fees?
  • Bringing in additional revenue can be a daunting task. Break it down into smaller pieces.
    • What type of funding are you already accessing that could be increased?
      • Could you raise more from individual or corporate donors?
      • Could you increase your fees for services?
    •  What other funding sources are you not already accessing?
      • Could you write a grant for the first time?
      • Is there government funding available that supports your field?

As you assess the overall health of your organization, remember to focus on areas in which your background is not strong. If you are the director of early childhood education program, then your experience and education is likely in the field of child development. You probably have a lot of ideas to improve the quality of education at your program. Also be sure to consult experts in other areas, like finance, to ensure you are making the most impact!

Our team is currently engaged in a project funded by Partnerships for Early Learners, a program of Early Learning Indiana. We are working with 10 early learning programs across Indiana to help them meet their financial goals. Going through this 4-step process is different for each program. The programs are structured differently and bring unique skills to the table. Despite their differences, each program has been able to set specific goals and find funding strategies that will work best for them.

If you’re ready to jump into this process and need some help with goal setting or fund development, contact us at Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

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How to Measure Character and Leadership Development

In many youth development and education programs, improving character and leadership development are common goals. Measuring them can become challenging due to their close relationship and broad understanding. This is why it is important to establish clear definitions of character development and leadership development before completing an evaluation.

We are currently working with a college and career readiness program,  the Center for Leadership Development (CLD), on their internal data collection and evaluation process. Two key principles of CLD are character development and leadership effectiveness. In order to determine the best way to measure these two focus areas, we walked CLD Leadership through a process where the team defined the two key focus areas, assessed their alignment across the 13 different programs and services, developed short-term IMG_0398outcomes that align with the definitions, and mapped their alignment to long-term aspirational outcomes.

1. Establish Clear Definitions

The Center for Leadership Development has a model that utilizes principles like character development and leadership effectiveness to measure the college and/or career readiness of its participants. In order to effectively measure the two principles separately, the team needed to establish clear definitions of character development and leadership effectiveness for the organization. For example, one-character trait of college and career readiness is discipline. One must be disciplined in order to complete assignments on time whether it be in a school or professional setting.

2. Ensure Alignment with Programming

To ensure programs had the proper alignment with the core principles, the CLD leadership team identified programs with strong focuses on character development and leadership effectiveness. We walked the leadership team through each program to ensure the programs focuses aligned with the two principles and their definitions.  This process creates an understanding with the team and makes sure the measures are connected to the curriculum or services.

3. Develop Short-term Outcomes

Once character development and leadership effectiveness were defined, CLD’s leadership team began to brainstorm short-term outcomes for these focus areas. These short-term outcomes were developed based on the established definitions. For example, the CLD leadership team identified self-discipline as part of what defines character development for the organization. If the program has a focus on character development, there should be a short-term outcome that will provide a measure in order to show an increase, decline or no change in the self-discipline of a participant. This will help the staff understand if the curriculum and program is addressing these specific areas and moving closer to accomplishing its goals.

4. Align to Long-term Outcomes

The CLD leadership team also needed to ensure that the principles aligned with the long-term goals of the organization. The team reviewed research and discussed the rationale behind why character and leadership development are critical components to propel students to a college and career path. The goal of ensuring alignment between the principles and long-term goals is to avoid losing sight of the long-term vision and impact, and to make sure everything remains connected.

Many programs that focus on developing strong character and leadership abilities in youth focus on these efforts simultaneously. It can be challenging to measure character traits and leadership traits separately when character development sets the foundation for building strong leadership skills. Although this challenge exists, organizations can overcome this hurdle by first establishing clear, organizational definitions in order to move forward with creating short-term outcomes to measure the impact of a program and the organization as a whole. We at Transform Consulting Group are here to support the data and evaluation needs for your organization. Contact us today!  

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Why You Should Consider Implementing STEM Curriculum

It’s all the buzz right now, so what is STEM? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s an approach to education that’s designed to revolutionize the typical teaching of subjects like math and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum.

STEM Education shifts the typical teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning and hands-on activities. Some programs have added “A” for art making the acronym “STEAM”. By adding art, educators are promoting creativity and flexible thinking among students in a science and mathematics context.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 9.47.29 PM

Workforce and economic development experts strongly support the need for a STEM/STEAM focus, which may be why it’s such a hot topic right now:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration, career opportunities related to STEM over the past ten years have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs.
  • In 2018, there are projected to be 2.4 million STEM jobs in the U.S that could go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.
  • STEM occupations have wages significantly above the national average wage for all occupations. The national average wage for all STEM occupations was $87,570, nearly double the national average wage for non-STEM occupations ($45,700).

In a recent project, our team worked with an organization to apply for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant. This non-profit organization offers after-school programming for middle school and high school students. Part of their grant application included implementing STEAM in their weekly curriculum and connecting students to local STEAM career pathways. As we worked to implement this curriculum shift, the organization saw four major benefits.

Benefits of STEM / STEAM:

  1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
  2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.
  3. Pave the way for new partnerships.
  4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.
1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
 

By offering STEM / STEAM focused curriculum, you are supporting students’ development of skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career options. This focus encourages strong community partnerships, which allow students to participate in internships and apprenticeships. It also provides additional opportunities for creative and innovative academic enrichment that support students in developmental areas such as academic, social/emotional, civic engagement, wellness, etc. By exposing students to various STEM / STEAM careers, it helps them identify their postsecondary education and career pathway.

2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.

By offering a STEM / STEAM program, you can help set your community up for success by encouraging skills needed for the local workforce. In our example regarding the 21st CCLC grant application, we found that a STEM / STEAM focus for students could really pay off for the entire county. In one school district included in the program, 55% of the students enrolled in college within a year following graduation. Unfortunately, the students are not persisting through completion. Currently, only 29% of the county adults hold an Associate’s degree or higher. That is less than half of the students who enrolled in postsecondary education and the state’s projected goal and need for 60% of adults to have postsecondary education. In this same community, manufacturing jobs – high-skilled and high paying jobs – represent almost half of the employment in the county. Expanding students’ knowledge of STEM-related careers and creating stronger partnerships as well as career pathways will be a game changer in this county!

Boy Assembling Robotic Kit In Bedroom

3. Pave the way for new partnerships.

With a structured STEM / STEAM curriculum, organizations can pull in local partnerships to enhance programming. With the organization mentioned above, we had numerous businesses in the community agree to facilitate field trips, presentations, and hands on activities to enrich the programming for students while also educating the students about local career pathways available. This is invaluable experience for a student who is trying to figure out what their options are after graduation. It is also a beneficial partnership for businesses who need to maintain their workforce pipeline.

4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.

Because STEM / STEAM is all the hype right now, there are numerous funding streams available to support your work. Funders see this as a significant need in our education and workforce systems and are looking to support organizations who can successfully address this need. For the 21st CCLC grant, priority points were given to organizations who included STEM / STEAM in their programming. There is ample data available to convince local businesses and philanthropic partners to invest. Having a clear, focused curriculum in place can open NEW doors for additional funding streams.

As education and technology continues to transform the way we live, work, and learn, STEM / STEAM is something to consider for organizations serving young people. If your organization is ready to take the plunge and shift your curriculum focus, we’d love to work with you. We can help find funding, research programs, write your grant, evaluate existing efforts, and more. Contact us today and let’s chat!

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Three Tips to Scale Up Your Social Program

Social programs are often developed to address service-gaps within communities. As the program evolves and retains strong outcomes over time, organizations may look for ways to expand the services.

The Wallace Foundation recently produced a report called Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs. In this report, researchers conducted a study focusing on what it takes to scale up programs and identified three key strategies.

ScalingUpICON20111

Three Strategies to Consider to Scale Up Your Program

1. Organizational Structure:

There are three organizational structures to consider when determining the proper path for scaling up a program.

  • Branching:  If an organization chooses “branching” as a strategy, the program will be offered at multiple sites under the control of the lead organization. Utilizing this strategy may mean slower growth and expansion for the program due to the fact that the lead agency must manage the various sites. The benefit of branching for program expansion is that the lead agency remains in control of the program delivery and model.
  • Affiliate: Organizations utilizing the affiliate path are able to offer and expand their program to other sites. In this option, the partnering organization has basic control over the program like the leading agency would in the branching pathway. Sometimes these independent organizations are under contract with the lead organization who developed the program.
  • Distributing network: This option allows for an organization to develop the content of a program, but leans heavily on its partners to implement the contents of the program as they have been written. These organizations tend to have a national or regional geographic reach.
2. Partnerships:

Scaling up a program involves multiple partnerships.  No lead organization can successfully scale on their own. Successful organizations who participated in the study noted that supporting and implementing partnerships are very important to bring programs to scale. When making the decision on who to partner with, consider the following:

  • Resources – What resource gaps (i.e. funding, implementation, etc.) can the partnering organization support to bring the program to scale?
  • Organizational Structure – Which partnering organization can best assist with the organizational type of bringing the program to scale?
  • Knowledge and Experience – Does this partner have experience and knowledge within this particular field? Who can help guide the process?
3. Program Model:

When bringing programs to scale, the program model was well defined and possibly refined with demonstrated impact prior to scaling. After scaling, it is not uncommon for the program model to be altered due to program adaptation or reinvention. Based on this study in particular, reinventions of programs often occur in order to change the delivery model, target audience, or program’s focus.  To ensure that the program model remains intact as much as possible, lead organizations may provide implementation guidance to those implementing partners. Online resources like toolkits are also a helpful resource for partner organizations to reference. Although this strategy may help in program fidelity, the overall monitoring process for the lead organization to maintain program control varies. Some organizations utilize tools such as Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), dashboards, on-going evaluations, etc.

Client Spotlight

We are working with a college and career readiness client to help them evaluate their impact. One of their goals for completing the evaluation is to make the case for scaling the program to other communities. It has been the discussion for many years at this organization. However, before they could begin the steps identified above, they first need to affirm that they have a well structured program model with demonstrated impact. Then we could take them through the three steps noted to determine if scaling is an option and the appropriate path forward!  

We, here at Transform Consulting Group, are equipped to assist your organization with bringing programs to scale during a time where social needs, communities, and family demographics are forever changing. If you want help with bringing you program to scale or need assistance addressing reinventions and adaptations contact us today!

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Does Your Organization Have a Continuous Quality Improvement Process?

During a time where communities and policies are changing, it is important to ensure the programs and services within those communities are constantly evolving to meet the needs of families. The Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) model is an on-going process for organizations to be able to determine whether or not a change made led to an improvement in quality. In order to move towards making the necessary improvements, a review of what occurred is conducted through a CQI process like the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

Steps to Complete a PDSA Cycleplan-act-do-study-cycle4

At Transform Consulting Group, we utilize this consistent approach when working with organizations to help them find solutions.

Plan:

Before beginning your PDSA cycle, you will need to have identified a problem you would like to address for quality improvement. The problem identified will guide your purpose for the review. Once you have chosen a change idea to focus on you will need to go through the following steps to plan to test your idea for change:

  • Define the goals
  • Define your research question(s)
  • Make predictions
  • Determine details for implementation of change or intervention
  • Plan of action for data collection

During this phase, we work with the client to thoughtfully plan to implement their new or current program/ service. So often, organizations jump immediately to step 2 – “Do” without completing this critical first step.  During the Planning, we define what we hope to accomplish especially if we are proposing a change.  Then we determine how the proposed change/ intervention will be implemented and work through all of the details.  Lastly, we finalize how data will be collected.

Do:

This phase of the PDSA cycle requires you to conduct the test for the change or intervention. It is during this phase that you will complete the following tasks:

  • Carry out the intervention
  • Collect data
  • Begin data analysis

This step in the process is what most organizations know and are doing. Organizations are delivering interventions everyday with their services. They might be intentionally or unintentionally modifying their intervention.  The “Do” step in this process is not new to organizations.  It is wrapping it around the other three steps that make this work transformational!

Study:

The study phase of the cycle is the time where once you have completed your intervention, you analyze the data and study what did or did not occur.   Organizations will want to review their predictions and assumptions made before conducting the test. You will want to take the following steps during this phase of the cycle:

  • Complete data analysis
  • Compare data to predictions
  • Summarize the information

Organizations often skip over this step in the process or do not spend enough time thoughtfully reviewing the data. For some organizations, their data can be considered “high stakes” and there is a tendency to want to focus on the positive changes/ results that occurred and glance over the changes that did not occur or the benchmarks that were not met.  During this phase, it is so important for an organization to be transparent and honest with themselves when reviewing the data.

Act:

Based on the summarized information, this last phase of the cycle allows you to determine what modifications may need to be made to ensure that the goals you set will be met. Your organization may decide to modify a program element or change how a service is delivered; you may decide to target a different population or use a new curriculum.  Once you have determined whether or not to adapt, adopt, or abandon your intervention, you will be prepared to do the following:

  • Plan next cycle
  • Decide whether the change can be implemented

During this last step, your organization takes all of the information gathered to make data-informed decisions that will ultimately improve your results.  This is the exciting part of the process, and one that you don’t want to skip. This step and the overall PDSA process will help your organization continue to improve the quality of services provided and impact in the community.

In this blog, “Is it time to redesign your program?”, we shared several examples of clients who we used the PDSA process to help them test and implement new interventions/ modifications to make to their programs to improve their outcomes. The CQI process allows organizations to have a plan of action once a problem or service gap has been identified.

At Transform Consulting Group, we follow this consistent approach when helping you find solutions to accelerate your impact. If you are looking to improve the quality of a service or program to facilitate positive change, contact us today!

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Is it time to redesign your program?

Organizations – public and private – go through different stages of development.  During this life cycle, it is not uncommon for an organization to update or modify their programs and services.  At the same time, however, some organizations can be stagnant and need to update their programs. time 3How do you know when it is time for your organization to refresh your program?

Below are three questions you should ask yourself to determine if it is time to update your program.

  1. Are we making the impact that we hoped to make?
  2. Is our program aligned with the latest research?
  3. Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then it might be time to seriously review your program. You may not need a complete redesign of your program, but it’s time to reevaluate.

When we have worked with other organizations to help them improve their impact by updating their program model, there have been a range of changes that we proposed implementing to achieve their results.

In one case, we worked with a large volunteer literacy tutoring program who was not making the impact they had hoped to make.  Through our assessment, we proposed the following changes that were then implemented:

  • Clarify the target population – we learned that the target population to enroll in and receive this literacy tutoring program needed to be more focused.  Students who were reading just below grade level benefited the most from this program.  Students who were more than one grade level behind were not a good fit for this type of tutoring program.  
  • Strengthen the curriculum and training – Since this program relies on volunteers – non-professional educators –  to deliver the tutoring, the curriculum is critical.  After researching other effective literacy tutoring programs delivering the impact we had hoped, we saw a theme in the curriculum and instructional practices that they were implementing.  We adopted a specific model of instruction and updated the training for volunteers.
  • Expand the capacity – the need for this organization’s work was high in the community, but their ability to meet the need was limited to the available volunteers.  They were interested in expanding their capacity through AmeriCorps members who would be able to significantly expand the number of students enrolled in and benefiting from the program.  We helped them determine how AmeriCorps members could enhance the staff capacity of their program and restructure the program model.

With another client who is working to help get first generation college graduate students, they were struggling to deliver the outcomes to their funders.  As we started helping them pull their program data together, the results were not what they had hoped.  After reviewing the data and the program activities, it did not take long to identify some gaps and opportunities in the program.  From our work, we proposed and helped them implement the following changes:

  • Develop new curriculum – Over the years as new staff have worked on the program, the curriculum had “evolved” into a hodge podge of worksheets and lesson plans that were slightly modified each year.  There was not a clear alignment of the curriculum with the identified outcomes.  Rather than modifying what they had in place, we decided to start over in developing a new curriculum that clearly aligned to the outcomes and would be “turn key” for staff to implement.
  • Align multiple programs – This organization operated a school-year program as well as a summer program.  Both programs shared similar objectives of helping get more first generation college graduates.  However, they operated as two separate programs.  We initially started to focus on the school-year program but quickly realized that the “dosage” or impact potential with the summer program was much more focused (40 hours x 6 weeks = 240 hours of “intervention” versus 1.5 hours x 32 weeks = 48 hours of “intervention”).  When we combined the two programs as one overall program, we expanded the “dosage” exposure as well as the possibilities of impact.
  • Focus the target population – The organization was working with multiple schools across a city.  In some cases, it was a middle school in one district and a high school in another district.  Instead, we targeted 2 districts and ensured that we had the middle schools that fed into the high schools for continuity purposes since this program enrolled 7th – 12th grade students with the goal of students enrolling each year.  This change provided efficiencies for the staff and also helped ensure that the students targeted for the program would receive the greatest exposure of enrolling multiple years.

In today’s information era, there is more research that is available to inform our work and ensure that we are implementing best practice strategies to affect change.  In addition, the populations and communities that organizations are serving are changing, and need to evolve with them.  Lastly, local, state and federal policies and priorities are shifting.  Organizations that can adapt to this changing environment can grow and potentially expand their impact.

If you want help assessing the shifting landscape in your community or industry, or you answered ‘no’ to one of the three questions above, then contact us.  We would love to learn more about your program and goals to see how we could support you.

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Working Remotely & How to Make it a Reality

What’s your dream job? Does it entail having a flexible schedule and ability to work WHEREVER? That dream is not uncommon which is nudging more and more organizations towards allowing employees to work remotely.  

Recent statistics show 50% of the United States workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency. However, 80% to 90% of the workforce says they would like toTransform (74) telework at least part time.

At Transform Consulting Group, our team gets the best of both worlds. Staff can work remotely or at the office. Since a lot of our work is meeting on-site with clients, we already found ourselves working outside the office.  Staff enjoy collaborating when necessary, but also love the freedom of working at home. We see many benefits in this structure and we’re not the only ones!

Benefits of working remotely:
  • Employees who can choose to work remotely are more satisfied.
    • 2/3 of people report that they WANT to work from home.
    • 36 percent would choose the opportunity to work remote over a pay raise.
  • Working remotely increases employee productivity.
    • 30 percent of employees accomplish more in less time when working remotely.
    • 23 percent are willing to work longer hours than they normally would on-site to accomplish more.
    • 52 percent are less likely to take time off when working remotely. 
  • Working remotely saves money.
    • If a typical business allowed their employees to work remotely just half the time, they would save an average of $11,000 annually in reduced overhead.
    • When your employees are happier, they stay in their positions longer. An average company loses $10,000-$30,000 for each employee who quits.
    • Employees can also save money in reduced transportation and wardrobe costs.

Working remotely isn’t realistic for everyone. However, for those of you who think you may be interested in jumping on this bandwagon, here are some resources our team recommends.  There are many resources Blog-Remote Workersavailable to support teleworking.  These tools and resources have been effective for our team:

  • Reliable computer, high speed internet services and mobile phone
  • Online Email Communication Platform
    • We use Google at TCG, so employees can access their email anywhere.
  • Online file share and access for team collaboration
    • There are many “cloud” storage systems.  Our team uses Google Drive, and we highly recommend you have an external hard drive or server to regularly back-up files.
  • Project Management System
    • We use Asana to assign tasks, track our team’s work and manage projects. This keeps everyone on the same page.  
  • Phone System
    • We use RingCentral for internal and external communications.
  • Time Tracking Software
    • At TCG, we utilize Harvest which is especially useful when allocating staff time for projects and billing purposes.
  • Video Conferencing
    • While our team doesn’t regularly utilize the variety of resources available, we have used Go To Meeting; WebEx, etc. when corresponding with clients.
  • Clear Communication and Expectations
    • Clear understanding of work schedules and when staff is “on” and “off” the clock, so the team knows when everyone is available.
    • Have regular check-in calls and in-person meetings to review tasks and projects.
  • Team Bonding
    • While employees do enjoy the flexibility and freedom of working independently, they still want to feel connected to each other and the organization. Therefore, it is helpful to schedule in-person group activities whether it is annual, quarterly or monthly.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to accelerate your impact and that often starts by creating an empowering work environment for OUR team so that we are better equipped to serve yours.  For a full list of our services click here and let us know your thoughts or recommendations regarding working remotely!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  We were not asked to highlight any of the listed resources and only share our own opinions.

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Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Enrollment in Your Program

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

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

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

5 Behavioral Economic Principles

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

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

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Is Your Non-profit a Cooperator or a Competitor?

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

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

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

Benefits of Cultivating Non-profit Networks

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Why Your Organization Might Consider a Merger

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

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

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

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

Benefits of a Merger or Organizational Restructure:

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

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

Common Types of Organizational Restructures:

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

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

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

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

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