Category Archives: Program Development

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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Your Project Is Feasible. Now How Do You Implement It?

You completed a feasibility study and found out that your project is feasible! Now it’s time for the work of actually implementing your project or new program. What are your next steps?

Your implementation plan will include 4 focus areas: program design, staff, communications/ marketing, and budget. Here are some specific action items to get you on your way to full implementation!

Program Design

A well-designed program will enable you to have the greatest possible impact. Your feasibility study helped you make sure that the elements of your program are informed by the outcomes you want to achieve. Now it’s time to purchase the necessary materials, including the curriculum, as well as necessary office and program supplies.

You will also want to have a method of evaluation in place from the start. You can set this up internally or hire an external evaluator. The evaluation process will help you adjust to changing needs and improve upon your practices. Decide on the process you will use, purchase a database if necessary, and write standard operating procedures for your staff.

Staff

You will likely be looking to hire and train new staff in order to fully implement your program. For this, you can rely in part on the information in your feasibility study. In addition, use what you and your leadership team have done in the past when hiring new staff.

Your feasibility study will help you determine how many staff to hire in your first year. During the first year, you will still be in the process of ramping up to full capacity. Then, determine how many staff are needed once you are operating your fully developed program. You might also work on partnerships with local higher education institutions, workforce boards, and other critical groups to support staffing your new program.

Communications and Marketing

You started developing partnerships with key stakeholders when you engaged them during your feasibility study. Continue to keep these partners informed and engaged as you make progress! During project implementation, you may want to form relationships with additional partners as well. These partnerships are an essential part of your overarching communications and marketing plan.

marketing-toolkitYour marketing strategies will be important as you build your program, begin program enrollment, and communicate its value to your prospective clients and the broader community. Your goals are to attract your target clients to your program, build community buy-in, and increase awareness of prospective donors of the positive impact of your program.

Start using the marketing tactics and timeline you identified in your feasibility study. Create a website, or add onto your existing website with information specific to this project. Send a press release to local media to announce your program launch. Create social media pages for your new program, or add the new information to your existing pages.

Budget

Use the information in your feasibility study to put together a detailed start-up budget. Remember to account for all your projected initial costs. Then, create a budget for each of your first 3 years of operation. For your first year, you will likely not build out your full model. To inform your year-one budget, determine how many clients it is feasible to serve in that first year before you have built up your program’s capacity. When filling in your budget for your second year, account for increases in revenue and expenses for operating at full capacity. As you look to year three, quantify projected changes you expect to see after two years of operation.

jay-county-feasibility-studyYou will set yourself up for success by budgeting for start-up expenses, as well as the changes you will see in the initial years of operation. As you identify the amount of revenue needed to implement your program, create a fund development action plan to secure sustainable funding.

We recently completed a feasibility study for early learning stakeholders in Jay County. Now they are sharing the study results with a broader array of partners. Then, they will determine how to get from where they are now to full program implementation. If you’re interested in completing a feasibility study or taking the the next step toward program implementation, we’d love to help! Contact us today!

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3 Financial Health Indicators to Track for Your Organization

Is your organization financially healthy? How do you measure the financial health of your organization? Nonprofit, education and other community organizations can look at the financial health of their organization and its relationship to your impact. Financial health also helps make sure programs are being run efficiently and if any program changes need to be made.

For many organizations, financial information is used with staff and administrators and shared with boards, potential funders and clients. It is not always necessary to give each audience the detailed level view of an organization’s financial information. However, it is critical that the leadership of the organization is aware of and tracking some critical indicators that determine your financial health.

While working with ten early childhood education programs on reaching their financial goals, we first had to look at the overall financial health of the organization. We asked to see income statements, balance sheets, client/ service information and any other key financial indicators. It can be hard to make sense of all of this information, especially for staff and board members who are not accountants or financial advisors.

We saw a gap and need to summarize the most important financial indicators in a one-page overview that can be regularly (and automatically) updated for board meetings, funder reports, and other key reports. We were able to identify three key areas of information to highlight for different. While every organization is different, we believe these three financial areas are critical for every organization to track and monitor.

Three Financial Health Areas to Track for Your Organization

1. Participation

If you are an organization that receives funding based on participation or enrollment numbers, then this is a critical indicator for you to track. Just like a hotel tracks their vacancy rate, your organization should have set goals and benchmarks for participation or enrollment rates. These should be based on your budget and what is needed to “break even”. Then you can look more closely at your participation by different population groups and a calendar of enrollment.

The chart example below shows the trend in children served by month. The trend shows how the capacity fluctuated. It may be useful to take closer look at multiple years to see if the monthly trends are consistent by year. This will help organizations plan for the future.

OrgDash1

2. Revenue & Expenses

Looking at the overall revenue and expenses helps organizations see when more money is coming in compared to what is being spent. Comparing these funding sources helps make informed decisions on program changes when necessary.

For example, when we looked at the revenue sources for an early childhood education program, we saw a majority of funds were coming from government subsidized programs. This might be a risky revenue source to rely on for a program. We helped the leaders discuss what might be a healthier percentage to set as a goal for government funding and other funding sources. We encouraged the program to increase regular parent-pay enrollment and fundraising initiatives to create more balanced revenue streams.

The sample dashboard section below takes a deeper dive into the revenue and expenses of an organization. This includes:

  • Budget versus actual revenue and expenses,
  • Net income (revenue minus expenses) trend, and
  • Sources of revenue and expenses.

As seen in the donut chart, the revenue and expense sources are each categorized into four main buckets. This makes the categories more understandable for a variety of audiences.

OrgDash23. Account standings

Looking at the organization’s account standings is a simple way to monitor any large fluctuations in the account. It also helps decision makers see how much money the organization has to work with at any given time. For example, a fundraising event that will have to be funded from the account can be approved if the board knows the appropriate funding is available in the accounts.

The dashboard below shows fairly consistent account amounts. The dip in checking in September could raise some questions. This is an opportunity for the organization to go back to the original sources to understand why.

OrgDash3

We encourage organizations to collect information beyond these three areas. These areas are meant to give a snapshot and raise questions within the organization when necessary. As seen in the examples, we like to display these areas in a visually-appealing dashboard using Tableau Software. Interactive dashboards allow users to apply filters and easily update the dashboard every month or quarter. Organizations can use other methods to display information depending on the intended audience and the amount of information being shared. View our Dashboard Services page to find out how we can help you with your dashboard needs.

If your organization does not know where to start, this blog post may be helpful for understanding why financial goals are important. At TCG, we can help your organization identify what financial information to collect and recognize key areas to share with the intended stakeholders. If your program needs support evaluating your financial stability or creating a visually appealing financial dashboard, contact us today!

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3 Strategic Plan Tools to Create

Congratulations! You have journeyed through the 4 steps of our Strategic Planning Process and you’re ready for the final step: Create. (We covered step 1, step 2, and step 3 in previous blogs).

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.19 PM

The goal of a strategic plan is to develop timely, relevant and action-oriented plans for the future of your organization. Once you have a clear direction, it is time to make sense of the information and package it in a way that is meaningful and possible to implement.  

At TCG, we believe a strategic plan has little value if it is a report that sits on your shelf, never to be seen again. We don’t create long strategic plan reports that you can’t use. We want you to use it, share it and review it on a regular basis.

When working with clients, we recommend and create 3 different strategic plan tools:

1. One-page strategic plan – This is a one-page summary of your goals and top strategies. This tool can be shared externally with partners, funders, and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.

When creating a strategic plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we wanted a one-page overview that highlighted the following key elements:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.33 PM

a. Stakeholders involved (especially since this is a collective impact, multi-sector plan)

b. Goals

c. Strategies

d. Outcomes

Each one-pager for the strategic plan that we create is unique to the client but essentially covers their top goals and strategies.

2. Strategic plan report – This report explains the process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information that was collected, and more details about the goals and strategies. This is typically an internal document that is shared with staff and the board to use when reflecting on the process. It’s especially helpful to document this information for when there are leadership transitions with the staff and board.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.53 PM

3. Implementation plan – Too often we find that organizations get stuck with figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. We create an “implementation plan” to unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board. The main audience for the implementation plan is staff, board and committee members who are most likely responsible for implementation.  Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.04.09 PM


This could be set up like a calendar or a chart that describes who is responsible for each step. We also love using Tableau to create a strategic plan dashboard to track and monitor action items and milestones. The point is that we want all parties involved to have a clear understanding of the timeline, so that they can put the plan in motion.

Is your organization ready to jump into a strategic planning process? Learn more about our strategic planning services here. Contact us today, and we’d love to chat about how our team can meet your needs.

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3 Tips to Evaluate Multi-Site Programs

Evaluation is one of many services we provide for clients at Transform Consulting Group. Evaluation is important for any program because it helps organizations determine if a program is effective or if the change they set to accomplish actually occurred. In a previous blog we shared the 4 key steps to evaluation that we follow. These steps are (1) establish clear outcomes, (2) create or modify data tools and systems, (3) analyze the data, and (4) use data to make informed decisions.

Some of our clients offer their program Multisite Programservices across multiple sites. This program model can be useful because it can save time, money and resources (i.e. hiring one director to manage multiple sites). As evaluators, we appreciate multi-site programs as well. Here are some reasons why multi-site evaluations are important and useful for evaluators:

  • Increases knowledge about what works in different settings
  • Allows for larger sample size when gathering data
  • Creates opportunities for sharing experience and knowledge about what works
  • Helps evaluators see sustainability on a wider scale

At TCG, we are currently evaluating a coupleY Observations 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) Program grantees. The clients implement the program across multiple sites, usually different schools within a school district. We use the following tips to help us evaluate multiple sites for one program.

3 Tips to Evaluate Multi-Site Programs

  1. Observe each program site: Site observations help evaluators see how a program is implemented across each site. Is the approach and curriculum consistently followed? What is each site doing well compared to other sites? Where do improvements need to be made? Observations give evaluators important context and understanding when it is time to analyze the data. For the 21st CCLC program, the clients operate both summer, before and after school programs. We have built into our evaluation plan time to observe each site during the summer, at the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year.
  2. Collect data by site: Each site will have unique factors that may influence the program and overall data. When we are able to look at  data by individual site, it will help inform recommendations for improvement and possible best practices. For example, we recently worked with a multi-site program to assess their workforce retention data. They identified several locations that had really high turnover and a few sites with lower turnover rates. By disaggregating the data by each site, we were equipped to inform some strategic decision-making.  
  3. Solicit stakeholder feedback: Gathering input from key stakeholders is a critical component of our evaluation process (see these past blog posts: How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders in your Planning and 4 Tools to Collaborate with Key Stakeholders). For the 21st CCLC program, we sought feedback from program staff. We wanted to know if all staff understand the goals and outcomes of the program since it’s a new program for the organization and they have hired several new staff. If the responses differed, we can report back to the administrators that better messaging may be needed to ensure the program is being implemented effectively and meeting the state requirements.

Once data and information has been collected by site, the evaluator determines the best way to report the information. Depending on the audience for the evaluation report, the data may be presented differently.  For an external audience (public, the funder, etc.), program summary results may be reported. For internal audiences (staff, board of directors, volunteers), it may be helpful to present the data at a disaggregated level by each site or location. There may be steps to take to better align sites to meet program goals and outcomes.
4 step evalWhile there may be some additional steps needed to evaluate multi-site programs, our overall four-step approach to evaluation stays the same. Good evaluations often lead to recommendations for improvement. This is an opportunity to discuss data collected and implications for future programming, including ongoing program evaluation practices within the organization. If you like our approach, contact us today to learn about how we can help you with your next evaluation.

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What is the Breakeven Point for Your Early Childhood Education Program?

For early childhood education programs, as well as other nonprofits, it is important to know the organization’s “breakeven point.” This is the point at which your expenses and revenue break even, meaning you have enough funding to run your program.breakeven-point

Operating a high-quality early childhood education program is expensive. Child Care Aware of America produced a report in 2017 called Parents and the High Cost of Care. This report discusses the aspects of high-quality programs that drive up the cost. It also acknowledges the gap between the cost of operating a program and the amount that families can afford to pay.

Often, program administrators cannot pass that entire expense on to families of young children because most families cannot afford the full cost. Child Care Aware of America finds that nationally, on average, married couples spend 10% of their income on child care for one child while single parents spend 36%. Therefore, many programs end up stitching together various funding streams in order to make it to their breakeven point.

At Transform Consulting Group, we’ve partnered with Early Learning Indiana on a project designed to improve the financial stability and sustainability of early childhood education programs. We’re currently working with 10 early childhood education programs in Indiana to help them access new funding streams and accomplish their financial goals.

For many programs, their financial goal was to improve their internal systems, procedures, and accounting practices. They did not know exactly how much they needed to bring in weekly, monthly, or annually to meet their financial obligations—let alone make any changes, such as increasing staff wages, expanding to serve more children, or implementing a scholarship or tuition assistance program.

For this project, we adapted a tool developed by First Children’s Finance that helps programs determine their breakeven point. This tool enables programs to determine the total expenses and revenue of their overall program. It also calculates the number of children they need to enroll in each classroom in order for each room to break even. If your program doesn’t already calculate your breakeven points, there are many reasons to start now!

Why Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

Calculating your breakeven point for your overall program and each classroom tells you whether or not your current levels of revenue truly cover all your expenses. Many early childhood education programs know that the tuition parents can afford to pay does not cover their costs, but they may not know what their true deficit is. Other programs know their overall annual surplus or deficit, but they don’t know how much revenue they need to break even in each classroom.

For example, it is more expensive to operate infant classrooms than preschool classrooms. If you calculate your breakeven points, you may learn that enrolling your preschool rooms at 90% of their capacity will cover the deficit in your infant rooms. Infant care is a significant need in most communities and therefore it is likely an important part of the mission of an early childhood education program. Because of this, programs accept the fact that they will have a deficit in those rooms, but now they can move forward with a plan to recoup their losses.

As in the example above, other types of nonprofits also need to be aware not only of their overall breakeven point, but also the breakeven points of their various programs. An after-school organization might run an arts program, a sports program, and an academic enrichment program. The after-school leadership team may learn that the arts program isn’t currently breaking even but scaling up the program would help the bottom line.

When Should You Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

Some organizations may decide to use a breakeven tool annually, updating it to provide a check on how they are budgeting. Another use of a breakeven tool is when an organization is considering a change like one of the following:

  • Moving to a different location with different space constraints
  • Expanding one or more existing programs
  • Adding a new program
  • Anticipating the loss of a particular funding source

One of the ten early childhood education programs we worked with during this project was Mt. Pleasant Child Development Center. They were excited to be able to use the breakeven tool as a check on how each of their classrooms’ breakeven points factor into their budget. They also wanted to use the information gleaned from the tool to determine how much funding they can reinvest in their staff benefits.

At TCG, we understand that performing this kind of financial assessment can be difficult and time-consuming. If your program needs support with evaluating your current budget or help with achieving your future goals, contact us today!

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Training Your Team

As a new employee (week 8 on the job), I’m learning more and more about Transform Consulting Group. I have found that we don’t stop working where other consultants might.

At other consulting groups, the typical client engagement cycle is this: Research is finished. Meeting is over. Report is delivered. On to the next client.

Client:  Now what?

Consultant:  I wonder what they did with our recommendations.

TCG goes further – we help you implement change.

At Transform Consulting Group we go further in helping our clients implement change. One way we do this is through training our client’s staff.

CLD TrainingJust like no funder wants to adopt a grantee forever, no client wants to hire a consultant forever. We want to make sure that the work we have completed for the client will be sustained beyond our engagement with the client.  

We work with several clients to support their evaluation needs. This might include evaluating a program for a grant, developing an evaluation plan and process, or developing a data dashboard. Evaluation can be intimidating for many of our client’s staff, so we make sure we develop data tools and plans that they can manage and implement beyond our engagement. In order to accomplish this, we might embed a series of trainings for staff throughout our evaluation project.

We are currently doing this right now for the Center for Leadership Development. We have provided the following training topics mainly around analyzing data:

Our trainings include detailed slides, a recording of our training, and handouts. These are all useful tools that can be shared with new staff at an organization.

We also offer trainings on other topics for which we provide services. Some of our popular trainings include:CQI Training UW Central IN

Not only does the organization benefit, but according to research, employees want professional development!  It makes them feel that the company is investing in them and their development, which can increase employee retention.  A win-win!

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the importance of evaluation and the critical step of implementation.  If your organization needs help developing its staff or would like to engage with a consultant that can help you through the entire evaluation process, contact us today to learn more!

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3 Steps for Creating a Fund Development Case Statement

A fund development case statement is a broad three- to five-page overview of your nonprofit organization that highlights who you are and what sets you apart from other similar nonprofits. Your case statement sets a foundation for grant applications and donation requests.  

Fund Dev Case Statement Blog

At Transform Consulting Group, we use 3 steps when partnering with organizations to create a fund development case statement. We recently used these steps to develop a case statement for the Johnson County Learning Center (JCLC): Early Learning Community. JCLC provides early childhood education for families in Johnson County. Right now, they are seeking to increase their overall funding and diversify their funding streams. They are new to fund development, so one of our solutions was to help develop their case statement.

Step 1: What is the Need?

Address the compelling need for your organization or cause. Why do you exist? What happened to spark the founding of the organization? Why do you continue to operate? What problem(s) in particular are you working to solve? Consider the following:

    • Demographics: Who is your target population? What are some key data points that characterize them and demonstrate their unmet need?
    • Services: Is there a lack of services like yours? Are you filling a critical gap? Do you provide speciality services that are needed and missing?
    • Research: What does the literature say about why your work matters? What studies have been done that demonstrate the importance of your work and cause?

Tip: Use available, relevant information. Perhaps organizations in your community or region have conducted needs assessments. For state and national data sources, check out our blog.

For JCLC’s case statement, we used Census data to help funders and donors get a sense of the community’s demographics. Since they work in the early learning and education industry, we pulled data from the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) county profiles and interactive dashboard and the Indiana Department of Education.

Step 2: What are You Currently Doing?

Address what you are currently doing to meet the need. How does your organization fill the existing gap in your community? Consider the following:

    • Programming: What are the programs and services that you offer? What makes them uniquely effective?
    • Impact: What are your results and accomplishments, including the numbers served and outcomes? What positive trends or recent changes have you identified?
    • Stories: Who can tell personal stories about the positive impact of your organization in their lives?

Tip: Use existing language from your website, annual report, and newsletters.

JCLC had already developed content for their website to communicate their mission and programming. In addition, they pulled some data reports to provide more detail about their reach and partnerships. We were able to use their existing language and data as a foundation for their fund development case statement.

Step 3: What are Your Plans for the Future?

Address what else you hope to accomplish that will better meet the need of your target population. This is why you are asking for grant funding. Consider the following:

    • Unmet Need: Why do you want this grant funding? Is there a population or geographic area you are unable to serve?
    • Your Case: How is what you are currently doing (while great) not enough to meet the compelling need? What are your limitations?
    • Your Proposal: How would you use the funding in order to meet the need?
      • Expand Services: Is the need overwhelming and you need to serve more?
      • Enhance Services: Do you need to refine your services or programs in a particular way, such as specializing or retooling them to meet the needs of the target population?
      • Launch New Services: Do you need to start something new to fill a gap, perhaps based on new research; a new community needs assessment; or a changing target population?

Tip: There’s no need to start from scratch if you don’t have to! Consider if you have written similar information for other grants or reporting requirements. More than likely you have this information in multiple places and just need to thoughtfully pull it together.

Data from ELAC and Child Care Aware of America shows that in Johnson County, there are many families who cannot afford the cost of early childhood education. At the same time, a growing body of research shows the positive impact for children, especially low-income children, attending a high-quality early education program. These children can achieve positive academic, social, and economic outcomes (ELAC Annual Report, 2018). There is a need for community investment to create a more robust scholarship program that would help make sure all families can access the education needed for their youngest children. Now, JCLC will share this data with local funders to seek the specific dollar amounts necessary to increase the number of children served by their scholarship program.

If your nonprofit needs to seek additional funding or you would like help reviewing or creating a fund development case statement, contact us today to get your organization on the way to financial strength and sustainability!

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Benchmarking Organizations Similar To Yours

If you are looking to make a change in your organization, then you may want to start by benchmarking the practices of organizations similar to yours. There’s no need to spend your valuable time and energy reinventing the wheel. There are other organizations with programs similar to yours, in regions similar to yours, with funding needs similar to yours. Learn from them!CHIP

Transform Consulting Group recently went through the process of benchmarking other nonprofit organizations for our client, CHIP: The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention. CHIP is in the process of growing its programming and is seeking to partner with new funders.

2 Reasons You May Benefit From Benchmarking

  1. One reason you might benefit from benchmarking is if you want to change your programming or expand to serve different clients or another location. Start by benchmarking the best practices of organizations with similar programming—both locally and in other regions similar to yours. Then, focus on nonprofits that have already successfully navigated a comparable change or expansion.

    For our work with CHIP, they were already experts on funding sources of local homeless service providers since they function as a leader in the homelessness system in Indianapolis. We were able to help them by benchmarking other homeless service system leaders in similar cities across the country. Through this process, we identified different funding streams that CHIP is now leveraging. We also investigated various ways that other organizations have developed partnerships with homeless service providers, as well as public-private partnerships. Then, we analyzed the aspects of these structures that aligned with CHIP’s goals for development and expansion.
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  2. Another reason benchmarking may benefit your organization is if you want to diversify your funding streams. First, research organizations with similar programming in different regions to learn about funders and funding sources that may also be available to you. Then, benchmark other organizations in your region with programming that is different from yours. Some of those organizations’ funding strategies may be applicable to you.

3 Strategies For Conducting Benchmarking Research

  1. Online Research – In today’s Information Age, the majority of information that we want to know is readily available at our fingertips. Doing research online goes beyond just looking at an organization’s website. You can dig deeper by looking at their annual reports and other publications. In addition, remember to check out their social media posts for more information about how they operate. Also, use a search engine, such as Google, to find out what others are saying about the organization.
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  2. Review 990s – Some nonprofit organizations share detailed information about their funding sources on their website or in their annual reports, but others do not. Most nonprofits have to file an annual tax form called a Form 990. If an organization doesn’t put it on their website, you can find their 990 elsewhere online.
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    Since our work with CHIP is centered on fund development, we paid particular attention to 990s in our research. We analyzed and compared the amount of funding coming from various sources, such as philanthropic grants, member dues, and government grants.
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  3. Key Informant Interviews – Electronic research is very useful, but sometimes you can learn more from a conversation with an expert. If you identify a few organizations that are very relevant to your work and goals, then reach out to staff there. Before your conversation with them, be sure to plan your questions ahead of time. Keep your questions focused on your goals in order to make the most of your time and theirs!

Tracking Key Indicators

Track your findings, and synthesize what you’ve learned! Before starting your research, set up a tracking system that works for you and your team. Then, document what you learn. Finally, figure out how your learnings can positively impact your organization! assess-01

These are some key indicators you may want to track.

  • Organization Nam
  • Location & Service Area
  • Population Served & Demographics
  • Organization Size & Number of Staff
  • Programs, Initiatives, & Focus Areas
  • Funding Sources & Funders
  • Interesting Data & Ideas
  • Collaboration with Partners

If your organization wants to make a change in order to have a bigger impact, Transform Consulting Group can help you with the necessary research & analysis to achieve your goals. Contact us today to get started!

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4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

Too often non-profits and government agencies immediately begin implementing a new program or service area. They see a need with their clients or a gap in the existing services, so they elect to help meet that need. This all sounds good, right? The challenge is that there has not been enough time to complete a comprehensive planning and assessment process to develop the program or service. One service we offer our clients to meet this need is completing a feasibility study.plan-act-do-study-cycle4

We follow the Plan-Do-Study-Act or “PDSA” continuous quality improvement cycle (learn more in this blog).  We help clients assess, design, launch and evaluate programs and services in order to meet community needs and apply the latest research. When following this approach, we most often find that clients tend to skip the first step “Plan” and jump straight to “Do” as mentioned above. We work to help our clients thoughtfully plan out their services, programs, and interventions before they implement them to get the impact and desired change they are working towards.

Implementing a feasibility study is a great tool to complete a thoughtful planning process. 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.

Shoes at ArrowsWe are currently working with a group of community leaders in Jay County to complete the feasibility of converting an old elementary school building into an early childhood center. Like many rural communities, Jay County has a declining population that has impacted their local schools in continuing to operate multiple school buildings, which has resulted in school consolidations and closures. At the same time, their rural community also struggles with attracting new employers due to a lack of child care for a growing workforce. Their community leaders had the idea of converting a closed elementary school into an early childhood center but wanted assistance in completing a feasibility study first.

4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

 

1. Market Analysis

During this step you want to gather key information about your targeted population. This includes collecting demographic information from online public sources. This helps create a composite of your targeted community and population. We also suggest completing a landscape assessment to identify any other organization providing similar services or working with the target population. Lastly, it’s important to gather some qualitative feedback from various key stakeholders in the community to determine what they think the needs and gaps are as well as build community will for possibly launching a new service. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, and key informant interviews.

The purpose of this step is to ensure that there is in fact a need for your proposed program/ service. Check out this blog for more insight on completing a community needs assessment!

2. Program Design

During this step you will want to complete some research on your targeted service area. For Jay County, we are gathering the latest research on early childhood program models and services that lead to the desired outcomes they are seeking. Our landscape scan is also looking at existing program models in the community so as to not duplicate existing options but to consider complementary program models that will meet the needs of communities. If you are seeking external funding, you may want to adopt or align your program around research-based models that have demonstrated outcomes. This will provide confidence to potential funders in implementing a new program.

The purpose of this step is to determine the best model and design for implementing your program. Check out this blog for more tips on finding evidence-based programs.

3. Business Model

The next step is to develop the business model for operating the program. During this phase of the feasibility study you will gather important financial information that will help you understand what it will cost to implement the program and potential sources of funding. You should create a budget and possibly complete some financial forecasting to show start-up costs and when the program would “break even” or be self-sustaining. This step should also assess the operations behind implementing the program, which includes the staffing model, materials and services, training, facility, technology, equipment and other program needs.

With Jay County, we are completing walk-throughs of three possible locations with an architect and construction group to inform the best location to operate an early childhood center. This will inform the potential capacity to serve children, the staffing needs and ultimately budget the break down for start-up costs versus ongoing maintenance costs. The purpose of this step is to think through all of the components needed to successfully implement the program.

Check out this blog for some tips to establish financial goals.

4. Communications Plan

The last (and sometimes forgotten) step is to develop a communications strategy if you decide to launch the new program. After spending all of this time assessing and planning the design of the program, you want to ensure that the targeted audience knows about the program and enrolls/ participates. The communications plan would include determining the current knowledge base in the community, so there might need to be some education and awareness about why you are providing this service especially if it is new and different.

In Jay County, we are launching a PR Campaign through a series of op-eds penned by different key stakeholders (employers, teachers, judge, doctor, etc.) in the community all talking about why expanding early childhood is critical to meet the community’s needs. Your communications plan should include the different channels (social media, newspaper, radio, text, mailings, etc.) that residents use to gather information. In a parent survey (our potential client for early childhood services), we asked them where they get their information and their preferred method of communication. Based on this assessment, develop a start-up marketing plan and community education plan for the proposed new program that will meet participation goals and engage the key stakeholders and partners in the community.

Check out this blog for tips on creating an op-ed campaign and this blog for getting media attention.

Completing a feasibility study may seem unnecessary or slow down your timeline, but the time you invest up front will see a return in a well thought out model that will be set up for success and to accomplish your goals. Completing intentional design through the PDSA model is a critical differentiator for Transform Consulting Group and many clients point specifically to this process improving their own internal operations which accelerates impact. Contact us if we can help you complete a feasibility study!

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