Category Archives: Program Development

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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Fighting the Summer “Learning Loss”

kids-learningFor many children, summer is a time of fun and a break from school. However, summer can also lead to “learning loss” for many students. Studies show students score lower on standardized tests after summer than they do before. It is also reported that students lose approximately two months in math computational skills over summer vacation. Several organizations and schools are working to prevent summer learning loss by taking advantage of the summer months to extend students’ learning and ensure that they start school ready to learn! By participating in unique summer learning programs, students develop new skills, explore interests and get hands-on experience.

When designing summer programing, organizations should consider and address many issues, but the five most important are listed below:

  1. What: What will the summer program consist of? Programs vary from creative-writing programs to language-immersion classes; what is your organization passionate about and how can this learning opportunity show that?
  2. Where: Where will this summer learning program occur? If it’s a program that teaches students about microbiology, have it in a biology lab! If it is a program teaching students about creative writing, perhaps a computer lab or library would be most beneficial.
  3. Why: Why should students and parents pick your summer learning program versus another? Be sure to establish the added benefits that your program offers and highlight these in all marketing materials.
  4. Who: Who will be the target audience for your summer learning program? By picking an age group, it will be easier to establish a beneficial curriculum and structure your program. For example, a program for elementary students should look very different than for high school students.
  5. How: Finally, how will this summer learning program be implemented? This is the “nuts and bolts,” of the summer learning program. What is the duration of the program? Who are the staff and what training do they need? What are the recruitment efforts? Who are community partners to help deliver the program?

Today, summer programs are truly taking advantage of the coveted summer months to build in learning through play. As a result, more and more students are able to have a fun summer through various enrichment experiences that help them explore their interests and ensure that they are on track to start the school year ready to learn.

If your organization is looking to implement or modify your summer learning program, contact Transform Consulting Group today. We can help you assess your current program, review the latest research, and design or retool your summer program.

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New Pre-K Family Engagement Program with AmeriCorps

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 4.49.36 PMEarly Learning Indiana is working to engage parents in their child’s education and development and help parents support their child’s learning at home. Through a newly awarded AmeriCorps grant provided by Serve Indiana, Early Learning Indiana will be able to build the capacity of Indiana pre-k programs to engage parents.

A growing body of research suggests that meaningful engagement of families in their children’s early learning supports school readiness and later academic success. As a means to supporting family engagement and children’s learning, it is crucial that programs implement strategies for developing partnerships with families.

The good news is that parents of all income-levels desire and want to be more engaged in their child’s early education. A 2014 nationally representative poll commissioned by the Kellogg Foundation found that 42% of U.S. parents believe that involvement in their child’s education is most critical between birth and through preschool.

The addition of the AmeriCorps grant will provide approximately 15 AmeriCorps members who will work with high-quality pre-k programs in three of the five counties (Allen, Marion and Vanderburgh) participating in the state of Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program. The AmeriCorps members will train and support providers’ capacity to engage families and develop on-going partnerships with parents and community based organizations.

Transform Consulting Group applauds Early Learning Indiana’s leadership in applying the latest research on family engagement while addressing a critical gap in Indiana’s pre-k programs. Transform Consulting Group was hired by Early Learning Indiana to help them strategize a partnership with AmeriCorps to support the engagement of families in high quality pre-k programs and assist them in completing the AmeriCorps grant application.

Need help updating a program design or applying for a grant? Transform Consulting Group stays current with the latest research. We can use this experience to align your program and organization to “what’s working”. Contact us today, no matter whether the project is large or small!

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Federal Program Spotlight: Family and Youth Services Bureau

FamilyYouthServicesIn the series highlighting federal programs, Transform Consulting Group is now highlighting the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). FYSB is a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support organizations and communities that work to put an end to youth homelessness, adolescent pregnancy, and domestic violence.

FYSB offers an array of services and programs in an effort to support the social and emotional well-being of youth and families. FYSB offers three key programs:

  1. Runaway and Homeless Youth Program supports street outreach, emergency shelters and longer-term transitional living and maternity group home programs to serve and protect this population. An executive summary of young people who experienced homelessness is available here.
  2. Family Violence Prevention and Services Program administers the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), which is the primary federal funding source dedicated to the support of emergency shelter and related assistance for victims of domestic violence and their children.
  3. Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program supports prevention of pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections among adolescents by promoting comprehensive sex education, adulthood preparation programs and abstinence education.

The FYSB programs rely on partnerships between state, local and community based organizations to administer the identified programs and services. The Indiana Youth Services Association (IYSA) supports Youth Service Bureaus across the state that deliver community based services. To find a list of all current FYSB grantees, click on this map.

Transform Consulting Group has worked with IYSA and its members to have clear outcomes to track and monitor their progress in supporting youth in their community.

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Protecting Students, and Holding College Programs Accountable

blogStudents pursuing education beyond high school have several different paths to choose: attend a trade school, community college, baccalaureate program, or for-profit institution – all of which can either be public, private non-profit or for-profit. Unfortunately, student outcomes and costs vary tremendously depending on the path pursued.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, attending community college is one-fourth the cost of attending two-years at a for-profit institution. This causes 80 percent of students attending for-profit institutions to borrow, while less than 50 percent of students at public institutions have to borrow.

The Obama Administration has announced new regulations that will go into affect on July 1, 2015 to help improve outcomes for students and also protect them from massive amounts of debts. These new regulations will hold colleges accountable as they prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” If colleges are unable to meet these standards, then they will lose access to federal student aid.

The new regulations consider “gainful employment,” to be when a student’s loan payment does not exceed 8 percent of his/her total earnings, or 20 percent of his/her discretionary income. These regulations are geared to meet the following goals:

  • Provide transparency about student success
  • Improve student outcomes
  • Increase accountability standards

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1,400 programs will not meet the new accountability standards. Without the financial aid, it will become increasingly difficult for students to afford career training programs and thus pursue attending these programs.

Transform Consulting Group works to stay current with the latest research and policies that impact our clients along the cradle to career continuum. Contact us today for a free consultation about how to align your programs and services with this current information!

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Program Spotlight: Indiana Afterschool Network

 

According to a study by the Afterschool Alliance, roughly 11.3 million school-aged children are left alone and unsupervised during the hours afterschool. Approximately 19.4 million children would participate in out-of-school time (OST) programs if they were offered. Indiana Afterschool Network (IAN) is an organization with a mission to promote afterschool and summer learning through connecting and inspiring youth, community partners, and advocates. IAN hopes to ensure all K-12 youth have access to high quality learning experiences that extend beyond the school day.

IAN recently launched the Indiana Academy for Out-of-School Learning to help educate OST professionals in a partnership with the National Afterschool Association and Child Care Aware. Roberta L. Newman is credited with creating the 36-course Certificate Series, and has previous experience developing comprehensive statewide certification and credentialing modules. These modules have been used in both Arkansas and South Dakota to successfully train OST staff. Thirty-six courses were created with the goal of providing high quality, affordable professional development and certification options.  

The courses are self-directed or instructor-lead, and each yields a Certificate of Completion at the end. Participants can engage in online discussion-answer sessions, download resources, and utilize a note-taking tool within the program. Education courses range from Managing School-Age Children in Groups to Providing Homework Support. There are also administrative courses that cover subjects like Health and Stress Management and Creating Community Collaborations.

These certificate programs are provided at a cost of $75.00 per individual, per year, and scholarships are available to help pay for the costs. Additional cost-related information can be found here. To learn more about applying for this training opportunity, click here or send an emailTo learn more about IAN’s Out-of-School learning programs, register for a free informational webinar. The upcoming dates are as follows:

  • May 27 at 1:30 pm EST
  • May 29 at 12:00 pm EST
  • June 2 at 1:00 pm EST
  • June 4 at 12:30 pm EST

Transform Consulting Group applauds the work that IAN is doing to raise the capacity of OST staff through creating awareness of these online professional development resources. Transform Consulting Group is dedicated to helping organizations stay current with the latest research and aligning programming to “what works”.  Contact us today to learn more!

 

 

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Federal Program Spotlight: Federal TRIO Programs

 

student-graduation 3This post is part of Transform Consulting Group’s blog series highlighting federal programs that provide educational opportunities and/or youth development services in communities across the country.  The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) include eight programs designed to promote the attainment of postsecondary education for all students, especially those most in need of additional support. Federal TRIO programs focus on individuals that are low-income, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities who face difficulties advancing from middle school through postsecondary. This year marks 50 years of TRIO programs and services!

The term “TRIO” was coined in the late 1960s to describe the original three (of eight) federal outreach programs. The first was Upward Bound, which came from the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the “War on Poverty”. The second program was Talent Search, which was created with the passing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The third program, Student Support Services, was created out of the Higher Education Amendments in 1968.

Through the decades, TRIO has expanded by adding five programs to provide more services and reach more students who are in need of assistance. The eight Federal TRIO Programs include:

  1. Upward Bound
  2. Talent Search
  3. Student Support Services
  4. Educational Opportunity Centers
  5. Training Program for Federal TRIO Programs Staff
  6. Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement
  7. Upward Bound Math/Science Program
  8. Veterans Upward Bound

On August 21, 2015, the Department of Education will honor TRIO’s 50 Year Anniversary by hosting a symposium entitled, Celebrating 50 Years of Promoting Excellence by Providing Hope and Opportunity for Success. The event will be available via livestream by clicking here. The program will run from 9am – 12pm, EDT.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand that an educated workforce creates a strong economy. Transform Consulting Group has developed a college and career readiness toolkit, LAUNCH, for organizations that seek to improve high school graduation rates and post-secondary enrollment and completion rates for students. Contact us today to learn more!

 

 

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