Category Archives: Project Management

How to Gain Media Attention with a Compelling Press Release

At Transform Consulting Group, we are honored to serve many clients who are working hard to make a difference in the lives of children, families and their communities. While we partner with them on behind the scenes work (see our services here), we also want to help them promote the good work that they do. A press release can be the quickest and easiest way to get FREE publicity and raise awareness about your cause or nonprofit.

You should not be the best kept secret in town.  If the community is unaware of your great services and impact, then your efforts will fall short every time. We often encourage our clients to share their mission by writing a press release that can lead to media coverage, future leads, dollars, etc.C1aQDIiVQAACKa6.jpg-large

The reality is that reporters and news editors are sifting through hundreds (yes, hundreds) of press releases and very few will make the cut for the 6pm news or front page. Keeping that in mind, here are some rules to make sure you’re capturing their attention when you write your next press release:

  1. Have a newsworthy story. YOU may think a program, service or event is really great, but what is the impact beyond your organization or the clients you serve? Why would anyone else care? While composing your press release, make sure you are communicating that your story is newsworthy. It needs to appeal to everyone who is tuning in to that TV station or picking up the newspaper.
  1. Make it timely. Timing is everything, and you can definitely use this to your advantage. Keep up with national news and maybe you can put your own local spin on something that people are already talking about. For example, if you want to get the word out about free student programs, connect your press release with the back-to-school conversation.    
  1. Write like a reporter. Notice how the reporters deliver their stories next time you turn on your local news. You’ll probably hear how many of the stories they read have a very conversational feel to them—and so should your press release. Avoid fancy words, business jargon, technical terms, or formal statements that no one uses in real conversation. Write like you talk.
  1. Make it personal. Think about the news stories that capture YOUR attention. Usually, it will be the story with a face. You can ramble on and on in a press release about how your organization is offering this new program for free to this many people, but what really appeals to the viewer is if you put a face to the cause. In your press release, quote a single mother whose life is changed because of your program or a college student who against all odds graduated with honors through your college readiness program. Those are the true stories; so tell them!
  1. Offer a complete package. There are several elements needed for a reporter to successfully tell a story. First, they need people to interview. It is helpful to have an official “voice” who can be the spokesperson at your organization or person heading up the program. This interview will cover the facts about the story, but you need to provide a personal voice as well. The personal interview may include a client or family who is benefitting from your program. Along with the interviews, any newspaper or TV reporter will need some sort of visual. Make it easy for them to take photos or get video that helps tell the story. If they can’t cover the story in person, then offer to send them photos yourself. It may require more planning on your part, but if it means positive publicity, then it is worth it. Have all these elements ready to present when you pitch your story to the news.
  1.  Follow up. In addition to sending a press release and having the right elements, you need to make follow up calls to media outlets. We recommend sending a press release at least one week before your event and then send it again on the day of the event, followed by a personal call. Compile a list of emails from all the newspapers, TV stations and radio stations in your area and then continue to add to the list as you make connections. Reach out separately to any contacts you’ve worked with on past stories. If you hand a story over to a reporter with all the elements in place, who can turn you down?  

HG DisplayAs we previously mentioned (here), we are honored to manage the Indiana Heart Gallery for the Indiana Department of Child Services. The Heart Gallery is a traveling photo exhibit featuring children in foster care who are available for adoption. It’s a great, heart-touching story, right? BUT if we don’t adequately promote the display and get the word out, then all of our efforts are wasted. People have to KNOW we are bringing the gallery to their community, and we use the media to help get the word out.

You’ll often see stories about foster care and adoption in the news, which tells us we aren’t the only ones who view 16403080_10154891081438954_8143934484048982860_othis as a compelling, newsworthy story. However, it can be challenging to make this story timely as this is a year-round project, so we have to get creative. For example, we displayed the Heart Gallery at the South Bend Airport during March and April and tied it in with Spring Break travelers. We are constantly reworking our releases to be easy to read and understandable. While our display literally puts a face to the story, we also call on volunteer photographers or parents who have adopted foster children to be interviewed and provide a unique element to the story.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help tell the story of your cause. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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Using A Needs Assessment Process to Plan a New Program

When a business plans to open a new store or restaurant, the business first conducts market research to ensure a good fit and a successful venture. In the public sector, we call this a “needs assessment”.

Whether your organization is a non-profit, hospital, school or government agency, more than likely you have been asked or initiated a needs assessment.  Why?  The needs assessment is a great opportunity to step back and build understanding about the target population (aka, intended client), their strengths, needs, concerns and goals, as well as taking a look internally at your own organization to ensure a good fit.

In Indianapolis, we have a Center for Working Families (CWF) program model that was developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to help low-income families achieve long-term financial stability. A group of local funders and partners help support and coordinate the CWF model to ensure a good fit with communities and strong fidelity at implementation.

Transform Consulting Group has helped a few organizations complete a needs assessment and project implementation plan to implement CWF in Indianapolis.  Most recently, we worked with Shepherd Community Center, a multi-service center on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis. Achieving CWF status would designate Shepherd Community Center as a location where low-income families could access a coordinated or bundled set of three key services to help lift them out of poverty and achieve long-term financial stability. In order to demonstrate the need for CWF in the neighborhood that Shepherd Community Center supports, Transform Consulting Group conducted a community needs assessment within the Near Eastside neighborhood of Indianapolis and completed an internal assessment of the organization.

Completing the needs assessment allowed Transform Consulting Group staff an opportunity to connect with the target audience through in-person focus groups and surveys at key community gatherings as well as meetings with key community partners.  We also gathered key indicators from the Census and other external data sources. The information collected included demographics, income levels, education levels and goals, goals, and perceived gaps in community services. Combined with the stakeholder feedback, we developed a comprehensive profile of the targeted community.   Data was analyzed and key findings shared with Shepherd Community Center leadership.  Results from the needs assessment not only demonstrated a strong need in the community, but will also serve as a baseline of information for future CWF planning and programming within this community.

Understanding the needs of your community or “market” is the foundation for successful organizational programming that will have the greatest, long-lasting impact. Transform Consulting Group looks forward to new opportunities helping organizations like Shepherd Community Center get a pulse on their community needs and effectively provide support. Contact Transform Consulting Group today to learn more about how we can assist your organization.


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New Report on the Status of Young Children in Indiana

Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) has submitted its 2015 report of findings to Governor Mike Pence and the state’s Legislative Council. As previously discussed (in this blog post), ELAC was created in the 2013 legislative session with a mandate to provide a comprehensive progress report by June 30th of each year.

ELAC’s vision focuses on ensuring that children ages birth to 8 years and their families have access to affordable, high-quality early childhood education programs that keep children healthy, safe and learning.

The report includes a Needs Assessment section where the following key items are noted:

  • Indiana has approximately 500,000 children five years old and younger;
  • Nearly half (47%) of Hoosier families with children ages 0-5 are in poverty;
  • The majority (66%) of Indiana’s families are working and require child care;
  • Only 11% of Hoosier children are enrolled in high-quality, program-based care;
  • For a family of three living in poverty, having one child in quality care would cost more than a third of their annual income; and
  • The 2020 projected demand for early childhood education teachers outpaces the current supply.

The report also includes the following important information: 2014 Accomplishments, Recommendations, and an Appendix. In the Appendix, there are several tables with detailed demographic information at the county level.

Transform Consulting Group was honored to partner with ELAC in helping them gather the information and write the annual report.

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May is Foster Care Awareness Month


couple-and-adopted-daughterMay is National Foster Care Month and provides an opportunity to celebrate the heroes that are foster and adoptive parents as well as share critical information about the number of children and families who are impacted. There are approximately 400,000 children and youth in foster care.

Here are some quick facts about foster care in Indiana:

  • Many Hoosier children need temporary homes in the form of foster care; in 2012, nearly 49% of children who needed an out-of-home placement were placed into a non-relative foster home.
  • Between 2009 and 2013, an average of nearly 4,000 children were adopted in Indiana each year.
  • Overall, 2.7% of Hoosier children live in adoptive families.

There are several ways to support the 400,000 children and their families. Individuals can become a foster parent, a respite provider (for foster parents), engage in volunteer work, or mentor children and/or parents who need a positive role model. Casey Family Programs highlights other ways that individuals can help.

Transform Consulting Group has partnered with the Indiana Department of Child Services to manage the Indiana Heart Gallery. Transform Consulting Group celebrates the many foster and adoptive families making a difference every day in the lives of children!



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Client Spotlight: Boys & Girls Clubs of America


This summer, Transform Consulting Group has had the opportunity to work with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) in the development of their federal grant applications for the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Validation (i3) program and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program to improve reading performance of K-3rd grade students at high-need schools.

Learning to read by third grade is a critical benchmark that marks the shift from students learning to read to students reading to learn. Students without a basic level of competency by third grade are more likely to struggle academically and have behavioral and social problems in subsequent grades (Fiester, 2010). Dr. Donald J. Hernandez found that students who were not proficient in reading by third grade were six times more likely to leave school without a diploma than their peers who were proficient in reading.

BGCA has worked in partnership with school districts for several years to help struggling readers develop the confidence and skills needed to read on grade level by third grade. In 2010, one of BGCA’s local affiliates, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, received an i3 Development Grant to implement and rigorously evaluate the SPARK Early Literacy program. Fast forward four years, BGCA is now implementing the SPARK program in 11 states through a combination of public and private funding.

Through an i3 Validation and IAL grant award, BGCA, in partnership with local Boys & Girls Clubs in the Midwest and California, will expand implementation of the research-based Early Literacy Project (ELP) or SPARK program. SPARK is a “wrap-around” program that provides classroom participants literacy programming in every aspect of their lives. The project improves classroom reading achievement through literacy work in three spheres: school, family and community.

The evaluation of the first cohort of students who completed the program in the 2012-2013 school year found that SPARK had a significant impact on reading achievement; SPARK participants out-achieved control students by 0.12 standard deviations (p < .05). These results were recently replicated in the first year (2013-2014) of the second cohort of SPARK participants; SPARK had a statistically significant impact, with participants out-achieving control students by 0.12 standard deviations (p<.01).

Transform Consulting Group applauds BGCA’s leadership in improving the literacy rate of students, especially those at high-need schools and working to bridge the school-community-family spheres!

Need help with completing a federal grant application or expanding a successful program?  Contact Transform Consulting Group today to get started!



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Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) 2014 Report to the Governor and Legislative Council


On June 30, 2014, Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) released its initial report to the Governor and Legislative Council.  ELAC was created as part of legislation passed during the 2013 session.  ELAC’s vision is to ensure that children ages birth to 8 years and their families have access to high quality early childhood education programs that keep children healthy, safe and learning.

The eight members of ELAC are accompanied by over 120 volunteers serving in 7 ELAC workgroups, addressing specific aspects of this work.  The volunteers represent higher education, the business community, legislative and executive branch participants, not for profit organizations, and state employees – all of whom see enormous potential from wise investments in accessible, affordable, high quality early childhood education.

The report includes the following:

  1. Profiles Indiana’s current situation in early childhood education;
  2. Outlines active steps underway to build on strengths and address gaps; and
  3. Provides recommendations informed by the work to date.

The report highlights the need for child care by two-thirds of Indiana parents, and that 4 out of 10 parents still use “informal care” by neighbors or friends instead of “formal” providers.  The report includes Next Steps and Recommendations, including: addressing additional data needs for ages 0-8; linking that data with longitudinal tracking of academic performance and career readiness; and taking full advantage of appropriate federal grant opportunities to accelerate Indiana’s efforts.

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support the work of ELAC to optimize the prospects of our youngest learners!

Similar to the support work that we have done for ELAC, Transform Consulting Group can help organizations support coalitions, analyze data and develop meaningful reports.  Contact Transform Consulting Group today and we’ll help you “move the needle forward.”



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3 Ways for Nonprofits to Refresh Their Annual Report


Annual reports are a good thing and an opportunity for organizations to communicate important information to stakeholders.  The challenge is making annual reports compelling enough for your donors and stakeholders to read, so that they see the value of their investment in your organization!

At Transform Consulting Group, we have helped several organizations with their annual report and are in the process of working on one right now.  Over the years, we have seen some pretty exciting changes and trends in how nonprofits are choosing to highlight their annual success and communicate their story to stakeholders.  Here are three ways to refresh your annual report:

1. Be Brief

The label “annual report” is misleading as this does not need to be a formal report.  Some of the most creative annual reports are less than five pages.  As a result, organizations are challenged to limit the content to only the most critical and compelling highlights.  A key question to consider in developing your annual report is, “what can I tell my donors about the positive results of their investment?”

Organization Spotlight: Girl Start  This STEM program for girls created a one-page highlights report of their outcomes and outputs.  For individuals that want more information, they can read their longer “catalog”.

2. Go Visual

Not only are annual reports being shortened but the format is becoming less formal and more visual.  The use of charts, tables, and pictures is a great way to unpack all of the data that organizations want to share with donors.  Infographics are a great tool to use in your annual report, and Transform Consulting Group has done a whole series of articles on this topic of infographics.  Some organizations are letting go of a “report” format altogether and releasing a 2-3 minute video to highlight their results from the previous year. 

Organization Spotlight:The Trevor Project  This youth-serving organization created a micro-site (mini website within their website) solely dedicated to their annual report.  When you click on their Program tab, they identified a key piece of information to share for each service area and created a visual display to represent the data.

3. Tell a Story (or two!)

Nonprofit organizations might have an advantage over for-profit organizations in this category.  Nonprofits are addressing an issue, moving forward a cause and changing lives.  The annual report provides an opportunity to put a “face” to the work that you doing and change that you are making in the community.  Sprinkled throughout your annual report should be at least 1-2 personal stories of success that tie directly back to the services that your donors made possible.

Organization Spotlight: Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana Transform Consulting Group highlighted Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana a few months ago for their impact in the community.  Their annual report to the community is a great example of implementing all three of these tips – it’s short (only 9 pages), includes visual charts and tables and has personal stories throughout.  After reading, even scanning, their annual report you immediately see how broad their scope and reach is beyond what we often think of when we hear Goodwill – donations.  This is what an annual report should do – raise our awareness and understanding of an organization.

Last month, the Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted a webinar on Reinventing Nonprofit Annual Reports to discuss this topic further and present new and emerging ideas for nonprofits to consider in developing their annual reports.  One of their guest speakers, Kivi Leroux Miller with Nonprofit Marketing Guide and EcoScribe Communications shared that their organization has compiled a list of “new and improved” annual reports if you want to see some more examples and ideas.

If you want to rethink your annual report or other communication tools, contact Transform Consulting Group today for a free consultation.  Transform Consulting Group will work with you to refresh your annual report.



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Client Spotlight: Paws & Think Receives $50,000 Grant

We’re excited to say that on November 13, our client, Paws & Think received a $50,000 grant from Giving Sum. The Mission of Paws & Think is to enhance the quality of life in the community by using the power of the human-animal bond.  The nonprofit provides therapy animals for both animal assisted activities and animal assisted therapies to youth, seniors and special needs individuals of all ages. Also, Paws & Think has canine programs that facilitate classes for at-risk youth and teens, helping them to train shelter dogs with positive reinforcement behaviors.

A nonprofit itself, Giving Sum is focused on creating the next generation of philanthropic leaders working together to improve Indianapolis and central Indiana. By combining members’ resources — time, talent, and finances — Giving Sum is able to multiply the impact that members have on the community and on each other. Giving Sum grants 100% of each year’s membership contributions to a not-for-profit organization in Indianapolis working towards change, innovation, and community good. Members commit to combining personal resources with other members’ resources in order to create greater social impact. The three components of the Giving Sum equation that members offer to the community are:

•Time: Members can serve as high-impact volunteers.

•Voice: Members can use their collective voice to advocate for a cause or mission.

•Money: Each member contributes $500 toward a pooled grant fund that is distributed annually.

Congratulations to Paws & Think! Transform Consulting Group has been working with Paws & Think through IYI Consulting Services to improve its impact in the community by researching best practices on animal assisted therapy programs, as well as tracking their results through an evaluation plan.

Looking for similar resources to help improve your organization’s impact? Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

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Client Spotlight: United Way of Grant County Receives Strategic Planning Grant


United Way Grant County Logo

The United Way of Grant County in Marion, Indiana has been chosen to receive an Organizational Effectiveness Grant from the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) and the Ball Brothers Foundation. The grant includes free strategic planning guidance, consulting, training and professional development services. The IYI Logo Consulting Partner 2011United Way impacts and improves lives through partnerships with 14 funded agencies that serve children, family and community in Grant County. The partnerships support 33 programs and initiatives to provide services across the county focused on health, education and financial stability. “I am honored that the United Way of Grant County has been chosen for this grant,” said Alicia Hazelwood, executive director of the agency. “It will help our local board move forward on implementation of our recent strategic plan. We hope that not only will this work make the United Way of Grant County stronger, but it will also help the efficiency and effectiveness of all our partners.”

The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being. As part of the award, Transform Consulting Group was chosen by IYI to provide professional consulting on leadership, program and fund development to increase the effectiveness of the Grant County United Way’s programming. Transform Consulting Group will help United Way of Grant County develop metrics to evaluate its impact in the community, build the capacity of its board and create a resource development plan that focuses on diversification and increased revenue.

Transform Consulting Group can provide similar “one stop shop” services to other organizations looking to improve their effectiveness. Contact us today for a free consultation!



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Client Spotlight: Developing a New Program


Paths to Quality Logo

Transform Consulting Group is working with the Bureau of Child Care (BCC) division of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to help roll out the Early Education Matching Grant (EEMG) program. This new $2 million grant program will fund child care slots for low-income children, and eligible applicants are Paths to Quality™ Level 3 and 4 programs.

The Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) was established in July 2013 by the Indiana General Assembly. Among other duties, the Committee’s responsibilities include recommending to the Bureau of Child Care the procedures, policies, and eligibility criteria for the Early Education Matching Grant (EEMG) program. The ELAC held their first meeting at the end of October, and the new EEMG program was a topic of that discussion. The new ELAC website includes links to the meeting minutes, the EEMG program recommendations and anticipated timeline. It is anticipated that this grant program will allow hundreds of additional Hoosier children access to high quality child care annually. Grant applications are expected to be available in December, and grant awards should be announced by spring 2014.

Similar to this work we’ve done for BCC, Transform Consulting Group can help organizations develop a new program, analyze and present data in a visual format, and manage a grant review process. Contact Transform Consulting Group today and we’ll help you “move the needle forward.”



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