Category Archives: Project Management

Marketing 101: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

At Transform Consulting Group, we see many organizations launch services and programs in response to an obvious need in the community or a gap to address. Your organization is getting into your work, because you have a passion for a cause. Too often nonprofits spend their time on making their programs and services amazing and not as much time on their marketing efforts.Social Media Image

We don’t expect you to be a marketing genius. We want to equip you with simple tools, so that you can do what you do best and it starts with your marketing.

We launched our Marketing 101 series with 5 Tips for Building Your Brand. In this blog we are focusing on your social media presence and will provide simple tips you can immediately implement with little time, budget or resources.

First, you may be wondering why invest time in social media? Social media is continuing to grow everyday – with over 69% of adults now using some sort of social media platform. It is a simple, low-cost way to promote your organization.

There are numerous social media platforms you can decide to utilize for your nonprofit. We understand your time is limited and recommend choosing 1 or 2 social media platforms to get started. There is no reason to spend time on every available social media site and stretch yourself too thin. By choosing 1 or 2 platforms, you can spend the necessary time making sure your efforts get the biggest bang.

There is a little science to choosing what social media platform to invest in, and it really depends on your audience and message. However, we suggest at least starting with Facebook. Facebook is the largest platform, with over 1 billion users daily. Other options to consider are Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and the list goes on. Regardless of your chosen platform, these best practices can be implemented!

5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

  1. Post Regularly

Your followers need to hear from you on a consistent basis. Your posting schedule will vary depending on your social media platform. On Facebook, you should post at least one time a day. Twitter operates at a much faster pace and if you truly want your content viewed then you will need to post 3-5 times a day. On sites like LinkedIn, you may find that posting 3-5 times a week is most appropriate for your audience.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 3.47.28 PMThis may seem daunting at first which is why we recommend scheduling your posts when possible. On Facebook for example, you can schedule as many posts as you want for free by clicking on the blue box on your wall.

There are also many tools available for scheduling posts on multiple social media sites. We use Hootsuite to schedule posts for Transform Consulting Group.

The hardest thing about posting regularly is coming up with compelling and relevant content! When crafting your content, consider posting the following:

  • Articles related to your cause to demonstrate your knowledge on the issue areas you are addressing;
  • Event information for upcoming activities within your organization or community;
  • Data and statistics that highlight your impact and successes;
  • Pictures of your work in action (pending client approval/permission;
  • Content shared by partners or other organizations in your network.

  1. Utilize free analytics tools

On most social media platforms, there are built in analytics tools you can use for free. (Facebook calls these tools “Insights” and you’ll find the tab in the top banner. LinkedIn and Twitter have tabs called “Analytics”).

These tools are only useful if you know what data to track. Here is an example of the data we monitor on Facebook on our company page and for clients like the Indiana Heart Gallery:

  • Reach – This number tells you how many people are viewing your content or page. It also includes people who haven’t “followed” your page, but can see your content.
  • Post Engagement – This number shows how often people are “liking” or “sharing” your content. By scrolling to the bottom of the “Insight” page, you can see the engagement on every post and use this information to determine the types of posts your audience is interested in.
  • People (found on the left side of the screen, under “Insights”) – This tab shows basic demographic data about the people who “like” your page. Determine the gender, age, and location of your target audience. Are those the same people who are viewing your content? If not, you may need to change up the things you are posting to attract the demographic you want to engage.
  • When Your Fans are Online (click on “Insights” and “Posts” on the left side of the screen) – This data will show you what days of the week and time of day your fans are online. This is valuable information as you start scheduling posts. Use this data to determine when you should post to ensure the most eyes see your content.
  1. Use visuals

Photos and videos perform better on all social media platforms. Avoid posts that just include text, but instead upload images or videos that capture your fans’ attention. Always make sure to include a photo when posting links to articles or a page on your website.

  1. Experiment with adsScreen Shot 2018-04-11 at 3.49.17 PM

We have had good luck with Facebook Ads for as little as $10 per post for our client the Indiana Heart Gallery.

The Indiana Heart Gallery has great engagement with followers on social media, but we wanted to target individuals who don’t already know about the Heart Gallery for our major events. The advantage of utilizing ads is that your content will reach people who aren’t already engaged with your page.

Whatever platform you utilize for ads, make sure you are specific about your target audience. Most platforms allow you to choose specific demographics, location, etc. of the people you want to target. Spend time making sure your content is appealing to the same target audience you are targeting with your ad.

  1. Engage with “Fans”

Respond quickly to messages, retweet partners’ post, share content, “like” comments on your wall, etc. The more you engage, the more often your company will pop up in people’s newsfeed!

At TCG, we are passionate about helping you move your mission forward. Are you interested in partnering? Contact us today and learn more!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

Summarizing the 2018 ELAC Interactive Annual Report

Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) recently released its new 2018 Annual Report that was discussed in this blog post.

interactive-reportThis year, a new feature was developed along with the Annual Report – an Interactive Annual Report dashboard using Tableau. This dashboard allows the audience to take a deeper dive into the early childhood education data included in the Annual Report.

While the visualization of a data dashboard can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming. The interactive dashboards were inspired by the Indiana Commission of Higher Education’s use of dashboards. ELAC saw the opportunity to share the data that has been collected in a user-friendly format for community stakeholders. When you are browsing the new interactive dashboard, make sure to check out these eight key features!

8 Key Features of the ELAC Interactive Dashboard:

  1. There are five main sections of the dashboard: (1) Young Children and Families (2) Accessibility (3) High-Quality (4) Affordability and (5) Kindergarten Readiness. Simply, select the rectangle tab for the section you want to see.
  2. Data is compiled from multiple sources: The data that ELAC reports comes from multiple sources. A dashboard is a good format to pull together multiple data points and present it in a user-friendly format. ar-sources
  3. Each chart is included to answer a key research question: Check out the gray boxes to identify the questions that the data is answering. This can guide the information that you are seeking to find.
  4. Different charts are utilized to visualize the data: Each tab includes a variety of charts to answer the key research questions. For example, maps are included in each section to display how the data varies across the state.
  5. Data can be filtered by different categories: Charts have the option of being filtered by location, age or program type. There are filtering options throughout the dashboard, at the top of pages or along individual charts. filters
  6. Definitions and data sources are included: The Accessibility, High-Quality and Affordability tabs feature a “Hover for Help” option at the top of the page that features definitions related to content on the page. Throughout any page of the dashboard, hover over charts for more data and definitions. hover-example
  7. Data includes a ranking of counties: Each tab features a county ranking chart to help counties easily identify how they compare to the rest of Indiana’s 92 counties.
  8. Data can be shared or downloaded: The Tableau Toolbar is located on the bottom right of the dashboard. You can click on it Undo/ Redo/ Reset filters applied. You can share the dashboard with the url link and also via social channels, and you can also download it as a PDF.

If you have questions or comments about the ELAC Interactive Annual Report dashboard, email elacindiana@gmail.com or contact Transform Consulting Group.

Like what you see? Transform Consulting Group can help your organization develop a data dashboard customized to your needs. Contact us today for a consultation!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

How Are Indiana’s Youngest Children Doing? The 2018 ELAC Annual Report Gives Insight.

Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) just released its 2018 Annual Report—the fifth since ELAC’s inception in 2013. Annually, ELAC completes a needs assessment for the state’s early learning system and recommends solutions. The goal is to baseline where Indiana is using key indicators and to make best practice recommendations to address the gaps. The result of this year’s annual needs assessment is three key reports and tools: 

ELAC’s seven appointed members work alongside 150 workgroup volunteers who focus on different aspects of the state’s early learning system. All this energy centers on providing early childhood care and education that is accessible, high-quality, and affordable to all families.

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 11.40.14 AM

How Are Children Ages 0-5 Doing Today?

  • Of the 506,761 children in Indiana ages 0-5, 65% need care because all parents are working. This includes working parents who are single as well as households where both parents work outside the home.Figure 3
  • Of those children who need care, only 41% are enrolled in known programs. The other three-fifths of children are in informal care settings—with a relative, friend, or neighbor—where the quality of care is unknown.
  • Of the young children who need care, only 15% are enrolled in high-quality programs. A high-quality program not only ensures that children are safe, but also supports their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development for kindergarten readiness and beyond.

What Are Some Of Indiana’s Accomplishments On Behalf Of Young Children?Figure 15

  • There are more high-quality early childhood care and education programs available. In 2012, Indiana had just over 700 high-quality programs. There are now almost 1,200.
  • Today there are 4.5 times more children enrolled in high-quality programs than there were five years ago.
  • Over half of the counties increased their number of high-quality programs.

What Is The Unmet Need Identified In The 2018 ELAC Annual Report?

  • There are communities in Indiana with no high-quality programs.
  • The tuition cost of high-quality early childhood care and education programs is unaffordable, and the available financial assistance for low-income families is  insufficient.
  • There is a lack of high-quality seats for infants. Only 7% of children ages 0-5 in high-quality programs are infants. Tuition Comparison

How Can I Find Out More?

  • As in past years, ELAC has published a full annual report, which includes statewide data on Indiana.
  • ELAC has also compiled updated 2018 county-level data for all 92 Indiana counties to aid local stakeholders and coalitions in their work. Use the map to select your county. You can review your county’s profile in an interactive dashboard or a PDF report!
  • There is a newly created feature this year! ELAC published an interactive dashboard with all of the data in the annual report—allowing you to learn more about specific data points and easily present data to stakeholders. There are also comparisons between counties to see how well your community is doing compared to others.

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support ELAC’s work to help each of our youngest learners reach their full potential!

Transform Consulting Group can also help your organization or coalition with data analysis, creating dashboards to visualize your data, and meaningful reporting. Contact us to multiply your impact!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

4 Ways to Raise Awareness for Your Cause

There are so many worthy causes to support, which can make it tricky when working to promote YOURS. How can you leverage specific times of the year to create buzz around your mission? How do you make your campaign stand out against the others?

One important project that our team is proud to manage is 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. (You can learn more in this past blog post).

While we work year-round to promote foster adoption, we really amp up our efforts during November which is National Adoption Month. We latch onto the buzz already generated throughout the month to bring attention to the need for adopting older children. While this cause may be different from your organization’s, the methods we used to raise awareness can still be applied!

1. Host a Press Conference

Get ahead of the message by hosting a press conference to communicate your efforts. On November 1st, the Indiana IMG_3487Heart Gallery had a press conference to kick off National Adoption Month. We were able to use this platform to set the stage for a month long campaign. We invited partners with similar goals to join us and highlighted their efforts as well. We also brought in big name speakers, like the Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura and Supreme Court Judge Mary Willis, to add credibility to our presentation and attract attention. This press conference allowed us to educate the public on National Adoption Month as a whole, communicate the goal of the Indiana Heart Gallery, and promote upcoming events.

2. Throw an Event

Occasionally, you have to do things differently. Offer your supporters (or potential supporters) a fun night out or an unique opportunity to get involved.

While the Indiana Heart Gallery travels to different venues every month, it’s usually a standalone exhibit. This structure works great for achieving our month-to-month goals, but occasionally we need to spice things up and offer a different way to engage the public in our project.

IMG_2582We do this by hosting Family Fun Events. During these events, we have adoption staff on-hand to answer specific questions about the foster to adopt process and usually have fun freebies to entice families to come!

For example, we hosted a Family Night at both the Memorial HealthWorks! Kids Museum in South Bend and the Children’s Museum of Evansville. We cover the entry into the museum, refreshments, prizes, photo booth and then feature the Indiana Heart Gallery. We share personal stories of adoption and connect families to local resources. The goal is to engage people who don’t know much about foster adoption and allow for an informal setting for them to learn more.

These events led to many families ready to take the steps toward adoption! It was an informal, fun environment where they could learn key information about foster adoption without any commitments.

3. Amp up Social Media

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.47.46 AMEven if you’re already very active on social media, don’t be afraid to try new things. Especially during your awareness building campaigns. For the Indiana Heart Gallery, we have a strong following on both Facebook and Twitter. Typically we will post daily news, statistics, and information about our events. During November, we used Facebook ads to really enhance our campaign and start reaching those people who have never heard of us. With a small budget, we were able to set specific demographic criteria and reached nearly 2,000 new people to share our message.

We also did strategic email blast posts to supporters and partners alerting them of events happening in their area and to share information about National Adoption Month. Think differently about leveraging the communication tools you have available to promote your cause.

4. Send Compelling Press Releases

We shared tips for writing press releases in this blog. Press releases are a great way to communicate your cause. For the Indiana Heart Gallery, we often use press releases to highlight events, but they can also be used to share information or statistics about your cause. Send them strategically during your campaign and remember to always follow up with calls, emails, or additional information!

Our TCG team worked hard to pull together all the above (and more!) to make November a success for our client and ultimately the children waiting for a family to call their own. It’s what we do when we manage a project. Want to learn more about how we can partner on your next big project or campaign? Contact us today!

 

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

Three Steps to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Retreat

Amanda Lopez leads the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee during their planning retreat.

What comes to mind when someone says the word “retreat”? In the dictionary, “retreat” has a few different meanings: an act of moving back or withdrawing; a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax; an act of changing one’s decisions, plans, or attitude, especially as a result of criticism from others. If we apply these definitions to a “planning retreat”, we can conclude that it is a meeting where a group can step back from regular daily activities to discuss decisions, plans and goals to help inform a strategic plan and future decisions. This means you don’t need to leave town to have an effective planning retreat!

Whether you are leading a planning retreat or participating in one, what makes an effective planning retreat? The facilitator can ensure the group has a plan and accomplishes their goals. A participant can help keep the conversation on topic, as it is common for a group to want to jump into the solutions of a plan before determining the focus areas.

Earlier this year, we discussed the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning. Step three is to “facilitate consensus”, which usually occurs at a planning retreat. The main purpose of this step is for the planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction for the organization, including goals and strategies. We follow three key steps to lead an effective planning retreat.

1. Provide Summarized Materials

First, create a pre-read packet of summarized materials from the first two steps of the strategic planning process. This helps equip the planning team with rich feedback from the key stakeholders (step 1: collaborate) and understand the context (step 2: assess). You also want to give your planning team enough time to review and process the information before the day-of retreat. This allows the group to make thoughtful recommendations. There are several ways to present a pre-read packet: a narrative report, a PowerPoint presentation or an interactive online file.

During a project with the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we created a Tableau Public file titled the “Impact of Early Childhood Education in Wabash County”. This included five tabs summarizing key community demographic data, program information and stakeholder feedback from employers and parents. The titles for visuals were worded as a question to help the audience pull out key messages from the information. During the planning retreat, we reviewed this information but they had already seen it and digested the information. This allowed us to start having some meaningful conversations.

2. Identify “What” You Want to Accomplish

After leading the team through a review of the information, the majority of time is spent to make meaning with the data and identify goals and strategies for the future. Having some great discussion questions is helpful to focus the conversation with participants and help them use the information presented.

Many participants at planning retreats want to jump right into strategies or solutions. We work hard to help steer the conversation to reaching agreement first on the “what” we want to accomplish with the strategic plan. Help the group to narrow their ideas to 3-5 key focus areas or goals to help carry the strategic plan forward. By bringing the team together, they will have consensus. As we have mentioned earlier, buy-in from the team is crucial to keep momentum going for the strategic plan.

Source: http://www.envisionburlingame.org/app_pages/view/15
Source: Neighborhood Intercept Survey for the Envision Burlingame project.

This discussion time can be done as a full team, split into small groups or partners depending on the size of the planning team. If you do break into small groups make sure you come back together as a large group and collectively reach consensus about the goals/ focus areas. We like to use stickers to help participants “vote” or prioritize their top choices.

3. Determine “How” You Will Accomplish It

Finally, after the “what” is determined, transition the team to discuss the development of key strategies and solutions that address the focus areas. This is the “how” we will accomplish the goals of the strategic plan. Similar to the previous step, discussion can be as a group or broken up into teams.

The timeline of your strategic plan will help determine how many strategies are appropriate for each goal/ focus area. Again, we encourage participants to narrow the focus to 5-7 key strategies. If you have 5 goals and 5-7 strategies per goal, then there could be upwards of 35 strategies that your organization will be working to implement. We work really hard to support organizations in having aspirational strategic plans as well as realistic and achievable.

Once you have your top goals and strategies identified, then you can “workshop” them into a more detailed operations or implementation plan that explains the who, what, and when in much more detail. This is what sets apart a strategic plan from sitting on the shelf and not being implemented to a strategic plan that truly moves the organization or community forward.

There are different tools and activities that can be used during the facilitation step of the strategic planning process. Depending on what works best, the main thing to remember is to engage, focus and prioritize.

Now that you have hosted an effective planning retreat you are ready for the final step of the strategic planning process – create. If you need assistance with facilitating an effective planning retreat, or with any step of the planning process, Transform Consulting Group is here to help. Contact us today!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

How to Avoid Program Complacency

It can be rewarding providing a program or service that is meeting an important need in the community! Part of providing your program or service is meeting the contractual and grant obligations laid out, but how do you go beyond that and ensure you keep things fresh? This is essential as you manage the program overtime.

4 Steps

Using a program we manage, we outline how we have refreshed our approach and avoided being complacent to achieve greater impact:

Focus on Mission

It is vital to understand the purpose and mission of the program being implemented, especially as you look to make updates.

    • 1762937-Pat-Riley-Quote-Complacency-is-the-last-hurdle-standing-betweenThe Indiana Heart Gallery (aka Heart Gallery) is a program created by the Indiana Department of Child Services in 2007 as one way to help children in foster care across Indiana find a family to call their own. Many of the children featured in the Heart Gallery are older or special needs children, minorities, or members of a sibling group. The Heart Gallery is unique because of the professional portraits of these youth that create the display, which connects a face to a sometimes invisible need.
    • The primary purpose of the Heart Gallery is to raise awareness about foster-adoption in Indiana and to help find families for the children featured.  As we consider changes and opportunities for the program, we continue to go back to how this would support the purpose of the Heart Gallery.
Evaluate Program Implementation

A big part of meeting your goals is how you deliver the services.  It can be helpful to reassess your processes, procedures, and systems that support your program. Ask yourself, “Is this the best process to implement __, or do we do it this way because it’s always been done this way?”; “What are the opportunities for growth?”

    • We partner with organizations across the state to host the Heart Gallery.  After some review and discussion, we found that the same types of venues tended to be the ones hosting the Heart Gallery: churches, YMCAs, and libraries . While those venues had the target audience of the Heart Gallery (venues where families frequent and can take a moment to visit the display), we wanted to expand beyond those venues to reach other potential adoptive families across the state.
    • Not only did we review the types of venues the Heart Gallery was on display, but we took a deeper look at where those venues were located. For example, we found we were visiting all of the DCS regions of the state, but had not been on display at every county across the state.
Gather Feedback

Find out what your staff and external partners would like to see different about the project.

    • With the Heart Gallery, we send a survey to the main contact who hosts the Heart Gallery.  This helps us understand how we can better support our host partners and solicit new ideas. As well, we have a tracking sheet dedicated to venue feedback for staff to share thoughts and ideas on each venue. Through this we learned that front-line staff at some venues wanted more information on the Heart Gallery in order to better answer common questions. This resulted in the development of a Host Packet, which is shared electronically with the contact for the venue to pass along to staff, and in hard copy when the display is setup to leave on-site.
    • The Project Manager also had conversations with staff about what is working and what could be improved. Through those conversations it was discovered that the collateral materials (banner, brochure, swag) would benefit from a revamp in design and use, including the development of new outreach tools.
Plan for Change

Use feedback gathered and meet with staff to outline the priorities of suggested changes. Take into consideration the updates that will have the biggest impact on the purpose of the project, as well as efficiencies for staff.

    • Through conversations with Heart Gallery staff, it was determined that updating the collateral materials and processes for targeting locations would have the most immediate impact on the purpose of the project and staff efficiencies. Mainly, rebranding the materials in place, developing a few new tools, and implementing outreach tours for targeted outreach.
    • The Project Manager developed an Outreach Tour Proposal, based on the upcoming Heart Gallery schedule to find new host partners in specific geographic areas. The team discussed how to make it a successful event to reach the program’s goals.  After the first outreach tour, the team reconvened to assess how it went, what changes to make to the next one and systems/processes to put into make to standardize it for other team members. Through planning and reassessing, the outreach tours are now an effective outreach strategy for the Heart Gallery.
    • We are scheduling a planning retreat for the Heart Gallery this fall to discuss 2018 goals.  Making time to reflect on your programs, services, their impact and how they are delivered can get your staff reenergized and get you closer to accomplishing your goals.

Contact Us

Does it feel like your programs or staff are stuck in a rut?  It might be time to reassess your programs, how they are delivered and the impact you want to accomplish.  At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help give your programs a boost. Contact us today for a free consultation!

 

If you would like to learn more about the Heart Gallery, you can go to http://www.in.gov/dcs/3033.htm or www.adoptachild.in.gov.

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders in your Planning

How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders BlogWhen creating a strategic plan or going through any organizational planning process, who do you engage in that process for feedback? In May, we discussed the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning. Step one is collaboration – Collaborate with key stakeholders to inform the strategic planning process and create buy-in and ownership in the plan.

Who to Engage

There are several different types of stakeholders to consider gathering feedback from during the strategic planning process. While it will vary depending on your organization and industry, there are some common stakeholders that we recommend including. They include the following key stakeholders:

  • Funders – current and past funders who know your organization as well as the industry to provide insight on what’s working well, what’s not working and possible changes to consider based on industry trends.
  • Staff – reach out to your staff at different levels of the organization and in different roles to gather their diverse feedback and perspective.
  • Board Members – some Board members will be engaged in the entire strategic process, while other Boards may only have a select committee or members engaged. Whatever the process, you will want to include all Board members in sharing the feedback in the strategic planning process.
  • Clients – past, current or potential clients who receive your services have a perspective that could be meaningful and inform in the strategic planning process.
  • Community Partners – reach out to other community agencies in your community who intersect with your work. Their perspective adds another layer of insight that could really help inform your planning process as you think about the future.

In the past 4 client strategic planning processes we implemented, we engaged the following different types of key stakeholders:

  • Client A – Government Agency: Direct Service Program Staff, Direct Service Program Managers, Local Community Partners, and Leadership and Advisory Committee.
  • Client B – Statewide Non-Profit: Staff, Funders, Key Community Partners.
  • Client C – Multi-Sector Community Group: Parents, Employers, and Key Community Partners.
  • Client D – Local Non-Profit: Public, Past and Current Client, School District and City, Staff, and Board Members.

Once the key stakeholders are identified, how do you gather their feedback? There are different tools and resources available to make the process efficient and effective. Of course, the use of the tools is dependent upon your budget, time and capacity. We offer a summary of our go-to stakeholder feedback tools and the advantages/ disadvantages of each one.

Stakeholder Feedback Tools

  • Focus Groups – Brings together a targeted group of people to gain insight on specific topics.

Pro: You can get more insightful information than from a survey, such as being able to ask follow-up questions.

Con: It can be more time consuming to hold focus groups from scheduling them, training the team to complete it, documenting the information during the focus group and transcribing/ synthesizing the information shared.

Tip: Find a targeted group that already meets to hold your focus group. For example, while creating a plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we were seeking feedback from different parent groups. We were put on the agenda during a regular parent meeting at an early childhood education program, which allowed us to gather feedback to help inform the planning process. Similarly, we held focus groups of Healthy Families Indiana staff at the Institute for Strengthening Families where many were in attendance.

  • Surveys – Helps reach a wide audience using questions related to a specific topic to help gather feedback.

Pro: Surveys can be completed on the participant’s schedule, compared to a focus group or interview when everyone’s schedules need to align in order to get feedback.

Con: If the survey is anonymous, you cannot ask follow-up questions about a participant’s answer. It can also be a challenge to get people to participate in a survey. Offering an incentive will often help with this problem.

Tip: Find an organization who regularly seeks feedback from a target group. Ask to add your questions onto a survey they already send. When we were seeking feedback for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we reached out to the local economic development group and chamber of commerce to assist us with getting employer feedback. We worked together to create an appropriate survey, and they sent it to their employer contact list. Also, take advantage of local social media and news outlets. It might be difficult to get personal contact information for some target stakeholders. Posting on social media with the survey criteria could help you reach a larger audience for feedback on your strategic plan.

  • Key Informant Interviews – Have a one-on-one interview with a specific person related to the planning process.

Pro: Allows you to have an in-depth conversation about a specific topic. It also engages someone who might not be apart of the regular planning process.

Con: It can be time consuming to schedule and hold these interviews, especially if you need to have more than one.

Tip: When you are deciding which key informants would be best to reach out to, consider people who have lived and learned from a similar cause to your own. You will be able to learn from their success and/or mistakes. It’s also helpful to reach out to key partners and decision makers who are not yet engaged. This will help you gain feedback while also informing them of the planning process.

Stakeholder feedback is useful when completing any planning process. By engaging your key stakeholders at the beginning of the planning process, you will not only have a more comprehensive plan in the end but will also create buy-in from the stakeholders when the new plan is unveiled. If you need assistance with your planning process, we would be happy to help! Contact Transform Consulting Group today!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

4 Steps to Form an Early Childhood Coalition

You may have heard the term “coalition” and wondered what does that mean.  A coalition is simply when a group of people gather to address an issue that is bigger than what one person or organization can solve on their own. In Indiana, about thirty communities (cities, counties and regions) have formed a coalition that is focused on early childhood education.  Two years ago, it was probably about 15-20 Indiana communities with an early childhood coalition.  What is happening in Indiana and other states that is causing communities to come together around early childhood education and why should your community consider forming an early childhood coalition if you haven’t yet?

Coalition Trend

The idea of forming a coalition to address an issue is not new or specific to the early childhood field.  Coalitions are well used in other sectors, such as economic development, workforce development, and education.  What is somewhat new is the idea that organizations need to work with otherorganizations and stakeholders, often some unusual partners, to make 18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_oprogress and realize their outcomes.  We talked about this in a past blog article here.

Early childhood education is complex and multifaceted.  It affects so many other sector’s goals: health, education, workforce, economics, and criminal justice.  As communities have started to organize around one of these other issues, such as a desire to increase their talent pipeline they realize that early childhood education can be a solution to address their goal.

Other states who have expanded public investments in early childhood education have expanded through local community coalitions, such as Michigan’s Great Start Communities.  The local community coalitions know the needs and assets in the community as well as the community’s culture to develop a vision and plan for action that makes the most sense.

Indiana has a strong value of local decision-making, and most of the state’s work is implemented regionally or locally.  There are also some natural partners and resources available in most communities – Community Foundation, United Way agency, and/or Economic Development group) – who are already aligned to supporting this work.  These organizations can make great conveners in communities to get a coalition started.

As Indiana has worked to expand state funded pre-k through On My Way Pre-K, it has done so through county-wide expansion efforts and not just grants to individual early childhood education programs.  In 2015, five counties (Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh) were designated On My Way Pre-K counties to receive state dollars to enroll low-income children in high quality pre-k.  In the most recent legislative session, an additional 15 counties (Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Kosciusko, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Vigo) were selected to be a part of the On My Way pre-k expansion effort.

A common thread in all of these selected On My Way Pre-K counties is that they have a coalition in place that is focused on early childhood education.  If your county has not been selected yet to participate in On My Way Pre-K, it might be time for your community to get ready for the next expansion opportunity.  

While we are working with state partners to build local capacity through the ELAC County Profiles, the Indiana Summit (discussed in this blog post) and a new ELAC Coalition Building Toolkit that will be released later this year, we also work locally with communities.  We recommend these steps for any community looking at forming a coalition, regardless of if the topic is early childhood education, workforce development or another issue area!
NEW TCG ABOUT US (with audio)_Page_06

  1. Collaborate

The first task is to identify the right people to address this compelling community issue and form your coalition.  In Wabash County, we formed an early childhood coalition that includes representatives from business, K12, health/mental health, criminal justice, philanthropy, higher education, local government, and early childhood
education.

  1. Assess

The second task is to make sure everyone is on the same page with their understanding of the community and issue area.  During this phase, your coalition should gather relevant key indicators from current community needs 18358873_704583986369032_6243592827544465858_oassessments and public data.  In addition, this is also the opportunity to gather feedback from a variety of key stakeholders relevant to the topic at hand through interviews, surveys, and focus groups.  During this step you will not only gather invaluable feedback but also start to build community will and buy in.  For the Wabash Early Childhood Coalition, we used the ELAC County Profiles and IYI Kids Count County Profile.  We also held focus groups with all types of parents, surveyed businesses and parents, and met individually with key stakeholders to collect their input on the current needs and strengths in the community.

  1. Facilitate Consensus

Too often community coalitions jump right into planning a project or initiative without thoughtfully completing the first steps above and having an intentional plan in place.  This step is critical to bring the coalition together in agreement about the focus of the coalition and its goals to accomplish. We suggest keeping the goals between 3-5, and they should be a combination of short-term “easy wins” that can be accomplished within the first year with minimal costs as well as some long-term goals that are broken out into specific action steps over time.  It is critical to have the short-term easy wins, so that the coalition builds credibility in the community that it is results focused and creates momentum.  It is also important to break down the steps needed to accomplish those big goals that will take more time and effort, so that they don’t get lost in being “too hard” or “not having enough money”.

  1. Create

Once your coalition has consensus on what it wants to do and an intentional plan in place, now it is time to put it in action.  Your coalition will need to determine who and how this plan will be implemented, which will include identifying a “backbone support” organization.  This might be one of the coalition members taking on the work and/or applying for funding to hire a staff person to implement.  During this phase, your coalition will want to build in some key outcomes that it is focused on tracking to be accountable for making progress on the issue on the identified.

When diverse stakeholders come together in agreement to address a common issue, transformational change can occur.  This is what gets us excited at Transform Consulting Group.  If your community would like assistance with a coalition, give us a call or send us a note.  We would love to learn more about what you are wanting to accomplish and how we might help!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn

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!

Share this article:Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on LinkedIn