Category Archives: Project Management

4 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Volunteer Committee

When was the last time you were asked to join a committee? Did you have a deep sigh of angst or a smile of excitement. Your reaction was probably the former, which is not uncommon. Most professionals I know are involved in one if not multiple volunteer committees and seem either frustrated or lukewarm about the purpose or progress of the committee.volunteer committee blog

Participating in committees is a great opportunity to get diverse voices and perspectives to inform complicated issues and bring forward new solutions. Committee work can also be a great leadership development and community engagement opportunity for staff. When we take the time to be thoughtful about our role and involvement, then we can accelerate the impact of our committee work.

Part of our project management work includes providing staff support for different volunteer committees. These include the Governor-appointed Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee, Healthy Families Indiana Think Tank, and community-based coalitions (read more here).

Many of my team members are also involved in committees as a volunteer. As a result, we sit on both sides of the table. It’s with this broad perspective that we share the following tips for how you can make the most of your committee work!

1. CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS  

You or your organization were hopefully strategically asked to join this committee. Do you have a clear understanding of your purpose for being on the committee? Are you representing a specific perspective (industry type, stakeholder type, subject matter expertise, etc.), and the leaders are wanting you to share your perspective on behalf of this group? If you are not clear, ask the leaders up front when you are joining.

In addition, what are the leaders expecting you to do on this committee? Is this a working committee that is developing a proposal or reworking policies/ programs? How much time and involvement is expected of you on this committee? Are the leaders of the committee expecting you to share information you learn at the committee with others in your circle or industry?

I was recently asked to join the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Steering Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strategic plan and supporting the working committees. When I joined, I was informed of the reason I was being asked to join, the purpose of our work, and the time commitment for the Steering Committee. I understand my role and the purpose of the group.

A well-run committee should have these expectations and obligations clearly articulated from the beginning, so there is no “gotcha” later when they ask you to do something you didn’t know you were supposed to do. By having this clarity, you should have a stronger sense of purpose and meaning for participating on this committee.

2. ASSESS YOUR ROLE

Once you know the purpose of the committee and your expectations for involvement, now it is time to assess your personal role and contribution. What type of “talent” can you contribute to the committee?

Do you bring a unique perspective that no one else on the committee shares? Can you gather information or review information in a way that no one else can contribute?

My colleague, Sara Anderson, was asked to join our local county’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Data Committee. Leaders of the committee became aware of our data expertise and had a need for more assistance. Sara learned more about the committee’s data needs, helped them organize the data into a dashboard (see more here and here about our dashboard work!) to visualize and share with the other committees the impact of their work and made recommendations to improve the data being collected.

Reflect on what ways you can add value to the committee’s work and offer it to the leadership and the group. This will provide more purpose and meaning with the committee and also improve the overall work of the group.

3. PREP AND PLAN

Usually before each committee meeting, the leadership will send out meeting materials (agenda, handouts, etc.) in advance of the committee meeting. If you make the time to review those materials and any other follow-up from the last meeting, you will be able to contribute more in the committee meeting. It will give you a sense of purpose for the meeting and how you can participate/ add to the discussion.

By preparing for the committee in advance, you can also be prepared to ask thoughtful questions or gather other helpful information that could contribute to the discussion. Nothing is worse than showing up to a committee meeting where action is supposed to be taken and feeling like the other members did not do the prep needed to have a meaningful discussion.

4. SHARE YOUR LEARNINGS

Hopefully through your engagement on your committees you are learning new information. Now you are informed and equipped to share this information with your colleagues and industry. Again, you might strategically be asked to share information with your network. Even if you are not asked, odds are that they would still benefit from learning about your work.

For the state advisory groups that we staff and provide backbone support, many committee members find value in participating in the groups because they learn what is happening across the state. Then they are more informed to take that information back to their community and network to help get everyone on the same page and expand the discussion.

Assess the information that you have received and learned through your committee work and think about who in your network could find value in it. Maybe it is simply a quick post on a social media channel, including a blurb in your next e-newsletter or sending out an email. Whatever the communication medium, make sure to pass along what you are learning with relevant parties involved!

Do you have a committee that has stalled and needs some help? Contact us for a free consultation to see if we might be able to help you!

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7 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Work

We cover tips for enhancing your overall social media presence in our Marketing 101 blog series here. You’ll want to keep those tips in mind as we take a deeper dive into the perks of promoting your organization on LinkedIn.

We know there are many social media platforms you can use to promote your work. It quickly gets overwhelming when you try and keep up with everything. We recommend choosing 1-2 platforms to engage with your targeted audience (whether that’s donors, clients, etc.), and do those really well.

We are big fans of LinkedIn at Transform Consulting Group, and we choose to invest time and resources into connecting with our audience through this platform. Why? For TCG, LinkedIN is where our target population is spending time and the best use for our efforts. It will vary depending on your client audience. For example, if your audience is younger, then Instagram or Twitter might be a better fit.

LinkedIn also relies on staff and employees to help promote the organization’s presence. Because our team works across the state, we often have colleagues attending different events or meetings. Our team is on the go, and LinkedIn is a great platform for everyone to share what they are learning and doing related to TCG.

To ensure that we are best leveraging this platform, we follow these 7 practices and think you should too!

7 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Work

  1. Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 4.28.16 PMAdd Visuals – When setting up your organization’s profile, include your logo and a cover image on your organization’s page. Your logo appears when members search for you as well as on your employees’ profiles. Research shows that companies with logo images get six times more traffic to their pages
  2. Be Consistent – When we talk about consistency, we’re talking about two areas: 1) in the content posted and 2) in the way your staff engages online.

    As with any social media content or marketing effort, it is important to stay true to your brand (check out tips in this blog). Your content should be relevant to your work and the sector you serve. Share articles and reports that are related to your cause. Snap photos of clients and share your story of impact. Always remember who you’re targeting to determine if the content is relevant and appropriate.

    Consistency also applies to your staff because LinkedIn really encourages “networks.” As mentioned earlier, this is what makes LinkedIn work. The way to expand your network is by having staff link their personal profiles to your organization’s page.

    One of the first things we do at TCG when we have a new hire is share step-by-step instructions for adding their new position with our company to their personal profile. You can search any of our staff and you’ll find consistent language explaining TCG and our work. Because everyone is expected to link our organization page in their work history, we want to make sure that their networks are getting an accurate picture of who we are.

    If you do a quick scan of your employee’s LinkedIN profile, are they all consistently and accurately explaining your organization? If not, then this is an opportunity to strengthen the branding and awareness of your organization. Add this step to your staff orientation checklist!
  3. Optimize for Search – Company pages on LinkedIn are search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly. Google previews up to 156 characters of your page text, so fill in your descriptions with powerful, keyword-rich copy to uniquely explain your organization.

    On LinkedIn members can search for companies by keyword. Include words and phrases that describe your organization, expertise, and industry focus. 
  4. Encourage Engagement – Your engagement on LinkedIn relies heavily on your network. (Are you sensing a theme here?) The easiest way to get your content shared with new people is to encourage participation from your team. Challenge your staff to “like”, comment and share your organization’s posts. When they do this, their individual networks are then able to view and engage with your content. This is vital to growing your following!

    We have a weekly social media challenge among our TCG team. Everyone is asked to post one time a week and link our company. We do this to hold our team accountable to helping grow our organization’s online presence, while also having clear, simple expectations. It’s easy to get sucked into social media. This allows for healthy boundaries that keep everyone on task!
  5. Share Content Regularly – Plan to post on LinkedIn organization page 3-5 times per week. Consistent posting encourages engagement. Updates posted in the morning usually earn the highest engagement.
  6. Experiment with Ads – As with most Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 4.00.56 PMsocial media platforms, LinkedIn ads are low cost and can open doors for new clients, donors, etc. LinkedIn offers different options for their campaigns. You can target a specific audience to promote content, create actual ads that will pop up viewers’ homepage, or send target messages directly to people outside of your network.

    As with any advertisement, use engaging, colorful language and visuals that are specifically geared toward your audience. If you’re going to spend money, make sure there is a clear call to action in your ad so you can easily track your return on investment.  
  7. Track Progress – LinkedIn has free analytic tools for tracking engagement. You’ll find this tab in the top left corner. This tool will help you track what content your followers are engaging with, demographics of your visitors, best times to post, etc. We pull a monthly report from this tool to ensure that our efforts on LinkedIn are working and identify areas we can improve our approach. Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 4.30.26 PM

We believe social media is a great method for telling your organization’s story. At TCG, we want to help you accelerate your impact – whether that’s with your marketing efforts or through our other servicesContact us today and learn more!

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Marketing 101: 6 Ways to Improve Your Website

Improve Website ImageAt Transform Consulting Group, we know your work is important. We also know your time and resources can be limited, regardless of the role you play at your organization. We work with many organizations and programs who are stretched thin working on the front lines with individuals and families to make an impact.

We understand that the behind the scenes marketing gig is rarely your top focus. We also see too many programs fail when they see marketing as a luxury instead of a necessity. The reality is, you need to market in some capacity if you want to grow your organization and continue your good work.

At TCG, we’re here to help. We want to make the process of laying your marketing foundation as easy and painless as possible. That’s why we’re continuing with our Marketing 101 blog series. We covered tips for branding here, best practices for enhancing your social media here, and this blog will unpack 6 simple ways to improve your website.

If you don’t already have a website, then set one up as soon as possible! There are two major reasons why you need even the most basic website:

  • Your clients expect it. Six out of ten consumers expect brands to provide online content about their business, and more than half go directly to the website for information.

  • You control the message. You don’t always have power over what people say about you on social media or on other platforms, but on your website, you are in charge of the narrative. This is your space for telling your organization’s story.

If you don’t have a website, check out free sites like WordPress, and get something posted as soon as possible!

If you do already have a website then you’re halfway there! Now it’s time to take things up a notch with these 6 tips:

1. Capture Attention Quickly

You don’t have much time to capture attention online. The average page visit lasts less than a minute. This Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.33.15 PMmeans you must grab the viewers’ attention quickly, and give them reasons to stay on your page. Your homepage should clearly state who you are and who you serve. You can’t necessarily give away all the information on the first page, but a visitor should be able to gain some basic understanding of your organization during that first glance.

Take a look at our TCG homepage. Without even scrolling, visitors can click on a testimonial video and see our mission statement front and center.

2. Use Active Voice

Whenever possible, use active voice when writing the narrative on your website. Passive sentences end up being wordy and vague. Active voice encourages active readers. You want readers who are engaged and who, hopefully, act! Using active voice also helps increase your SEO (search engine optimization – see more in tip #5).

3. Be Personal

People want to know you, like you and trust you before they work with you. Show behind the scene glimpses of Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.46.36 PMwhat goes on at your organization and your culture. Use conversational language and avoid technical terms that aren’t approachable.

At TCG, we’re proud of the culture we have created, and we want to showcase it! One way we do this is by highlighting our perks on the career page. We also have individualized bios for each team member.

4. Make it Mobile Friendly

Nearly 60 percent of online searches happen from a Cell phonemobile device. What does this mean for you? Your website needs to be just as compelling whether someone visits on their desktop or cellphone.

Here are some quick tips for making your site mobile friendly. However, the biggest thing to start doing now is test it. Have your staff members pull up your company’s site on various devices (phones, iPads, laptops of different sizes, etc.) and see how it looks!

5. Improve SEO

You can take courses and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars trying to learn how to make your website searchable, or increase search engine optimization (SEO).

We won’t claim to be website experts. However, there are a few easy (and free!) tricks we’ve learned that you can start doing right now:

  • Publish Relevant Content: Quality content drives your search engine rankings. Create content that is specific to your audience. Identify keyword phrases for each page by thinking through how your readers might search for that specific page.
  • Update Content Regularly: Search engines like to see regularly updated content. This shows your site is relevant and your organization will pop up higher in searches.

6. Track Web Traffic

As with any marketing strategy, spend time assessing if your efforts are working! We use Google Analytics to track monthly data on our website. The setup for Google Analytics is free, but it looks a little different depending on your website host. Here is a tutorial to get started.

Once this is set up on your page, there is SO much information you can collect. Some major data you may want to track includes the following:

  • How many people visit your website daily?
  • How many new or returning visitors come to your site?
  • How many pages are people looking at when they visit your site?
  • How long do visitors stay?
  • What cities are your visitors from?
  • How are your visitors finding you (on social media, organic searches, etc.)?

You can also show side-by-side comparisons of different months or weeks to gain a good understanding of if you’re heading in the right direction.  This is a great method for tracking progress and areas to improve!

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 5.30.53 PM

At TCG, we want to help you accelerate your impact – whether that’s with your marketing efforts or through our other services. Contact us today and learn more!

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4 Tools to Collaborate with Key Stakeholders

Do you ever find yourself on a path with no direction? A strategic plan may be what you need to put you on the path to success. A strategic plan is essentially a road map for an organization’s program and goals. Transform Consulting Group helps programs develop their strategic plans with our 4 step process, which you can read more about in a previous blog. This blog focuses on step one in the process: Collaborate.

Collaborate Highlighted

We pride ourselves on step one, collaboration, to work with our clients and not for them. During the strategic planning process we work with you to identify the appropriate key stakeholders to inform the planning process. By engaging diverse stakeholders in organization’s planning process we not only help to increase buy in and ownership from those key stakeholders but also solicit rich feedback to inform the final plan.

The key stakeholders will vary depending on your organization, but typically they consist of external and internal stakeholders: involve some of the following individuals or groups:

Internal Stakeholders
External Stakeholders
  • Staff at different position levels in the organization
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Board of Directors
  • Key community partners
  • Volunteers
  • Public
  • Clients

Once the key stakeholders are identified, how do we gather feedback from them to inform the planning process? We like to use a variety of methods to solicit stakeholder feedback. We ultimately select the tool based on appropriateness for the audience (for example a focus group may not be a better method for students and parents depending on literacy levels), timeline and budget. Our go to four tools for collecting stakeholder feedback are the following:

1. Surveys

This is a common method to use but to get really great feedback from surveys you need to hone your approach of how you administer it and the types of questions asked.

  • When creating a survey, consider the audience. For example, if you plan to survey youth, assess the reading level of the questions to make sure it is developmentally appropriate.
  • While you are considering the audience, think about the best method to share the survey. Is there a time when the audience regularly meets when a survey could be shared and collected in person at a meeting? Is the audience a broad community group making it difficult to reach the audience in one place?
  • You may need to connect with community resources to distribute the survey. We have partnered with the local economic development group to share online surveys to get local employer feedback.
  • Once you have determined the audience and the best way to distribute the survey, decide the most effective platform to create the survey. Platforms include printed copies or electronic. Electronically, we use SurveyMonkey, but there are several free, online tools available.

2. Focus Groups

If you want to get more in depth feedback beyond basic survey questions, a focus group or listening session may be the appropriate tool.

  • Create guided open-ended questions that prompt conversation during the focus group.
  • Again, identify if the stakeholder group has a regular meeting time when you could be added to the agenda to ask some questions and gather their feedback. We have done these at conferences, community meetings, and parent councils just to name a few.
  • Focus groups can be done in combination with surveys. We’ve done focus groups first to ask broad questions to a small group that will then inform a survey that goes out to the large group. We’ve also done focus groups after a survey to go deeper on the some of the questions asked in a survey.

3. Interviews

There is often a community member or business leader with expertise around the area of a strategic plan.

  • If they are not already a part of the planning process, invite them for an interview to gather feedback and information related to the strategic plan topic.
  • The stakeholders for individual interviews are typically people who have deep history, knowledge, experience or stake with the organization.
  • Similar to the focus group, outline open-ended questions, but leave room for unguided conversation as well depending on what they want to share.

4. Invitation to Planning Meetings

Some stakeholders are key decision makers and influencers in the community.

  • Bringing them to the table throughout the process will help keep them informed to know how to better share the message and goals of the strategic plan.
  • They will also be able to bring a different perspective from those within the organization, which helps avoid groupthink.
  • You could invite these stakeholders to one of your planning retreats to unpack all of the data and feedback collected and assist with identifying the key goals and strategies.

By5 Big PictureTo get more ideas about how to collaborate on a strategic plan, look at other successful organizations.

By5 is a leading organization for early childhood awareness in Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana. They have created a strategic plan through the collaboration of task force and volunteer efforts to improve the developmental opportunities for children ages 0-5.

When we were working with the Community Foundation of Wabash County to create a strategic plan for their coalition focused on early education we benchmarked other communities for lessons learned and strategies.

fullsizeoutput_3b5

Once the key stakeholders are identified and tools have been distributed for feedback, move onto step two, Assess. Follow our blog posts to find out effective methods for assessing your organization and community to inform your strategic plan. Contact us today to learn more about our strategic planning process and how we can work together to identify the appropriate key stakeholders and tools to inform the planning process.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

 

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3 Steps to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Retreat

17855554_690376437789787_5551209555832880363_oWhat 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.

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.18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_o

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!

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