Category Archives: Research & Analysis

2018 Indy Big Data Conference Visualization Challenge Summary

Our TCG team recently presented at the Fifth Annual Indy Big Data Conference for the Visualization Challenge (read about some of our lessons learned here). This year’s challenge focused on improving Indiana’s talent pipeline and workforce. fullsizeoutput_3b6

Participating teams were provided several datasets to analyze and interpret, and then present to a panel of judges. Following the first round of presentations, the judges then awarded five teams the opportunity to present to 500+ conference attendees. Our TCG was one of those top five teams selected! Read more about the Visualization Challenge and data sets here: https://www.indybigdata.com/visualization-challenge/.

Our team used our Tableau expertise to create this interactive dashboard, and then we presented on our findings. The interactive dashboard addresses several key questions about the future of Indiana’s workforce and talent pipeline, including:

  1. What will be the top jobs in demand in 10 years?
  2. What is the education requirement for those top in demand jobs?
  3. What is the earning potential of those top in demand jobs?
  4. What is the return on investment on education for those top in demand jobs?

The following is a summary of TCG’s findings to these questions based on the data provided.

1. What will be the top jobs in demand in 10 years?

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Indiana’s top projected jobs are found primarily in the healthcare, food service and business industry. TCG found that the top projected jobs in 10 years varies depending on how you look at the data. For example, Wind Turbine Service Technicians looks like the top in demand job, because of a 71% expected increase in positions in 10 years. However, when you look at the actual number of new jobs for Wind Turbine Service Technicians,  there are only 66 total positions expected to be added over 10 years. This is not actually enough individual positions to create new higher education programs to encourage individuals to pursue this career. In this visual chart, you can scroll down to see the top projected jobs and how they compare. Hover over the number for more information about that occupation.

2. What is the education requirement for those top in demand jobs?

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The U.S. Census Bureau reports one-third of working adults ages 18-64 have an associate degree or higher. An additional 25% of this population have some education beyond high school. Interestingly, we found that six out of ten of the top 25 projected jobs only require a high school diploma. This doesn’t mean that we should stop encouraging young people to pursue higher education. Instead, the trend looks like the largest amount of new positions will be entry level or positions that do not immediately require an education beyond high school.

3. What is the earning potential of those top in demand jobs?

TCG created a box and whisker plot chart to show the earning potential by occupation. For all occupations the median annual salary is about $40,000. The top 25 projected jobs based on the number of new positions shows a median annual salary at $31,000 which is below the current median annual salary. Again, this somewhat relates to the education level requirements in the previous section. The largest increase in projected new jobs are not high earning jobs. Visit the interactive dashboard to explore the different wage levels, experience levels, and hourly rates of the projected top jobs.

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4. What is the return on investment on education for those top in demand jobs?

The costs of education can feel like a burden to individuals, especially when the costs drag on through student loans for several years. The average timeframe expected to pay off the cost of postsecondary education is over two years. Our TCG team was interested in calculating the return on investment (ROI) of pursuing higher education for the top 25 occupations. You can rank the list by the jobs with the highest and lowest ROI. The average ROI for all jobs is $1.4 million.

Recommendations

TCG made several recommendations from the data analyzed. (This list can also be viewed on the second tab in the interactive dashboard).

  1. Review employment projections in multiple ways, like reviewing the expected growth based on the number of new jobs and the percentage growth of new jobs (e.g., Wind Turbine Service Technicians example) to ensure informed decision making. This can assist with decision making when developing or removing educational degree or certification programs and when encouraging individuals to enter a certain field.
  2. Offer more certificates and associate degrees both independently and as a part of bachelor’s degree curriculum. It would align with required educational needs of the workforce, contribute to less debt for students, and help improve higher education completion rate.
  3. Increase partnerships with employers (like IU Health) to do more direct career pipelines and apprenticeship programs. This could also potentially reduce the student cost. For example, Graduate Assistant positions are partially funded by the organization that receives a graduate student.
  4. Include more experiential learning in degree programs. It would help the student decide if they are in the right major or explore a secondary interest. It could also get industries to partner with other majors/ disciplines. For example, get the “creatives” into STEM activities – increasing the workforce pipeline.
  5. Consider offering incentives to attract individuals in the top projected jobs, especially those jobs with a low ROI. Look at ways to make these jobs more attractive to meet the future workforce needs.

Learn more about the Indy Big Data Challenge in this article by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. At TCG, we are data nerds. Check out our research and analysis services, and learn how we can develop visual reports and dashboards to inform your decision-making and help you tell your story of impact.

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Are You Data Literate?

Recently the TCG team participated in a data visualization challenge at the Indy Big Data Conference, and this experience has led me to writing a blog on data literacy.  What is data literacy? Merriam Webster defines being literate as “having knowledge or competence”, and being competent with data is a foundational skill we all need in this age of big data.

Now, you don’t have to love math or know how to write code to be data literate.  What you need to be comfortable doing is asking what, how, why, and so what of data.

  • What data is being collected?  (e.g., age, county, number of individuals with a college degree)
  • How is the data being collected?  (e.g., application, agency records, census survey)
  • Why?  Especially when it comes to data analysis, don’t be afraid to ask why.  (e.g., Why did you focus on this subset of the population? Why were those data points analyzed?)
  • So what?  (e.g., How does the number of individuals without a college degree impact our strategy to address this issue?)    

For TCG’s presentation (check it out here), we reviewed multiple datasets provided by the Indiana Management Performance Hub.  We had to learn what each variable meant, how the values were determined or collected, and why those variables were important to those data sources.  Figuring out the data meant learning about workforce development measures and industry codes. Analysis of the data involved selecting certain data to focus on and incorporating different views and additional data to answer the questions we had.  Listing our recommendations answered the “so what” for the data we chose to analyze and present.

Data presentation

Data literacy is very important to the data visualization world as well.  Before making the data “pretty” with charts or data visualization software (like Tableau which we featured in this blog), you have to know your data and know your metrics.  That way when you see your dashboard or charts showing 1,000 current donors with a 25% retention rate from last year, you will know if that is correct.  Programs like Tableau (which imports your data to visualize) can’t tell you if you’re creating the right chart with the right variables. It takes the same level of critical thinking that is applied to the data itself.       

Common Mistakes with Data Visualization:

  • Not spot checking data to make sure things are correct (such as population totals).
  • Too much data.  More is not always better, and lots of data can be overwhelming and may take away from the goal of the analysis.
  • Selecting the wrong variables.  A chart can be created to compare apples to oranges, but it may not be of any value.Data Literacy Tableau
  • Not using percentages when comparing groups with different totals.  This is one I see quite often and is a reminder to always question data. In the example below, Marion County (center of map) looks like it has the most young children and the most young children in poverty because Marion County has the largest population.  If you look at percent of young children in poverty, other counties show just as high of a percentage as Marion County.
  • Lacking context.  Without knowing the source of the data or data totals, the statistics may be less convincing.  Industry knowledge is also important to context in order to visualize the most valuable data and to answer “So what?”.  

Not sure how comfortable you are with data?  Start with your own! Ask questions and see what you can uncover.  Check out some of our favorite sources of data that can add to your analysis.  As you dig in, Transform Consulting Group is ready to assist with our evaluation, research, and strategic planning services as well as data visualization training and products.  Contact us today to ask questions and learn more!

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

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

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

Program Design

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

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

Staff

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

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

Communications and Marketing

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

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

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

Budget

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

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

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

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Getting the Most Out of Your Needs Assessment

Recently Transform Consulting Group finished the annual needs assessment for the Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office (IHSSCO).   Each Head Start State Collaboration Office is required to annually submit a needs assessment, which informs their strategic plan goals and objectives.  

IHSSCO uses their needs assessment to inform their annual work plan, and all organizations should make the connection between a needs assessment and the organization’s strategic goals!  Whether you want to conduct a needs assessment, program or organization evaluation, or annual report, don’t miss the chance to do one of the following:  

  1. Use your assessment to solicit new feedback or data.

The IHSSCO needs assessment solicited new feedback this year.  We interviewed and surveyed external stakeholders and Head Start partners.  If you’re going to request feedback, make sure you show you’re doing something with it.  No one likes to provide feedback, and then see that nothing changes. For Head Start partners and stakeholders, they will soon be able to read the needs assessment report and see the recommendations for solutions that address some of their feedback.

  1. Take the time to learn from your data.

Data is collected and reported on, but beyond totals and percentages, what does your data say?  What questions does it raise to inform your assessment and planning efforts? For example, we wanted to know:

  • How do Indiana Early Head Start and Head Start programs compare to national statistics?
  • Where are Early Head Start and Head Start centers located across the state, and is it proportionate to the population and need?  Image
  • What percentage of children are being served?  
  • Is there more of a demand for Early Head Start and Head Start in rural or urban areas?

Besides the demographics of your program participants and the outputs of a program, look for issues and barriers, gaps or overlap in services or clients, layer the data with other relevant indicators, and don’t forget to look at outcomes as well!

  1. Make sure you share the report – internally and externally.  

A needs assessment can take a great deal of time, effort, and resources from multiple individuals.  Once the process is completed, it is easy to do a quick review of the findings with program staff and then put it on the shelf.  The needs assessment report and its findings are not only important to program staff; it can also provide insight to all staff, program participants, funders, and external stakeholders/partners.  Check out this past blog for more ideas!

Make the report accessible and relevant.  Many people may only be interested in reading an executive summary of the report or skipping straight to the recommendations.  Others may be more attracted to infographics or dashboards. Decide how to best present your data for your audience, and then post these materials on your website, link to them in a newsletter, or mention them on social media.
If you’re ready to do things differently with your needs assessment but are not sure where to start, contact us today to discuss ways Transform Consulting Group can help!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

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

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

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

When Should You Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

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

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

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

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

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3 Steps for Creating a Fund Development Case Statement

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

Fund Dev Case Statement Blog

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

Step 1: What is the Need?

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

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

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

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

Step 2: What are You Currently Doing?

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

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

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

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

Step 3: What are Your Plans for the Future?

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

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

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

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

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

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Benchmarking Organizations Similar To Yours

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

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

2 Reasons You May Benefit From Benchmarking

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

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

3 Strategies For Conducting Benchmarking Research

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

Tracking Key Indicators

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

These are some key indicators you may want to track.

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

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

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4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

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

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

Implementing a feasibility study is a great tool to complete a thoughtful planning process. A well designed feasibility study will help an organization assess 1) if what they are thinking of implementing is possible and 2) how to consider implementing it.

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

4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

 

1. Market Analysis

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

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

2. Program Design

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

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

3. Business Model

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

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

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

4. Communications Plan

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

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

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

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

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Looking for Grants? Learn About Funders with Foundation Directory Online!

Whether you’re a seasoned grant writer or just starting out, it can be a challenge to find possible grant opportunities. In today’s information age, the internet is an incredible resource to find information on potential funders. However, not all funders who award grants have an online presence. In fact, only 10% of foundations have a website. Another useful strategy for finding possible grants is through word of mouth in your local community and region.

FDO-foundation-directory-onlineIf you rely only on the internet and relationships for possible fuding, then your organization may be missing out on potential grant opportunities to support your fund development goals. One of our “go-to” sources is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) database. FDO is one of the services provided by Foundation Center. There is a fee to access the information in their database, but we find that it is worth it due to the amount of information that you will be able to gather, as well as the ease of searching in their database. 

3 Ways That Foundation Directory Online Can Help You

  1. Find Possible New Funders – You may have an idea for a new project, or you might want to expand an existing part of your programming. In order to accomplish this, you need to find funders with available grant opportunities that could support your goals. The FDO search fields let you specify the subject of your project or program, your geographic area, and the population you serve (e.g. youth or veterans). For example, if you want to find funders that would support your homeless programs in Michigan, you could type in those categories to find possible funders. You can add more layers to the search to narrow the focus or remove restrictions to broaden it. You can save your search criteria each time, allowing you to come back to your results as needed.
     FDO-Michigan-homeless
    Some private and corporate foundations, particularly larger ones, have websites with detailed information about the types of projects and programs they fund, as well as their grant application process. In these cases, it is typically best to rely on the information on funders’ websites, rather than the FDO database, since it may take some time for FDO to be updated. The Joyce Foundation is an example of a funder with a lots of detail about projects they have funded on their website. However, when foundation websites do not exist or do not contain enough information, FDO can fill in those gaps.
  2. Complete Prospect Research on Funders – Let’s say that you FDO-grant-size-chartrecently learned about a local or national funder, and you want to find out if they would be a good partner for your organization. You can search FDO for information about that particular funder, including the types of projects they have previously funded. You may also want to find out how much you should ask for in a grant, so you could use FDO to find information on their past grantee award amounts. FDO lists each grant made by each funder, the dollar amount of each grant, and the reipient of each grant. They also compile data in chartsand graphs, giving you quick access to summaries, along with the option to click for more detail.                 Pro Tip: Sometimes funders have a different legal name than the name you know. If you’re having trouble finding them by their organization name, you can do a keyword search.
  3. Benchmark Other Nonprofit Organizations – Nonprofits can also learn from other similar organizations in the same region or industry. FDO can help you benchmark the funding strategies of those organizations. Search for similar nonprofits by name or keyword to find out what kind of funding they have received in the past.

The process of seeking grants from private and corporate foundations often requires some level of relationship-building with staff at the foundation. Once you have identified potential funders that fit your subject area, geographic region, and population served, then you need to determine how to approach the foundation about funding your project. Many foundations note that they do not accept unsolicited grant applications. This usually means they want to have a conversation with you or receive a Letter of Inquiry from you to get an overview of your organization before you submit a proposal. This will help them determine if it is worth your time to prepare a detailed grant application or if your proposal does not match their funding goals.

FDO compiles information from many sources, including foundation websites and 990 tax forms. If you access FDO, then you do not have to conduct this research yourself. Some of the most helpful information in FDO is found on each funder’s Grantmaker Record page, and we have found some good ways to search for results.

Tips for Making the Most of Foundation Directory Online

  • As you navigate FDO, it is important to remember that what you type into each search field continues to impact the records you pull up. For example, if you type “Indianapolis Colts” into the keyword field and then click on the Grantmaker Record for Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, you will not see the full information about this grantmaker. Instead, now that your “Indianapolis Colts” search pulled up the full name of this grantmaker, copy the full name and then clear that search. Next, go to the “Organization Name” field and paste or begin typing “Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program.” Once that name pops up as a choice, select it, and click search. Now, when you click on that Grantmaker Record, you will see all the details about this funder.
  • Some organizations, like Central Indiana Community Foundation, both receive grants and give grants. Therefore, FDO has both a “Recipient Record” and a “Grantmaker Record” for them. Be sure you are looking at the right record in order to get the information you are seeking.
  • Within the Grantmaker Record, you can filter your results to focus in on only previous grants given to organizations similar to yours, projects like yours, or programs in your geographic area. As you move from screen to screen, be sure that the tabs and filters selected are the ones you want to see.

If your nonprofit organization is on the smaller side, you may find that the costs of a subscription outweigh the benefits. You can always do your own research into prospective funders’ 990 tax forms. Check out our blog on 990s and this free resource for finding 990 forms.

Whether your nonprofit is large or small, Transform Consulting Group can help you navigate grant research and writing! Contact us today to get started.

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When Is It Time to Change Your Program?

At non-profit organizations, programs are often developed to meet a need in the community and drive positive change. Over time community demographics and culture may change, along with the needs of the clients. Organizations may find themselves in a position where they are not satisfied with their current impact, there is a lack of funding to support the program, or there is new research to inform the structure of the program or other items to consider. Any of these items might be a good indication that it is time to review your program or update it.

Four FactorsIMG_0736 to Consider Updating Your Program

  1. Dissatisfaction with Current Impact

As the needs of clients change, organizations may find that the impact of programs on participants is not as strong as they had hoped. This could be for many reasons. For example, programs’ services may no longer address the needs of the community. Programs may need to be adapted and different outcomes may need to be established in order to see a greater impact on participants. There are many reasons why program impact may tend to weaken. It is important to determine the root cause for low impact on program participants, in order to determine the next steps to move towards program re-development.

  1. Lack of Funding to Support the Program

Organizations strategically use funding that aligns with programs and services. In doing so, some non-profits rely so much on grants that it becomes challenging to sustain a program. Funding for programs is not permanent. Organizations may lose funding for a variety of reasons. The funder may have chosen to focus on a different social issue, funders may be dissatisfied with program outcomes and impact, or the funds just simply run dry. Based on some of the reasons listed, some funders may ask organizations for sustainability plans when submitting an application for funding.

  1. New Research Developments

In today’s information age, research is on-going and growing. As new developments are made in various disciplines, programs need to align to the latest research trends and practices. Funders want to fund data-driven, research-based programs that demonstrate impact. Programs could become outdated if the organization does not remain relevant with federal, state, and local trends.

  1. Changing Demographics

Many of today’s communities and residents seem to be ever changing. Some organizations do a great job of assessing their targeted communities and understanding the changing trends and demographics. It is important to make sure that the programs and services your organization is providing are serving the intended audience. It is possible that you may need to update your programs to better serve the current target population or look at providing your services in a new community if that is a better fit with your mission and goals. See this blog post to help you consider relocating or moving into a new community!

We have helped other organizations in determining that it was time to update their program. In working with United Way of Central Indiana on their ReadUP program, we helped them assess how to expand their reach and capacity by leveraging AmeriCorps volunteers. They wanted to grow their reach based on the need in the community but didn’t know how to make it happen with their current capacity. It also turned into a good opportunity reassess the target population and align with the latest research.

Has your organization’s programs experienced some of the stated challenges? If you believe it is time to change your program, contact us today!

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