Category Archives: Technology

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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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.
    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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4 Tips for Getting Started with Tableau

Have you ever seen beautiful charts or dashboards that make the data “pop” in the report or presentation and wondered how could you do that?  At Transform Consulting Group, we have made a lot of charts and graphs to help our clients evaluate their programs and understand important information in a way that is easy to digest. We work to find the most efficient ways to assist our clients with the data that they need to make informed, timely decisions. 2016 Percent of Annual Income a family pays for high-quality careOne way to do this is staying current with data analysis and visualization software.

The data visualization software that we are crushing on these days is Tableau. It is essentially an accelerated version of “pivot tables”.  If any of you are familiar with Excel, then you know pivot tables.  A pivot table is a tool that we use to determine the relationship between two or more data points. For example, when we were working with TeenWorks, a college and career readiness program, to see if their students are enrolling and persisting in college, then we might want to dig deeper in understanding who the students are that are not persisting, what schools are they enrolled in, what type of school is it (public or private, 2-year or 4-year), what is their major, and what is their gender and other socioeconomic statistics.

These additional data points help tell the story of what change is occurring and how that could impact the program model, partnership development, target clients, professional development and so many other factors.  Tableau helped our team answer these questions and more to better understand the relationship of our client’s program to its intended 19

Recently, Transform Consulting Group used Tableau to complete a statewide needs assessment on Indiana’s youngest children ages 0-5 by pulling together data from multiple agencies and partners. The analysis resulted in the Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) help
2017 Annual Report. The intended audience for the report are policy makers who do not have a lot of time to read technical reports, but Tableau equipped out team with creating a visually-appealing report that draws attention to the key findings.

These are our top four tips of getting started with Tableau:

  1. Use Tableau support. There are many support options through Tableau. One option is the Tableau Community, which allows users to connect and ask or answer questions for each other. This can be a quick way to find answers to a common problem or question that users have.  For example, we were havProjected Employment Needsing difficulty with one of our state maps and Tableau Community had a solution that we were able to implement.
  2. Another option is to contact a Tableau consultant through Tableau. A consultant can provide customized personal training and guidance, which might be especially helpful for a new staff person using Tableau and/or a special project (like a dashboard). The consultant won’t do the work for you but is available along the way for further questions and guidance as you complete your project.  
  3. Organize your data. Tableau can be picky about how the original data is organized and certain charts require different data formatting. Before getting started, it is helpful to organize your data into one spreadsheet. Transform Consulting Group prefers to use Google Sheets because it allows multiple people to work in a document and view changes real time, but Excel or Numbers could also work.
  4. Work with a Tableau expert.  Your project might be beyond the capacity (time and knowledge) of your current team, so partnering with a group or individual who has used Tableau might be a more efficient and effective solution.

If your organization needs help with analyzing and visualizing your data, contact Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  We were not asked by Tableau to write this post.  This is our own opinion.

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Transformational Organization Spotlight: TechSoup

TechSoup is transforming organizations and having a ripple effect in the non-profit world. TechSoup is dedicated to connecting nonprofits, charities, foundations, and public libraries with technology products, services, and free learning resources needed ticon-what-we-do-techsoup Big.jpgo make informed technology decisions and investments. TechSoup partners with key technology players such as Adobe, Cisco, and Microsoft to provide donated and discounted software and refurbished hardware for eligible non-profit organizations.

Through its website, TechSoup provides two types of memberships: 1) for the eligible entities identified above, and 2) for non-eligible entities. Eligible organizations are able to access free and discounted resources. Non-eligible organizations are able to access resources through TechSoup’s articles, blogs and webinars posted online. The average nonprofit saves $12,000 on technology products over the course of its TechSoup membership!

Technology is an integral part of any organization, especially in today’s Information Age. Staying current with technology allows an organization to sustain quality service and efficiency levels, while saving money. However, choosing new technologies can be overwhelming and sometimes an outside expert is needed. TechSoup has partnered with several technology consulting services to provide consultation for non-profits to assist them in making such decisions. This is yet another benefit of TechSoup!

Transform Consulting Group applauds TechSoup for its leadership in connecting non-profits with great technology resources, services and information. Transform Consulting Group is dedicated to helping organizations stay current with the latest research and best practices. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or contact Transform today to learn more!

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Federal Program Spotlight: Amber Alert



This post is part of Transform Consulting Group’s blog series highlighting federal programs that provide education opportunities and/or youth development services in communities.

The U.S. Department of Justice AMBER Alert program was instituted in 1996 as an early warning system designed to help find and return abducted children. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, approximately 800,000 children under 18 were reported missing in 1999. Fifteen years later in 2014, there were 466,949 missing children in the FBI’s National Crime information Center (NCIC). As of March 2015, the AMBER Alert program has recovered 745 children, and hopes to continue reuniting US families.

The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize an entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of an abducted child. In a recent online video, Attorney General Eric Holder announces new tools that will “expand the reach of the AMBER Alert program.” Partnerships with Facebook and Bing will allow AMBER Alerts to reach residents of search areas in new ways. Facebook will now send alerts to users if they are in a designated search area, along with detailed information and photographs. Bing will allow users to access Amber Alerts through online tools.

Attorney General Holder strongly encourages other companies and organizations to step forward and offer any assistance they can provide. Currently, the AMBER Alert program operates as a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, TV and radio broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry to issue warnings in the most serious child abduction cases.

Individuals and organizations looking to get more involved in the AMBER Alert program can visit here to get the latest information and tools. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also has information on how to get involved on their website.

Transform Consulting Group is dedicated to helping organizations use technology to expand their audience and reach their goals. Contact us today to learn more.



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Free Fundraising App for Nonprofits


Givelify Video image

Nonprofit organizations are always looking for alternate and new ways to fundraise for their cause. In today’s Information Age, technology provides an opportunity for nonprofits to diversify and expand their fundraising efforts. A new fundraising App, Givelify, might be a good solution for your nonprofit organization.

Givelify has decided to offer this donation App for free to 100 nonprofit organizations. In return, the organizations will be asked to test it out and provide feedback to Givelify. Sign-ups are currently open to the first 100 nonprofit organizations and the donation app will go live on September 30, 2014. Sign-ups are completely free for this great opportunity.

Givelify is a local Indiana company who has primarily been serving the church community with their mobile giving platform. Givelify received better than expected results from the faith-based community and have decided that to expand into the larger nonprofit sector. Givelify is currently in the process of launching their nonprofit version of this donation App.

The Givelify App can be set up by the organization to help fund ongoing efforts or special projects depending on the need and is very simple to use. While it is easy for the nonprofit to use and set up, it is also an easy way for the person who is looking to donate to give to a cause. The donor does not have to remember to bring cash or take the time to write out the check.

All the donor has to do is go on the App and find the cause that they are looking to give to and then indicate what amount they would like to give. After they do this they then just have to push one button to confirm that they want this amount taken from their pre-entered credit card. This video was made by the creators to give everyone a better understanding of the Givelify platform.

Transform Consulting Group is always on the lookout for new and innovative funding opportunities to support nonprofit organizations and its clients. Is your organization looking to grow and diversify your revenue? Contact Transform Consulting Group today for a free consultation and to learn more about our fund development services.



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New Smartphone App To Prevent Bullying


Knowbullying - SAMHSASubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is launching a free mobile App that provides parents, caretakers, educators and others information and support to address youth bullying. The KnowBullying app was developed in conjunction with the federal partnership of

The Knowbullying App helps parents talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Bullying can take place anytime and anywhere in a child’s life. To have quick and easy access to information about how to address bullying is a great advantage.

Through the use of technology, the KnowBullying App shares new research and strategies for the prevention of bullying to everyone. The KnowBullying App can help get the conversation started and provides tips on talking to children.

The KnowBullying App includes the following:

  • Information about bullying
  • Warning signs that your child may be bullying others, being bullied, or witnessing others being bullied
  • Conversation starters to talk with your child about bullying
  • Reminders to talk with your child at times that work best for you and your family
  • Ability to share advice right from the app in an email and/or text message
  • Quick access to bullying prevention resources
  • Resources for educators

The KnowBullying App is available for free both iPhone and Android users. The App utilizes technology and advanced research to help prepare parents, teachers, and children to prevent bullying. The App is a great example of how research, collaboration, and building strategies can help others be more informed and develop favorable outcomes.

Transform Consulting Group is dedicated to bringing nonprofits the latest news and information. Follow Transform Consulting Group on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or contact Transform today for a free consultation!



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U.S. Census Bureau Launches New App – Dwellr



The U.S. Census Bureau is providing free mobile Apps to iPhone and Android users that will allow easy access to statistical information. The dwellr App uses Census Bureau data to match the user with 25 places that best fit his or her lifestyle. Dwellr provides all kinds of neighborhood-level statistics such as demographics, home values, educational levels, population diversity, or the percent of single or married people in a city. 

The dwellr App uses data from the American Community Survey (ACS) Five-Year Estimates. ACS is an ongoing survey that provides information every 1, 3 and 5 years about every neighborhood in the nation. ACS collects statistics on age, ethnicity, marital status, taxes, education, income, and much more. Dwellr updates as new data becomes available.

The dwellr App makes accessing and using data easy and user-friendly. Transform Consulting Group applauds the Census Bureau in their effort to make statistics mobile.

Transform Consulting Group uses statistics to provide clients with information that may be crucial when making decisions about the future. At Transform Consulting Group, we help organizations collect statistical data about their communities to better serve their communities. Contact us today for a free consultation.



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FREE Text Messages to Keep You & Your Baby Healthy


Baby HandJoin the hundreds of thousands of moms who receive free text messages throughout their pregnancy and their baby’s first year.  Text4baby is a free service of the nonprofit National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) and was created in collaboration with Founding Sponsor Johnson & Johnson. The Text4baby service has four goals:

 1.    Demonstrate the potential of mobile health technology to address a critical national health priority: maternal and child health.

 2.    Demonstrate the potential of mobile health technology to reach underserved populations with critical health information.

 3.    Develop a base of evidence on the efficacy of mobile health interventions.

 4.    Catalyze new models for public-private partnerships in the area of mobile health.

In addition to ensuring medical accuracy, HMHB is committed to providing messages that are relevant, clear, understandable, and actionable by mothers of all literacy levels.  If you have limited texting per month, Text4baby won’t take away from your total amount of messages. Most wireless carriers in the U.S., including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, have agreed to waive the standard text messaging fees for text4baby users.  The service also sends text messages to encourage dads and dads-to-be to engage with their children early.  Parents, friends and relatives, and even health care providers can sign up to receive text4baby messagesYou can sign up for text4baby in Spanish by texting BEBE to 511411. You can sign up for text4baby in English by texting BABY to 511411.

Transform Consulting Group is dedicated to bringing nonprofits the latest news and information. Follow Transform Consulting Group on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or contact Transform today for a free consultation!



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