Tag Archives: program development

How to Implement your Strategic Plan

In January, we kicked off our Exercise Your Impact campaign. Throughout 2019 we’re sharing tools and resources that highlight critical phases of organizational planning. Our first quarter focus is on the first phase: Strategic Planning. As we finish out the quarter, we want to provide some tips on how to use and implement your strategic plan.

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In a previous blog series, we highlighted the 4 steps of strategic planning and detailed each step (step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4). But what happens once you’ve completed those steps? We often find that organizations get stuck on figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. To avoid this, we create an “implementation plan” during Step 4. This implementation plan unpacks the strategic plan into actionable steps. It provides your organization with a road map for how to accomplish the goals identified in the strategic plan.

HFI - Implementation Plan Pg 7

We recently worked with Healthy Families Indiana (HFI) to help them develop their strategic plan, including a detailed implementation plan. We are currently helping them implement the plan while providing project management support for their Think Tank. The following four components are key pieces of any implementation plan.

Key Implementation Plan Components 

Strategies/Goals: It is important to include any priorities and goals that are set within your strategic plan in your implementation plan. For example, one of HFI’s key goals from their strategic plan is to translate information about brain science to share with parents. Including this goal in the implementation plan ensured that they had a detailed plan to actually achieve it.

Action steps: For each strategy/goal, the implementation plan will spell out action steps to help your organization meet that goal. The tasks associated with the HFI goal listed above included developing or identifying a family-facing brain science resource to share with parents.

Timeline: The implementation plan will indicate which year you plan to complete each task. For example, if you have set a three-year strategic plan, it is important to evenly schedule tasks out over those three years. For example, HFI determined that in their long-term schedule, developing and/or identifying family facing brain science resources would fit best within 2019.

Responsibility: It is important that the implementation plan indicate who is responsible for completing each task. Identifying those responsible helps to ensure accountability and track progress. The responsible party could be a group or individual. They could be staff, board members, or a committee. HFI identified the Think Tank as being the most appropriate group to complete the task outlined in the previous components.

Tips for Using your Implementation Plan

  • When carrying out an implementation plan, it is important to establish a procedure to track progress on tasks. For example, we’ve done this for clients by creating a spreadsheet that they can update on a quarterly basis to track actions they’ve taken.
  • An organization can update their implementation plan over time if needed. Tasks may take a longer or shorter amount of time than anticipated, so it is appropriate to update timelines as you go.

TCG is privileged to work with organizations at all stages of the strategic planning and implementation process. We are currently helping another client, Manchester Early Learning Center, finalize their strategic plan. We’re excited to watch them carry it out!

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As we finish the first quarter of 2019, we’re also looking forward to the second ‘leg’ of our Exercise Your Impact campaign: Program Development. Once you have set the strategic vision for your organization it is time to take a closer look at your program(s) to assess whether your current programming is in a place to help you achieve that vision. Contact us today to see how we can assist you with your strategic planning or programming needs!

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5 Tips to Implement an Evidence-based Program

When awarding funding, philanthropic funders want to invest in “what works” and is proven effective. Many funders show preference for programs and practices that are evidence-based. Implementing an evidence-based program is a great way for grant seekers to demonstrate that they are also committed to “what works”.

For example, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation recently awarded funding to over 20 schools and school districts as part of their Prevention Matters initiative.  Prevention Matters is a three-year grant initiative aiming to help Marion County schools identify, implement and sustain proven substance use prevention programs.

To apply for this funding, schools selected an evidence-based substance use prevention program that aligned with their needs. In their proposal, schools had to demonstrate that they had a strong plan for implementation and sustainability. Developing such a plan can be a daunting task, but is crucial for successful implementation. We worked with Bishop Chatard and the North Deanery Schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to help them develop their implementation plan and proposal (Which was fully funded by the Fairbanks Foundation! Learn more about our fundraising services here.). Here are 5 tips we used to help them prepare to successfully implement their evidence-based program!

1. Select an Evidence-based ProgramWhat Works Image (1)

First, you need to find a program that aligns with the needs you are trying to address. For example, if you are a school looking to prevent substance use and violence, while also promoting positive youth development, you may choose to implement the Botvin LifeSkills Training curriculum.

Taking the time to research available programs is crucial to ensuring successful implementation and maximum impact. To learn more about how to find an evidence based program, check out this blog!

2. Assess your Organization’s Capacity

Once you have selected an appropriate evidence-based program, it is important to assess your current funding and staffing capacity. You want to assess if your current organizational capacity will allow you to implement the program with fidelity. Fidelity refers to the extent to which you deliver your program as the original program model intended. Evidence-based programs are  proven effective and that effectiveness relates to how the program is implemented. Therefore, fidelity to the model is crucial to successful implementation.

Completing a feasibility study is a great way to assess your capacity and readiness. 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. Check out this blog to learn more about completing a feasibility study.

The assessment of your capacity may indicate that you need to make some organizational changes. For example, you might need to tweak your program budget to purchase necessary materials and/or hire additional staff. Making these operational and workforce investments will lead to more successful implementation and program outcomes.

3. Create an Implementation Plan

Next, it’s time to flesh out your implementation plan. This plan should include a timeline and should specify staff members’ responsibilities for program related tasks. Many evidence-based programs have a set number of required sessions and guidelines for how frequently they should occur. Make sure that your implementation plan aligns with program requirements.

4. Train and Prepare Staff

Once you create your implementation plan, provide training for staff involved in the implementation. Involved staff should have a clear understanding of the program goals, activities, and their responsibilities throughout implementation. Your implementation plan should also include continued professional development opportunities and training for staff, to ensure continued high quality implementation.

5. Establish Continuous Monitoring Procedures

Once you begin implementing the program, you want to continuously monitor your fidelity to the program model. Many evidence-based programs come with accompanying fidelity checklists. It is important to identify a staff member, or an outside evaluator, who will conduct observations of the program to evaluate the implementation. You can use observations and fidelity checklists to assess if the program’s implementation is consistent with the original program model.

If your organization is looking for support in choosing, implementing or evaluating an evidence-based program, contact us today to learn more about our program development and evaluation services!

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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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Why Are Financial Goals Important?

Your organization probably has a mission statement and strategies in place for achieving your program goals, but do you also have concrete financial goals? Whether you administer a nonprofit, faith-based organization, or a small business, you have to think about the financial health of your organization.

Your mission and program goals are, by definition, tied to financial goals. Serving your clients and families, as well as paying your staff, requires funding. If you haven’t thought about the health of your current budget or your future financial goals, now is the time! The 4 steps outlined below can guide you.

Step 1: Assess your organization’s finances.

  • First, you may need to spend time reviewing your current revenue, expenses, and the quality of your bookkeeping. In this process, engage your leadership team, board of directors, and/or financial consultants.
  • If needed, determine how to improve your accounting practices. Keep in mind that accounting and other supportive services are part of what enables your programming to have the desired impact.
  • If your organization is not consistently breaking even, then that will inform your financial goals. If your revenue exceeds your costs, how are you reinvesting it in your mission?

Step 2: Set specific goals for your program, such as increasing funding or serving more clients.

  • Separate from the process of reviewing your budget, do you have ideas for the future of your program?
  • Does your organization have an up-to-date strategic plan? In your planning process, did you start by determining the end results that you want to see?
    • What are your plans for program improvement? Goals for Financial Goals Blog
    • Is your organization looking to replicate its services in another geographic region?
    • Did your needs assessment indicate that you should expand to serve a broader range of clients and families?
  • As you are going through the process of turning big ideas into program goals, be sure that you make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, or SMART.

Step 3: Set financial goals that will enable you to meet your program goals. What will it cost to meet these goals?

  • You may have some goals for your organization that do not require additional funding. Perhaps you need to prioritize your current funding and/or staff time.
  • Other goals, like serving additional clients, expanding to a new region, and increasing staff wages, do require additional funding.
  • Quantify your specific short-term and long-term funding goals. Then, specify how these goals help you achieve your desired outcomes.Financial Goals-Blog image

Step 4: Develop specific strategies to accomplish your financial goals.

  • One possible strategy is decreasing your current costs. Review your spending from the past few years to see if there are opportunities to save money.
    • You may find that your organization is using resources for activities that are not as closely tied to your mission as they should be.
    • Could you negotiate with any of your vendors for lower service fees?
  • Bringing in additional revenue can be a daunting task. Break it down into smaller pieces.
    • What type of funding are you already accessing that could be increased?
      • Could you raise more from individual or corporate donors?
      • Could you increase your fees for services?
    •  What other funding sources are you not already accessing?
      • Could you write a grant for the first time?
      • Is there government funding available that supports your field?

As you assess the overall health of your organization, remember to focus on areas in which your background is not strong. If you are the director of early childhood education program, then your experience and education is likely in the field of child development. You probably have a lot of ideas to improve the quality of education at your program. Also be sure to consult experts in other areas, like finance, to ensure you are making the most impact!

Our team is currently engaged in a project funded by Partnerships for Early Learners, a program of Early Learning Indiana. We are working with 10 early learning programs across Indiana to help them meet their financial goals. Going through this 4-step process is different for each program. The programs are structured differently and bring unique skills to the table. Despite their differences, each program has been able to set specific goals and find funding strategies that will work best for them.

If you’re ready to jump into this process and need some help with goal setting or fund development, contact us at Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

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3 Tips to Scale Up Your Social Program

Social programs are often developed to address service-gaps within communities. As the program evolves and retains strong outcomes over time, organizations may look for ways to expand the services.

The Wallace Foundation recently produced a report called Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs. In this report, researchers conducted a study focusing on what it takes to scale up programs and identified three key strategies.

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Three Strategies to Consider to Scale Up Your Program

1. Organizational Structure:

There are three organizational structures to consider when determining the proper path for scaling up a program.

  • Branching:  If an organization chooses “branching” as a strategy, the program will be offered at multiple sites under the control of the lead organization. Utilizing this strategy may mean slower growth and expansion for the program due to the fact that the lead agency must manage the various sites. The benefit of branching for program expansion is that the lead agency remains in control of the program delivery and model.
  • Affiliate: Organizations utilizing the affiliate path are able to offer and expand their program to other sites. In this option, the partnering organization has basic control over the program like the leading agency would in the branching pathway. Sometimes these independent organizations are under contract with the lead organization who developed the program.
  • Distributing network: This option allows for an organization to develop the content of a program, but leans heavily on its partners to implement the contents of the program as they have been written. These organizations tend to have a national or regional geographic reach.
2. Partnerships:

Scaling up a program involves multiple partnerships.  No lead organization can successfully scale on their own. Successful organizations who participated in the study noted that supporting and implementing partnerships are very important to bring programs to scale. When making the decision on who to partner with, consider the following:

  • Resources – What resource gaps (i.e. funding, implementation, etc.) can the partnering organization support to bring the program to scale?
  • Organizational Structure – Which partnering organization can best assist with the organizational type of bringing the program to scale?
  • Knowledge and Experience – Does this partner have experience and knowledge within this particular field? Who can help guide the process?
3. Program Model:

When bringing programs to scale, the program model was well defined and possibly refined with demonstrated impact prior to scaling. After scaling, it is not uncommon for the program model to be altered due to program adaptation or reinvention. Based on this study in particular, reinventions of programs often occur in order to change the delivery model, target audience, or program’s focus.  To ensure that the program model remains intact as much as possible, lead organizations may provide implementation guidance to those implementing partners. Online resources like toolkits are also a helpful resource for partner organizations to reference. Although this strategy may help in program fidelity, the overall monitoring process for the lead organization to maintain program control varies. Some organizations utilize tools such as Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), dashboards, on-going evaluations, etc.

Client Spotlight

We are working with a college and career readiness client to help them evaluate their impact. One of their goals for completing the evaluation is to make the case for scaling the program to other communities. It has been the discussion for many years at this organization. However, before they could begin the steps identified above, they first need to affirm that they have a well structured program model with demonstrated impact. Then we could take them through the three steps noted to determine if scaling is an option and the appropriate path forward!  

We, here at Transform Consulting Group, are equipped to assist your organization with bringing programs to scale during a time where social needs, communities, and family demographics are forever changing. If you want help with bringing you program to scale or need assistance addressing reinventions and adaptations contact us today!

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Is it Time to Redesign Your Program?

Organizations – public and private – go through different stages of development. During this life cycle, it is not uncommon for an organization to update or modify their programs and services. At the same time, however, some organizations can be stagnant and need to update their programs. How do you know when it is time for your organization to refresh your program?time 3

Below are three questions you should ask yourself to determine if it is time to update your program.

  1. Are we making the impact that we hoped to make?
  2. Is our program aligned with the latest research?
  3. Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then it might be time to seriously review your program. You may not need a complete redesign of your program, but it’s time to reevaluate.

When we have worked with other organizations to help them improve their impact by updating their program model, there have been a range of changes that we proposed implementing to achieve their results.

In one case, we worked with a large volunteer literacy tutoring program who was not making the impact they had hoped to make. Through our assessment, we proposed the following changes that were then implemented:

  • Clarify the target population – We learned that the target population to enroll in and receive this literacy tutoring program needed to be more focused. Students who were reading just below grade level benefited the most from this program. Students who were more than one grade level behind were not a good fit for this type of tutoring program.  
  • Strengthen the curriculum and training – Since this program relies on volunteers – non-professional educators –  to deliver the tutoring, the curriculum is critical. After researching other effective literacy tutoring programs delivering the impact we had hoped, we saw a theme in the curriculum and instructional practices that they were implementing. We adopted a specific model of instruction and updated the training for volunteers.
  • Expand the capacity – The need for this organization’s work was high in the community, but their ability to meet the need was limited to the available volunteers. They were interested in expanding their capacity through AmeriCorps members who would be able to significantly expand the number of students enrolled in and benefiting from the program. We helped them determine how AmeriCorps members could enhance the staff capacity of their program and restructure the program model.

With another client who is working to help get first generation college graduate students, they were struggling to deliver the outcomes to their funders. As we started helping them pull their program data together, the results were not what they had hoped. After reviewing the data and the program activities, it did not take long to identify some gaps and opportunities in the program. From our work, we proposed and helped them implement the following changes:

  • Develop new curriculum – Over the years as new staff have worked on the program, the curriculum had “evolved” into a hodge podge of worksheets and lesson plans that were slightly modified each year. There was not a clear alignment of the curriculum with the identified outcomes. Rather than modifying what they had in place, we decided to start over in developing a new curriculum that clearly aligned to the outcomes and would be “turn key” for staff to implement.
  • Align multiple programs – This organization operated a school-year program as well as a summer program. Both programs shared similar objectives of helping get more first generation college graduates. However, they operated as two separate programs. We initially started to focus on the school-year program but quickly realized that the “dosage” or impact potential with the summer program was much more focused (40 hours x 6 weeks = 240 hours of “intervention” versus 1.5 hours x 32 weeks = 48 hours of “intervention”). When we combined the two programs as one overall program, we expanded the “dosage” exposure as well as the possibilities of impact.
  • Focus the target population – The organization was working with multiple schools across a city. In some cases, it was a middle school in one district and a high school in another district. Instead, we targeted 2 districts and ensured that we had the middle schools that fed into the high schools for continuity purposes since this program enrolled 7th – 12th grade students with the goal of students enrolling each year. This change provided efficiencies for the staff and also helped ensure that the students targeted for the program would receive the greatest exposure of enrolling multiple years.

In today’s information era, there is more research that is available to inform our work and ensure that we are implementing best practice strategies to affect change. In addition, the populations and communities that organizations are serving are changing, and need to evolve with them. Lastly, local, state and federal policies and priorities are shifting. Organizations that can adapt to this changing environment can grow and potentially expand their impact.

If you want help assessing the shifting landscape in your community or industry, or you answered ‘no’ to one of the three questions above, then contact us. We would love to learn more about your program and goals to see how we could support you.

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