Author Archives: Sara Anderson

Putting Equitable Evaluation into Practice

Evaluation ProcessDoes your evaluation process accurately represent the population you serve? The marginalized and less privileged? We shared in this blog that evaluation is a process that helps organizations determine if the change that they set to accomplish actually occurred. We follow a 4-step evaluation process: (1) establish clear outcomes, (2) create or modify data tools and systems, (3) analyze the data, and (4) use data to make informed decisions. 

In all our work with clients, we want to ensure we’re best representing all populations when doing evaluation. That’s why we’re learning more about an emerging initiative that is transforming the way evaluators think about their work – equitable evaluation. 

At TCG, we’re always learning! We recently attended a lunch and learn titled “Equitable Evaluation: Whose Voice Counts?!” hosted by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. The presenter Equitable evaluation presentationshared examples about how equity is undermined based on traditional evaluation practices. She then shared an overview of the core equitable evaluation principles. The work of evaluation is for and contributes to equity. Evaluations should answer critical questions about the effect of a program on populations, underlying drivers of inequity, and why history and culture might be affecting the work and potential changes. In addition, evaluation design and follow-through should be based around the values of equity, meaning multi-culturally valid and set toward participant ownership.

We [the audience] were challenged to explore the opportunities to implement equitable practices into our own evaluation work, so that’s what we [TCG] did!

This presentation got us intentionally thinking about our four-step process, how equity is included and opportunities for improvements.  

Putting Equitable Evaluation into Practice

Equity can be applied throughout our  four steps, creating a fair and impartial process from beginning to end. Some examples for before, during, and after an evaluation that help lead to an equitable evaluation include: equitable evaluation handout

  • Before the evaluation, ensure the program evaluation questions and design are equitable. This means that the evaluation is multi-culturally valid and geared towards participant ownership. 
  • This thought process can be carried on throughout your evaluation. During the evaluation process, consider equity when determining appropriate stakeholders and the method of collecting feedback from those stakeholders. What factors should be considered for different stakeholders (environment, demographics, politics, influences, etc.)? What methods will be most effective to gather feedback? What influencers may be impacting stakeholder responses, or lack thereof? 
  • After, review the feedback from the evaluation through a lens of equity. What and/ or who was missing from the process? Determine the next steps to follow through based on the results of the evaluation. 

How are you ensuring equitable evaluation in your practice? You can learn more about the Equitable Evaluation Initiative on the EEI website. If you’re stuck in your evaluation process or don’t feel like you have a system in place to effectively collect equitable data – let’s chat!

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

How A Needs Assessment Can Support Your Head Start Program

Most organizations that receive federal or state funding and even private funding are required to complete some type of needs assessment. This might be part of their grant application or annual program update. The purpose of the needs assessment (which we talk more about this here and here) is to help organizations align their services to meet the needs of their targeted population and geographic service area.

Head Start and Early Head Start grantees are one type of grant program that must complete a comprehensive needs assessment every five years as part of their grant application. They are also required to complete an annual needs assessment update. In addition to the local grantees, each state has a Head Start Collaboration Office. They too are required to complete an annual needs assessment based on federal priorities to inform their annual plan and funding priorities.Blog Image

Transform Consulting Group has worked with Head Start and Early Head Start programs at every level from the local grantee level to the state collaboration office and even the federal Office of Head Start. With these partners, we have helped with writing grant applications, managing data systems, completing strategic plans, supporting implementation of new grants, and of course completing needs assessments. Based on our breadth of experience with Head Start, we have some tips to share in how to best complete and leverage your Needs Assessment:

  1. Gather Quantitative Data

The 5-Year Community Assessment must include a variety of data points such as community demographics, data about Head Start eligible children and families, education, health, social services, nutrition, housing, child care, transportation, community resources, and the list goes on. During the other 4 years of the grant period, local grantees must do a Community Assessment Annual Update. This update includes any significant changes in data around key areas such as the availability of pre-kindergarten, child and family homelessness, and other shifts in demographics and resources.

  1. Gather Stakeholder Feedback

We’ve talked a lot about stakeholder engagement in past blogs (here and here). The 5-Year Community Assessment includes gathering input from community partners, parents, and staff. We do this through the use of surveys (electronic or paper), focus groups, and interviews. This is a great opportunity to hear from your key stakeholders, build buy-in and engagement, and strengthen existing relationships.

  1. Create Visually Appealing Needs Assessment Reports

We pride ourselves on creating visually appealing reports that are user-friendly for all audiences and talk about it in this blog.  You can see examples of our Head Start needs assessment reports here and here. We have also taken these reports to create fact sheets about the need for services across different service areas or to summarize the impact / footprint of the Head Start and Early Head Start program.

In more recent years, we have started developing data dashboards that summarize the community needs assessment. Organizations are putting these dashboards on their website like this example here.  By doing this, Head Start programs can be a great resource in the community of comprehensive data about young children and families that other partners can use for planning purposes.Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 12.04.29 PM

  1. Share and Use Your Data

After your organization has invested all of this time and effort in completing your needs assessment you want to make sure you use it to drive programming and services. This is where having a visually appealing report, some infographic facts and / or a data dashboard are so important. It makes sharing them internally with your staff and parents as well as externally with partners that much easier! We love to share this information at policy council meetings, family events, and community partner meetings.  

Does this process sound overwhelming to you? Do you feel like you are in data overload? We can help! You don’t have to do this alone.

Head Start programs, like many federally funded programs, are tasked to track and monitor a lot of data and information especially for compliance purposes. Evidence can be seen of that in the reporting requirements of the needs assessments, along with other state and federal regulations. Most Head Start programs do not have one primary database, so data is often stored in many ways across several systems and staff members. TCG can help review these systems, provide recommendations, assist in analyzing data, and offer training to staff about data systems and best practices around data collection and analysis.

We have the Head Start knowledge and the data expertise to support your needs assessment  and data management needs. Consider how TCG can help your Head Start program today. Contact us to learn more!

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

4 Steps to Create a Dashboard

In today’s information age, organizations are overwhelmed with the amount of information that they collect, track and monitor. Non-profit leaders must decipher all the data to determine what is meaningful and relevant to share with staff, funders, Boards of Directors and other community partners. A dashboard is a great tool to bring all the critical elements together in a user-friendly report.

Through our program evaluation and research and analysis services, we help organizations create dashboards. Here are four steps to create an effective dashboard:

  1. Determine the audience for the dashboard. A dashboard is customized for the audience meant to view and use the dashboard, so first an organization needs to determine the intended audience. Then an organization needs to determine the key takeaways that you want the targeted audience to get from this dashboard. 0Lastly, the organization should really focus on the information that is most important and relevant for this audience.
  1. Decide on what the dashboard is tracking now that the audience is determined. A dashboard is meant to communicate progress over time, such as monthly, quarterly or annually. In addition, data in the dashboard can be used to compare different data sets, such as geographic locations, sites or populations. These factors need to be determined to provide the appropriate context for decision makers.
  1. Determine the visuals that will be most effective in communicating the message. In most cases, we work to fit a dashboard on one page. This does not provide much “real estate”, so you must be intentional about the visuals used to grab the audience’s attention and display the key messages [Sidebar: this is why we use Tableau!]. A dashboard does not have much room for wording and explanation.
  1. Determine the delivery of the dashboard. In most cases, dashboards are “static” or print reports that are shared via handouts or electronically. However, with the growing development of software programs, more interactive dashboards are being created. In some cases, there may be value in creating both a static dashboard that is completed annually and an interactive dashboard that is updated real-time.

Dashboard Blog imageAs we shared in this blog post about creating a needs assessment and annual report, we mentioned the state dashboard and county profile that we created for ELAC. After conducting the first state needs assessment on young children, ELAC realized that the amount of data and information was overwhelming. ELAC was inspired by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 16 indicator dashboard in their annual data book and used this to create ELAC’s dashboard.

Following the four steps above and inspired by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s dashboard, we worked with ELAC to create a state dashboard that:

  • Identifies four focus areas related to children and families, high-quality care programs, education workforce, and kindergarten readiness with 16 key indicators.
  • Compares progress over time (dependent upon the release of new/ old data)
  • Uses arrows (a visual tool) to depict if the numbers represent improvement (arrow goes up) or worsening (arrow goes down).

After a few years of creating the ELAC state dashboard, communities across the state of Indiana were asking for this same data at the local level. We worked with ELAC and our state data partners to gather the county-level information to create a two-page county dashboard and profile. The first page of the county profile mirrors the state dashboard with a few exceptions.

Instead of comparing progress over time, the county dashboards compare the county data to the state data.  Following steps #1 and #2 above, we focused on the audience for the county dashboards who said that having their data in the context of the state data would be helpful to know if they are doing better or worse.  Therefore, that ranked as a higher priority than comparing their data over time.

The second page of the ELAC county dashboard was new and provided the opportunity to add visuals (charts and graphs) to depPicture1ict the key findings in the full narrative report. The visuals help to communicate complex information in simple charts.

Using a data visualization software program like Tableau is critical to not only help make the dashboards visually appealing but also to automate the process. In this case, we created 93 unique dashboards for the state and all 92 counties. While the ELAC dashboards are currently only static reports, there is the option and feature (with Tableau) of making them interactive like the Indiana Commission of Higher Education’s College Readiness Dashboard. One of our good friends, the M.A. Rooney Foundation, has also been working to transpose K-12 data for schools and community partners into meaningful dashboards.

Are you ready to get started in creating a dashboard for your organization? We would love to work with you to help you focus in on the key indicators important for your organization and create a dashboard that informs decision-making! Contact us today for help.

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

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 outcomes.pg 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.

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

4 Steps to Build Your Asset Map

Have you ever moved to a new community and wanted to get connected, but didn’t know where to start? Maybe you have had a tangible need presented to you by a friend or family member, but you didn’t know where to direct them to get help? For many communities, an asset map serves as the perfect connection point between individuals and services.

An asset map contains the details of available resources, organizations, clubs, boards, and more. This map can help individuals find specific organizations, such as home assistance or guidance on a committee to join. The map can also serve as a decision-making tool, bringing to light any potential strengths and/ or gaps in the community.

We helped a local United Fund organization create their own asset map focused around their three main areas of service. During our work, we developed a list of steps that can be used to assist other organizations building their own asset map.

Four Steps to Build Your Asset Map

1. Consider the Assets to IncludeAsset Map Focus Areas

Start by determining the purpose of the asset map you’re creating and who the map will serve. Consider the focus area the assets will be framed around. For the United Fund, we built the asset map around their three pillars of focus: health, education, and financial stability.

Once the audience and purpose are identified, begin researching functioning assets. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Community and individual serving organizations
  • Boards
  • Coalitions
  • Committees
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Other local businesses
2. Determine the Level of Detail for Each Asset

Now that you know what type of assets you want, consider the level of detail that should be included with each asset as you make a list. An asset map serves as a one-stop-shop for people to learn the necessary details about community assets before they pursue options.

Here are categories we included in the United Fund asset map:

  • Contact name, phone number, and email
  • Location
  • Hours of operation or meeting time
  • Eligibility criteria (ages served, genders served, income level accepted, residence, etc.)
  • Service area(s) (health, mental health, early childhood, housing, etc.)
  • Website url

Also consider a process to regularly check the validity of the detailed information. Scheduled maintenance may be necessary to make sure asset information is up to date.

3. Find the Asset Information

Finding accurate information can be time consuming and may require several approaches. Consider calling organizations, performing web searches, and connect with contacts in the community to determine if there are current resource lists to serve as a starting point. For example, the local Community Foundation may have a running list of potential funders. You can also hold a focus group with a local board or committee. These groups make up a variety of members who can bring insight and suggestions to contribute to the asset map. We held a focus group meeting with the United Fund’s board members. We gave them an overview about the purpose of the asset map, then asked them to brainstorm any and all resources benefiting the community. They wrote each one on a sticky note and placed them on a sheet labeled with one of the three service areas. We combined like resources, then this helped us know specifically what resource information to gather.

4. Build and Store the Assets

Once you have your complete list of assets, you’ll need to determine a way to house the information and make it accessible to the community. There are several options to build an asset map depending what fits with your organization, staffing, and budget. At TCG, we love interactive platforms that allow people to easily locate specific resources based on applied filters and criteria. We use Tableau to develop interactive dashboards. Once the workbook is published, the dashboard is embedded onto the host’s website. The United Fund’s Asset Map is built across three main tabs with filters and search boxes to help people navigate to their desired resource. 3 Tabs

Are you ready to start building an asset map to benefit your community? We’d love to hear from you, and walk you through the process!

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

3 Steps to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Retreat

17855554_690376437789787_5551209555832880363_oWhat comes to mind when someone says the word “retreat”? In the dictionary, “retreat” has a few different meanings: an act of moving back or withdrawing; a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax; an act of changing one’s decisions, plans, or attitude, especially as a result of criticism from others. If we apply these definitions to a “planning retreat”, we can conclude that it is a meeting where a group can step back from regular daily activities to discuss decisions, plans and goals to help inform a strategic plan and future decisions. This means you don’t need to leave town to have an effective planning retreat!

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

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

1. Provide Summarized Materials

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

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

2. Identify “What” You Want to Accomplish

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

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

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

3. Determine “How” You Will Accomplish It

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

The timeline of your strategic plan will help determine how many strategies are appropriate for each goal/ focus area. Again, we encourage participants to narrow the focus to 5-7 key strategies. If you have 5 goals and 5-7 strategies per goal, then there could be upwards of 35 strategies that your organization will be working to implement. We work really hard to support organizations in having aspirational strategic plans as well as realistic and achievable.18403781_704582429702521_8230617511511406933_o

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

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

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

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

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?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.03.45 AM

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?

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.06.28 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.07.08 AM

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.07.23 AM
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.

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

3 Financial Health Indicators to Track for Your Organization

Is your organization financially healthy? How do you measure the financial health of your organization? Nonprofit, education and other community organizations can look at the financial health of their organization and its relationship to your impact. Financial health also helps make sure programs are being run efficiently and if any program changes need to be made.

For many organizations, financial information is used with staff and administrators and shared with boards, potential funders and clients. It is not always necessary to give each audience the detailed level view of an organization’s financial information. However, it is critical that the leadership of the organization is aware of and tracking some critical indicators that determine your financial health.

While working with ten early childhood education programs on reaching their financial goals, we first had to look at the overall financial health of the organization. We asked to see income statements, balance sheets, client/ service information and any other key financial indicators. It can be hard to make sense of all of this information, especially for staff and board members who are not accountants or financial advisors.

We saw a gap and need to summarize the most important financial indicators in a one-page overview that can be regularly (and automatically) updated for board meetings, funder reports, and other key reports. We were able to identify three key areas of information to highlight for different. While every organization is different, we believe these three financial areas are critical for every organization to track and monitor.

Three Financial Health Areas to Track for Your Organization

1. Participation

If you are an organization that receives funding based on participation or enrollment numbers, then this is a critical indicator for you to track. Just like a hotel tracks their vacancy rate, your organization should have set goals and benchmarks for participation or enrollment rates. These should be based on your budget and what is needed to “break even”. Then you can look more closely at your participation by different population groups and a calendar of enrollment.

The chart example below shows the trend in children served by month. The trend shows how the capacity fluctuated. It may be useful to take closer look at multiple years to see if the monthly trends are consistent by year. This will help organizations plan for the future.

OrgDash1

2. Revenue & Expenses

Looking at the overall revenue and expenses helps organizations see when more money is coming in compared to what is being spent. Comparing these funding sources helps make informed decisions on program changes when necessary.

For example, when we looked at the revenue sources for an early childhood education program, we saw a majority of funds were coming from government subsidized programs. This might be a risky revenue source to rely on for a program. We helped the leaders discuss what might be a healthier percentage to set as a goal for government funding and other funding sources. We encouraged the program to increase regular parent-pay enrollment and fundraising initiatives to create more balanced revenue streams.

The sample dashboard section below takes a deeper dive into the revenue and expenses of an organization. This includes:

  • Budget versus actual revenue and expenses,
  • Net income (revenue minus expenses) trend, and
  • Sources of revenue and expenses.

As seen in the donut chart, the revenue and expense sources are each categorized into four main buckets. This makes the categories more understandable for a variety of audiences.

OrgDash23. Account standings

Looking at the organization’s account standings is a simple way to monitor any large fluctuations in the account. It also helps decision makers see how much money the organization has to work with at any given time. For example, a fundraising event that will have to be funded from the account can be approved if the board knows the appropriate funding is available in the accounts.

The dashboard below shows fairly consistent account amounts. The dip in checking in September could raise some questions. This is an opportunity for the organization to go back to the original sources to understand why.

OrgDash3

We encourage organizations to collect information beyond these three areas. These areas are meant to give a snapshot and raise questions within the organization when necessary. As seen in the examples, we like to display these areas in a visually-appealing dashboard using Tableau Software. Interactive dashboards allow users to apply filters and easily update the dashboard every month or quarter. Organizations can use other methods to display information depending on the intended audience and the amount of information being shared. View our Dashboard Services page to find out how we can help you with your dashboard needs.

If your organization does not know where to start, this blog post may be helpful for understanding why financial goals are important. At TCG, we can help your organization identify what financial information to collect and recognize key areas to share with the intended stakeholders. If your program needs support evaluating your financial stability or creating a visually appealing financial dashboard, contact us today!

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

3 Tips to Evaluate Multi-Site Programs

Evaluation is one of many services we provide for clients at Transform Consulting Group. Evaluation is important for any program because it helps organizations determine if a program is effective or if the change they set to accomplish actually occurred. In a previous blog we shared the 4 key steps to evaluation that we follow. These steps are (1) establish clear outcomes, (2) create or modify data tools and systems, (3) analyze the data, and (4) use data to make informed decisions.

Some of our clients offer their program Multisite Programservices across multiple sites. This program model can be useful because it can save time, money and resources (i.e. hiring one director to manage multiple sites). As evaluators, we appreciate multi-site programs as well. Here are some reasons why multi-site evaluations are important and useful for evaluators:

  • Increases knowledge about what works in different settings
  • Allows for larger sample size when gathering data
  • Creates opportunities for sharing experience and knowledge about what works
  • Helps evaluators see sustainability on a wider scale

At TCG, we are currently evaluating a coupleY Observations 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) Program grantees. The clients implement the program across multiple sites, usually different schools within a school district. We use the following tips to help us evaluate multiple sites for one program.

3 Tips to Evaluate Multi-Site Programs

  1. Observe each program site: Site observations help evaluators see how a program is implemented across each site. Is the approach and curriculum consistently followed? What is each site doing well compared to other sites? Where do improvements need to be made? Observations give evaluators important context and understanding when it is time to analyze the data. For the 21st CCLC program, the clients operate both summer, before and after school programs. We have built into our evaluation plan time to observe each site during the summer, at the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year.
  2. Collect data by site: Each site will have unique factors that may influence the program and overall data. When we are able to look at  data by individual site, it will help inform recommendations for improvement and possible best practices. For example, we recently worked with a multi-site program to assess their workforce retention data. They identified several locations that had really high turnover and a few sites with lower turnover rates. By disaggregating the data by each site, we were equipped to inform some strategic decision-making.  
  3. Solicit stakeholder feedback: Gathering input from key stakeholders is a critical component of our evaluation process (see these past blog posts: How to Engage Diverse Stakeholders in your Planning and 4 Tools to Collaborate with Key Stakeholders). For the 21st CCLC program, we sought feedback from program staff. We wanted to know if all staff understand the goals and outcomes of the program since it’s a new program for the organization and they have hired several new staff. If the responses differed, we can report back to the administrators that better messaging may be needed to ensure the program is being implemented effectively and meeting the state requirements.

Once data and information has been collected by site, the evaluator determines the best way to report the information. Depending on the audience for the evaluation report, the data may be presented differently.  For an external audience (public, the funder, etc.), program summary results may be reported. For internal audiences (staff, board of directors, volunteers), it may be helpful to present the data at a disaggregated level by each site or location. There may be steps to take to better align sites to meet program goals and outcomes.
4 step evalWhile there may be some additional steps needed to evaluate multi-site programs, our overall four-step approach to evaluation stays the same. Good evaluations often lead to recommendations for improvement. This is an opportunity to discuss data collected and implications for future programming, including ongoing program evaluation practices within the organization. If you like our approach, contact us today to learn about how we can help you with your next evaluation.

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

Assessing the Stress Levels of Staff

It is argued that the United States is the most overworked country in the world. Some individuals may be fine with putting in extra hours, but for many it’s about finding a balance between work, family, and other personal activities. The unbalance can often lead to stress, in turn affecting each area of a person’s life. Regardless of your job title, it can be beneficial to be aware of employee stress levels to result in effective program outcomes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful, and 25% viewed their job as the number one stressor in their lives (Stress…At Work, 4-5). Stress on employees can lead to burnout, a lack of productivity and increased risk of health problems.

At TCG, we serve government, non-profits, education, and communities. When working with clients, we often find that the pressure to meet program outcomes and the passion for clients and the cause can increase stress beyond those of other businesses. We suggest that if you truly want to equip your employees to accelerate your impact, then assessing the stress and well-being of staff is a good place to start.

We recently worked with a local school who was seeking grant funding to improve the health and well-being of their students from the Lilly Endowment. In the process of assessing the needs of the students, we also wanted to assess the health and well-being of the teachers. The staff have a direct impact on students and the school culture/ climate.

When is the right time to assess staff stress in the workplace?

Assessing staff stress should be an ongoing practice at organizations. Make it an annual occurrence or incorporate staff check-ins regularly. You can also reevaluate staff workloads and overall health during your strategic planning process or when there is a serious event.

During our work with the local school to apply for a comprehensive counseling grant, we realized that before we could meet the goals we set for the students (emotional health, academic success, etc.), we had to ensure that the teachers had the capability to support the program. This is an example of why it is important to bring staff in during the strategic planning process.

If a need is recognized, such as annual tracking or a serious event, management can be intentional about assessing the stress levels of staff. Have you heard  the line, “It’s not you, it’s me”? Sometimes the organization may not be at fault for staff stress, but this is not always the case. Personal factors, like finances, family, social, or other reasons, in life can cause employee stress. These can be distracting during work or cause work absences. Assessing staff and finding the root cause for distractions will help employers better understand how to work with and provide support to employees.

How should staff stress be assessed?

Stress, like pain, is relative to every individual and can be difficult to measure. We recommend using evidence-based questions and assessment tools to develop a survey. Craft general questions related to workplace stress or more personal questions to help get a better understanding of employees’ personal experiences.

Within your organization’s respective industry there is more than likely some standard questionnaires to assess your workforce. For example, when we were working with the schools, we found several assessments geared to questions for teachers.

We created an electronic survey to assess the workplace stress of teachers and support staff. We included general questions about workplace stress, along with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) survey (which we spotlighted in this blog). The results gave us a comprehensive look at how stressful staff felt in the workplace and revealed any adverse childhood experiences that affected their overall health and ability to work.

What should you do with the results of staff stress feedback?

Like any data collection process, it should serve a purpose. If stress seems to be a workplace issue, try to determine what situations are flexible to ease the stress of staff within the limits of the organization and mission. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Adjust management style
  • Alter staff responsibilities
  • Hire extra staff
  • Offer pay increases, bonus incentives, or extra time-off
  • Change program models
  • Include staff on program model decisions (like choosing a curriculum or other materials)
  • Ensure necessities are being provided, like food, water, and bathroom breaks!

When working with the local school, we analyzed their staff feedback and other data in Tableau, a data visualization software. We discovered that a majority (59%) of staff felt always or often stressed at work. We also asked identifying questions so each school administrator would be able to pinpoint the specific work areas that cause stress to their employees. This knowledge helped develop an action to address staff well-being to benefit each school.

One method may not work for every organization or individual. Find what works best and continue to monitor progress and make adjusts as necessary.

At TCG, we want to help you move your mission forward and that often starts by taking care of your staff! We support organizations who want to have healthy staff, reduce turnover, increase productivity and engagement to accomplish their goals/ accelerate their impact! Do you need help accessing your team? Or maybe you already know your staff is stretched and you’re ready for additional support? Learn more about our services here, and Contact us today!

Share this article:Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Email this to someone
email
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin