Category Archives: Education

Tools Your Board of Directors Need to be Effective

Every nonprofit organization and school has a Board of Directors that is meant to help govern the organization. There are many companies, books, and webinars that solely focus on supporting Boards of Directors. Over the years, we have found and developed some key tools that are easy to apply to help organizations and their Boards govern more effectively.

Board of DirectorsWhile some of these Board tools might seem standard, we still find that these are missing and/or have not been well developed. We could write a blog post about each of these tools (and maybe we will!). This is a quick overview of the value and purpose of each tool to help your organization think about how you might integrate them into your Board of Directors.

8 Tools to Strengthen Your Board of Directors

  1. Bylaws: This is a legal document and also a roadmap for actions that the organization can take. While there are plenty of bylaws templates online, your organization should customize your bylaws. Some basic items to include in bylaws are: number of board members, how board members are selected, board meetings, committees, voting procedures, conflicts of interest, etc. We recommend that organizations annually review their bylaws and make sure that they are clear and provide good instruction to guide the Board of Directors.
  2. Board Manual or Handbook: The Board handbook is the “toolbox” for Board members that provides more detail than the bylaws. This is a great resource to review during new Board member orientation. Some of the key elements that we look for and include in Board Handbooks are: Organization Overview, Contact Information, Board Meetings, Finances and Fundraising, Governance, Committees, Board Policies, and Board Resources.
  3. Board Member Job Description: The last thing that an Executive Director or Board President wants to hear from a Board member is, “I didn’t know I was joining the Board to do ______.” One of the most prominent issues that we come across in working with Board of Directors is a lack of clear expectations for the Board of Directors. A Board Member Job Description is exactly as it sounds and similar to an employee job description. It clearly articulates what is expected of the Board member, such as meeting attendance, committee involvement, other organization involvement (e.g, attendance at certain events), a “give or get” policy (related to fundraising), and member terms. This information should all be communicated during the recruitment process, so that when the Board member is signing the form there are no surprises and everyone is in agreement about expectations.
  4. Board Self-Assessment: In healthy organizations, there are ongoing performance reviews and assessments to check-in on how well the organization and its employees are functioning. The Board Self-Assessment is a good exercise for the Board to reflect on how well the Board is functioning regarding some key best practices. This could be a good practice to complete with a 3-year strategic plan. We have developed a 3-page Board self-assessment tool, and there are many online.
  5. 1:1 Individual Board Member Check-In: One strategy to engage current Board members is to schedule individual annual meetings with each Board member and the Executive Director and Board President/ Vice President. These individual check-in meetings provide a great opportunity to review the expectations of being a Board member, celebrate the successes and engagement of the last year, and follow up on any concerns. It is also a great time for the Board member to affirm their commitment for the coming year, such as financial pledge, leadership and/or committee roles, and any connections to make.
  6. Board Meeting Calendar and Key Decisions Meeting Calendar: This is a “two-fer”. Yes, it may seem simple to state that a Board tool is a meeting calendar/ schedule, but you would be surprised by how many organizations do not have a clear meeting schedule and then struggle with attendance. We suggest sending out the Board meeting calendar for the year to all Board members and including any additional important dates (e.g., annual member meeting, required fundraising event, etc.). In addition, in order to help drive strategic decisions at the Board meeting we suggest developing a “key decision meeting calendar.” Every organization has some key decisions that the Board will need to vote on and/or participate in, so it is helpful to put those on the calendar, such as annual budget review, program evaluation reports, and strategic plans (planning, check-in, or updates).
  7. Board Member Recruitment Process: While the bylaws should outline at a high-level the process to approve new Board members a more detailed recruitment plan is helpful to standardize the process. We often work with many organizations who struggle with small Boards of Directors and are wanting to recruit more Board members but lack a clear understanding of the type of Board member that would be a good fit and a process for recruitment. We have developed several Board recruitment tools: a board composition assessment (what are your current “assets” and “strengths” on the Board and then your “gaps”); a nomination form that Board members can submit when they want to recommend a candidate; a new member application to gather some key information from prospects; and interview questions that Board members use when meeting with a prospective member.
  8. Communication Flowchart: The last thing that an organization wants is to have one of their board members approached by a volunteer or staff member making a request, and the board member not know the procedure for how certain decisions are made. A communication flowchart explains how decisions are made within the organization and the role of the Board of Directors and its Committees.

How well is your Board functioning? Would any of these tools help improve the effectiveness of your Board? Transform Consulting Group would love to work with your organization to identify opportunities to strengthen your Board and ultimately the impact of your organization. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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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 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 prekindergarten, 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!

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Learn About Indiana’s Youngest Children with the 2019 ELAC Annual Report!

2019-elac-annual-reportIndiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) released its 2019 Annual Report. Each year, ELAC completes a needs assessment on the state’s early childhood education system and then recommends solutions.

We want to share some quick highlights and key takeaways from this year’s needs assessment.  ELAC focuses on ensuring early childhood education is accessible, high-quality, and affordable to all families. 

Are Children Ages 0-5 Receiving High-Quality Care?

  • Of the 506,257 children in Indiana ages 0-5, 64% need care because all parents are working. This includes both working parents who are single and households where both parents work outside the home. Figure 9
  • Of those children who need care, only 40% are enrolled in known programs. The other three fifths of children receive informal care—from a relative, friend, or neighbor.
  • Of the young children who need care, only 16% are enrolled in high-quality programs. A high-quality early childhood education program not only ensures that children are safe, but also supports their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. 

Are Children in Vulnerable Populations Receiving High-Quality Care?

  • Indiana makes funding assistance available for early childhood education for children from low-income families.
  • Indiana does not collect data on children in other vulnerable populations, such as children in foster care and children affected by the opioid epidemic.
  • Overall, due to lack of data, Indiana does not know the kind of care received by children in vulnerable populations.

What Trends Are There in Early Childhood Education?

  • Since 2014, Indiana has made progress by enrolling more of the children who need care in known early childhood education programs. 
  • Over the past 5 years, Indiana has consistently enrolled fewer infants and toddlers than preschoolers in known and high-quality programs. Figure 31
  • Compared to 2012, more early childhood education programs are participating in Paths to QUALITYTM, Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system.
  • In addition, significantly more programs have earned high-quality designations of either Level 3 or Level 4 since 2012.

What Trends Are There in the Early Childhood Education Workforce?

  • Indiana’s early childhood education workforce is more diverse than the K-12 workforce but not as experienced.
  • Nationally, the early childhood education workforce earns $4-$7 less per hour than the average hourly wage of all occupations.

What is the Unmet Need in the Early Childhood Education System?

  • There has been a persistent need in early childhood education programs for more available spots for infants and toddlers.
  • Despite overall improvements, there are still some communities in Indiana with no high-quality early childhood education programs.
  • The tuition cost of high-quality early childhood education programs remains unaffordable, and the available financial assistance for low-income families is insufficient.

How Can I Find Out More?

  • Read the 2019 ELAC Annual Report, which includes statewide data on Indiana.
  • ELAC also publishes an interactive dashboard that allows you to learn more about specific data points. You can also easily present data to stakeholders.
  • The interactive dashboard contains both state- and county-level data. Use the map to select your county, and hover over the data to learn more!

2019-elac-interactive-dashboard

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support ELAC’s work by pulling this needs assessment and interactive report together!

Does your organization, agency, or coalition need to better understand your community or a key issue, but you don’t know how to get started? We are skilled in collecting quantitative data from multiple data sources and pulling it together in a visually-appealing, user-friendly report. Contact us to learn how we can help you complete your next needs assessment!

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5 W’s of a Process Evaluation: Part 2

In a recent blog post, we introduced the first two W’s of a process evaluation:

  1. Why conduct a process evaluation
  2. Who should conduct a process evaluation

This blog post will cover the remaining three W’s:

  1. What methods to use to conduct a process evaluation
  2. Where to conduct a process evaluation
  3. When to conduct a process evaluation
WHAT METHODS TO USE WHEN CONDUCTING A PROCESS EVALUATION

There are several different data tools and methods you can use during a process evaluation. It may be helpful to use a combination of these methods!

  • Review documentation: It can be helpful to review staff logs, notes, attendance data and other program documents during a process evaluation. This method will help you to assess if all staff are following program procedures and documentation requirements.
  • Complete fidelity checks: Many programs/curriculums come with fidelity checklists for assessing program implementation. This is especially important if you are implementing an evidence-based program or model. Programs may have a set number of required sessions and guidelines for how frequently they should occur. You can use fidelity checklists to assess if the program’s implementation is consistent with the original program model.
  • Observe: Observations can be especially helpful when you Y Observationshave multiple sites and/or facilitators. During observations, it’s crucial to have a specific rating sheet or checklist of what you should expect to see. If a program has a fidelity checklist, you can use it during observations! If not, you should create your own rubric.
  • Collect stakeholder feedback: Stakeholder feedback gives you an idea of how each stakeholder group is experiencing your program. Groups to engage include program staff, clients, families of clients and staff from partner programs/organizations. You can use interviews, surveys, and focus groups to collect their feedback. These methods should not focus on your clients’ outcomes, but on their experience in the program. This will include their understanding of the program goals, structure, implementation, operating procedures and other program implementation components.

In our evaluation project with the Wabash YMCA’s 21 Century Community Learning Center, we used a combination of the methods described above. Our staff observed each program site using a guiding rubric. Our team collaborated beforehand to make sure they had a consistent understanding of what components to look for during observations. We also collected stakeholder feedback by conducting surveys with students, parents and teachers. The content of these surveys focused on their experiences and knowledge of the program. After the program was complete, we reviewed documentation, including attendance records and program demographic information.

WHERE TO CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

You should conduct a process evaluation wherever the program takes place. To capture an accurate picture of implementation, an evaluator needs to see how the program operates in the usual program environment. It is important to assess the implementation in all program environments. For example, if a program is being implemented at four different sites, you should assess the implementation at each site.

In our evaluation project with the Wabash YMCA, we assessed the program implementation at three different school sites. This involved physically observing the program at each site as well as reviewing records and documentation from each site. Being in the physical environment allowed us to assess which procedures were used consistently among sites. It also helped us identify program components that needed improvement.

WHEN TO CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

An organization can conduct a process evaluation at any time, but here are a few examples of times when its use would be most beneficial:

  • A few months to a year after starting a new program, you can conduct a process evaluation to assess how well your staff followed the implementation plan.
  • When you’re thinking about making a change to a program, a process evaluation will help you determine in what program areas you need to make changes.
  • If your program is not doing well, conduct a process evaluation to see if something in your process is interfering with program success.
  • When your program is doing well, conduct a process evaluation to see what in your process is making it successful.
  • If you’ve had issues with staff turnover, conducting a process evaluation can help identify gaps in staff training, professional development and ongoing support that may be contributing to the turnover rate.

To determine when to conduct a process evaluation, it is also important to consider the capacity of your organization. Make sure that your staff will have enough time to devote to the evaluation. Even when using an external evaluator, staff may need to spend extra time meeting with evaluators or participating in focus groups/interviews.

We conducted our evaluation with the Wabash YMCA at the end of their first year of program implementation. Evaluating their first year of implementation allows us to provide them with recommendations on how to improve the program’s implementation in future years. We will conduct a similar evaluation during the next three subsequent years to track their operations and processes over time.

If your organization needs support in conducting a process evaluation, contact us today to learn more about our evaluation services!

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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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3 Strategic Plan Tools to Create

Congratulations! You have journeyed through the 4 steps of our Strategic Planning Process and you’re ready for the final step: Create. (We covered step 1, step 2, and step 3 in previous blogs).

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.19 PM

The goal of a strategic plan is to develop timely, relevant and action-oriented plans for the future of your organization. Once you have a clear direction, it is time to make sense of the information and package it in a way that is meaningful and possible to implement.  

At TCG, we believe a strategic plan has little value if it is a report that sits on your shelf, never to be seen again. We don’t create long strategic plan reports that you can’t use. We want you to use it, share it and review it on a regular basis.

When working with clients, we recommend and create 3 different strategic plan tools:

1. One-page strategic plan – This is a one-page summary of your goals and top strategies. This tool can be shared externally with partners, funders, and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.

When creating a strategic plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we wanted a one-page overview that highlighted the following key elements:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.33 PM

a. Stakeholders involved (especially since this is a collective impact, multi-sector plan)

b. Goals

c. Strategies

d. Outcomes

Each one-pager for the strategic plan that we create is unique to the client but essentially covers their top goals and strategies.

2. Strategic plan report – This report explains the process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information that was collected, and more details about the goals and strategies. This is typically an internal document that is shared with staff and the board to use when reflecting on the process. It’s especially helpful to document this information for when there are leadership transitions with the staff and board.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.53 PM

3. Implementation plan – Too often we find that organizations get stuck with figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. We create an “implementation plan” to unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board. The main audience for the implementation plan is staff, board and committee members who are most likely responsible for implementation.  Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.04.09 PM


This could be set up like a calendar or a chart that describes who is responsible for each step. We also love using Tableau to create a strategic plan dashboard to track and monitor action items and milestones. The point is that we want all parties involved to have a clear understanding of the timeline, so that they can put the plan in motion.

Is your organization ready to jump into a strategic planning process? Learn more about our strategic planning services here. Contact us today, and we’d love to chat about how our team can meet your needs.

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4 Steps of Strategic Planning

We have the privilege of working with a few organizations every year to help them create their “road map” or strategic plan for the next 3-5 years.  In the course of completing these strategic plans, we have developed a formula that guides the process following four key steps.

Our process graphic1. Collaborate

Good strategic plans are not created in isolation in a board room.  We work with you to identify all of the key stakeholders that we need to engage to inform the strategic planning process.  This will vary depending on your organization, but typically involves some of the following key stakeholders:

  • Staff at different levels of the organization
  • Board of Directors
  • Volunteers
  • Current and past funders and donors
  • Key community partners/ stakeholders in the community
  • Clients
  • Public

When we worked with HSE S.P.O.R.T.S. on their strategic plan, we wanted to get feedback from a broad group of stakeholders.  We surveyed the public to gauge their understanding and perception of the organization and received a large response rate.  We also met with some of their key community partners for strategic feedback and met with their staff.  Through these efforts, we received rich feedback to inform the strategic planning team and started to create some buy-in and ownership from the community.

2. Assess

This step of the strategic planning process is so important as it provides the necessary context of understanding your organization and environment.  During this phase, it is important to complete an internal and an external assessment.  The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and/or completing a needs assessment of your community or targeted audience.

When we worked with Early Learning Indiana on completing their strategic plan, they wanted their strategic planning team to have a good understanding of the environment in which they operate.  There was a significant amount of change in policies, programming and priorities in the early learning industry that had implications for their work in the future.  Therefore, it was important to understand that context in planning for the future.

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).  

There are a variety of group activities that can be used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

3. Facilitate

When people think of strategic planning, they most often think of having a retreat to develop a strategic plan.  While a retreat can be a good time to complete a strategic plan, it is not necessary.  The main purpose of this step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach consensus about the future direction.  In order to support this next step, we often prepare a pre-read packet that summarizes all of the information collected in the first two steps.  Then the strategic planning team is equipped with the rich feedback from the stakeholders (Step 1) and understanding the context (Step 2).

There are a variety of group activities used to help the team process the information and begin to identify “what” we want to accomplish. Once the goals (or “what”) have been identified, then we begin to talk about the “how” we will accomplish the work or the strategies.  There are different tools and activities we use to help move through this work.  The main thing to remember is to prioritize and focus.

4. Create

Now that a clear plan for the future has been reached, it is our job to make sense of all of the information and to package it in a meaningful way for the organization to implement.  We don’t believe in creating long strategic plan reports that sit on shelves.  We want our clients to use and review their strategic plan on a regular basis.  We recommend creating three strategic plan tools:

  1. “Pretty version” strategic plan – this is a one-page overview of your goals and top strategies.  This is a tool that can be shared externally with partners, funders and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.  It can live on your website and be part of your communication tools.
  2. Strategic plan report – this explains the full process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information collected (pre-read packet) and more detailed strategic plan report.  This is an internal document for staff use to reflect on the process and have access to all of the comprehensive information collected.
  3. Implementation plan – this tool helps unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board.  It can sometimes be difficult for organizations to take what is written in the strategic plan and put it into action, often resulting in no action or change.  By creating this more detailed implementation plan there is a road map for how the organization will accomplish the goals identified over the next 3-5 years.

From the wise words in the childhood book and movie of Alice in Wonderland, we learned that if we don’t Alice & Wonderland Quote
know where we are going, any road could take us there.  However, it may not be the most effective or efficient path and the outcome could be different than we hoped.  Developing a strategic plan provides that road map for all organizations – nonprofits, businesses, schools and government agencies – to have clear focus of our goals and strategies to accomplish those goals. 

Completing a strategic plan can be a daunting or exhilarating process for some organizations.  We love to partner with organizations to help you think about the future and create a plan that will get you there.  You can find out more about our strategic planning services here.

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Putting Data into Context

At Transform Consulting Group, we are proud data nerds. Through our evaluation services, we help clients collect, analyze, and share meaningful data. In this blog post, we explained who to share your data with and why. In today’s post, we will go one step further by providing tips on how to present your data in a meaningful way. More specifically, we’ll discuss how to put your data in context and why it is important to do so.

Impact Image- blogWhen presenting your data, you shouldn’t share it in isolation. For example, an after school tutoring program might find that 75% of their students pass their required standardized tests. If the program shared this data point by itself, their audience might have a lot of unanswered questions, like:

  • How does this pass rate compare to other students who don’t receive tutoring services?
  • How does this rate compare to local and national data?
  • What standardized tests is the statistic referring to?

 

To avoid this problem and present their data it a meaningful way, it would be best for the tutoring program to cite outside data sources to provide comparison, credibility, and context. By including this additional information, the program could more fully illustrate their impact and outcomes.

We are currently working with the Center for Leadership Development to develop an evaluation plan. Through this process, we have helped them demonstrate their impact by presenting their data within context. Here are three tips we shared with them that can also help you use outside data sources to put your data into context.

1. Find credible data sources that add meaning to your data.

When citing outside data, it’s important to make sure the data is credible, accurate, and relevant to your organization’s work. When working with clients like CLD, we often provide a resource sheet listing different data sources they can cite for comparison and context. An example of a data source we shared with CLD is the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s College Readiness Dashboard. This was an appropriate choice because it is a reliable interactive data set that can be used to compare the outcomes CLD students experience to other students in their state and county in similar demographic groups. Check out this blog post for a list of our go-to data sources. This list may help you identify which data sources you can cite to move your organization forward.

2. Benchmark similar programs.

In a previous blog post, we explained that you may want to benchmark the practices of organizations similar to yours when making a programmatic change or looking to diversify your funding. Benchmarking can also be helpful when creating an evaluation plan and reporting your data. Looking at the outcomes of similar programs gives you comparable data to assess your program’s efficacy.

When working with CLD, we benchmarked similar programs such as College Bound in St. Louis. Their programming aims to help low-income students get into and graduate from college. Not only were they a similar program for CLD to compare their outcomes to, but they are also a great example of an organization who puts their data into context to make it more meaningful. For example, they compare their data to St. Louis Public School data and low-income students across the nation:

94% of College Bound students have matriculated to college immediately after high school, compared to 66% of St. Louis Public School graduates and only 51% of low-income graduates nationwide.

By presenting this statistic in the context of the students’ school system and other low-income students, College Bound is displaying the impact they are having and the success of their students relative to their peers.

3. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

We always tell clients to make sure they’re not trying to compare apples to oranges. This phrase refers to the comparison of items that aren’t really comparable. An example of this came up in our work with CLD when reporting their alumni’s postsecondary persistence rates. When comparing their persistence data to local and national data, we needed to make sure the outside data set was defining persistence in the same way they were. They define it as persisting from Freshman to Sophomore year of college. Other sources defined persistent students as those who were enrolled at any institution or had attained a degree 3 years after first enrolling. Therefore, these two data points aren’t really talking about the same thing and aren’t comparable. By finding the right data sources to compare your data to, you ensure that the data and context is meaningful.

If you need help presenting your data in a meaningful way and using it to make data-informed decisions, give us a call to see how we can help through this process!

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7 Strategies to Maximize #GivingTuesday

As 2018 comes to an end, we’ve talked a lot about how to end the year with a bang when it comes to your fund development goals. (Find our 10 tips for your year-end giving campaign here). This blog is all about Giving Tuesday – the National Day of Giving.Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 3.41.39 PM

Giving Tuesday falls on the Tuesday right after Thanksgiving. The idea is to have a day for giving thanks (Thanksgiving), followed by two days for deals (Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and then there is a day dedicated to giving back (Giving Tuesday!).

Giving Tuesday provides a unique opportunity for your organization to engage with donors, partners, and volunteers – and hopefully raise some money! To get the most out of your Giving Tuesday strategy, we recommend implementing these seven strategies:

  1. Set a giving goal
    Decide how much money your organization wants to raise on Giving Tuesday and what the money raised will go toward funding. Once you decide your goals, share them with your supporters! Donors want to know where their money is going and the difference it will make. This strategy will also help build excitement throughout the day as you creep closer and closer to your day’s goal.
  2. Focus on new donors
    Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to engage with new donors, no matter the size of the gift! Use messaging that clearly illustrates your mission and work for individuals who may not know much about your organization. Talk about the importance of your services and your impact in the community. Include options for gifts as small as $5 on your donation pages to get new supporters in the door.
  3. Engage millennials Giving Tuesday is a very social and hashtag friendly day of giving. It may not connect with all donors (which is why Giving Tuesday should only be one piece of your year-end giving campaign), but it is a perfect opportunity to get millennials excited about your mission AND sharing your campaign.
  4. Use various communication mediums Videos, pictures, and testimonialsScreen Shot 2018-11-12 at 3.39.46 PM are all great tools for sharing your organization’s story. Since Giving Tuesday is primarily an online campaign, you will need to think of how you’re engaging supporters in a way that stands out in the often-distracting digital world. Check out case studies from Giving Tuesday campaigns in 2017 here. Notice the unique messaging, visuals, and strategies used. You’ll see that not everyone focuses on raising dollars during their campaign. In-kind donations may be just as valuable for your organization. You can frame your entire campaign around your organization’s specific need.
  5. Schedule “pushes”
    Tuesday, November 27th may be the big giving day, but planning content to promote leading up to Giving Tuesday will really increase your impact. We recommend 1-2 additional communications in the weeks prior to Giving Tuesday. Promote on your social media platforms that your organization is participating in Giving Tuesday, and share what the day is all about. Send an email blast to your contact list to get them excited about participating. It’s not too early to start building excitement!
  6. Implement peer-to-peer fundraising
    Giving Tuesday is the day to rally the troops and get your network engaged in your fundraising goals. Encourage volunteers, board of directors, staff, and partners to share why they support your organization on their own personal social media platforms. Provide your supporters with content and language to share that is consistent with your messaging. Encourage key contacts to create their own fundraisers on your organization’s behalf.
  7. Follow up with donors We know it’s a busy time of year, but don’t neglect your donors. Acknowledge every gift, no matter the size. Have a process in place for depositing gifts in a timely manner and issuing gift receipts for tax purposes.

As the holiday season approaches, our team would love to support your fundraising efforts. Check out our services here, and contact us today for a free consultation!

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7 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Work

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

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

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

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

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

7 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Promote Your Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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