Category Archives: Nonprofit

4 Steps to Establish Evaluation SOPs

4 eval stepsAn evaluation plan is a roadmap to help organizations validate the impact of their work. In this past blog post, we describe our four-step evaluation process. Step 2 of this process involves creating or modifying data tools and systems. When establishing evaluation systems, it is important to create standard operating procedures, or SOPs.

An SOP is a step by step procedure that outlines necessary processes within an organization. SOPs actualize your organization’s processes into actionable tasks in a structured and uniform format. They are used to make sure staff are following the same process when completing an organizational activity. SOPs establish consistency and accountability among staff and improve efficiency and quality.

When it comes to evaluation, SOPs help to ensure data collection is valid and reliable and also help you avoid data errors.They provide structure and guidance to staff who may not focus on evaluation and data on a daily basis. SOPs equip them to support your organization’s evaluation work and integrate it into their day-to-day responsibilities. SOPs also help to mitigate the effect that staff changes and transitions may have on your evaluation activities. By having SOPs in place, you can introduce new staff to your evaluation procedures early on in their onboarding and training and improve the continuity and sustainability of your evaluation work.

Last spring we worked with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) on an evaluation project and created SOPs for all of their evaluation tools and procedures. We worked with them to align the SOPs to the structure of other organizational procedures which helped them to integrate the SOPs successfully and smoothly across all programs. 

Here are four steps we completed with CLD that you can also use to get started with creating evaluation SOPs for your organization.

1. Create a list of the different procedures you want to document and systemize.

We recommend creating an SOP for all evaluation-related tools you utilize. These may include:

    • Data collection tools (surveys, assessments, academic data/data share agreements, registration/enrollment forms, etc.)
    • Databases and programs you use to store your data (Oracle, Apricot, etc.)
    • Data analysis and visualization programs (Excel, Tableau, SPSS, etc.)

2. Create a template or format that makes sense for your organization. 

We recommend that all of your SOPs include the following elements:

    • Purpose: Overview of why to follow the procedure
    • Responsibility: Indicate who is responsible for completing specific tasks outlined in the SOP; Make sure to indicate the JOB TITLE of the person responsible, rather than their name so there is no confusion in cases of staff turnover
    • Instructions: List all steps and tasks to complete when following the procedure
    • Timeline for completion: Indicate when to complete each task
    • Administration/Materials: Include a list of any materials, attachments, and references that staff should use when completing the procedure

Here is an example of a general SOP template:

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 9.25.13 PM

The SOPs for your data collection tools should include two distinct sections detailing the procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Both of those sections should include the elements listed above. 

3. Draft SOPs or delegate their creation to staff

assess-01You do not need to create all of your evaluation SOPs at one time. Create a prioritized list/schedule of which SOPs are most important to create first. To make the drafting process more manageable, consider training multiple staff members to create SOPs using the template. Make sure these staff members are familiar with the evaluation tools and systems. One staff member should be responsible for reviewing and approving all the evaluation procedures to check for consistency in formatting and structure. 

4. Train staff on following new SOPs 

Once you create your evaluation SOPs, make sure they don’t just sit on a shelf! The SOPs need to be used and followed consistently by all relevant staff. Provide training and guidance for your staff on the new SOPs. Point out how the activities and tasks fit within their day-to-day responsibilities.

At Transform Consulting Group, we know the importance of demonstrating the impact of your work. Whether you are just now beginning to evaluate your program or you already have an established evaluation plan in place, we would be happy to help you create SOPs to strengthen the sustainability and effectiveness of your evaluation activities. Contact us today for more information!

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When and How to Create a Strategic Plan

We often talk with clients who identify barriers to their success, but they don’t realize that they may need to create a strategic plan in order to accomplish their goals. In other cases, our clients do recognize their need for a new strategic plan, but they lack the expertise and capacity to develop it on their own. We help organizations navigate this process!

Should My Organization Create a Strategic Plan Now?

We wrote a blog to answer the question When Is It Time to Change Your Program? The factors in that blog may also indicate that your organization needs a new strategic plan: 

  • Are your programs not having the desired impact?
  • Do you lack sufficient funding?
  • Has new industry research emerged?
  • Are your community’s demographics changing?

In addition, there are other factors that signal a need for strategic planning:

  • Was your current strategic plan completed 5+ years ago?
  • Is your organization newly created?
  • Is large-scale systems change underway?

Newly Created Organizations

We recently worked with clients impacted by two of these factors, and one was a newly created organization. Kosciusko County’s Child Care and Early Learning Coalition, LaunchPad, was established in October 2018. In their first year, the coalition hired a director and gathered stakeholder feedback. However, they struggled to gain momentum without a strategic plan. Within their coalition, they didn’t have the strategic planning expertise they needed. They reached out to us for assistance creating a strategic plan. 

Launchpad LogoOur team came alongside LaunchPad, meeting them where they were in their work. Instead of restarting the process of gathering stakeholder feedback, we used the information already available. Due to that, we could shorten the first two steps of our strategic planning process. Then, we quickly moved on to facilitating consensus and developing a strategic plan. This enabled us to meet LaunchPad’s time frame and set them up for their next steps to accomplish their goals! 

Large-Scale Systems Change

The other client we recently partnered with is 4C of Southern Indiana. One of 4C’s primary functions is their role as a Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency. The state of Indiana recently enacted large-4C-logo-color-black-fontscale systems change that impacted CCR&Rs and other agencies.

In order to adjust to these changes and plan for the future, 4C asked us to facilitate a strategic planning process for them. In our work with 4C, we connected with diverse stakeholders for feedback. We reached consensus on a new plan with the board, staff, and key partners. We created an implementation plan for them, and now they’re putting it into action!
4C Strategic Planning Retreat

Have you determined that you need help with your strategic planning to build capacity? Contact us today to chat about your goals and how we can help!

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2019 Year in Review

This year was another big year for Transform Consulting Group. In 2019, we were thrilled to once again work with a variety of clients and important causes across Indiana and Michigan. 

We are thankful for all that we accomplished as a team to help accelerate the impact of our clients in communities across the two states. We summarized a snapshot of the highlights from 2019 below. 

Building Capacity:

  1. We secured over $1.6 million in grants for clients and created development plans to increase and diversify funding
  2. We facilitated 8 strategic plans which included internal and external organization assessments, research, building consensus with stakeholders, and mapping out specific steps to achieve the goals. Many of these projects were community wide initiatives that involved a diverse group of partners utilizing a collective impact framework. 
  3. We shared our knowledge and expertise at over 15 trainings at conferences and more than 20 trainings with clients. 

Facilitating Evaluation, Research, & Analysis:

  1. We continue expanding our data visualization skills and created 31 data dashboards to make data user-friendly, accessible, and manageable for clients. View a few examples here.
  2. We completed 9 program evaluations that included setting clear goals, developing tools and systems, data analysis, and an evaluation plan.
  3. We developed 9 community needs assessment data reports to help organizations understand their community and target population to appropriately plan for and align programming and services.

Mobilizing Communities, Partners, & Systems:

  1. We created and disseminated 60 surveys for stakeholder feedback to help direct our clients’ next steps. 
  2. We’re passionate about Collective Impact and worked with Community Foundations and other partners across the state to identify and address big issues in their communities. 
  3. We helped launch a new state contract that connects a number of partners at the state and local level. 

Company Highlights: 

  • As a woman-owned business, it was a huge accomplishment to officially become a certified Women’s Business Enterprise
  • We increased our number of clients by over half in 2019. Of those clients, nearly half were brand new!
  • We were 2019 Big Data Visualization Challenge finalists for the 2nd year. The Challenge used data to highlight recommendations for improving health outcomes for Indiana mothers and infants. We were provided datasets on maternal health and infant mortality, and then tasked with creating a visualization solution. You can view the dashboard we created and our recommendations here
  • We expanded our reach with clients across Indiana and Michigan who represented so many different sectors in Education and Community Development including: 
    • Adult Education
    • Alternative Education
    • Child Welfare
    • College & Career Readiness
    • Domestic Violence
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Economic Development
    • Homelessness
    • Home Visiting
    • K-12 Education
    • School Counseling
    • Substance Abuse Prevention
    • Veteran Services
    • Youth Development

As we head into the New Year, we are grateful for the organizations who trust our team and partnered with us in 2019. We have exciting things ahead in 2020, and we would love to work with you! Do you have a clear plan for your upcoming year? Whether you’re looking to strengthen  your organization’s capacity, use your data to drive impact, or mobilize your community and partners to tackle big issues, we would love to help! Contact us to set up a call to talk further in the New Year.

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Using Data to Tell Your Story

We say we’re #datanerds at Transform Consulting Group. However, for a communication and marketing person like myself, I will admit that data intimidates me. I prefer using words and emotions to convey ideas rather than numbers and excel sheets. So, how does that translate to our data-driven work at TCG? 

In Nancy Duarte’s book “Data Story” she says, “Facts aren’t as memorable as stories.” She highlighted an experiment that revealed 5% of people remember individual statistics while 63% remember the stories. 

In our work – as an organization and for clients – we have to have both data and storytelling if we want to make an impact. If you search through our blogs, we have several data related posts (here, here, here, and here). We also have a whole marketing series (here, here, here, and here). This blog is bringing together those 2 worlds – with 5 tips for using data in your storytelling.  

5 Tips for Using Data to Tell Your Story

 

  1. Keep it simple. Numbers and data may seem far from simple at times, especially when you’re dealing with really complicated issues. The reality is though, most of your stakeholders are not technical experts. They don’t know the lingo. They don’t know your measurables. You don’t want to bog down your audience with so much “meat” that they can’t absorb anything. Simple is better. Be clear, straight to the point, and look at your data through the lens of an “everyday” person.
  2. Make it relatable. Why is the data important? Who does it impact? It’s hard for even the biggest #datanerd to get excited about an excel sheet full of numbers or a report with a bunch of charts. However, if you explain the implications of the data, people will connect. We like to call this the “so what?”

    What does it mean for your community when student graduation rates decline? How does it impact employers when there aren’t enough early childhood education programs available for working families? What does it mean for your community to have a high rate of child maltreatment? Don’t just spout off facts and figures, explain the why and significance of your data.

    Extra Tip: Know your audience. Know who you are talking to so you can shape your message in a way that relates to the person in front of you. Your data story should be very different for your potential client like a parent versus a potential funder or partner.
  3. Utilize clear graphs and slides. When surveying top executives from large organizations across the county, Duarte found the majority preferred simple visuals to get to the point. They requested a bar graph, pie chart or line graph. We create some pretty fancy data dashboards here at TCG, but we know that the most important data point needs to be the first thing you see. Don’t bury it with too many special features, graphics, or animations.  Also, be mindful of creating clear titles to describe your graphs and charts. Be intentional with the type of chart you have selected, including the colors.
  4. Structure your story. We learn from a young age that a story needs to have 3 components: a beginning, middle, and end. How does that translate when using data? The beginning of your story should highlight the pain point. Set the stage for what is the current reality and need. The “messy middle” as Duarte says, is where you highlight the obstacles or hurdles getting in the way of progress or impact. The end is where you present the solution.
  5. Make the data stick. How do you talk about the magnitude of the data? The data should connect to something familiar if you want your message to stick. If the numbers are great, express that clearly in your message and tone. If the numbers need improvement, then be direct and express disappointment. It is possible to generate emotions from numbers in your delivery. 

At Transform Consulting Group, we are passionate about the many causes our clients represent. We know your work is important. So, what’s next for you? Whether you’re struggling with gathering and analyzing data to inform decision making or struggling to use that data to craft your story of impact – we want to help! Let’s work together to turn your data into action. 

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7 Strategies to Maximize #GivingTuesday

As 2019 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 2019-11-22 at 10.56.00 AM

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, December 3, 2019 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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Besides an ask, did you say thank you?

Research shows nearly a third of giving happens at the end of the year, so now is the time to focus on communication and donor stewardship. Hopefully your year-end campaign will bring in new donors as well as repeat donors. Throughout your campaign, don’t forget to circle back to those who give and follow up with your gratitude.

According to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report, retention rates for first time donors are between 25-30%, but for multi-year donors, the retention rate doubles. We know it’s a busy time of year, but at TCG we recommend building in time to thank your donors and begin (or continue) building a relationship that will continue throughout the year and for years to come. Ultimately, this continued engagement will help grow your donor base.

Ways to Stay In Touch

  1. Celebrate your success
    Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 8.17.13 PM
    During the end of the year frenzy, don’t forget to thank your supporters and volunteers! Dedicate one of your emails to celebrating what your organization has achieved this year. Include a list of highlights, pictures from events, or a holiday picture of staff, and start building excitement for the coming year.
  1. Send a thank you
    Once you receive a donation, the job is not done yet. Make sure that each donor receives a receipt with their donation. That is required. But don’t stop there. Send your donors a dedicated thank you email or letter. Sooner than later. Want to really say thank you and engage your board? Have board members call or write major donors to express appreciation for their gifts.
  1. Add another communication check in
    It is also part of good donor stewardship to communicate regularly with your donors. Engage (or reengage) your donors in your nonprofit as it is obviously a cause they care about. After the first of the year, welcome new donors. They might have given because a friend or family member supports the cause without knowing the details of what you do. Create a welcome series of emails to get them better acquainted with your organization. And for all donors, connect with them throughout the year and include a call to action – to sign up for your newsletter, tour the facility, attend a program, or volunteer!

TIMELINE. For Follow-Up

You have your campaign strategy and a plan for following up with donors. Here’s a timeline of how everything works together!

Timeline:

  • Start campaign week of Thanksgiving (11/25)
  • Giving Tuesday outreach (12/3)
  • Touches throughout December until December 31st
  • January-February:  Review the data to see how your campaign performed. How many new donors, recaptured donors, and repeat donors did you have?
  • Keep in touch throughout the year!

Want more ideas for your year-end campaign? Check out our latest blogs on Giving Tuesday and 10 Tips for Year-End Giving Campaign. If you want to learn more about how your campaign performed this year or to improve your organization’s fundraising next year, check out our services and contact us today!  

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4 Free Ways to Increase Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising

Nonprofit leaders know that fundraising is critical to success. There are some easy and free electronic giving options that you can start using now! Regardless of how small or large your organization is, you can benefit from your supporters’ regular shopping habits. These donations can become a consistent part of your comprehensive fund development plan.

We have identified 4 such platforms making these donations possible—either through retail companies or third party businesses. The basic formula for all of them is the same. You register your nonprofit with the platform for free. You let your supporters know that they can register themselves with the platform for free. Your supporters choose your nonprofit as the donation recipient. They make purchases, and you receive a small donation with each purchase. The donations come from either your supporters themselves or the retailers.

4 Apps and Websites That Help Nonprofits Raise Money

  1. RoundUp App – This app allows nonprofit supporters to donate the change from credit and debit card purchases to help fund a nonprofit of their choice. Shoppers use the app’s secure connection to link their bank or credit card. At the end of the month, RoundUp tallies the change from your supporters’ transactions. Then, the company sends you a donation from your supporters in that amount. On average, each RoundUp App user donates $20-$30 per month.  
  1. Giving Assistant – Nonprofit supporters first create an account with Giving Assistant. When they shop at online stores, such as Target, Macy’s, and Best Buy, they earn cash back. Then, users have the option to donate part or all of their cash back to the nonprofit they choose. Giving Assistant states that organizations receive an average of 10% of sales from supporters’ everyday purchases. This can add up to around $100 in donations per year from each user.
  1. AmazonSmile – When Amazon customers register for AmazonSmile, the customers designate a nonprofit to receive a percentage of their purchases. When users shop, they go to smile.amazon.com. Then, Amazon donates 0.5% of customers’ purchase prices on eligible items to the supporters’ nonprofits of choice.
  1. eScrip – When nonprofit supporters create an eScrip account, they don’t get an eScrip card to use with purchases. Instead, they securely connect their existing store loyalty cards, credit cards, and bank cards to their eScrip account. Then, users choose which registered nonprofit or school they want to support. When customers shop at participating retailers with their registered cards, those retailers donate to the selected nonprofits.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of These Fundraising Tools

Once you have these accounts set up for your nonprofit, let your supporters know how to use them!

  1. Tell your staff, board, and volunteers!
  2. Add clear instructions on your website’s giving page.
  3. Post them on your social media channels with links and directions.
  4. Put them in your newsletters and other communications.
  5. Track your donations to see how active your supporters are. Link their giving amounts with the promotion work you’ve done. Then, you can see which promotional activities (e.g., social media posts, newsletters) have the greatest return on the investment of your time.

When you promote the use of these fundraising platforms among your existing and prospective supporters, you are also raising awareness for your cause. Check out our blog on this topic for more tips!

Using these platforms can also be a good entry point for getting all your staff, board, and volunteers engaged in fundraising. Everyone who supports your organization has an important part to play in fund development. Encourage them to recognize and embrace their role!

Do you need help in determining how to maximize your funds across all your fund development efforts? Check out our fundraising strategies services, and contact us to learn how we can help you meet your goals!

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10 Tips for Your Year-End Giving Campaign

2019 is quickly coming to an end! Before you know it, we’ll be saying “Happy New Year” and plans for 2020 will be underway.

We’re heading into the season of giving. It is that time of year where donor dollars increase significantly. Year-end giving trends suggest blog infographic 1that nearly one third of annual giving happens in December.

At Transform Consulting Group, we highlighted tips for ending your fiscal year strong in this blog. One way to finish the year on a high note, is to kick off a year-end campaign with these simple tips (view our video recap of these tips here):

  1. Start Planning Now: You can’t wait until the last few weeks of December to reach out to donors or to make the first “ask.” Get a plan in place today that you can implement over the next few weeks.blog infographic 2
  2. Send Something: Whether it’s a holiday greeting in the mail or an email blast wrapping up the year, your current donors need to hear from you. You can highlight an accomplishment from this year, share a specific need heading into the New Year, or just thank the donor for their past generosity. Most likely your donors are hearing from other organizations too, and you need to be on their radar.
  3. Engage Volunteers: Take the time to appreciate your volunteers this year. Thank them for the time they
    invested in your organization. You may even decide to give a special gift to those who met X amount of service hours. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to your organization. These are the people who are already engaged in your mission and have seen first-hand the work you do.
  4. Enlist Your Board: Your board of directors can be your biggest asset this time of year. Have board members write personal thank you notes, make phone calls or accompany you to meetings with donors.
  5. Segment Your Contact List: Your strategy should be different for different donors or partners. Organize your contacts into specific lists and plan your approach for each group such as: major donors, once a year donors, volunteers, alumni (past clients if appropriate), board, etc.
  6. Go Visual: Create consistent images and visuals for all aspects of your campaign. Try highlighting major accomplishments or data using infographics (check out our blog series on infographics here). Feature client success stories and quotes with photos (if appropriate). Create images and banners to display on all social media platforms. You can even set up a microsite just for your holiday campaign that clearly showcases your goals and progress over the next few weeks.
  7. Plan A Giving Day: We highlighted tips for implementing your own “Giving Day” in this blog. This can be a unique day that your organization chooses to ramp up efforts or you may decide to take advantage of Giving Tuesday (read our blog with tips here). Regardless of what you choose, make sure you continue promoting your cause until December 31st. Surveys show 12% of funding comes in during the last 3 days of the year, so you shouldn’t just rely on one day for giving, but it can be a great tool to kickstart your efforts.
  8. Make It Easy To Give: Provide your donors with several options for giving and make the options clear! Create a button on your website for donations. Have a link on your social media pages that directs followers to give. Send pre-stamped envelopes for those donors who you know would rather give via check or cash.
  9. Focus On Donor Stewardship: It’s very rare that you can ask a person for money, and they give it to you on the spot. You need to steward a relationship with them first. Build trust and learn about the causes they are interested in. Donor stewardship is important for engaging new donors but also for helping to move current donors to the next level of giving. Don’t expect that your holiday postcard sent in December will be enough to gain significant traction. Make plans to meet up with specific people who you know can give more or should be giving period. Start those conversations today.
  10. Make It Personal: Regardless of what methods you use to ask for gifts (email blast, mailings, one-on-one meetings), you need to bring the focus back to the people you serve and causes you are working to impact. Put a face to your mission and make it personal. Share specific stories of how your programs changed a family’s life. Introduce a donor to that single mom who went back to school. Highlight exactly where the donor’s dollars are going and who will be impacted. Along with the personal anecdotal stories, don’t forget to include your outcome results. Need help with having good data to share? Check out this blog or our services.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the many challenges that organizations face and often it begins with funding limitations. We want to work with you on ways to maximize your funding, so that you can move your cause forward. We love thinking outside of the box to come up with unique ways to engage current and new donors. Contact us today and let’s put your year-end campaign into motion!

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How to Register to Apply for Federal Grants

Congratulations! You’ve determined you are Federal Grant Ready, and it’s time for you to apply for federal grants! Before you can jump in, there are many administrative steps to take care of first. Applying for federal grants is tedious. Getting set up to apply requires attention to detail. You also have to build in enough time to wait for your submissions to be processed. From beginning to end, it could be longer than a month, so get started now!

Although it takes attention and time, the whole process is free. At Transform Consulting Group (TCG), we have successfully helped several organizations apply for and receive multi-million dollar federal grants. We know this process, and we’ll guide you through the steps.

3 Steps to Get Registered to Apply for Federal Grants

Your ultimate goal is to get your organization registered on grants.gov. This registration will allow you to apply for federal grants. You’ll complete these 3 steps to get everything set up. 

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  1. Confirm that you have a DUNS # with up-to-date organization information.
  • Use the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number Lookup to find out what your 9-digit DUNS # is. 
  • Look at the information associated with your organization to make sure it’s up-to-date.
  • Contact Dun & Bradstreet if you need to update your organization information.

    Pro Tip: Be sure that the organization name associated with your DUNS #  matches your legal name exactly. That includes commas and periods that are part of your legal name, such as “, Inc.”
  1. Register with SAM, or reactivate your organization’s SAM registration.

SAM is the System for Award Management, and it is the key to being able to receive federal grants!

SAM-logo

  • Contact SAM if you’re not sure if your organization has never had a SAM registration or if you think you may have an inactive registration.
  • If your SAM registration is inactive, then someone at your organization probably already has a user account they can use to log in.
  • Once you know whether you’re creating a new registration or reactivating an old registration, follow the appropriate steps.
  • You’ll need your organization’s Tax Identification Number (TIN).
  • You’ll also send a notarized letter to SAM from your organization’s authorizing official. You may need to email that letter as well.

    Pro Tip: You can (and should!) contact SAM’s help staff for free. 
  1. Register with grants.gov
  • Refer to these details when setting up your grants.gov registration.
  • Then, connect your grants.gov account to your SAM registration.

Renewing Your Registration

Once you’ve completed all these steps, set a reminder for next year. Each year, you’ll need to complete SAM’s annual renewal process. Completing your renewals on time means you won’t have to go through the more lengthy reactivation process!

If you need help seeking federal grant opportunities or completing a grant proposal, let us know!

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3 Tips to Use Your Data to Drive Program Improvement

Nationally, only about half of students who start college actually complete and earn college degrees, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. It is much worse for students who start at a community college or 2-year degree program. This means many students are increasing their debt (from student loans) and not reaping the financial benefits of a college degree and higher earnings. In addition, colleges are losing money when students dropout. It’s a lose-lose game.3 Tips to Use Your Data to Drive Program Improvement

Colleges have been getting increasing pressure from the federal government and others to improve their college completion rates. They have turned to data analytics to better understand how they could intervene earlier with students who might be at risk of not completing their degree and dropping out.

When I first heard this podcast from The Hechinger Report on how “Colleges are using big data to track students in an effort to boost graduation rates, but it comes at a cost” it made me want to listen closer.  As a #datalover and #datanerd, this topic certainly peaked my interest. I am also a first generation college graduate and can personally relate to this topic of college dropouts since many (over half) of my high school peers didn’t finish their college degree.

This is not a new strategy (“predictive analytics”) as companies like Amazon and Google are doing this all of the time with our digital footprint. However, it’s new for colleges and non-profit organizations.  

Georgia State is a case study example of how their university has embraced data analytics to improve college completion rates. Their university now has one of the highest rates of college graduation for public universities in the country, and they have closed the racial equity gap. Students of color are graduating at the same rate as white students at Georgia State. 

So how did Georgia State get there? They used their data to drive and inform program improvement. We’ve talked about this here and here.

The podcast also shares the struggles that other universities face in implementing these changes. It’s not enough to purchase the data analysis software, but you also need trained staff who are able to analyze and interpret the data to take action on it. 

We’ve put together 3 tips to get started with using your data to drive program improvement that’s not only based off of the success of Georgia State but our work with other clients who want to improve their impact.

  1. Have a system in place to collect and track meaningful data. Georgia purchased a data system to help them bring all of their data together and identify patterns. At Transform Consulting Group (TCG) we are big fans of using Tableau Software (see more here and here). We love Tableau, because it can make your data easier to review and understand. We are also adept at using whatever data systems our client has to pull out the information that we need to inform decision-making.
  2. Have trained staff who can analyze and interpret the data. Getting the data from your system is the first step. Then you need to have individuals who know how to identify patterns, ask inquisitive questions and develop recommendations. We are big fans of forming an “Impact Team” at an organization who is trained on analyzing and reviewing your data and can help drive action based on the results. Learn more here.
  3. Have a process to determine program improvement changes. Once you have your data and results, you are now at the fun part – you get to take action on changes to make to improve your results! We find that sometimes organizations don’t have a clear process in place to determine what changes – such as a new curriculum, staff training, client outreach – they will make based on the results. We follow a Continuous Quality Improvement Process using the “Plan – Do – Study -Act or (PDSA)” framework to determine what action steps we will take. Other similar processes might be “Lean/Six Sigma”. At Georgia State they decided to hire additional advisors to use the data to reach out to students at risk. This is one of the many changes they have made, based on their data results, to help students stay on track with college graduation. The goal here is to be intentional on how you will use your data to make programmatic changes and then study the result of those changes to know if it’s working or not.

What are some goals that you are not currently satisfied within your organization? Have you considered how data analytics could help you focus in on improving your results?  Bill Gates said, “Without measurement there is no shared accountability.“ We would love to help you improve your impact through data analytics. Contact us to learn more.

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