Category Archives: Nonprofit

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 W’s of a Process Evaluation: Part 1

When it comes to program evaluation, people often think of evaluating the effectiveness and outcomes of their program. They may not think about evaluating how the program was administered or delivered, which may affect the program outcomes. There are several types of valuable evaluations that do not focus on outcomes. One type of evaluation, called “process or formative evaluation”, assesses how a program is being implemented.

In this two part blog series, we are going to cover the 5 W’s of a Process Evaluation:

  1. Why conduct a process evaluation
  2. Who should conduct a process evaluation
  3. What methods to use to conduct a process evaluation
  4. Where to conduct a process evaluation
  5. When to conduct a process evaluation

In this first blog in the series we will cover the first two W’s. The next blog will discuss the other three.

WHY CONDUCT A PROCESS EVALUATION

Let’s start with the “why”. A process evaluation helps an organization better understand how their program is functioning and operating. Process evaluations also serve as an accountability measure and can answer key questions, such as:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 4.38.23 PM

  • Is the program operating as it was designed and intended?
  • Is the current implementation adhering to program fidelity?
  • Is the program being implemented consistently across multiple sites and staff, if applicable?
  • What type and frequency of services are provided?
  • What program procedures are followed?
  • Is the program serving its targeted population?

It is important to determine what you want to learn from your process evaluation. Maybe you want to assess if the program is being implemented as it was intended or you want to know if the program model is being followed. Whatever the reason, you want to be clear about why you are completing the process evaluation and what you hope to learn.

We are currently working with the Wabash YMCA’s 21st Century Community Learning Center to evaluate their program implementation. Each center is required to work with an external evaluator to conduct a process evaluation. Here is what we hope to learn and the why of this evaluation:

  1. The evaluation will assess if the program has been implemented as it was intended and if it is adhering to state standards;
  2. This evaluation will capture the population served through the assessment of attendance trends;
  3. The findings from the process evaluation will be used for program improvement in subsequent years.

WHO SHOULD CONDUCT YOUR PROCESS EVALUATION

When determining who will conduct your process evaluation, you have the option of either identifying an internal staff member (e.g., program manager or quality assurance) from your organization or hiring an external evaluator. Many organizations find that there are challenges with an internal team member: they may not be objective, they don’t have a fresh perspective, and they often have other job responsibilities beyond the evaluation.

For the reasons mentioned above, it is beneficial to have an external evaluator (like TCG!). An external evaluator will be able to assess the operations of your program from an unbiased lens. This is especially helpful if a program has multiple sites. An external evaluator can assess all sites/facilitators for consistency more objectively than a program staff member. (If you’re interested in learning more about how to evaluate multi-site programs, view our blog post here!).

In our evaluation project with the Wabash YMCA, the decision to conduct an evaluation with an external group was made by their funders. This decision ensures that the evaluation is high quality and objective.

The other three W’s will be discussed in a later blog post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, contact us today to learn more about our evaluation services!

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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 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!

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Press Pause: Redesigning an Existing Program

In January, we kicked off our Exercise Your Impact campaign. Throughout 2019 we’re sharing tools and resources that highlight critical phases of organizational planning. During Quarter 2, we are focusing on program development. An important aspect of program development is knowing when to redesign an existing program.
Too often, organizations operate on “auto-pilot” and keep running their programs in the same way because that’s how they’ve always done it. Programs can start to feel stagnant or stuck in a rut, but the effort involved in making a big programmatic change can keep programs in this place. Staying on auto-pilot can cause staff to feel overworked and stressed, especially if a program is not having the desired impact. Instead of forcing an ineffective program forward, it may be time to pause, reflect, and redesign the program.

In a previous blog post, we provided a few tips on how to know when it is time to redesign a program. For example we suggest you reflect on the following three questions:

Adapt

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

Transform Consulting Group (TCG) is currently working with La Plaza to help them redesign their Tu Futuro college and career readiness program. They evaluated their program a couple years ago and the data showed them that they weren’t making the impact they set out to make. They realized that they needed to better align their program with best practice research and narrow their target population by working with fewer schools and narrowing their focus to high school students instead of high school and middle school students.

Here are three steps they engaged in during the redesign process that may help your organization during the redesign process:

1. Engage Stakeholders

A key part of the redesign process is engagement of stakeholders, including staff. This is a great opportunity to talk to staff at all levels involved with a program for their feedback on what is and is not working. Including staff in this collaborative process is reinvigorating and creates a renewed sense of purpose.

It’s important to also engage other stakeholders impacted by or interacting with your program. For example, in their previous program evaluation, La Plaza collected stakeholder feedback from students, parents, school partners, and funders. This information was crucial during the redesign process.

What Works Image2. Identify and Engage Key Partners

Redesigning a program is no easy task. It is time intensive and, depending on the subject matter, may require bringing in experts. La Plaza identified partners to help them accomplish their new goals and make their vision a reality. Their key partners included TCG to help design a new curriculum based on best practice research and a philanthropic partner to fund the project.

3. Pilot the Program

Once you redesign your program, it is helpful to pilot it on a small-scale. This allows you to catch potential problems and fix them before full implementation. Piloting a program can also help test the efficacy of the redesigned program. By piloting the program with a smaller target population, you mitigate the risk of overstretching your staff.

When launching the first year of their redesigned Tu Futuro program, La Plaza decided to partner with one local high school. While they will expand to more schools in the future, this pilot period allowed staff to learn and successfully implement the new curriculum and form deeper relationships with students.

We know that redesigning a program is a daunting task that can disrupt your day to day operations. If you want help assessing your current program or beginning the process of a redesign, contact us today. We would love to learn more about your programming goals to see how we could support you!

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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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Does Your Organization Have a Continuous Quality Improvement Process?

During a time where communities and policies are changing, it is important to ensure the programs and services within those communities are constantly evolving to meet the needs of families. The Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) model is an ongoing process for organizations to be able to determine whether or not a change made led to an improvement in quality. In order to move toward making the necessary improvements, a review of what occurred is conducted through a CQI process like the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

Steps to Complete a PDSA Cycleplan-act-do-study-cycle4

At Transform Consulting Group, we utilize this consistent approach when working with organizations to help them find solutions.

Plan:

Before beginning your PDSA cycle, identify the problem or issue you would like to address for quality improvement. The problem identified will guide your purpose for the review. Once you have decided what to focus on, consider the the following steps to plan to test your idea for change:

  • Define the goals
  • Define your research question(s)
  • Make predictions
  • Determine details for implementation of change or intervention
  • Plan of action for data collection

During this phase, we work with the client to thoughtfully plan to implement their new or current program/ service. So often, organizations jump immediately to step 2 – “Do” – without completing this critical first step. During the planning phase, we define what we hope to accomplish especially if we are proposing a change. Then we determine how the proposed change/ intervention will be implemented and work through all of the details. Lastly, we finalize how data will be collected.

Do:

This phase of the PDSA cycle requires you to conduct the test for the change or intervention. It is during this phase that you will complete the following tasks:

  • Carry out the intervention
  • Collect data
  • Begin data analysis

This step in the process is what most organizations know and are doing. Organizations are delivering interventions every day with their services. They might be intentionally or unintentionally modifying their intervention. The “Do” step in this process is not new to organizations. It is wrapping it around the other three steps that makes this work transformational!

Study:

The study phase of the cycle occurs after you have completed your intervention. You then analyze the data to study what did or did not occur. Organizations will want to review their predictions and assumptions before conducting the test. You will want to take the following steps during this phase of the cycle:

  • Complete data analysis
  • Compare data to predictions
  • Summarize the information

Organizations often skip over this step in the process or do not spend enough time thoughtfully reviewing the data. For some organizations, their data can be considered “high stakes” and there is a tendency to want to focus on the positive changes/ results that occurred and glance over the changes that did not occur or the benchmarks that were not met. During this phase, it is so important for an organization to be transparent and honest with themselves when reviewing the data.

Act:

Based on the summarized information, this last phase of the cycle allows you to determine what modifications may be needed to ensure that the goals you set will be met. Your organization may decide to modify a program element or change how a service is delivered; you may decide to target a different population or use a new curriculum. Once you have determined whether or not to adapt, adopt, or abandon your intervention, you will be prepared to do the following:

  • Plan next cycle
  • Decide whether the change can be implemented

During this last step, your organization takes all of the information gathered to make data-informed decisions that will ultimately improve your results. This is the exciting part of the process and one that you don’t want to skip. This step and the overall PDSA process will help your organization continue to improve the quality of services provided and impact in the community.

In this blog, “Is it time to redesign your program?”, we shared several examples of clients we helped use the PDSA process to test and implement new interventions/ modifications to improve their outcomes. The CQI process allows organizations to have a plan of action once a problem or service gap has been identified.

At Transform Consulting Group, we follow this consistent approach when helping you find solutions to accelerate your impact. If you are looking to improve the quality of a service or program to facilitate positive change, contact us today!

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How to Implement your Strategic Plan

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

Our process graphic

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

HFI - Implementation Plan Pg 7

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

Key Implementation Plan Components 

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

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

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

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

Tips for Using your Implementation Plan

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

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

Track Image - NEW

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

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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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Marketing 101: 4 Steps for Your New Year Marketing Efforts

Happy New Year! Now is the perfect time for setting goals and focusing in on priorities specific to your New Year Marketingmarketing efforts. At Transform Consulting Group, we know your work is important. We also understand that your time and resources may be limited, regardless of the role you play at your organization. Your marketing strategies cannot be a luxury that you ignore. With these quick tips, you can make the most of your efforts this year!

4 Steps for Your New Year Marketing Efforts

  1. Reflect

    Push the brakes and spend time reflecting on your marketing efforts last year similar to what you would do for your organization’s programs and services. What worked? What didn’t work? Did you reach your target audience and participation numbers? Did you accomplish your fundraising goals and how was marketing a part of that effort? FINAL New Year in Review (4.5x6.5) front

    If you set goals last year, did you meet them? If you didn’t set specific goals last year, spend time looking back on your efforts. Take inventory of your social media platforms, your web traffic, other digital efforts, advertisement efforts, created collateral, etc. What are trends you can recognize? Specific marketing “wins”?

    Make sure you have a clear idea of where you’re at before you start taking those next steps into the new year. At TCG, we do a year-end review to share with our clients. This is a great opportunity for us to highlight our successes and share in a visual way.

  1. Plan

    Now that you’ve put in the necessary time for reflection of the past year, it’s time for the fun part – planning!

    Brainstorm – Team up! Your organization may not have the luxury of a huge marketing department, but Marketing brainstormingyour colleagues can offer fresh perspective to your planning. Bring new people to the table, and start dreaming up possibilities that align with your goals. You could invite staff from different departments, board members, volunteers and possibly clients, if appropriate. The more voices and perspectives you include might provide fresh insights to inform your marketing efforts.

  1. Set Goals

    We wrote a whole blog on setting SMART goals here. You’re probably setting goals for your programs. Don’t forget your marketing goals! Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Look at the systems you have in place to be able to help you report out on your marketing goals: Google analytics for your website traffic, social media platform analytics, customer feedback surveys, and any other data collection methodologies.

    Schedule – Once you have goals determined, break out action items that will need to happen to ensure success. It can be intimidating to have a year goal, but monthly or even weekly goals may seem more realistic. At TCG, we like to use a monthly plan and highlight the theme or goals for every month of the year. We then break down specific tasks and put them on the calendar for reminders and regular check ins to ensure we stay on task.  

  1. Budget

    There are a lot of ideas you can implement for the new year without additional money (check out our other blogs here: list your organization online, improve your website, enhance your social media, and build your brand). However, you should have a budget allocated to support your organization’s marketing and communication strategies. Some line items on our budget include:

  • Dedicated FTE (staffing – either internal or hired out contractors)
  • Conferences and special events
  • Advertising
  • Collateral/Swag (printed materials, pens, banners, signage, etc.)


    Your budget should align with your goals and the schedule you implemented earlier. Space out the expenses throughout the year and make sure you factor in any additional expenses to avoid surprises. Once you begin to collect some data against your goals, you can start to determine which marketing investments are “worth it” and redirect funds accordingly.

Is your organization ready for the new year? Are you prepared with a marketing strategy to elevate the importance of your work and cause? If not, contact us and let’s put some plans in place!

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