Category Archives: Program Development

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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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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4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

Too often non-profits and government agencies immediately begin implementing a new program or service area. They see a need with their clients or a gap in the existing services, so they elect to help meet that need. This all sounds good, right? The challenge is that there has not been enough time to complete a comprehensive planning and assessment process to develop the program or service. One service we offer our clients to meet this need is completing a feasibility study.plan-act-do-study-cycle4

We follow the Plan-Do-Study-Act or “PDSA” continuous quality improvement cycle (learn more in this blog).  We help clients assess, design, launch and evaluate programs and services in order to meet community needs and apply the latest research. When following this approach, we most often find that clients tend to skip the first step “Plan” and jump straight to “Do” as mentioned above. We work to help our clients thoughtfully plan out their services, programs, and interventions before they implement them to get the impact and desired change they are working towards.

Implementing a feasibility study is a great tool to complete a thoughtful planning process. 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.

Shoes at ArrowsWe worked with a group of community leaders in Jay County to complete the feasibility of converting an old elementary school building into an early childhood center. Like many rural communities, Jay County has a declining population that has impacted their local schools in continuing to operate multiple school buildings, which has resulted in school consolidations and closures. At the same time, their rural community also struggles with attracting new employers due to a lack of child care for a growing workforce. Their community leaders had the idea of converting a closed elementary school into an early childhood center but wanted assistance in completing a feasibility study first.

4 Steps to Complete a Feasibility Study

 

1. Market Analysis

During this step you want to gather key information about your targeted population. This includes collecting demographic information from online public sources. This helps create a composite of your targeted community and population. We also suggest completing a landscape assessment to identify any other organization providing similar services or working with the target population. Lastly, it’s important to gather some qualitative feedback from various key stakeholders in the community to determine what they think the needs and gaps are as well as build community will for possibly launching a new service. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, and key informant interviews.

The purpose of this step is to ensure that there is in fact a need for your proposed program/ service. Check out this blog for more insight on completing a community needs assessment!

2. Program Design

During this step you will want to complete some research on your targeted service area. For Jay County, we are gathering the latest research on early childhood program models and services that lead to the desired outcomes they are seeking. Our landscape scan is also looking at existing program models in the community so as to not duplicate existing options but to consider complementary program models that will meet the needs of communities. If you are seeking external funding, you may want to adopt or align your program around research-based models that have demonstrated outcomes. This will provide confidence to potential funders in implementing a new program.

The purpose of this step is to determine the best model and design for implementing your program. Check out this blog for more tips on finding evidence-based programs.

3. Business Model

The next step is to develop the business model for operating the program. During this phase of the feasibility study you will gather important financial information that will help you understand what it will cost to implement the program and potential sources of funding. You should create a budget and possibly complete some financial forecasting to show start-up costs and when the program would “break even” or be self-sustaining. This step should also assess the operations behind implementing the program, which includes the staffing model, materials and services, training, facility, technology, equipment and other program needs.

With Jay County, we completed walk-throughs of three possible locations with an architect and construction group to inform the best location to operate an early childhood center. This informed the potential capacity to serve children, the staffing needs and ultimately budget the break down for start-up costs versus ongoing maintenance costs. The purpose of this step is to think through all of the components needed to successfully implement the program.

Check out this blog for some tips to establish financial goals.

4. Communications Plan

The last (and sometimes forgotten) step is to develop a communications strategy if you decide to launch the new program. After spending all of this time assessing and planning the design of the program, you want to ensure that the targeted audience knows about the program and enrolls/ participates. The communications plan would include determining the current knowledge base in the community, so there might need to be some education and awareness about why you are providing this service especially if it is new and different.

In Jay County, we are created a PR Campaign through a series of op-eds penned by different key stakeholders (employers, teachers, judge, doctor, etc.) in the community all talking about why expanding early childhood is critical to meet the community’s needs. Your communications plan should include the different channels (social media, newspaper, radio, text, mailings, etc.) that residents use to gather information. In a parent survey (our potential client for early childhood services), we asked them where they get their information and their preferred method of communication. Based on this assessment, develop a start-up marketing plan and community education plan for the proposed new program that will meet participation goals and engage the key stakeholders and partners in the community.

Check out this blog for tips on creating an op-ed campaign and this blog for getting media attention.

Completing a feasibility study may seem unnecessary or slow down your timeline, but the time you invest up front will see a return in a well thought out model that will be set up for success and to accomplish your goals. Completing intentional design through the PDSA model is a critical differentiator for Transform Consulting Group and many clients point specifically to this process improving their own internal operations which accelerates impact. Contact us if we can help you complete a feasibility study!

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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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When do you need a Feasibility Study?

Whether you call it a feasibility study, a needs assessment, or a readiness assessment, you typically need one when your organization is looking to take on a large initiative such as a capital fundraising campaign, adding a new program or service, or expanding into a new market.  When do you need a feasibility study?

At Transform Consulting Group (TCG), we perform feasibility studies that often include the following steps:  gathering stakeholder feedback, surveying the board of directors, scanning the environment, completing a financial analysis, and conducting a community assessment.  There is a lot to consider when taking on a large initiative, and each feasibility study is going to look slightly different depending on what is being considered and how your organization operates.

Our team has served numerous clients during their feasibility study process. Here’s a look at those projects and how the client decided it was time for a feasibility study:

  • Meeting Community Need

Community leaders in Jay County wanted to investigate the feasibility of converting an old elementary school building into an early childhood center. The Portland Foundation hired our team to facilitate a site analysis of existing school buildings, assess the existing early childhood education landscape, and create a marketing and business plan for implementation.Portland Foundation Feasibility Study Cover

  • Launching a New Program/Service

Shepherd Community Center wanted to see if their organization and service area were a good fit before adopting the Center for Working Families program model. For this engagement, we held focus groups, facilitated internal and external assessments, and completed a logic model to identify the resources, inputs, outputs and outcomes aligned to support the implementation of the Center for Working Families program.

  • Assessing Annual Performance

All Head Start organizations are required to submit annual needs assessments to inform their strategic plan goals and objectives.  The Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office hired our team to perform their report that shows how Indiana Head Start grantees compare locally and nationally and how well the state is responding to federal priority areas.  

  • Relocating or Opening a New Location

Before you consider relocating or opening an additional location in a new community, we recommend 3 steps to determine feasibility in this blog.

  • Fundraising

Our funding analysis and fund development plan are two fundraising strategies that might be part of your feasibility study.  If you’re looking to launch a capital campaign, they are two strategies that should definitely be incorporated as well as interviews with major donors and staff and surveying the board of directors.

Completing a feasibility study isn’t a quick task, nor should it be.  Make sure your organization is ready to go before committing valuable resources to a project or campaign.  Need assistance with one or more elements of your feasibility study? Not sure where to start? Contact us today to see how we can help!

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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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4 Steps to Build Your Asset Map

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

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

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

Four Steps to Build Your Asset Map

1. Consider the Assets to IncludeAsset Map Focus Areas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Find the Asset Information

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

4. Build and Store the Assets

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

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

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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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