Tag Archives: Data

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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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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Why Break Down Data?

When you’re using data to make decisions, are you also taking time to break down data to learn more? Perhaps you are struggling to understand the needs of different parts of the population you serve. Maybe you’re noticing different outcomes in different groups but don’t know why. When you break down data, you can see what’s hidden within your overall results. 

One important reason to break down data is to help your clients who are experiencing multiple adverse events. Our team at Transform Consulting Group worked with Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) to understand the challenges of people experiencing both homelessness and domestic violence. We took a close look at their data. Then we came up with recommendations on how to best meet the needs of this population.

A significant portion of individuals who are homeless have also experienced domestic violence. In Marion County, 21% of individuals in the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) had lived in households with reported domestic violence (DV). DV-homelessness-data

Based on national best practices and local data, CHIP and its partners identified potential system and policy improvements. They gathered feedback from domestic violence survivors experiencing homelessness via surveys and focus groups. 

The data and research revealed the need for targeted public policy and legislative protections for this population. When domestic violence survivors leave their relationships, they face economic hardships that put them at risk for homelessness. One policy solution allows survivors to remain in their rental home after the perpetrator is removed from the lease.

Breaking down the data led to this policy recommendation that is specific to domestic violence survivors. This policy change goes beyond what’s relevant for all individuals experiencing homelessness.

In other instances, breaking down data can be particularly helpful to ensure you meet the needs of the most marginalized people. Are children from high-income families able to access your programming more easily than other children? Are your participants of color seeing the same gains as your white participants? Do those in rural areas achieve the same positive results as urban communities? Looking at data in this way can help you focus on equity for your vulnerable populations. 

Researching national best practices revealed that domestic violence survivors, in particular, benefit from meeting with advocates in locations other than their office. Survivors face transportation and other logistical barriers. This can mean it’s much easier if an advocate comes to their home or neighborhood.

There are more details on all the data and findings in the Report on Domestic Violence Survivors Experiencing Homelessness in Marion County that Transform Consulting Group prepared for CHIP. CHIP-DV-report-cover

No matter what your organization’s mission is, breaking down data can help you learn more about different segments of the population you’re serving. Do you see better outcomes when participants have been in your program for more than six months? Is your curriculum more effective for younger children?

In addition to breaking down your data, check out our other blogs on making sure you’re data literate and putting data into context

If you aren’t using data to look at segments of the population you serve, then you might be missing what is (or isn’t) working well in your program. Let us know if you need help with data analysis or program evaluation!

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Are You Data Literate?

Recently the TCG team participated in a data visualization challenge at the Indy Big Data Conference, and this experience has led me to writing a blog on data literacy.  What is data literacy? Merriam Webster defines being literate as “having knowledge or competence”, and being competent with data is a foundational skill we all need in this age of big data.

Now, you don’t have to love math or know how to write code to be data literate. What you need to be comfortable doing is asking what, how, why, and so what of data.

  • What data is being collected? (e.g., age, county, number of individuals with a college degree)
  • How is the data being collected? (e.g., application, agency records, census survey)
  • Why? Especially when it comes to data analysis, don’t be afraid to ask why. (e.g., Why did you focus on this subset of the population? Why were those data points analyzed?)
  • So what? (e.g., How does the number of individuals without a college degree impact our strategy to address this issue?)    

For TCG’s presentation (check it out here), we reviewed multiple datasets provided by the Indiana Management Performance Hub. We had to learn what each variable meant, how the values were determined or collected, and why those variables were important to those data sources. Figuring out the data meant learning about workforce development measures and industry codes. Analysis of the data involved selecting certain data to focus on and incorporating different views and additional data to answer the questions we had. Listing our recommendations answered the “so what” for the data we chose to analyze and present.

Data presentation

Data literacy is very important to the data visualization world as well.  Before making the data “pretty” with charts or data visualization software (like Tableau which we featured in this blog), you have to know your data and know your metrics.  That way when you see your dashboard or charts showing 1,000 current donors with a 25% retention rate from last year, you will know if that is correct. Programs like Tableau (which imports your data to visualize) can’t tell you if you’re creating the right chart with the right variables. It takes the same level of critical thinking that is applied to the data itself.       

Common Mistakes with Data Visualization:

  • Not spot checking data to make sure things are correct (such as population totals).
  • Too much data. More is not always better, and lots of data can be overwhelming and may take away from the goal of the analysis.
  • Selecting the wrong variables. A chart can be created to compare apples to oranges, but it may not be of any value.Data Literacy Tableau
  • Not using percentages when comparing groups with different totals. This is one I see quite often and is a reminder to always question data. In the example below, Marion County (center of map) looks like it has the most young children and the most young children in poverty because Marion County has the largest population. If you look at percent of young children in poverty, other counties show just as high of a percentage as Marion County.
  • Lacking context. Without knowing the source of the data or data totals, the statistics may be less convincing. Industry knowledge is also important to context in order to visualize the most valuable data and to answer “So what?”.  

Not sure how comfortable you are with data? Start with your own! Ask questions and see what you can uncover. Check out some of our favorite sources of data that can add to your analysis. As you dig in, Transform Consulting Group is ready to assist with our evaluation, research, and strategic planning services as well as data visualization training and products. Contact us today to ask questions and learn more!

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Putting Data into Context

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

2. Benchmark similar programs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your Project Is Feasible. Now How Do You Implement It?

You completed a feasibility study and found out that your project is feasible! Now it’s time for the work of actually implementing your project or new program. What are your next steps?

Your implementation plan will include 4 focus areas: program design, staff, communications/ marketing, and budget. Here are some specific action items to get you on your way to full implementation!

Program Design

A well-designed program will enable you to have the greatest possible impact. Your feasibility study helped you make sure that the elements of your program are informed by the outcomes you want to achieve. Now it’s time to purchase the necessary materials, including the curriculum, as well as necessary office and program supplies.

You will also want to have a method of evaluation in place from the start. You can set this up internally or hire an external evaluator. The evaluation process will help you adjust to changing needs and improve upon your practices. Decide on the process you will use, purchase a database if necessary, and write standard operating procedures for your staff.

Staff

You will likely be looking to hire and train new staff in order to fully implement your program. For this, you can rely in part on the information in your feasibility study. In addition, use what you and your leadership team have done in the past when hiring new staff.

Your feasibility study will help you determine how many staff to hire in your first year. During the first year, you will still be in the process of ramping up to full capacity. Then, determine how many staff are needed once you are operating your fully developed program. You might also work on partnerships with local higher education institutions, workforce boards, and other critical groups to support staffing your new program.

Communications and Marketing

You started developing partnerships with key stakeholders when you engaged them during your feasibility study. Continue to keep these partners informed and engaged as you make progress! During project implementation, you may want to form relationships with additional partners as well. These partnerships are an essential part of your overarching communications and marketing plan.

marketing-toolkitYour marketing strategies will be important as you build your program, begin program enrollment, and communicate its value to your prospective clients and the broader community. Your goals are to attract your target clients to your program, build community buy-in, and increase awareness of prospective donors of the positive impact of your program.

Start using the marketing tactics and timeline you identified in your feasibility study. Create a website, or add onto your existing website with information specific to this project. Send a press release to local media to announce your program launch. Create social media pages for your new program, or add the new information to your existing pages.

Budget

Use the information in your feasibility study to put together a detailed start-up budget. Remember to account for all your projected initial costs. Then, create a budget for each of your first 3 years of operation. For your first year, you will likely not build out your full model. To inform your year-one budget, determine how many clients it is feasible to serve in that first year before you have built up your program’s capacity. When filling in your budget for your second year, account for increases in revenue and expenses for operating at full capacity. As you look to year three, quantify projected changes you expect to see after two years of operation.

jay-county-feasibility-studyYou will set yourself up for success by budgeting for start-up expenses, as well as the changes you will see in the initial years of operation. As you identify the amount of revenue needed to implement your program, create a fund development action plan to secure sustainable funding.

We recently completed a feasibility study for early learning stakeholders in Jay County. Now they are sharing the study results with a broader array of partners. Then, they will determine how to get from where they are now to full program implementation. If you’re interested in completing a feasibility study or taking the the next step toward program implementation, we’d love to help! Contact us today!

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Getting the Most Out of Your Needs Assessment

Recently Transform Consulting Group finished the annual needs assessment for the Indiana Head Start State Collaboration Office (IHSSCO).   Each Head Start State Collaboration Office is required to annually submit a needs assessment, which informs their strategic plan goals and objectives.  

IHSSCO uses their needs assessment to inform their annual work plan, and all organizations should make the connection between a needs assessment and the organization’s strategic goals!  Whether you want to conduct a needs assessment, program or organization evaluation, or annual report, don’t miss the chance to do one of the following:  

  1. Use your assessment to solicit new feedback or data.

The IHSSCO needs assessment solicited new feedback this year.  We interviewed and surveyed external stakeholders and Head Start partners.  If you’re going to request feedback, make sure you show you’re doing something with it.  No one likes to provide feedback, and then see that nothing changes. For Head Start partners and stakeholders, they will soon be able to read the needs assessment report and see the recommendations for solutions that address some of their feedback.

  1. Take the time to learn from your data.

Data is collected and reported on, but beyond totals and percentages, what does your data say?  What questions does it raise to inform your assessment and planning efforts? For example, we wanted to know:

  • How do Indiana Early Head Start and Head Start programs compare to national statistics?
  • Where are Early Head Start and Head Start centers located across the state, and is it proportionate to the population and need?  Image
  • What percentage of children are being served?  
  • Is there more of a demand for Early Head Start and Head Start in rural or urban areas?

Besides the demographics of your program participants and the outputs of a program, look for issues and barriers, gaps or overlap in services or clients, layer the data with other relevant indicators, and don’t forget to look at outcomes as well!

  1. Make sure you share the report – internally and externally.  

A needs assessment can take a great deal of time, effort, and resources from multiple individuals.  Once the process is completed, it is easy to do a quick review of the findings with program staff and then put it on the shelf.  The needs assessment report and its findings are not only important to program staff; it can also provide insight to all staff, program participants, funders, and external stakeholders/partners.  Check out this past blog for more ideas!

Make the report accessible and relevant.  Many people may only be interested in reading an executive summary of the report or skipping straight to the recommendations.  Others may be more attracted to infographics or dashboards. Decide how to best present your data for your audience, and then post these materials on your website, link to them in a newsletter, or mention them on social media.
If you’re ready to do things differently with your needs assessment but are not sure where to start, contact us today to discuss ways Transform Consulting Group can help!

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3 Steps to Establish Clear Outcomes

Evaluation is key in determining if your program is making the desired impact. While critical, evaluation can be an overwhelming and intimidating process for organizations. We have worked with several clients to help them embark on the journey of evaluating their program(s). At Transform Consulting Group, we follow a four-step evaluation process. The first step of establishing clear outcomes can be one of the most difficult. You know what your mission is and you know your vision for a better community, but how do these translate into measurable outcomes?

4 eval steps

 

1. Establish clear outcomes

2.  Create or modify data tools and system

3. Analyze the data

4. Use data to make informed decisions

 

Outputs vs. Outcomes

When determining outcomes, the conversation usually starts with program outputs. Outputs are what your program produces: activities, services and participants. Tracking, analyzing and reporting your program outputs is a valuable way of displaying an organization’s work! For example, let’s say an after-school tutoring program served 650 students during the 2017-2018 school year. You could further break that number down by age and frequency of services:

Age group Session Frequency Number of participants Total number of sessions provided
3rd-5th grades Weekly for 10 weeks 320 320×10=3,200
6th-8th grades Weekly for 15 weeks 330 330×15=4,950
Total tutoring sessions provided= 8,150

With a few simple calculations, we have a powerful representation of the work this tutoring team has accomplished! However, outputs alone don’t display programmatic impact.

Outcomes go one more step in showing impact. Outcomes are the changes in knowledge or behavior that you want your clients to experience as a result of your program. They are the “so what” of your services and activities. There are three levels of outcomes that you want to set and measure:

  1. Short-term: What changes in knowledge, attitude or behavior do you want to see in your clients by the time they complete your program or service?
  2. Intermediate: What changes do you want to see in client knowledge, attitude or behavior 6 months-12 months following program completion?
  3. Long-term: What changes do you want to see in client knowledge, attitude or behavior 1+ years after program completion?

IMG_5774

We recently worked with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) to develop short-term, intermediate and long-term outcomes. They are focused on helping get more students of color to and through postsecondary education. Here are three steps that we used to help them establish clear outcomes that assess the impact of their organization.

1. Align to Organizational Mission and Purpose

When you set outcomes, you want to make sure that they align with your organizational mission and benchmarks. CLD’s programming and organizational benchmarks are centered around five principles for success: character development, educational excellence, leadership effectiveness, community service, and career achievement. We helped them establish several outcomes that aligned with their programs, missions, and key principles. 

2. Review Funder’s Priorities 

When receiving grant funding or large donations, organizations often make commitments about what they will accomplish with those funds. Therefore, you want to make sure that future outcomes still align with your current funding priorities and commitments. We worked with CLD to make sure that their many outcomes aligned with the commitments they had made with their current funders.

3. Develop SMART Outcomes

When working with clients to develop outcomes, we follow the “SMART” rubric. We plan to write a full blog to go more in-depth about the SMART rubric, but for now the main takeaway is that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

One of CLD’s long-term desired outcomes is for 75% of their participants to earn a bachelor’s degree or credential within six years of high school graduation. This outcome aligns perfectly with their mission and funding commitments, but is it SMART? Let’s check!

Copy of Establishing Clear Outcomes draft (2)With their clear outcomes established, CLD now has a road map of where they want their participants to go. This road map not only helps CLD stay on course, but it also helps to paint a picture of their desired impact for their funders and supporters. Now they are ready to move on to the next step of their evaluation: Creating or modifying data tools and systems!

If you’re ready to evaluate your program, but are hesitant to take the first step, contact us today!

 

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What is the Breakeven Point for Your Early Childhood Education Program?

For early childhood education programs, as well as other nonprofits, it is important to know the organization’s “breakeven point.” This is the point at which your expenses and revenue break even, meaning you have enough funding to run your program.breakeven-point

Operating a high-quality early childhood education program is expensive. Child Care Aware of America produced a report in 2017 called Parents and the High Cost of Care. This report discusses the aspects of high-quality programs that drive up the cost. It also acknowledges the gap between the cost of operating a program and the amount that families can afford to pay.

Often, program administrators cannot pass that entire expense on to families of young children because most families cannot afford the full cost. Child Care Aware of America finds that nationally, on average, married couples spend 10% of their income on child care for one child while single parents spend 36%. Therefore, many programs end up stitching together various funding streams in order to make it to their breakeven point.

At Transform Consulting Group, we’ve partnered with Early Learning Indiana on a project designed to improve the financial stability and sustainability of early childhood education programs. We’re currently working with 10 early childhood education programs in Indiana to help them access new funding streams and accomplish their financial goals.

For many programs, their financial goal was to improve their internal systems, procedures, and accounting practices. They did not know exactly how much they needed to bring in weekly, monthly, or annually to meet their financial obligations—let alone make any changes, such as increasing staff wages, expanding to serve more children, or implementing a scholarship or tuition assistance program.

For this project, we adapted a tool developed by First Children’s Finance that helps programs determine their breakeven point. This tool enables programs to determine the total expenses and revenue of their overall program. It also calculates the number of children they need to enroll in each classroom in order for each room to break even. If your program doesn’t already calculate your breakeven points, there are many reasons to start now!

Why Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

Calculating your breakeven point for your overall program and each classroom tells you whether or not your current levels of revenue truly cover all your expenses. Many early childhood education programs know that the tuition parents can afford to pay does not cover their costs, but they may not know what their true deficit is. Other programs know their overall annual surplus or deficit, but they don’t know how much revenue they need to break even in each classroom.

For example, it is more expensive to operate infant classrooms than preschool classrooms. If you calculate your breakeven points, you may learn that enrolling your preschool rooms at 90% of their capacity will cover the deficit in your infant rooms. Infant care is a significant need in most communities and therefore it is likely an important part of the mission of an early childhood education program. Because of this, programs accept the fact that they will have a deficit in those rooms, but now they can move forward with a plan to recoup their losses.

As in the example above, other types of nonprofits also need to be aware not only of their overall breakeven point, but also the breakeven points of their various programs. An after-school organization might run an arts program, a sports program, and an academic enrichment program. The after-school leadership team may learn that the arts program isn’t currently breaking even but scaling up the program would help the bottom line.

When Should You Calculate Your Breakeven Point?

Some organizations may decide to use a breakeven tool annually, updating it to provide a check on how they are budgeting. Another use of a breakeven tool is when an organization is considering a change like one of the following:

  • Moving to a different location with different space constraints
  • Expanding one or more existing programs
  • Adding a new program
  • Anticipating the loss of a particular funding source

One of the ten early childhood education programs we worked with during this project was Mt. Pleasant Child Development Center. They were excited to be able to use the breakeven tool as a check on how each of their classrooms’ breakeven points factor into their budget. They also wanted to use the information gleaned from the tool to determine how much funding they can reinvest in their staff benefits.

At TCG, we understand that performing this kind of financial assessment can be difficult and time-consuming. If your program needs support with evaluating your current budget or help with achieving your future goals, contact us today!

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3 Steps for Creating a Fund Development Case Statement

A fund development case statement is a broad three- to five-page overview of your nonprofit organization that highlights who you are and what sets you apart from other similar nonprofits. Your case statement sets a foundation for grant applications and donation requests.  

Fund Dev Case Statement Blog

At Transform Consulting Group, we use 3 steps when partnering with organizations to create a fund development case statement. We recently used these steps to develop a case statement for the Johnson County Learning Center (JCLC): Early Learning Community. JCLC provides early childhood education for families in Johnson County. Right now, they are seeking to increase their overall funding and diversify their funding streams. They are new to fund development, so one of our solutions was to help develop their case statement.

Step 1: What is the Need?

Address the compelling need for your organization or cause. Why do you exist? What happened to spark the founding of the organization? Why do you continue to operate? What problem(s) in particular are you working to solve? Consider the following:

    • Demographics: Who is your target population? What are some key data points that characterize them and demonstrate their unmet need?
    • Services: Is there a lack of services like yours? Are you filling a critical gap? Do you provide speciality services that are needed and missing?
    • Research: What does the literature say about why your work matters? What studies have been done that demonstrate the importance of your work and cause?

Tip: Use available, relevant information. Perhaps organizations in your community or region have conducted needs assessments. For state and national data sources, check out our blog.

For JCLC’s case statement, we used Census data to help funders and donors get a sense of the community’s demographics. Since they work in the early learning and education industry, we pulled data from the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) county profiles and interactive dashboard and the Indiana Department of Education.

Step 2: What are You Currently Doing?

Address what you are currently doing to meet the need. How does your organization fill the existing gap in your community? Consider the following:

    • Programming: What are the programs and services that you offer? What makes them uniquely effective?
    • Impact: What are your results and accomplishments, including the numbers served and outcomes? What positive trends or recent changes have you identified?
    • Stories: Who can tell personal stories about the positive impact of your organization in their lives?

Tip: Use existing language from your website, annual report, and newsletters.

JCLC had already developed content for their website to communicate their mission and programming. In addition, they pulled some data reports to provide more detail about their reach and partnerships. We were able to use their existing language and data as a foundation for their fund development case statement.

Step 3: What are Your Plans for the Future?

Address what else you hope to accomplish that will better meet the need of your target population. This is why you are asking for grant funding. Consider the following:

    • Unmet Need: Why do you want this grant funding? Is there a population or geographic area you are unable to serve?
    • Your Case: How is what you are currently doing (while great) not enough to meet the compelling need? What are your limitations?
    • Your Proposal: How would you use the funding in order to meet the need?
      • Expand Services: Is the need overwhelming and you need to serve more?
      • Enhance Services: Do you need to refine your services or programs in a particular way, such as specializing or retooling them to meet the needs of the target population?
      • Launch New Services: Do you need to start something new to fill a gap, perhaps based on new research; a new community needs assessment; or a changing target population?

Tip: There’s no need to start from scratch if you don’t have to! Consider if you have written similar information for other grants or reporting requirements. More than likely you have this information in multiple places and just need to thoughtfully pull it together.

Data from ELAC and Child Care Aware of America shows that in Johnson County, there are many families who cannot afford the cost of early childhood education. At the same time, a growing body of research shows the positive impact for children, especially low-income children, attending a high-quality early education program. These children can achieve positive academic, social, and economic outcomes (ELAC Annual Report, 2018). There is a need for community investment to create a more robust scholarship program that would help make sure all families can access the education needed for their youngest children. Now, JCLC will share this data with local funders to seek the specific dollar amounts necessary to increase the number of children served by their scholarship program.

If your nonprofit needs to seek additional funding or you would like help reviewing or creating a fund development case statement, contact us today to get your organization on the way to financial strength and sustainability!

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