Thrive During the Busy Donation Season Through this Best Practice

Category: Process Improvement Training

Thrive During the Busy Donation Season Through this Best Practice

October 19, 2023 | 12:32 pm

Many foundations and nonprofits receive the majority of their contributions during November and December. This makes for a busy donation season, which can result in employee stress and delayed responses to donors and grantees. Instead, some teams take one hour to conduct a process walk through, which enables them to thrive during this busy season.

The Best Practice to Create Capability
The volume of work during this time can overwhelm normally adequate processes and capacity. A way to create capacity and to firm up processes during the upcoming onslaught is to conduct a one-hour process walk through of any high-volume processes. This best practice reminds employees of how work needs to be done, identifies sticking points and engages the team in making backlogs visible and solvable.

An effective process walk through follows specific steps. Here is a link to my firm’s IPD Process Talk Walk through Best Practices. Feel free to print this document and use it during your process walk through.

And contact me with any questions or to talk about what you see during busy season. As a process coach and trainer, I have seen teams go from drowning to thriving during November and December. Your team can also.

Nonprofit Builds Muscles to Deliver More Community Assistance

September 5, 2023 | 2:06 pm

Is doing more for your community one of your organization’s goals?

Situation

A community action agency (CAP) was working hard to address all the energy assistance requests from their community while tracking with funder regulations. The agency’s energy assistance department was draining funds from the rest of the agency rather than being self-sustaining as it was supposed to be. To compound these challenges, the team was going into energy assistance season down two staff. How was this team going to meet its community’s energy assistance needs with fewer staff, yet still perform well in the government’s regulatory audit?

Solution

The director of energy assistance met with IPD’s Lee Kuntz to share the team’s goals and challenges. Lee then recommended IPD’s four-hour Think Differently Concepts™ skill building workshop and a one-day coached deep dive into energy assistance processes and operations to help employees identify, accept, and solve the problems that were hampering their operations.

Lee then provided the training workshop and coached the fourteen-person energy assistance team through the one-day process deep dive. Through this work, the staff began to understand that operations pain points were caused by their poor process, not people. With this new understanding, the staff engaged, using their workshop time to identify the process steps that were essential and effective, and those that were not. This coached team reduced energy assistance application intake from 77 steps to 45 better steps. Then staff members generated numerous ideas on how to improve their energy assistance operations. After IPD handed off the project to the energy assistance director, who led the team in implementing the ideas over the next several weeks. IPD delivered what it promised on budget and on time.

Results

As a result of IPD’s workshop and the team’s hard work, the agency was able to hit its regulator’s turnaround time deadlines with fewer staff, due to recapturing over 2,000 work hours, and at lower cost during the next energy assistance season. The team also received fewer regulatory audit comments. Now, the team continues to improve how it delivers energy assistance services to its community.

Build Process and System Success through a One-time Process Investment

April 19, 2023 | 2:17 pm

Is your organization installing new technology this year? You are not alone. About 50% of organizations are installing new software this year. And that is not about to change.

Given the cost of technology, managing new software installation and maximizing technology is now a core piece of organization work. Here is a story of one organization’s journey to build their skills to make software pay for itself.

Build Process and System Success through a One-time Process Investment.

To learn more about how today’s nonprofit is maximizing software, check out our newly published article: Bust these myths and save 2,800 hours in day-to-day operations.

 

Finally Solve the Process Pain Points in Your Operations

January 16, 2023 | 2:25 pm

Community foundations can fulfill their mission only when their day-to-day operations function well. Is your foundation being held back by a process that is no longer working as it should?

Do you see pain points in your foundation’s daily operations? Are these challenges taking a lot of time to work around? Are agonizing problems such as slowness in gift confirmation or grant payment turnaround leading to unfulfilled promises to your community?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, check out our next Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™.

Approach that Creates Success

Community foundations are using our twelve-hour virtual workshop to solve their pain points. Foundation employees who have participated in this deep-dive workshop have resolved their ongoing challenges through the following ways—and others:

• Improved scholarship processes and practices in order to meet community needs with less labor.
• Redesigned gift processes to deliver more impactful confirmations more swiftly.
• Modified board meeting preparation so it requires less labor.
• Mapped processes and opportunities in preparation for a new software.
• Created or enhanced electronic payment.

The keys to these teams’ success is the proven operations transformation training and coaching Innovation Process Design (IPD) provides. To learn more about how our expertise can benefit your organization, watch a sample of a virtual and an in-person process deep dive in this short video: IPD Process Transformation Deep Dive Video Link.

For over 20 years, our community foundation clients say they have achieved the results they need from our process transformation services. We consistently hear feedback such as the following:

About the Workshop

In this twelve-hour virtual workshop, one or more members of your staff will be coached to redesign one process that is holding your foundation back. Participants will be taught how to identify sticking points in that process and will receive individualized coaching to help them develop workable solutions based on proven practices. Also from this cohort format, your staff will also learn by hearing about the pitfalls the other three organizations are facing and how they can confront them successfully.

What your foundation will get from this workshop:
• Solutions and a newly designed process to solve your team’s frustrations;
• An implementation plan delineating how to put the new approach in place; and
• An empowered staff member(s) with greater process transformation skills and motivation to become a change agent within your organization.

Learn more about this practical workshop here: Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop

The cost of this workshop is $1,800 for the first attendee.  The cost per additional attendee working on the same challenge is $1,000. These prices are designed to make this outcome-oriented coaching accessible to all foundations. This workshop is scheduled for May 8 – May 11, 2023; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm CT each day.

Next Steps

In order to ensure personalized coaching for each attendee, this workshop is limited to four foundations. Therefore, contact Lee Kuntz soon to get answers or to register for this workshop. Other foundations have solved their operations process pain points through this workshop. You can too.

About Lee Kuntz and Innovation Process Design

As founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Lee Kuntz has spent over two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges faced by leaders of complex service organizations. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results.

How Did Your End-of-Year Rush Go?

January 9, 2023 | 9:54 am

Many community foundations and other nonprofits receive the majority of their gifts in November and December. Even though leaders plan for this hectic time, employees often work long hours under significant stress, and despite their best efforts, they provide slow service to their community, which inevitably results in complaints.

Did you experience any of these problems and pitfalls during your organization’s end-of-year rush?

The good news is that your employees do not have to be pushed to exhaustion as they tackle year-end duties. Taking action in 2023 to redesign gift and grants processes will enable your team to seamlessly serve your community without burning out.

 Processes are Built for Slow Times

Most organizations’ processes and operations are built for the first ten months of the year when everything moves at a slower pace. From January through October, work gets done on schedule, staff members go home on time, and the community receives the service they expect.

Then November and December hit, when 70% of most organizations’ gifts and grant recommendations come in. Even by restricting vacations in order to create capacity, there just is not enough work time to produce the expected results. Instead, processes and operations break under pressure, causing more delays, errors, and calls from donors seeking updates.

 The Solution for 2023

If your team experienced any of these significant challenges at the end of 2022, you need a significant solution. That solution is a coached deep dive into your organization’s operations.

Teams that engage our help by way of a deep dive into their gift or grants operations increase capacity and turnaround time by 30% to 60%—and that is by using resources they already have in place. These teams build their process skills and then decrease and improve the steps of work, recapturing capacity that they can leverage during busy times.

For example, one foundation went from 125 steps to 42 steps in the course of being coached on a redesign of their donor advised fund (DAF) grants process. This dramatic reduction created capacity and built the team’s ability to nimbly help each other get work done. Figure 1 shows the working model of this team’s grants operations before and after their deep dive.

Figure 1

How Process Deep Dive Success Happens

One key to our success in achieving measurable results during our deep dives is using proven process transformation techniques and training. As we build a team’s skills-and-will to change how work is done, staff identify opportunities for improvement, often generating between 20 and 50 ideas. Since the ideas come from employees who are actually carrying out the processes, they are excited to engage in the transformation and then maintain the new processes. Check out how both an in-person and a virtual deep dive look in this brief video: deep dive video.

Are You Ready to Succeed?

Are you hoping your organization’s year-end tasks will go better in November and December 2023 than they have in previous years? Do you and your employees want to see more of your families during the holidays? Do you want to avoid errors and slow service that will frustrate the community you serve?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, contact me, Lee Kuntz, to talk through what you see and to discuss a plan to achieve your goal. You can also join us on Wednesday, February 15 for our IPD Webinar: Build Operations Success into Your Annual Plan. Or learn more about what it takes to do a process deep dive in this blog post: This Year, Plan to Succeed!

Other organizations have transformed their processes to achieve greater success. You can too!

About Lee Kuntz and Innovation Process Design

As founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Lee Kuntz has spent over two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges faced by leaders of complex service organizations. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results. Contact Lee with questions or to talk about your situation and what you want to achieve.

Lead Operations Transformation to Increase Community Impact

October 6, 2022 | 7:19 am

Does your organization face nearly overwhelming demand, yet you have limited resources or staffing to fulfill that demand?

I am told that being under resourced and understaffed is a common constraint for nonprofits. Despite such limitations, community action councils (CACs) are doing amazing work as the last line of support to address poverty in their communities. But our communities need more help.

In this blog series, you will read how CACs are engaging staff to change how work is done, resulting in a bigger community impact. I will share with you ways your team can meet and exceed community and program needs with the resources you have now. CAC employees who use these approaches are feeling engaged and empowered. Boards are satisfied and communities are being served at a new level. Would those outcomes be valuable to you?

Operations in Community Action Councils

All organizations have two aspects to their work: what they do and how they do it.

Both are important and both are needed to make an impact on the communities that they serve. Now let’s look at each side of the organizations’ work.

What we do: This aspect consists of the services an organization offers. What we do is based on decisions we think long and hard about. We test them. We adjust them. They are important. Collectively, these decisions about an organization’s mission guide the development of that organization’s strategy. Generally, people think that strategy creates community impact.

How we do it: How we execute that strategy or how we do work is also important. It relates to how we deliver services. This is generally considered operations. We spend about 90% of our time and resources on operations. Therefore, the how is important.

Figure 1

Looking at organizations through the lens of strategy and operations is common in for-profit organizations. Many have a chief operations officer who is accountable for how the work gets done. For-profit organizations typically have operational titles and roles at the director, manager, and individual contributor levels. These organizations understand the power of the how.

What the How Looks Like in CAC Agencies

Within CAC agencies, decisions about strategy and tactics are made by CAC leaders in conjunction with the board. For example, some energy assistance programs offer three levels of energy support as shown below.

The specifics of an organization’s operations are determined by the agency’s staff. They design how work should be done. In this example, the five steps describe how an agency might provide the various levels of support to its clients.

Figure 2

Focus on Operations

Given my experience and certifications, I see myself primarily as an operations coach and trainer. I help teams put good ideas into practice. I believe CAC employees are the right people to improve how processes and operations happen. With strong process improvement skills, they can achieve impressive results for their community. I have seen it over and over again. Working with teams to enhance their skills-and-will to do work better and deliver impact is my passion and my vocation.

Levers to Improve Operations and Increase Community Impact

The good news about operations is that we have tools and approaches to make processes work well and deliver great outcomes, with the primary goal always being to maximize community impact. These levers include work steps, equipment, roles and responsibilities, training, forms, and internal rules.

Figure 3

Regulations may mandate the forms you use, yet it is these six operational levers that can help you maximize your impact in the community.

I recently worked with a CAC transportation team to help them better leverage their six operational levers. Through process training and then a one-day deep dive, the CAC team determined that they could improve their ride intake process and outcomes through maximizing use of their existing tools, adjusting roles and responsibilities, retraining request intake staff, rethinking their internal policies, and simplifying work steps. As a result of the team’s work, they quickly implemented their new mobile vaccination van, employing new processes to deliver an improved rider experience.

Conclusion

All nonprofit organizations, including CAC teams, can improve their operations to provide more services and generate greater impact for their community. If your organization is experiencing unlimited demand with limited resources, you have the opportunity to look at your operations to improve outcomes. Other organizations are expanding their community impact by leveraging these six operational levers. You can too.

Learn more about improving operations through our next blog post, or contact Lee Kuntz to discuss your unique situation.

This Year, Plan to Succeed!

March 7, 2023 | 2:40 pm

Use Process Improvement to Transform Outcomes.

Is your organization planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year? Are you tired of fighting the same pain points year after year, such as overwhelming workloads, demands for better or faster results, or challenges to maximize costly technology? During this year’s budgeting and planning season, consider investing in a coached process deep dive to recapture capacity and solve pain points.

Create a Plan that Succeeds

This is planning and budgeting season for about 30% of the organizations I know. Even with today’s unusual times, many are creating concrete plans and budgets to solve their pain points this year and beyond. If they do not, organizations will experience the same old pain and frustration they have in the past.

Organizations that help and serve others are recapturing hundreds—even thousands—of hours of capacity. They are serving their customers, community, board, funders, and donors in half the time. They are retaining employees. Their secret? Investing to transform processes and results.

Most of us have done process improvement. We have tweaked processes and resolved breaks. Some organizations are taking their improvement work to a transformational level. They are cutting their work steps in half and delivering to their key partners in fraction of the time. They are freeing up thousands of staff hours that can be used for other purposes.

These organizations budget for an investment in process transformation training and a coached deep dive during their annual planning. Here are the results they are achieving.
•    Recapturing over 4,000 work hours.
•    Sharing services across functions.
•    Maximizing expensive technology.
•    Remaining error-free for 3 years.
•    Delivering to customers in half the time.

Does it work? In a survey of process redesign results, our customers cut their process work steps by 52%, improving quality and speed while recapturing time. Figure 1 illustrates the before and after steps of several organization’s redesigned processes.

Figure 1: Process Change with Process Transformation

In addition to achieving this enviable result, these leaders are committed to building a culture of ongoing improvement. They can easily fix and improve any process and result because they have learned the tools to see and solve transformation opportunities. Their employees are fully invested in the process transformation game because they have been involved as stakeholders since the inception of the training.

Here is a case study about one team’s journey: Case Study: Community Foundation Creates Powerful Scholarship Program

 Invest in Building Process Improvement Muscle

Leaders are bringing the story of process transformation to their organizations’ annual planning discussions. Yet a common question is: What does the initial investment consist of?

The initial investment in transformational process improvement includes two components: dedicated staff time for learning and implementing new approaches and out-of-pocket costs for training and coaching.

A typical employee will spend between 5 and 40 hours annually doing successful process transformation.

The out-of-pocket cost of the training and coaching depends upon the amount, level, and number of hours needed. Our training to help teams think and act differently includes our live online or onsite 4-hour Concepts and our 4-hour Tools think differently process transformation training. After the training, we coach your team either onsite or live online to use their new process skills to dramatically improve a key process. These process team coaching sessions are between 20 and 30 hours together.

See a process deep dive coaching session here: IPD Process Deep Dive Experience – YouTube

Plan to Solve Pain Points in the Coming Year

Organizations that train their employees in process transformation find that work gets done faster and with fewer errors. The time saved leads to better service to the organizations’ customers and community, and greater job satisfaction among employees. You can, too! Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more about how your organization can plan to solve pain points and thrive.

Installing a new software system? A process map will create better outcomes for your organization

July 5, 2022 | 10:55 am

 

Recently, a software vendor told me that organizations considering a new software system would do well to supply their vendor with a detailed process map. Having such a map helps the vendor better address the organization’s needs and generate a more accurate quote. In four hours of work with your team, my firm can produce a process map that will help you achieve a better software outcome. Contact Lee Kuntz, CLSSBB to learn more.

Community Foundation Creates Powerful Scholarship Program

September 20, 2021 | 10:51 am

Is one person in your organization performing a critical role, the responsibilities of which are not even known to others? Then you might appreciate this foundation’s success story.

Case Study: Community Foundation Creates Powerful Scholarship Program

Excellent Operations Help Deliver Community Impact

September 10, 2021 | 2:36 pm

Most philanthropic organizations take pains to carefully design and then redesign their mission, strategy, and programs. They, along with their board of directors, often hire strategic consultants and share best practices with like-minded organizations to frame their goals and objectives. Yet many spend little time improving their daily operations to deliver on these plans, even though community impact will happen only by doing so.

Importance of Operations

Sound planning without excellent execution is unlikely to produce the desired results. Operations—meaning how work gets done—is the key determinant of whether organizations succeed in accomplishing their mission. For philanthropic organizations, the nuts and bolts of operations are what enable teams to award and deliver grants quickly, set up and service fund accounts accurately, and work effectively with their board.

Not surprisingly, the majority of grantmakers’ resources are spent on operations. Our recent informal study showed only about 10% of employee time is used for mission, strategy, and program design. Yet 90% of employee time is spent on the operations to deliver on that planning. Yet in philanthropic organizations, little energy is spent maximize those operations resources.

Each full-time employee of a philanthropic organization works about 2,000 hours annually. Staff leaders can assign and manage that time in an efficient and effective way. Or they can assign employees to tasks that duplicate efforts and don’t add value. Either way, the money is gone and the community pays for that time through fewer grant dollars being spent.

Operations Skills

Operations success requires specific skills. These include focusing on details to produce desired results, practicing strong project and task management, solving problems effectively, and having a deep working knowledge of process management and improvement.

A great first step toward enhancing operations expertise is to identify employees with an operations aptitude, then provide them process management and improvement training. Our operations and process transformation training uses proven process methodologies to maximize what the organization already has to improve outcomes. We show attendees how to maximize work steps, technology, business rules, roles, training, and forms—all of which are components of operations.

As a result of our training and coaching during these deep-dive events, we see organizations achieving a greater understanding of the value of operations work. Their employees are also transforming how work is done, significantly reducing and improving the work steps to decrease turn-around time and improve community impact. Learn more through this case study describing how one team went from overwhelmed and delivering late to making a much greater community impact.

Philanthropic Sector Designs New Operations Roles

In my recent conversations with foundations, I have noticed a greater commitment to scrutinizing how work is done. This includes identifying staff to focus on monitoring operations outcomes while also managing processes and systems. Increasingly, grantmakers are redesigning roles to build in detailed operations accountabilities. We have seen three approaches to this intensified concentration on operations:

Identify an operations person in each major function: Some organizations are establishing operations accountabilities by naming a person in each area as the operations lead. For example, one philanthropy team includes a senior operations manager who “ensures the productivity and efficiency of the Philanthropic Services team while working across departments to improve cross-team collaboration and communication.”

Another organization employs an operations manager who “guides the development and implementation of efficient processes within the Community Programs team to maximize the team’s efforts toward racial and economic equity.” This same organization employs an operations manager in their finance area to deliver on the chief financial officer’s agenda. This operations manager “owns and drives Finance & Operations team planning, project management and process development. The role also is the primary liaison for Finance and Operations communication across teams and collaborates on cross-foundation operations initiatives.”

Hire a chief operations officer (COO): Some organizations are grouping functions that are highly operational into one leadership role. For example, one job posting noted that the COO “will work in alignment and harmony with the CEO and will be responsible for effectively managing the organization’s infrastructure, processes, human and financial resources.”

Another philanthropic group shared that the COO “leads the Information Technology, Grants Administration, Board governance, Human Resources, Organizational Development, Office Management, and business continuity functions.”

Add the management of operations to a senior leader’s responsibilities: Some organizations add “Operations” to the responsibilities of the chief financial officer (CFO) or another leader. One foundation’s description of its CFO and operations role includes: “Responsible for leading the Foundation’s financial reporting, risk management, budget, technology roadmap, and investment oversight.”

Another organization lists some responsibilities of the vice president of finance and operations as follows:

    • Oversee all financial, operational and personnel-related elements of the organization.
    •  Responsible for stewarding over assets and annual revenue focused on growth of philanthropic funds for ongoing community needs.
    • Provide management of and direction to finance and operations staff, and oversight of cross-departmental teams focused on staff engagement, mentorship and wellness opportunities.
    • As member of Senior Leadership Team provide strategic role in overall management of the foundation.

Moving Forward

Making a positive community impact is possible only when effective operational practices are in place. Foundations are now building their operations capabilities and accountabilities, enabling them to focus on both planning and operations successfully. Your organization can too. Contact Lee Kuntz to talk about the operations challenges you see at your organization.

Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.