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™.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
Look at operations processes through the eyes of your community. What do they value? What do they need? Let that data guide your next steps.
I heard this from a community foundation CEO: “Processes at our organization feel frail. Things happen very slowly, such as our issuance of DAF grants. We have no capacity to grow. We need help in order to make successful changes.”
Lee listened, then brought tools so staff can see what is actually happening.
I provided our four-hour “Concepts Training” to this foundation’s project teams. First, I used several discovery tools to help staff understand where processes were breaking down. Then, through 24 hours of consultation, I coached a cross-functional team to redesign the DAF grants process. This team wanted the same great results for accounts payable, so I coached another team through the redesign of that process. Both teams are now implementing their new processes.
Both processes now contain fewer steps and are being accomplished much faster. The teams learned how to document each process and came to the realization that everyone is part of the solution. They became highly effective, cross-functional teams. This gave them the skills-and-will to replace their main operations system.
See a process deep dive happen: IPD Process Deep Dive Experience Video
May 8 – May 11, 2023. 1 pm – 4 pm CT each day
Community foundations can only fulfill their mission when their day-to-day operations function well. Is your foundation being held back by an operational process that is counterproductive or is causing frustration for staff, grantees or fundholders?
If your answer to this question is yes, please join our next Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™. Learn more: About Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™. Workshop limited to 4 foundations, so contact Lee Kuntz soon.
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 their communities more help. Lead Operations Transformation to Increase Community Impact
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 to learn more.
Who in your organization has the power and responsibility to deliver consistent results to your community? Do these specific staff know that? Recently, as part of our sector survey, we found that community foundations and nonprofits are transitioning from traditional operations roles to new ways of delivering better, more consistent results to their community. Learn more: Refine Operations Roles and Responsibilities to Increase Community Impact
Change for Good: Improve How Work is Done to Solve Pain Points and Recapture Capacity
December 1, 2022 @ 1:00 pm–2:30 pm EST
This presentation is a Midwest Webinar Series event sponsored by the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Philanthropy Ohio, and the Council of Michigan Foundations. Members of any of these organizations are invited to register through their organization. Learn more: About Midwest Series Webinar.
Who in your organization has the power and responsibility to deliver consistent results to your community? Do these specific staff know that?
Recently, as part of our sector survey, we found that community foundations and nonprofits are transitioning from traditional operations roles to new ways of delivering better, more consistent results to their community. Learn more of the survey finding in this executive summary. Innovation Operations Survey Summary.
In this blog series, you will read how foundations and other nonprofits are changing roles, responsibilities, and how they support staff to serve their community with greater impact. I will share ways your team can meet and exceed community and program needs with the resources you have now. Organizations that use these approaches are finding that their staff members feel engaged and empowered. And when communities are being served more effectively and efficiently, boards are satisfied. Would such outcomes be valuable to you?
All organizations have two aspects to their work: what they do (their strategy) and how they do it (their operations). Strategy has long been seen as the driver of community impact. Yet every organization has an opportunity to fulfill its mission more productively by focusing on improving operations, or how work is done.
Learn more about these two aspects in our recent blog article: Lead Operations Transformation to Increase Community Impact.
Operations has several levers to improve how work is done. One is how we assign and support work roles.
Early in my career, I worked with two giant companies, Cargill. and American Express. Leaders in both companies coached staff in how to approach tasks in an efficient manner to achieve the desired outcomes. Whether they used Lean Operations, Six Sigma, or Operational Excellence, these well-run companies maximized the quantity and quality of their work through proven methodologies. By effectively implementing these methodologies, they experienced a high customer retention rate and overall success. When surveyed, their customers said they felt good about their experience with the company.
A component of these organizations’ success was clear accountability about who did which tasks and how they did them. This accountability was reflected in the use of the word operations in their role titles. For example, titles such as vice president of service operations, director of technology operations, and manager of investment operations made it abundantly clear that these individuals were charged with ensuring that day-to-day work done and that the expected outcomes were achieved.
Now, according to my firm’s recent survey, some foundations and other nonprofits are starting to incorporate operations into their job titles and responsibilities just like for-profit entities.
Some organizations are defining accountability for services to the community at the C-suite level. For example, in a community foundation, operations responsibility could include issuing grants, setting up new funds, or processing donations. In a community action agency, a nonprofit that delivers government-sponsored services to community members, an operations leader could be accountable for managing and delivering the expected outcomes for Head Start, transportation services, or energy assistance services. C-suite leaders with operations responsibilities may have a title such as chief operations officer or chief financial and operations officer.
In addition, some complex nonprofits have an operations person in each area of the organization. These people are accountable for getting work done, managing processes and systems, and resolving how they support staff success. Examples include the following roles:
• Donor relations operations
• Program operations
• Finance operations
• Technology operations
Given that operations staff are accountable for doing the work that produces outcomes from each process, they need specific training that will build their skills in systems, process, and change management.
Systems skills: Operations doers must have a deep knowledge of your systems in order to make daily work happen and to troubleshoot emergency issues quickly. For example, if a customer has a complaint, the operations person must be able to use the organization’s technology to unpack what happened and resolve the problem swiftly.
Process skills: Our operations staff manage and monitor the steps of work, while improving those same steps when needed. Managing and monitoring processes to ensure every work step is done as designed is how we deliver a consistent experience to the community. This quality management work and the related skills are the cornerstone of the world-renowned ISO certification and are critical technical skills needed in our sector. Another important process skill is successfully and efficiently improving how work is done. Therefore, managing, monitoring and improving processes are important skills for every operations person.
Change management skills: Doers are accountable for getting work done and for improving the steps of work. Therefore, they need two types of change management skills: task (or project) skills and competence in gaining alignment on changes. These skills are very different than those needed to design programs or foster positive community relations. Therefore, it is important to screen for these skills when hiring and to coach operations staff on how to build these skills once employed.
Savvy doers need to continuously strengthen and broaden their skills, because technology, sector opportunities, and characteristics of the community continuously change. That means you need to budget for training employees on process management and improvement, project management, and human change management, as well as use of your organization’s technology resources.
Learn more about my firm’s process improvement and management training here: Innovation Process Design Services – Process Improvement Training
Refining roles and responsibilities to improve how work is done can help you get more work done. Once operational roles are clearly delineated, your employees can deliver faster and better service to the community. They can recapture capacity and open the door to the next program or level of service. Foundations and nonprofits are taking these steps and experiencing success as a result. You can too.
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 what you see and what you want to achieve.
When a foundation or nonprofit updates its software system, the purchase typically requires years of research and a financial investment that can run well into six figures. So, it’s important to make the most of that purchase. The most effective way to do that is to use system upgrades as an opportunity to reexamine internal processes
That kind of self-reflection allows the organization to get the best return on their investment, while following best practices for a software purchase. In fact, in a recent Innovation Process Design survey, 100% of participants said process design is essential when adding new software. By maximizing internal processes, organizations can get employees out of the back office and back to serving their communities.
“It’s important to have a high-level outlook of what outcomes drive the process and not be married to current processes in order to achieve the same result in a more efficient manner,” wrote one respondent.
“I can’t imagine how you can put in new software without reimaging the process,” wrote another.
In all, 24 philanthropic and nonprofit organizations completed the survey. Approximately half of respondents were financial leaders. The other half were grantmakers and technology leaders. Most respondents — 80% — had recent experience implementing sizable new software projects.
Exactly what reimaging should look like depends on the type of project in question. If your software installation is small or low risk, following vendor best practices or holding internal discussions may be enough. Larger or more involved projects may require an outside coach to lead the process or provide redesign training.
Wondering where to start? Here are a few key questions to answer before you complete your next software purchase:
1. How should you redesign? About half of survey respondents said they typically manage process redesign internally. Another 41% said engaging an outside coach is an important part of the process. A coach’s process improvement expertise can be a powerful tool when employees are hesitant to make changes, too busy to fully focus on the task, or inexperienced in process design.
2. When should you redesign? Reimaging before selecting a new software system gives nonprofits a clear picture of how they can work more efficiently and may even help them realize they don’t yet need new software. Redesigning after a system has been selected but before it’s installed, on the other hand, allows foundations to build new processes with the new system’s capabilities in mind. Building processes after the system is in place is another viable option, but respondents said it often feels like “trying to build a plane while it’s in the air.” Half of respondents to the Innovation Process Design survey said the best time to redesign is after selecting the new system and before installation. Meanwhile, another 37% say redesigning before selecting a new system is the way to go, and the final 12% say redesign should be done after the new system is in place.
3. Should you go big? The answer to this question may depend on the size of your software purchase or the needs of your processes, but 60% of survey respondents said they received more benefit from major process redesign than from minimal or no redesign. For some, going big led to better outcomes, faster implementation, and more significant return on a major systems investment, while giving team members the confidence to ask and resolve questions. In addition, 58% of participants combined process improvement training with redesign. These organizations said they received significant value from process training and this approach.
Understanding the goals of work is the first level of process redesign. It creates a framework that organizations can use as they proceed to the second level, which includes process work — identifying the structure of who does what, and when they do it. The third level is process detail — identifying the screens, fields, reports, and steps used to complete the work. However, all organizations should incorporate level three – process detail – when implementing a new software system.
Once an organization has a clear picture of its needs and the scope of the software project at hand, the team can identify the steps needed for reaching its goal — whether that involves a major design or a few simple process tweaks. This thinking is summarized in a matrix you can use to identify the specific process redesign steps to help your team be successful. See the matrix and survey summary report here: Summary of Reimage Processes for New Software Survey
Changing the way things have always been done is intimidating, and there are inherent risks. But applying time-tested resources in a way that best meets your nonprofit’s needs will make it easier to successfully manage the twists and turns of process transformation.
Donor-advised funds are a big growth area for foundations. More donors are contributing to these accounts at their favorite foundation than ever before. Yet these funds provide little margin to pay for the services they require. Foundations are squeezed between low margins and high service requirements as the number of funds climbs.
Some foundations address this challenge through maximizing each donation opportunity. Some are looking internally. These foundations are decreasing the labor and cost to serve donor-advised funds while delivering better and faster results to their contributors.
When a donor contributes to a donor-advised fund at a public charity, that person is generally eligible to take an immediate tax deduction. Then those funds are invested for tax-free growth, and the giver can recommend grants to virtually any IRS-qualified public charity. Donor-advised funds are the fastest-growing charitable giving vehicle in the United States, because they are one of the easiest and most tax-advantageous ways to give.
Public charities, mainly foundations, receive minimal fees for the work they do to manage donor-advised funds. Yet these funds require substantial services, including investment management, grant payment, and grantee due diligence. For many foundations, the labor and cost of performing these tasks approaches or is greater than the fees they receive for these accounts. As these funds continue to proliferate, some foundations find that managing them siphons significant time away from fulfilling their essential purpose.
Some of these foundations are turning to advanced process improvement to decrease their labor and costs as they support their donor-advised funds. Once they get trained on the tools that are working for community foundations, these proactive leaders are redesigning process to recapture work time while delivering consistently good service to donors.
For example, one community foundation used process implement training and coaching to go from 75 to 39 steps in completing donor-advised grants. Once the new steps were implemented, their average processing time dropped from 50 minutes to only 25 minutes. With the savings of time, the foundation is able to deliver grants more predictably and efficiently—to the delight of donors and the nonprofits that receive those grants. In addition, the recaptured work time is now being used to address other community needs.
Foundation leaders are savvy. They constantly tinker to improve how back-office work is done. But the donor-advised grant squeeze may require more than a few tweaks in process. It may require making an investment in advanced process improvement.
Contact Lee Kuntz to learn how to address this squeeze through redesigning processes. Several community foundations have built their process knowledge and redesigned their donor-advised fund processes to recapture thousands of hours and deliver better and faster results. You can too!
Have you been part of a process improvement project that required an investment of hours upon hours over months or even years? Was a process improvement effort stopped because the team could not agree upon which improvement ideas to implement? Or an improvement initiative that made things worse instead of better?
With results like these, no wonder leaders hesitate to authorize process improvement initiatives. Yet some leaders are achieving impressive results from redesigning processes. They cut the work time to serve their customers in half, recapturing and repurposing thousands of hours. At the same time, they deliver better outcomes to their communities, boards, and partners.
These diametrically opposed outcomes beg the question: What creates the big difference in results?
The difference in results stems, in part, from the varying working definitions of process improvement. One website defines process improvement as “a systematic approach that can be used to make incremental and breakthrough improvements in processes.” While this approach sounds promising, it falls short of bringing transformational change.
A process redesign project that focuses only on improving how work is done will not significantly improve outcomes despite taking many hours of staff time. For example, one team shared that they worked on an improvement project for eighteen months. They met for two hours every month and talked about a host of cutting-edge ideas. Yet the team could not come together behind any idea they were willing to try. After they had invested more than 400 work hours generating ideas without implementing any of them, people started dropping out of the project. Then the CEO identified a new initiative and the team switched its focus to that priority.
I view process improvement more holistically. I see it as a tool to improve outcomes in a broader sense. It can be leveraged to enhance quality, customer experience, accuracy, compliance, or any other key process outcome. When leaders start by identifying the specific outcome(s) that must be improved, they make it possible to achieve impactful process improvement results.
Recently, a chief operations/administration officer (COO) became aware that her organization was incurring significant late-payment penalties. Phone calls about the late payments from both internal managers and external partners were eating up her team’s time, and the organization’s financial resources were being squandered on paying the penalties.
The COO talked with her team about what she saw and then initiated a process redesign project with the specific goal of getting payments out on time. She leveraged my team’s process improvement training and mentoring to help the team better understand what was actually happening. Once her team saw that they could solve the pain they were experiencing, they eagerly stepped forward to be on the redesign team. This team used their new process improvement knowledge to reduce the payment process from 110 steps to 60 steps. Now they are implementing these new ideas and have shortened the time to get payments out. They will no longer be plagued with collection phone calls and can reinvest their time in helping the organization fulfill its key objectives.
Achieving process improvement results starts with identifying the needed outcome(s) first. After all, would you start a road trip without picking a destination? With no destination, you may end up in Alaska, rather than California. Or on the side of the road, out of provisions for the journey. Only through setting a clear destination can your team succeed in achieving the improvement they need.
As a coach and a trainer, I have opportunities to influence leaders as they seek to achieve process improvement results. Therefore, I first ask which outcomes need to be improved.
When leaders focus on improving specific process outcomes, they foster employee engagement and leadership support. Starting with a particularly painful outcome is a great first step. For example, a director of donor relations received calls from three donors who said they received someone else’s gift acknowledgement letter. After awkward apologies were made and the letters were corrected, the director called me to learn how she could quickly address this situation so it would never happen again. I coached her and the team through a four-hour rapid process improvement event. I encouraged the group to kept one essential outcome in mind: Gift acknowledgements must be sent out to the correct donor every time.
Being clear about the goal helped galvanize the team to take action and be laser-focused in their redesign work. This focus shortened the time needed for the improvement work, as there were no side trips that consumed valuable team time and energy.
When your team needs to attain a given process outcome and is missing the mark, think process improvement. Whether your issue is an unhappy customer, overwhelmed employees, or a board demanding answers, start by identifying the specific outcomes needed. Communicating with employees about the missed mark and committing to resolve it can begin your journey to achieve impressive results.
Some organizations have built their process management skills and routinely fix inadequate outcomes successfully and quickly. You can, too. Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to talk through how your team can undertake rapid improvement that achieves process improvement results and promotes organizational success. Achieve Process Improvement Results: Start at the End
May 8 – May 11, 2023; 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm CT each day
Community foundations can only fulfill their mission when their day-to-day operations function well. Is your foundation being held back by an operational process that is counterproductive or is causing frustration for staff, grantees or fundholders?
If your answer to this question is yes, please join our next Process Transformation and Training Cohort Workshop™.
In this 12-hour virtual workshop, one or more members of your team will be coached to redesign the 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.
What your foundation will get from this workshop:
The cost of this workshop is $1,800 for the first attendee. The cost per additional attendee is $1,000.
In order to ensure personalized coaching, this workshop is limited to four foundations, so please register soon by emailing Lee Kuntz.
May 8 – 11, 2023; 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm CT each day
Do you want to be part of your foundation’s initiatives to improve how work is done, which creates a stronger community impact? Do you want to be a change agent who makes such improvements happen?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, please join our virtual Process Transformation Concepts and Tools Training™.
In this training, you will hear and practice the skills to identify common operational pain points that slow down workflow and hamper results. This workshop is specifically designed for new community foundation employees that want to be part of their organization’s process improvement culture.
The cost of this workshop is $1,000 per attendee.
Registration will be limited to eight attendees, so register soon by emailing Lee Kuntz.
Friday, October 14, 12:30 to 1:30 pm PT
Operations—the work done to execute an organization’s mission—is critical to achieving success. Even during the pandemic, communities and foundation boards asked for more from operations staff—more effectiveness, greater efficiency, and a higher degree of accuracy. They want faster turnaround time and the capacity to administer more programs.
Operations and process improvement are key to delivering on these increasing expectations.
In this webinar, Lee Kuntz, certified process coach, will share how foundations have improved their approach to getting work done. Next, Lee will help attendees identify potential opportunities for maximizing how processes, people, and systems can lead to better outcomes and enhanced impact. Finally, Lee will explain the steps needed to achieve game changing results through operations and process improvement.
This webinar is open to Bay FAOG members.