Adding new software is a major investment for philanthropic organizations. While improved tools can help automate business processes and create more efficient workflows, adding a new software solution can take years of research and hundreds of thousands of dollars for implementation and system integration.
It’s a big job, and new software alone is no guarantee that an organization will improve outcomes enough to cover the cost of installation. Read more and take part in a 10 question survey on best practices here.
An investment in a nonprofit back office can reap benefits in the community.
Nonprofits work long hours to strengthen their community by decreasing homelessness, reducing racism, and improving the environment, to name just a few ways. Philanthropic organizations invest in these charities to help achieve those community-changing results. Yet how do these charitable organizations—the healers—cure their own pain and build their own capacity to do more?
In September, more than 80 social-sector financial staff gathered to learn how to transform their back offices to recapture and reinvest time back into community-building services. Attendees reported gaining many new ideas on ways to streamline what they were already doing.
Learn more at: Healers heal themselves – nonprofits build internal capacity
See the presentation document at: NFG Sept 2019 Presentation Transform AP Presentation!
Has your organization brought in new software with great promise and not achieved the desired results? Has the new software failed to improve the workflow? Has implementation of new software damaged credibility?
Now you can both learn and share your experience through our “Maximize Business Process and Outcomes During New Software Install Survey”. The goal of this ten-question survey is to gather philanthropic organization leaders’ views and experiences in redesigning processes when installing new software. The survey responses will be aggregated to identify best practices.
Survey link: Maximize Outcomes During New System Install Survey
Thank you for investing in this survey, yourself and others in the philanthropic industry!
Accounting and finance departments routinely get tasked with accounts payable responsibilities. And we work hard to get payments out timely and accurately. Yet are we doing all we can to work efficiently and effectively? Or are there delays, duplicate payments, rounds of rework, or late payments?
Lee Kuntz is facilitating a session at the next Nonprofit Financial Group of the Twin Cities meeting to surface accounts payable best practices. In this September 26, 2019 session, attendees will hear the latest on how nonprofits are transforming their accounts payable process into a sleek, painless operation while recapturing hundreds even thousands of hours of time.
Attendees at this no cost meeting will hear the results of Lee Kuntz’s 2019 survey of nonprofit accounts payable tool and payment method best practices. Also seasoned accounts payable staff will share their experience in streamlining their processes. These leaders have successfully recaptured work time and enhanced accounts payable outcomes.
What would your nonprofit do with 1,000 hours of work time back?
The learning objectives for this session are:
• Learn the latest technology tools and payment methods
• Learn to measure process efficiency and effectiveness
• Learn the process transformation steps to recapture time, get responsibilities in the right place and better control expenses
• Learn how nonprofits are getting support for new accounts payable system investments
Register for this no cost session at: Registration: Transform Accounts Payable!
Lee Kuntz, process improvement speaker, trainer, coach, and strategist, has helped numerous nonprofits to successfully create capacity and deliver better and faster results to their community. Lee believes employees are the right people to improve how work is done. When they have skills-and-will in continuous process improvement, they can achieve impressive results.
Clients Lee has trained and coached have recaptured thousands of hours of work time from their back office and have reinvested the time saved into the community. These organizations
Is your organization planning and budgeting for next 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, invest in process transformation to recapture capacity and solve pain points.
This is planning and budgeting season for about 70% of the organizations I know. Many are creating concrete plans and budgets to solve their pain points in 2020. If they do not, organizations will experience the same old pain and frustration in 2020.
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. These leaders 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 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 coaching during in their annual plan. Here are the results they are achieving.
• Recapturing over 4,000 work hours.
• Sharing services across functions.
• Maximizing use of existing technology.
• Remaining error-free for 3 years.
• Delivering to customers in half the time.
• Transforming their organizations through ongoing improvement.
Recently we surveyed our clients’ process transformation results. Our customers achieved a return of 1.5 to 3 times their investment during the first year after implementation. This return came in the form of recaptured time and error-free results. Then these organizations continued to receive time back and positive feedback from customers over time.
Figure 1: Return on Transformational Process Improvement
In addition, achieving this enviable return on their investment, 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.
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 cost of the training and coaching depends upon the amount, level, and number of days needed. My firm offers a half day and a full day think differently process transformation workshop. Contact me to learn more about training options.
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.
Will you or your colleagues be attending the 2019 Foundation Administrators Officers Group (FAOG) Conference for community foundations in September? I ask as I am delivering our Introduction to Transformational Process Improvement Training™ on Wednesday, September 11. The FAOG conference ends at 11 am Wednesday. This transformational process improvement training session starts Wednesday at noon.
Introduction to Transformational Process Improvement Training™ is both the first three hours of our one-day training and the first of our five course transformational process improvement training series. See how community foundations transform their donor advised fund grants process to a better, faster and less laborious outcome. See how they recapture hundreds even thousands of work hours from their gifts process while delivering acknowledgements to their donors better and faster.
Learn more and register at: Introduction to Transformational Process Improvement Training after FAOG. Registration for this training is limited to 15 attendees to ensure everyone has a great experience. Registration closes once 15 people have registered or on August 31, 2019, whichever comes first.
If instead your organization is ready to learn to do transformational process improvement, check out our one-day training in Florida on August 22, 2019 or contact me to frame having the training at your site.
Glad to share this opportunity to learn these important concepts while at the FAOG Conference! Contact me with any questions.
The work week should be over, but the office is buzzing, and the chief financial officer is making the rounds one more time. Foundation policy says grantee checks must be in the mail by end of day Friday, and there are still dozens of outstanding items. Everyone is staying late, because if those checks don’t get out, grantees can’t act on their programs. People can’t get help. And the foundation board is sure to hear about it.
If that scene sounds uncomfortably familiar, you’re not alone. Learn more: Invest for Impact: Continuous Process Improvement
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
Have you done process improvement? Have you seen piles of paper or duplicate steps in the processes around you? Perhaps you have implemented some process improvement tweaks to improve how work is done.
Some organizations achieve big success through a specific approach to process improvement. They recapture hundreds—even thousands—of hours of time. These leaders deliver error-free results year after year. They have changed their culture into one characterized by ongoing improvement.
Their secret? These organizations engage in continuous process improvement (CPI). In my experience, CPI in sectors that serve and help means maximizing every aspect of the organization’s operations. One community foundation used CPI to recapture more than 4,000 work hours. Another now delivers grants twice a week rather than once a week. Would your organization like to achieve those kinds of results? What does it take to move from making small tweaks through process improvement to achieving comprehensive results through continuous process improvement?
Organizations achieving impressive CPI results do so by insourcing their continuous improvement efforts. One key is to invest in training in CPI tools. This training is critical for three reasons.
First, continuous process improvement is ongoing. Relying on outside consultants to identify ways to improve the team’s work is cost prohibitive. Also, many times employees don’t agree with the recommended changes and thus fail to implement the outsiders’ ideas. To increase the likelihood of buy-in, employees need to be the ones identifying process improvement opportunities.
Building employee CPI skills, their process muscle, equips an organization to successfully improve process and results continuously.
For example, one community foundation trains every employee in the CPI skills needed to do their job. This training brought the language and culture of CPI to the entire foundation. Now employees see and talk about value added and non-value-added work. Said their CFO about her organization’s CPI program, “It’s part of our day-to-day culture.”
A second reason building CPI skills is beneficial for those working in the help-and-serve sector is that CPI is more comprehensive than informal process improvement. Some of the more advanced CPI tools include performing a waste assessment, conducting root cause analysis, and triggering human change management.
Employees in our sector are specialists in their assigned tasks. They work with public or civic programs to achieve success. They understand workflows. They effectively utilize very detailed systems. Through CPI, employees can gain access to a whole new set of tools that will enhance their performance and produce better results for their organization. Employee training is essential in order for the CPI tools to be used effectively.
The good news is that these tools are completely learnable. With coaching, employees can understand how to apply the principles of CPI in many different situations. One community foundation leader said, “Lee, you took what I thought was going to be a stringent, complex methodology and made it easy to understand and feasible to apply to our organization. Everyone participated and was thoroughly engaged in the process improvement training.”
A third reason CPI training is critical for organizational efficiency is that it brings a fresh perspective about how to approach work. Most employees have engaged in other approaches to process improvement, and they bring those notions, opinions, and experiences to CPI. For example, do you have people in your organization who have they done work the same way for ten years? Have you had the same improvement conversations again and again with no measurable improvement in how work is done?
In order to be successful in CPI, employees must be willing to think differently about how to get work done and be open to learning dramatically different ways of accomplishing their goals.
We all are at different readiness levels to accept change. At any point in time, we can be ready (green) or not ready (red) for change. CPI training helps people move from not ready (red) to more ready (yellow), and then to fully ready (green).
CPI training helps employees take that readiness journey. I see many CPI training attendees come in with their arms folded, fully prepared to resist the encouragement to change. CPI training makes it safe for employees to speak up about what they see when they do work. By the end of the training, even resistant attendees relax and understand that CPI is about process, not people. This acceptance and the related engagement are fundamental to successful CPI results, and both are a regular outcome of our process improvement training. Recently an executive vice president in our industry said of the CPI training and coaching: “We needed to create capacity and we did. Yet we achieved so much more. Now we have a culture of ongoing improvement.”
Organizations that help and serve others can leverage CPI to recapture thousands of hours of time, become error-free year after year, and deliver better and faster results to their community and customers. You can do the same through CPI training. Learn more about CPI training and check out our new Training Real Time video here: https://www.improveprocess.net/services/#process-improvement-training
Contact Lee Kuntz to learn more about how organizations that serve and help are curing pain points and achieving impressive results