Finally Solve the Process Pain Points in Your Operations

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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.

Upgrading software? Maximize your investment with process reimaging

October 19, 2022 | 2:09 pm

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.

Solve the Donor-Advised Fund Squeeze

October 19, 2022 | 2:07 pm

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.

What is a Donor-Advised Fund?

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.

The Squeeze

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.

The Solution

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.

Build Capacity through Advanced Process Improvement

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!

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.

Live, No-Cost Webinar: Maximize New Software Investment and Success with Process Redesign—Three Case Studies

May 19, 2022 | 3:42 pm

When a foundation 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.

In this live, no-cost “About Process Transformation” webinar, you will hear a couple of best practices for redesigning and maximizing business processes and practices during new system implementation.

Speaker: Lee Kuntz, Certified Process Coach, CLSSBB

Webinar: Thursday, May 19, 2022; 1:00 pm–1:45 pm CT

Register in advance for this meeting:

Registration link

Once you register, you will receive a Zoom meeting invite.   We look forward to you joining us for this informational session.

 

Presentation link: IPD webinar 2022 – Process Redesign to Maximize New Systems Success Three Case Studies

Are you also interested in learning to transform process?

Do you want to learn to transform processes and operations, which is different content than this webinar? Then contact Lee Kuntz at 651-330-7076 or lee @improveprocess.net to share your needs. And click here to experience our process deep dive. 

Three Ways Philanthropic Operations Create Community Impact

November 16, 2021 | 2:47 pm

Is your organization looking to make a bigger community impact? Your operations—that is, how work is done—can be a powerful contributor in accomplishing your organization’s mission.

Operate for Impact

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 boards. Some organizations have discovered that fine-tuning these operations equips them to magnify their community impact.

These organizations function at their best when their processes, systems, and people are maximized. Here are three ways organizations can maximize to operate for impact.

Better service to the community. When an organization’s grantmaking work steps are consistently carried out as designed (including substantial error proofing), grants are issued accurately. Proactive operations staff make these grants in the manner that is best for grantees, whether electronically or with hard-copy checks. Having processes in place to verify email and postal addresses eliminates the need to reissue communications or follow up on missing grant payments. When organizations manage processes for accuracy and a high service level, everyone’s time and energy can be spent wisely.

Quicker turnaround. Most organizations spend hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars on technology. From my experience, few of them use more than half their system’s capabilities. Instead they rely on manual processes and system work-arounds, all of which slow the delivery of payments to grantees and receipts to donors. When payments and receipts do not go out on time, grantees and donors typically start calling to find out the status of their payment or donation. Fielding calls and tracking down an explanation takes precious time away from the main purpose of the philanthropic effort.

A grantmaker who makes best use of the available tools, such as leveraging templates in Outlook and creating system reporting rather than relying on manual work-arounds, gets grants and confirmations out the door fast. The donor or grantee’s focus on creating an impact continues without disruption.

Efficiency that creates lower administrative costs, enabling more community investment. Philanthropic work, whether related to program design or operations, is paid for by fund expenses. Therefore, greater internal costs mean higher fund expenses and less money available for making a philanthropic impact. Doing operations work more efficiently can help decrease internal costs. A key component to that efficiency is maximizing staff time.

Yet too often, operations staff are hired and then shown their desk and a pile of work. This may unwittingly imply that their role is less important than the functions carried out by program designers.
Nonprofits that support their staff by defining clear roles, providing purposeful training, and delineating business rules find that their staff gets work done faster and better. And not inconsequentially, their employees are satisfied, productive, and energized.

Improving Operations Achieves Impact

Grantmakers and operations staff working in finance, technology, human resources, and other areas have an important role to play in enhancing efficiency. By proactively managing and improving processes and making best use of systems, you can increase the philanthropic impact of your organization.

Learn more about how to enhance operation in this recently published article: Invest in your operations teams to drive your mission forward – PhilanTopic | PND | Candid

About the Author

Lee Kuntz is founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Inc. As a certified process coach, she provides process improvement training and coaching to help teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create tangible results in operations efficiency and effectiveness.

Published article: Invest in Your Operations Teams to Drive Your Mission Forward

October 13, 2021 | 10:48 am

Many nonprofits and philanthropies have come under pressure to be more efficient and effective than ever before. Yet, the dollars just haven’t been invested to support the kinds of operations needed to carry out today’s heightened level of giving in addition to addressing emergency programs.

With organization’s planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year, now that is changing. Learn more in Lee Kuntz’s recently published article.

Invest in your operations teams to drive your mission forward

 

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.