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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
Many consultants offer process improvement services alongside their other services, but a consultant who is certified in proven business process improvement methods can help your team reach ambitious goals most effectively. A certified process improvement consultant can help you achieve significant, measurable results such as recapturing capacity and realizing a faster return on new system investment.
Business process improvement methodologies are all about transforming how work is done to improve outcomes. These approaches range from the latest techniques to traditional methods, some of which have been around for almost a hundred years.
Each of these methodologies produces desired results when used as designed. However, not all these industrial engineering techniques and tools work in every situation. For example, Six Sigma makes use of significant statistical tools that are great for challenges encountered at manufacturing companies, but they are of little value to service organizations. Yet the process control component of Six Sigma is valuable to any organization looking to deliver consistent results. The key is to identify and use the right methodology and tools for the challenges at hand.
Some professional certifications have a strict, common definition. For example, the AICPA governs the Certified Public Accountant designation, setting standards that are respected around the nation. Passing the CPA examination was a proud moment in my life, because the certifying exam was so difficult.
In contrast to public accounting, where the content is clearly defined by a single entity, becoming certified in business process management requires demonstration of competency in multiple disciplines. These disciplines overlap each other, as shown below.
Figure 1: Methodology Overlap
The training and certification exam for each methodology includes tools that are not taught or tested in the other disciplines. For example, the American Society for Quality includes only a handful of Lean operations tools in its Six Sigma Lean Operations Black Belt training and certification. The Lean Institute makes use of only a few Six Sigma tools in its program. For most of these methodologies, people seeking certification must prove their mastery through education, testing and, at times, the submission of completed projects that demonstrate their competency.
Business process management certification is important for several reasons. First, it represents independent verification of the applicant’s knowledge and skills. Certification serves as confirmation that the applicant has learned and mastered techniques.
Second, certification supports achieving significantly better outcomes, which is critical as process improvement success is judged on the results achieved. These significantly better outcomes could be fewer errors, higher quality, faster outcomes, a better experience for customers, or a new system installation that pays for itself in two years.
The chart below chart illustrates transformational results some of your colleagues in the philanthropic sector achieved when they used our certified process improvement services. Process steps were reduced and improved. Quality and speed were improved.
Figure 2: IPD Certified Process Improvement Impact
Innovation Process Design (IPD) can teach your team the business process management skills you will need to identify process improvement opportunities on an ongoing basis. By developing proficiency of your own, you will not be dependent upon a consultant to make continual progress.
As IPD’s lead trainer and coach, I am certified, trained, and skilled in Lean operations, Six Sigma, human-centered design, project management, and public speaking. Our team’s depth and breadth of tools and experience enables us to select the tools and approaches that best address your specific challenges and goals. We have extensive experience helping philanthropic organization achieve significantly better outcomes. Our successful track record means you can complete process redesign faster, more efficiently, and with better results. Learn more about these results in these case studies.
Business process management certification matters. Other organizations have experienced the advantages and results that certified process improvement brings. Your organization can too. Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more.
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.
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.
The pandemic has caused disruption to many organizations. The top priority for every organization has been finding ways to operate safely. Some also seek the capacity to do even more: more emergency assistance for their community; more internal and external social justice work; more services to donors. And they need to accomplish these goals in a safe, employee-friendly way.
To address these needs, we now deliver process transformation services virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid format.
Process transformation, unlike process improvement, goes beyond tweaking work steps. It entails a total overhaul to the way work is done. Some consultants produce rudimentary improvement, but a certified process specialist identifies approaches and provides tools to recapture significant capacity. Innovation Process Design (IPD) is certified in proven operations improvement methodologies, including Lean Operations, Six Sigma, and Human Centered Design. We know how to tailor our approach to each organization’s unique mission and circumstances.
As a result, over the last twenty years, clients who have engaged our Think Differently Process Transformation™ services have achieved dramatic reductions in work steps in key areas, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Impact of Process Transformation
By reducing and improving work steps, nonprofits recaptured significant amounts of time, which they invested in new programs that have increased their community impact. Board meetings are more productive and require a fraction of the preparation time that had been invested before. Payments are made without delay, better supporting grantees’ needs. Donor gifts are confirmed in a faster and more efficient manner. Learn more about organizations’ process transformation results here: Process Improvement Case Studies.
In order for process transformation to be successful, staff members must be actively and safely engaged. IPD has had years of experience conducting transformation events in a variety of settings: in-person, virtual, and through a combination of the two. Our prior experience made it an easy transition to offer our clients three ways to engage in process transformation. The advantages of each option are detailed in Figure 2.
Figure 2: IPD Services Channels
Engaging in an in-person deep dive to transform processes is a powerful experience. Yet this face-to-face experience requires committing staff to several full, consecutive days of in-person meetings. Since all-staff in-person meetings are highly unlikely for several months, waiting for in-person services will delay the time the team has to implement their newly designed processes and as a result, delay the benefits of process transformation.
Virtual meetings offer an alternative to full, consecutive day meetings, as three-hour transformation sessions can occur over several weeks. Spreading out this time works well for many organizations’ daily workflow. In addition, there is no travel time or travel cost for a virtual event, lowering the overall event cost compared to in-person meetings by around $2,000. Employees appreciate being able to continue to safely work at home, and the transformation initiative can start any time the organization is ready.
Our hybrid service channel provides the team options regarding who attends from which location. Our transformation trainer and coach, Lee Kuntz, can be at your site or at the IPD office. Your staff can attend in-person or from anywhere they have internet access.
Since work location is becoming more fluid, the hybrid model is likely here to stay. The benefits of the hybrid model, depending on how each organization configures it, include many from both the in-person and virtual channels.
Having these channels available to forward thinking foundations and other nonprofits means employees, whereever they are located, can safely and effectively transform their processes and results.
Many leaders see that their community needs more help. Yet key to taking on this new work is increasing capacity. The good news is that leaders can begin their process transformation journey virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid fashion. Through a safe, flexible, and customized approach, organizations can start realizing the many benefits of process transformation without delay.
As founder and president of Innovation Process Design Inc., Lee has spent two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges facing leaders of complex service institutions. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results. Learn more about Lee and how she helps organizations at improveprocess.net.
Have you installed new software that was universally embraced and paid for itself quickly, perhaps even within 24 months?
Attaining widespread employee buy-in at an affordable price is a worthy but difficult goal. Yet as new software competes for funding with other good ideas, achieving this is important. Business process redesign can help philanthropic organizations realize this measure of success.
Philanthropic organizations replace software, including their big grantmaking systems, every five to twenty years. That makes sense, as the philanthropic industry is growing. Contributions to donor-advised funds totaled $37.12 billion in 2018. This represents an 86 percent increase in contributions over the past five years. The related grants increased likewise.
Growth in grantmaking often necessitates employing new tools to stay ahead of the workload. Leaders of philanthropic organizations need to build a strong case to justify investment in costly new software. The best-case scenario is when the new software pays for itself within 12 to 24 months. In order to achieve such a favorable return on investment, employees throughout the organization need to be open to change and willing to explore all that the software has to offer. Business process redesign engages employees in fully learning and embracing new software, inviting them to fully leverage it.
Recently, three experienced technology leaders and I spoke at a Technology Association of Grantmakers webinar about how to leverage business process redesign to promote software acceptance and a quick return on investment. Key points:
Check out this new, free tool that can inform your thinking about software implementation: Business Process Redesign Steps for New Software Success.
Contact me, Lee Kuntz, at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-cost discussion of your situation and recommended steps to redesign your business processes.
Foundations have realized substantial benefits from their new software investment through leveraging our business process transformation coaching and training. You can too!
Most philanthropic and nonprofit organizations were working at or near capacity before the COVID-19 health crisis. But the virus has created serious new needs for the populations they serve, and many organizations are grappling with the disruption caused by a shift to remote work, declining donations, and an unpredictable stock market.
While it might all seem overwhelming at times, there are resources that can help with this increased demand. Live, online process transformation training and coaching from Innovation Process Design can help. This skill building resource enables organizations to increase capacity and enhance their ability to positively impact targeted populations while keeping staff safe. That means organizations can address this abundance of new opportunities without putting an undue burden on their team.
Training and coaching work together to improve existing processes and increase an organization’s capacity. Training allows organizations to create a culture of improvement while building the muscle they need to make substantive changes. Meanwhile, coaching advances that foundation by allowing organizations to take a deep dive into a specific problem.
Because COVID-19-related volatility is projected to continue for at least the next six months, taking organizations to the beginning of the giving season, increasing capacity will be essential to fulfilling the nonprofit mission. Taking a wait-and-see approach may cause organizations to miss opportunities now and require that they play catch-up instead of hitting the ground running in October. By optimizing capacity now, organizations can address existing needs and prepare to reach year-end goals.
Think about it this way: Effective coaching, which requires a foundation of training, could allow employees to recapture between 30% and 60% of their time – from 500 to 1,500 hours per year. That’s good for now, when many employees are figuring out the finer points of working remotely, and it’s also beneficial later, when operations return to normal.
Building capacity doesn’t have to disrupt operations, either. Our online meetings take place over a couple of weeks to ensure they will not take team members away from their normal workflows. Sessions are conducted in small groups, allowing for easy interaction and opportunities for all questions to be answered.
Innovation Process Design has years of experience helping community foundations and philanthropic organizations optimize processes and workflows. We use tech-savvy tools and engaging content to share best practices that have been proven over the past 20 years. We give employees concrete projects to work on that will help them recapture time.
That time will be more important than ever as organizations work to weather an unprecedented health crisis – and help their communities do the same.
I welcome the opportunity to answer questions, to discuss your organization’s unique challenges, and to tell you more about how virtual process improvement can help.