Amidst rising efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Polis closed Colorado schools on March 18th. In the weeks leading up to the 18th, much of the state was holding its breath to see what would happen. While many organizations have frozen in place due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our long-term clients, Big Idea Project, has exemplified how to be proactive during this time of uncertainty. When faced with impending school closures, Big Idea Project got to work modifying its program implementation This proactive problem-solving work that now ensures the program’s resiliency isn’t entirely surprising when one considers how Big Idea Project’s aim to empower young Coloradans to solve big problems.
In an education environment where most curriculum is standards-centered, Big Idea Project provides “a student-centered approach that connects the head and the heart through experiential learning, resulting in personal development that goes beyond knowledge.”, Big Idea Project builds leadership, workforce readiness, social-emotional skills, and well-being through a unique model that combines service learning, mentorship with working professionals, and classroom engagement.
Younger association members know
what they want, and they have specific preferences for membership associations. Millennials are generally a tech-savvy and frugal group who value work/life balance,
personal fulfillment, and connection. They want a clear sense of the benefits
of being a member, something they generally don’t feel they are getting now. Mission
impact and community service are significant deciding factors for Millennials
and Gen Z. Career-focused messaging, personalization, and á la carte pricing
are the most effective ways to connect with young members. Gen X and Boomer
members expect the same.
Connection and fulfillment are
universal desires for members today, from memberships in trade associations to
cultural institutions. According to
trend tracker Colleen
Dilenschneider, “Supporting the organization’s mission matters a lot – mission-motivated
members are more likely to buy higher-level memberships, renew their
memberships, and find greater value for cost in those higher memberships that
they are purchasing. A problem, however, is that not all cultural organizations
recognize the importance of highlighting these benefits and instead focus almost
exclusively on transaction-based benefits.”
Associations used to be the place to go for ongoing professional development and engaging conversations
with colleagues in your field. That is no longer the case as members use free, open-source alternatives such as webinars, online courses, and
LinkedIn video content. Co-working spaces and meetups are ever-present
substitutes for busy people seeking connections on terms. Associations can
distinguish themselves by focusing on the credibility and brand of their
offerings and highlighting their high-touch, in-person interactions.
Your members have more options
than ever. Engage in ways that are meaningful to them.
Karla Raines of Corona will be joined by her friend Gretchen Kerr, COO of the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus to chat about the power of a 20-year visioning horizon. The Museum’s new 2030 Master Plan used a long horizon to leap over the usual constraints of shorter-term thinking. Moon colonization? Autonomous vehicles? Yes and yes.
Using a case study approach, we will share the advantages of
a longer horizon, discuss the essential topics to explore, and share how your
scan can illuminate possibilities you hadn’t envisioned as you build buy-in for
an exciting future.
We all love a good story. There is increasing evidence that storytelling is one of the most effective ways to communicate information that
will be retained by an audience. An analysis of the 500 most popular TED talks demonstrated that more than 65% of the
content was storytelling. The ability to communicate a clear and emotionally resonant
narrative of impact is essential for nonprofits and purpose driven
Three of Corona’s associates will take you past the buzzword
of storytelling and breakdown what makes for an effective impact narrative. You
will learn how tools of strategy, qualitative research, and quantitative
analysis can help your organization share the story of why you matter.
SWOT analysis, one of the most prevalent tools in strategic
planning, is in dire need of an update. Can you name another tool that hasn’t
evolved in 50 years? To put it in perspective, it is akin to using a rotary
dial phone in the age of the tech-enabled smart phone.
Karla Raines, Corona’s strategy guru, will share four notable shortcomings in the existing approach and highlight innovative alternatives that will position nonprofits to make the most of their next strategic analysis. Once you understand the shortcomings you will be primed to consider alternatives, including how to optimize your next SWOT.
While there is a unique excitement and joy that comes with every project that we do, working with certain clients over many years can be especially rewarding. Not only do we get to really know an organization during a lengthy working relationship, but we also get to see how they use the project work that we do for them. As we complete our 20th year of business, we are highlighting some of our clients, including many who have worked with us over a number of years. I have worked with the Colorado Nonprofit Association on a variety of projects over the past five years, so I was excited to hear more about the relationship between the Association and Corona. Renny Fagan, President and CEO of the Association, graciously agreed to speak with me about our work together.
If you have walked through downtown Denver recently, you know that it is hard to miss the growing homeless population. Civic Center Park has become a meeting place for many in the homeless population—a place where they can gather to share stories, food, and cell phones. Each year, Denver conducts a “Point in Time” (PIT) survey that aims to count the number of people experiencing homelessness. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducts an annual Point-in-Time (PIT) survey to track the rate of homelessness across the nation. Individual cities are responsible for collecting the data, with assistance from Local Homeless Coalitions, and provide the data to HUD, as well as publish a local report. In Denver, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative oversees the PIT survey. The 2018 Denver PIT survey found that 5,317 people are experiencing homelessness in the city and county of Denver, competing for a total of approximately 1,000 emergency shelter beds (MDHI 2018). This number is up from the PIT count of 3,336 homeless persons in 2017.
Over time, the city of Denver has taken various approaches to “solving” the issue of homelessness. In 2003, the Denver Department of Human Services published a report titled “A Blueprint for Addressing Homeless in Denver” which outlined a ten-year action plan aimed at ending “chronic homelessness in Denver that will also address homeless prevention and the enhancement of services for populations with special needs” (Denver Homeless Planning Group 2003: 4). In 2005, Proclamation 53 was signed by then-mayor John Hickenlooper, expressing official support for Denver’s Road Home program—an initiative to secure housing for the city’s homeless population. Despite these, and other, city initiatives the homeless population in Denver continues to grow and housing costs surge past national averages. While the numbers may seem bleak, one Denver non-profit has followed the path laid out by other major cities such as Seattle, WA and Austin, TX and searched for an innovative solution. This solution came in the form of tiny houses.
Tiny homes burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. Small, sometimes mobile, homes with sleek designs offered a minimalist housing solution to people seeking a break from the materiality of the modern world. In Denver, tiny homes are now being used to provide a safe housing solution for some of Denver’s homeless population. Beloved Community Village, located in Denver’s River North (RiNo) district, consists of 11 tiny homes, housing up to 22 people. The self-governing community opened in July 2017, operating as a 180-day pilot project. In January 2018, Beloved Community Village was forced to relocate after their six-month lease with the Urban Land Conservancy expired. Luckily, the community was able to relocate only 200 feet away onto another property owned by the Urban Land Conservancy. Unfortunately, the Urban Land Conservancy and the city of Denver have only officially approved another 180-day lease agreement for the tiny house village, leaving the permanency of Beloved Community Village in question.
According to Beloved Community Village website, the village’s purpose “is to provide a home base and safe place for those who are presently in Denver and have no other place to live. With this collection of secure and insulated homes, we provide a viable solution in the midst of the current housing crisis.” While Beloved Community Village has been successful thus far in living and embodying their purpose, one has to wonder whether the tiny home model can be expanded to accommodate even more homeless residents in the Denver-metro area and throughout the state of Colorado. In May 2018, the organization behind Beloved Community Village, the Colorado Village Collaborative, revealed they are actively working to open another tiny home community at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in downtown Denver. The new village will have eight tiny homes, designated specifically for women and transgender homeless residents.
Affordable housing remains a crucial need in Denver and across the nation, as housing costs continue to rise and wages continue to stagnate. Cities and towns must face this problem head-on and work to understand how and why their communities are affected in order to develop strategies and initiatives to tackle homelessness. Homelessness is only one problem though and does not exist in isolation, thus cities need to ensure they understand the greater context and vulnerabilities unique to their community. The issues involved span everything from zoning laws and development to population growth and migration to mental health and criminal justice services. In 2016 and 2017, Corona Insights conducted a needs assessment for the city of Longmont. The research found that some of the greatest needs facing community residents are the ability to find affordable housing options and in turn, paying for housing. Furthermore, between 2010 and 2014, the availability of rental properties with a monthly rent below $800 decreased by 33%. The completion of the needs assessment and its subsequent report in Longmont equipped the city government with knowledge to better meet the human service needs of their residents.
Homelessness is a pervasive issue in many urban centers and rural areas across the country, with no end in sight. Local governments and non-profit organizations both have roles to play in addressing homelessness. Communities and organizations interested in addressing homelessness may benefit from commissioning a community needs assessment to uncover systemic challenges in their local area, and committing to enact changes informed by the assessment findings. Armed with information and compassion, we can begin to dismantle the barriers that lead to homelessness. The time is now.
The American Evaluation Association invited their Topic Interest Groups (TIGs) to each take over their blog for a week in 2018. As part of the Needs Assessment TIG, Beth and Kate were invited to write one of the blogs with tips for doing needs assessments. With help from Matt Bruce, they wrote about how to do a needs assessment with a small budget. This post originally appeared on the AEA365 blog on March 21, 2018.
Hello! We’re Beth Mulligan and Kate Darwent from Corona Insights, a firm that provides research, evaluation, and strategic consulting services for government and nonprofit organizations. We are often contacted by clients who have both very limited resources and a very strong desire to understand and address the needs in their community (whether “their community” is low-income residents of a city or county, library patrons, Latinx children in their school district, or some other group). Here are some suggestions for creative ways to get useful and actionable data for a small budget needs assessment.
Use secondary data sources. Start by searching for and reviewing relevant existing reports or datasets. This may include reports from state agencies or national organizations that reveal insights about your target population, relevant Census data, or previous studies conducted by your client. Making sure you know what is already known before collecting new data is the first step to managing limited resources.
Use your client’s resources creatively. Although the client may have a limited budget to pay for outside help, they may be able to offer their own time and effort, or may have volunteer staff available, or may have other budgets for materials like printing or mailing that they can use. Help the client to determine where they most need your help and expertise, and where they can take on tasks themselves with your guidance.
Remember that perfect is the enemy of good. Although we may prefer to conduct 15 key person interviews, would conducting two be better than zero? Oftentimes, yes. And though we would like to survey everyone in the community by mail, and send no fewer than two follow-up mailings, is the information we will get from a single mailing better than nothing? Would the information from an open-link survey or an intercept survey at some community events be better than nothing? The judgment about whether to use what we may think of as lower-quality methods depends on the trade-offs in each situation. In a situation where the population is relatively small and engaged, it may be reasonable to post an open-link survey on social media. In other situations, it may be acceptable to do two interviews with service recipients rather than a representative sample survey. No one solution will fit all situations, but be open to various non-optimal solutions that find the best compromise between quality and cost, especially when you have difficult-to-reach target populations.
Sometimes budget restrictions shrink or disappear when the client understands the value of more expensive options. Don’t hesitate to communicate the benefits of things like greater coverage, higher response rates, participation from more stakeholder groups, expertise in data analysis, mapping, and so on. Hopefully you won’t have to make tradeoffs because of financial resources, but in case you do, we hope these suggestions help you maximize the resources available to help a client serve their community better.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Needs Assessment Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on theaea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.
As a strategist, I’m frequently looking over the horizon to see what’s next. At other times, you’ll see me scanning side-to-side looking for forces that may be coming together in new or unexpected ways.
Sometimes hindsight puts much of it into perspective.
Looking back at 2008 it occurs me that I was well ahead of the curve when I designed Corona’s Synergistic Business Model. At the time I noticed that nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver and companies like New Belgium Brewery – both former Corona clients I may add – had integrated engagement deep into their respective business models. Each realized that fostering loyalty, connection and contribution required a long-lasting approach to relationships.
They were smartly ahead of the curve.
Since then engagement has become top-of-mind for organizations. The old transactional approaches simply don’t hit the mark when people are searching for meaningful relationships and ways to make a difference.
Perhaps engagement isn’t enough.
We need to enmesh relationships into our business models.
How are we using online communication channels to fully engage donors before, during and after a fundraising event? What is the immediate call-to-action waiting for them when they get home? Have we thanked them (enough)?
What will define the patron experience from the first email message to the thank you note?
How will volunteer love for us be returned in 3 months? 5 months? 1 year?
Have we thought about the ways that a board member could entrap that new neighbor or business colleague into adopting our cause as their own?
Maybe it’s time to:
We need to activate our language if we want to activate our relationships.