Data-Driven Family Engagement Tools for Head Start and State Preschools

Learning Genie is an app for ECE educators and family service workers for Distant Learning and Family Engagement including tracking in-kind. During the COVID-19 crisis, Learning Genie offers free tools till the end of 2020 under a grant (or in-kind) to support all ECE agencies for Distance Learning and track school readiness outcomes.

PRESCHOOL PORTFOLIO APP- LEARNING GENIE

Learning Genie also provides a useful application for portfolio-building. The portfolio tracking and tagging systems could be readily applied to DRDP 2015, Florida VPK, Head Start (HS), Early Head Start (EHS), Montessori, and other state or private-backed assessment tools.

Best Practices To Succeed With In-Kind Collection

Every agency has the fundamental need to succeed with In-Kind collection to renew their grant every year. Succeeding in this regard requires best practices such as having the right manager for In-Kind collection and implementing a good reporting system. Someone with proper time management skills and the capability to encourage relationships with other organizations, communities, schools, and people who possess the abilities and resources to provide support to the program.

It is also important to implement a good reporting system, that allows the In-Kind manager to review the information available at any time, analyze it and get to accurate conclusions about the program performance and needs. This will also allow them to have more frequent and clear communication with their directors to develop a plan that helps the agency to achieve its goals.

Get The Right In-Kind Manager

Understanding the needs and responsibilities of the job is essential to ensure you choose the right person to manage in-kind collection. First of all, In-Kind relies on the contributions your community provides to the program, therefore, the person who manages the In-Kind collection should have the capability to make connections within your community to encourage relationships with other organizations, communities, schools, and people who possess the abilities and resources to provide support to the program.

Your In-kind manager should be driven to build bridges with other agencies and schools around you. Having a strong industry network opens the door to the development of collective strategies to communicate with larger audiences, which will allow you to find more volunteers in your community to participate in your program, as well as reach out to more families and groups that are not being served and could be a part of your program. Keep in mind that two heads think better than one!

During your hiring process, target and focus on people that have knowledge about local organizations that could contribute to the program through different donations, such as cash, equipment, buildings, or the use of certain spaces. There are many organizations willing to play an active role in their community’s growth and well-being, so having a person with great outreach skills to network and make connections with your agency could have a very positive impact on the program performance.

But social and outreach skills are only one part of the job. If you get all the contributions needed and do not have a well-working documentation system and the capability to make data-driven decisions, you could lose the effort put into donation acquisition and volunteer efforts. An In-Kind manager must have knowledge of documentation systems and the ability to share it with the staff responsible to carry it out.

When you are deciding on an In-Kind Manager, make sure you look for someone with technological abilities who can help you transition to digital collection tools and systems. You should also look for a set of skills to document and store the information, combined with the tools needed to analyze this information to make decisions based on awareness of your agency’s needs. This requires a person with logical and strategic thinking and good time management. This set of skills ensures efficiency, accuracy, and attention to detail, which makes it easier to identify problems and find solutions faster.

Last but not least, consider the adaptability and flexibility the position requires. Completing your Non-Federal Share is a one-year task, implying that your agency might encounter unexpected situations and the need to change your initial plans. An In-Kind Manager must be able to adapt to these changes and use creative thinking to solve problems to achieve your goals under the pressure of tighter deadlines.

The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC) has developed a set of skills and competencies for Head Start Managers and staff of all levels that could also be helpful for you to determine the perfect profile for the In-Kind Manager your agency needs. Link here.

Smaller programs that cannot add additional staff can look within the agency to identify someone who has the qualities needed and can add in-kind management to their plate. Having a digital process will ensure that the workload being added will not impact the staff member’s performance.

Frequently Report Results and Action Plans

Succeeding with In-Kind collection inherently needs data-driven driven decisions. Because of this, it is important that your agency has a proper system to document and store the information, so you can access it at any time.

Using digital tools is a good way to have quick access to your information, and it gives you the possibility to see it divided by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as the total amount of donations received and the amount collected individually through home activities, volunteer services, and cash, as well as the different type of activities that are being completed. You will be able to analyze these KPIs both individually and collectively to identify your agency’s needs accurately and to define action plans that bring you results.

Once you have the right tool to collect and store your information, you must determine the frequency of the reports needed. This frequency should be based on the times you have determined to achieve certain goals, however, it is suggested to have at least monthly reports that show your program performance.

Implementing frequent reporting is very beneficial for your agency as it helps you to keep track of your results and identify new needs in an efficient manner. You will have better adaptability and gain the option to make small but accurate changes to your action plans in time to correct mistakes and address needs according to your current situation.

Finally, you need to make sure the way the information is presented in the report fulfills its mission: effectively show your agency’s situation. Here are some tips that can help you make your reports effective:

  1. Start by setting clear objectives.
    Keep the end goal in mind, that is the reason why you are reporting in the first place. Ask yourself what are the main objectives of your agency and the key aspects that will allow you to accomplish them. Having a clear idea of what you are reporting and why will make it easier to understand what information is important to present.

  2. Present important KPIs clearly.
    All the information used for your report should be presented in a clear and concise way, so you can focus your report on the analysis, show the reasons your goals were accomplished or not, and possible solutions to the new needs you encountered.

  3. Complete a feedback round.
    Before you present your report, share your thoughts and ideas with your staff. This will help you make sure you have the correct approach and are not missing any important information.

  4. Cover context, content, and meaning.
    Use previous reports to compare results and provide context about the agency’s situation; compare those results to provide good content about what the agency has done since the last review; and explain what the results mean for your organization and its goals.

  5. Make your report visually pleasing.
    In-Kind reports can have a lot of information, and this can be overwhelming. Use tools that allow you to lay out information clearly and in a visually appealing way, so it is easier to retain and understand.

Schedule Regular Meetings With Your In-Kind Manager

As the Director of an Agency, it is fundamental to have clear and consistent communication with your In-Kind Manager. Scheduling regular meetings will provide the proper space to discuss the program results and bring several benefits to your agency.

Foremost, by having regular meetings, you will ensure you and your In-Kind Manager are aligned and aiming towards the same goals. Week by week you can encourage them to have an open conversation with you about the achievements and challenges they have faced over the week, as you share important information about activities completed, donations received and expenses, among others.

This will also give you the opportunity to provide feedback in real-time about ideas and plans for the future, as you showcase leadership by communicating effectively, clearing any issues, and driving accountability. This practice will strengthen your relationship with your In-Kind Manager and will keep them engaged and motivated with their work and the goals your agency has.

Although there are other effective ways to exchange information, such as emails or messaging tools, personal meetings are better to have in-depth conversations about the program. Furthermore, your time in these meetings will be seen as an appreciation for your team members and their work, so go ahead and schedule them! The good results and benefits will come shortly after!