This is the second of a series of informational interviews on the five pro bono projects the Improve Group is working on in 2010.*  These clients have a wide range of locations, missions and needs.  We had several goals for our pro bono work:
  • Give back to the community in a way that honors our decade of service 
  • Gain additional depth in the fields we’ve worked in most frequently by working with small or new organizations in those fields
  • Have the opportunity to try out new methods and approaches that wouldn’t be considered in funder-driven work
We hope our other clients and our readers who share similar issues may gain some insight on how to approach their project needs through our experiences with pro bono clients. This interview is with Eric Wong, Senior Research Analyst at Improve Group.   Which organization are you partnered with? (Eric:) I am working with Genesis II for Families. Their mission is to “promote social change by strengthening families and the community through programs that encourage self-determination, self-sufficiency, and healthy family lifestyles.” What issues did they need assistance with? They were looking for a feasibility study on providing a fee-for-service option for some of their parenting services. They do collect fees on some of their services but this is a pretty new process for them. Why were you interested in working with this pro bono project? I was interested in this project because it matched well with some of the work I have done in the past on fee studies.  It also gives the Improve Group an opportunity to involve one of our collaborating partners, Jay Kiedrowski, a senior fellow with the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. One of Jay’s classes is on financial management and he is a strong fit for helping with Genesis’ needs. What are the beginning approaches or tools you are using to help your client? The Improve Group started working with Genesis II for Families in June of this year. First, we held a kick-off meeting to help focus in on the specific services they needed. We examined the groups they served and Genesis decided on targeting the adult parenting services for the feasibility study. We have agreed upon a series of focus groups as the primary data collection method to see if there is a demand that would support the fee process. The Improve Group will help Genesis develop the tools, recruit the people and do analysis of the results of the focus groups. Genesis will be guided in who and how to recruit, and how to collect data; the Improve Group will conduct the focus groups and help in data analysis.   Our collaborator, Jay Kiedrowski, will offer insights and perspectives on how to approach the results from the data we collect to make it more helpful for Genesis in their strategic planning and other decisions they need to make. Jay has been in the position of looking at revenue streams and what info will be helpful to both the nonprofits and the public sector. His perspective will help the Improve Group frame our tools to be most helpful to Genesis. What are the next steps for this pro bono partnership? I am just starting to develop the tools that will help Genesis recruit the teens and adults they need for the focus groups.  They will have a month to recruit about 30 people and I will facilitate the focus groups in the fall. What are you learning from this process? I can get a little more in depth in my knowledge of the feasibility process. Genesis has a good sized staff and I am enjoying learning about their infrastructure.  It is exciting to take on something new.  *To read our previous interview on the San Francisco Opera project, click here.