Doing more with less is a common theme for many nonprofit organizations and Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) is no exception. As a professional association for all levels of local government, ELGL has big goals and a never-ending list of to-dos. With a strong volunteer board and small (but mighty) team, ELGL needed to find a better way to manage their deliverables and communicate their strategy with their members and their partners. By implementing ClearPoint, ELGL created many efficiencies and streamlined their process for communicating with their wide range of stakeholders, including running their board meeting and creating a public facing view of their strategy, straight from ClearPoint.
Referred to as an "accidental professional association," ELGL began in Portland, Oregon in 2012 with a 16-member dinner group. Today, ELGL has grown to more than 4,800 members from all 50 states plus Canada, the UK, Israel, and Australia. ELGL's mission is to engage the brightest minds in local government by providing timely and relevant content through podcasts, blogs, webinars, social media, and conference gatherings, with the objective of fostering authentic and meaningful connections that are grounded in practices of equity and inclusion.
Executive Director, Kirsten Wyatt, describes their approach best:
"We have a bias for action. Our approach is to do something rather than just think about it or talk about it. It means that we are nimble, and those are values we have articulated when we onboard new members or volunteers. This business of local government moves painfully slow. What our members expect is to have content and opportunity delivered to them in a way that keeps this profession fresh, exciting, and interesting. We often say that local government can be bureaucratic, but your professional association should not be. This should be the place where you go for fun and refreshment."
As ELGL transitioned from the dinner table to a large scale operation, the timing to leverage ClearPoint to help guide strategy execution and reporting is now. And, as strong partners of ELGL, we were ready to join in to support their efforts.
Here is how we worked together to bring ELGL's strategy to life and ready to present to the Board of Directors in only three weeks.
Before using ClearPoint, ELGL did not have a clear reporting framework or model to guide internal updates or external reports to their members. ELGL relied on Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints to generate these reports. In the early days, this was a simple tool for their reporting that allowed ELGL to capture all their different ideas. Kirsten notes, "we were like popcorn - bouncing all over the place, without any focused direction, but with a lot of joy!" While Excel and PowerPoint served their purpose for ELGL, they failed to provide a structure for a consistent reporting framework.
This led to concerns about forgetting substantial developments made throughout the year. If ELGL was working on creating a year-end report, it became easy to miss important progress made at the beginning of the year. And working with a lean and distributed team, it became harder to make sure all the details made their way into the higher-level report without a structured reporting framework.
As ELGL grew and added thousands of members, they realized individuals joining did not have knowledge of the organization's history and what ELGL had accomplished. For Kirsten, "creating a formalized strategic plan told the story of where we were coming from, and where we wanted to go." All of this combined with the ability to showcase where ELGL could focus resources, like staffing and time, made ClearPoint the perfect fit for management reporting software.
After realizing that there had to be a better way to create reports, ELGL and ClearPoint got to work! For ELGL, this meant focusing all their joy to create a detailed strategic plan. The addition of two new board members in 2018 kickstarted ELGL's strategic planning process. Joey Garcia (Torrance, CA) and Christian Williams (Goodyear, AZ) pushed the organization to develop and adopt its first strategic plan. Alongside Dan Weinheimer (Routt County, CO), Ben Kittelson (Durham, CO), Bridget Kozlowski (Sterling Heights, MI), and Kent Wyatt (Tigard, OR), the Board and staff worked with members to develop and adopt the first strategic plan in 2019. They relied on an open and transparent process, sharing a Google doc with the membership for their comments and edits.
Once the strategic plan was finalized, we were able to upload all their goals, measures, and action items quickly. One of the most interesting parts of the process for ELGL was realizing how much data they had and how it related to their strategic plan. Through ClearPoint's expertise and knowledge of best practices, ELGL was able to use this data to show progress on their strategic plan. Thanks to customized charts, ELGL was easily able to visualize their data in a way that made sense to their overall strategy. ClearPoint's flexibility allowed ELGL to add new measures when they realized that they had available data or wanted to keep track and share new data.
After adding the strategic plan to ClearPoint, ELGL's next hurdle was compiling all their data into reports. One of the most important decisions ELGL had to make was determining what data should be shown and when. Kirsten often found herself turning to ClearPoint for advice. From determining how to capture different reporting frequencies or simply what information to show on a page, ClearPoint was a trusted partner for ELGL.
One of the first big reveals of strategic planning and reporting came in the form of the ELGL's Quarterly Review. This was the first time ELGL would publicly share their progress on their strategic plan at a high level. Understandably, Kirsten was nervous, but excited. She remembers, "it was the first time we had done this level of strategic reporting and it was exciting to have something tangible to tell the story of how busy we'd been and everything that we'd worked on over the past quarter!"
Moving into second quarter reporting (especially in 2020 when news and work is changing so fast, week to week), ELGL noted how easily progress from the first quarter to the second quarter would have been lost if not reported out quarterly. "The work we did in January and February of 2020 was meaningful, but if we were called upon in June of 2020 to report on that, it would have been lost in the COVID-19 and social justice work we've refocused on in recent months. Reporting in ClearPoint allowed us to keep track of all of our progress this year," said Kirsten.
During the process of creating this quarterly report, Kirsten was thankful for ClearPoint's Customer Success team, noting "having their support made our report easy to share with the ELGL Board of Directors and members."
Transitioning to a more structured strategic plan and reporting process made a world of difference for ELGL. Putting in the effort to structure their reporting process has not only allowed for more results to be shared with members, but also pushed ELGL to grow their organization and the local government community even further. After revealing their first quarterly report, Kirsten says, "working with ClearPoint has renewed ELGL's focus on some aspects of our plan that did not see much action or progress in the quarter." By reviewing their progress, ELGL has been able to keep pushing forward on parts of their strategic plan that needed more focus, while celebrating important goals and accomplishments at the same time!