For over 20 years, Invest in Kids (IIK) has been dedicated to improving the lives and well-being of children and families in Colorado. Focusing on data-backed, results-proven prevention programs, they support two kinds of programs in Colorado, one of which is The Incredible Years® (IY). IY establishes developmentally-based curricula for parents, teachers, and children. The three IY programs that IIK supports are designed to build emotional and social competence skills for struggling children, as well as help support families and teachers by creating a structured environment for all to thrive.

The  Challenge

Lisa (IIK Executive Director) and Julie (IY Program Director) knew the IY program was making a huge difference, but for only a small percentage of the kids who would benefit from it. If they could expand, more families would see the benefits that so many others had found in The Incredible Years®. They could see that the need for the programs was far greater than their current size. To be able to expand, they needed to be able to answer some key questions:

  • Where should we be going next?
  • What would the cost be to do the work?
  • Can we expand without adding salaries?
  • How can we smooth out staff capacity?

IIK had the data, experience, and skills but could see they were missing some pieces of the puzzle. Staff and leadership were already at capacity with the demands of running a successful nonprofit. Their current funds wouldn’t stretch to sustain a significant growth spurt and it became clear they would need to assemble a strong, clear case for growth to funders.

Vulnerable Preschool Children are Geographically Concentrated

By combining our proprietary databases with publicly available data, Room40 Group could pinpoint on a map where the highest concentrations of vulnerable children were across the state.

“It was a great, great partnership… There are so many nuggets we took away from this engagement.”

Lisa Hall
Executive Director of Invest in Kids

The Room40 Approach

To understand all opportunities the program had for expanding, Room40 Group and Invest in Kids worked together to examine:

  • An assessment of the Incredible Years Program and its impact,
  • The geographic distribution of at-risk children across Colorado, as well as by district, school, and classroom,
  • Quantitative modeling of the capacity of the existing organization and the demands/economics of the IY program,
  • The philanthropic potential for support.

The goal being that by the end of the engagement, IIK would know where to go, who to set up partnerships with, be able to accurately predict future program scope without having to struggle to sustain operations.

The Room40 Insights

Analysis indicated that the IY program as supported by IIK was already reaching a majority of vulnerable children enrolled in schools currently served by IY, so enrolling more children would require expanding to new school locations
where the number of vulnerable kids, local readiness-to-scale, and economics all set the stage for more significant impact. By combining our proprietary databases with publicly available data, Room40 Group could pinpoint on a map where the highest concentrations of vulnerable children were across the state.

IY’s program cost structure comprised of mostly fixed costs over the short term. Consequently, the most significant constraints to scaling IY were the number of classrooms IIK program staff can serve with quality. An effective growth strategy would have to focus on reducing the effects of this constraint, achievable by expanding the use of a new
“peer coach” position supervised by existing program staff, increasing engagement of teachers in their third year of implementing the IY program components, and piloting ways that technology will allow program support to reach significantly more teachers.

Another discovery was that there was significant seasonality to how much the IIK staff’s capacity was filled by program work. Every year, IIK would wonder if they could work with more kids. Then, peak work times would hit, and everyone ended up swamped. Everyone agreed they wanted to serve more kids but couldn’t imagine how to fit in the work while maintaining quality. Room40 worked with IIK to model and predict the times of peak demand, rearrange scheduling for program staff and smooth out the highs and lows of program staff workload.

The Outcome

Room40 Group analysis showed that Invest in Kids’ Incredible Years (IY) program served around 8,400 children or about ~10% of at-risk kids in Colorado. Each of the three IY program components produced significant, positive outcomes for vulnerable, low-income children in Colorado. Room40 Group documented that IY created an 18x return on investment in benefits for every child who went through the program.

Using the growth strategy Room40 and IIK came up with we demonstrated that IIK could double the number of vulnerable kids served, reduce costs per child served by 10% and generate $30.2M in benefits for Colorado families and taxpayers – a compelling case for any funder.

Additionally:

  • IIK used the cost models and predictions in grant applications and quickly gained new short-term foundation funding, along with the State of Colorado stepping in to help fund some of the expansion.
  • The case loading model helped show where they could grow staff support and project staff time and enabled IIK to continue to create similar projections in-house.
  • Market analysis showed where which schools were the best candidates for IIK to grow their impact sustainably.

“ I especially appreciated that you took to heart our ask for nuanced facilitation: knowing when to “let it ride” and when to interject with synthesis, advice, or to move us along; and all the while remaining focused on accomplishing our meeting objectives… As a result, I feel more confident in and more committed to our targets and goals.”

Jennifer Vranek, Founding Partner
Education First