We are excited to feature our first Business User Spotlight on Trina Willard, Principal Consultant at Knowledge Advisory Group. Also check out her “From an Expert” guest blog post on “Baby Steps” Towards a Strong Evaluation Culture. Business User Spotlights and guest blog posts are valuable benefits of a premium listing in the ConnectVA Business Network.
“Organizations enhance their results by prioritizing services that are working or refining those that aren?t. Then these nonprofits are ultimately better positioned to serve more people who are in need.”
– Trina Willard, Knowledge Advisory Group
Tell us about how your business works with the nonprofit sector.
Knowledge Advisory Group provides organizations with program evaluation and measurement services that inform planning and organizational development. This includes identifying, measuring, and reporting on client outcomes.
Many nonprofits in Central Virginia are doing fantastic work and creating amazing results, but they struggle with being able to demonstrate it to a variety of important stakeholders, such as funders, clients, and the community. The demand for nonprofit services is high and staff are typically trained foremost in service delivery. Therefore, nonprofits often have limited capacity to accomplish the organizational ?nuts and bolts,? like program evaluation strategy, data collection and analysis. My job is to fill that capacity gap, so program staff can focus their efforts on direct service.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Hands down, the most rewarding aspect of my work is being able to help nonprofit organizations actually demonstrate the impact they have on the community. When I see a nonprofit leader or staff person speak confidently about the value their program offers in real and meaningful ways, using the data we?ve gathered together to back it up, that?s a great day on the job for me.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in this work.
My career has progressed from state service to a small consulting firm to entrepreneurship. Leading my own company was not something that I envisioned or even planned for, but it has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Even more so, I?m proud to have a firm that primarily serves the nonprofit sector. Giving back is an important part of my personal mission, so linking that with my day-to-day work is really a dream come true.
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them? What is a lesson learned in this position?
Life throws us curveballs. Just when you think you have everything in place, lined up and ready to rise to the next level, something unexpected happens. Perhaps the economy takes a swan dive and your job is no longer secure, or one of your parents passes away, or your spouse becomes ill?all those things have happened to me.
One of the most important lessons that I?ve learned over the years, which has been reiterated in every position I?ve ever held, is to never discount the value of a strong support network. My support network has been my touchstone during difficult times. Nurture your relationships, personally and professionally. Give more than you receive, every day. Then, when you need support or help, it will be there.
What?s coming next for you and/or for your business that really excites you?
I work with a very eclectic mix of nonprofit and government clients. My experience thus far has spanned criminal justice, community development, economic development, health care, senior services, autism services, education, disaster relief?the list goes on. As a lifelong learner, I am really excited by the prospect of expanding my business to reach other disciplines within the nonprofit sector.
How does your work empower individuals, advance organizations, and strengthen community?
I?m a firm believer that every organization has room for improvement, and those that pursue these opportunities will realize many benefits. They create more efficient processes. Employees and volunteers have a better understanding of how their individual efforts influence the big picture. Organizations enhance their results by prioritizing services that are working or refining those that aren?t. Then these nonprofits are ultimately better positioned to serve more people who are in need.
By focusing on the implementation and effectiveness of programs, policies, and procedures, my work helps clients collect, compile, and share meaningful information to guide decision-making. This approach is strongly aligned with ConnectVA?s three guiding principles: Learn, Share, and Connect. With a common focus on obtaining and sharing credible information, both Knowledge Advisory Group and ConnectVA support continuous learning and organizational improvement in the nonprofit community.
Trina Willard is the Principal Consultant at Knowledge Advisory Group. Before founding the Knowledge Advisory Group in 2010, she served for seven years as the Vice President of Transformation Systems Inc. (TSI), a small, award-winning management consulting firm. Her prior experience includes almost a decade as Chief of the Evaluation Unit of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Criminal Justice Research Center.