Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I attended an Advertising & Public Relations Reception at Loyola University Chicago last night. I was not quite sure what the event would include beyond “free wine” but was really please with the result.

First, this event showcased work that teams of Loyola students in Kay Felkin’s advertising and PR class had done since January to support five small non profits in the Chicago region. One of Kay’s students was Jordan Merlo, who was an intern with us a year ago. In early April I was a guest speaker and presented this information to Kay’s students. So I was really pleased to be invited to see the work the students had done.

Second, this was a competition! The students were competing for The Ebeling Pr-ize not just for an academic credit. The winning student team received a $2000 award from Chuck and Vicki Ebeling, along with a signed letter of recognition for the success the campaign achieved on a professional level.

I was introduced to Chuck and Vicki during the networking part of the event and they were very polite in listening to what I do with the Tutor/Mentor Connection. However, it was not until Mr. Ebeling spoke that I realized that he was a founding member of the McDonald’s Global Communications Council and what the purpose of the event really was.

It totally related to my own goals and strategies.

Mr. Ebeling talked about how prizes and competitions have the potential to change the world and he described the Orteig Prize as an early example and inspiration for his own efforts.

The Orteig Prize was first announced in 1919 by Raymond Orteig, a French-born New York hotelier. It offered $25,000 for a pilot to fly nonstop between Paris and New York.

The Orteig Prize is what inspired Charles Lindberg to become the first pilot to fly nonstop between Paris and New York City in 1927. The result was a transformational event that led to the airline industry as we know it today.

I did some research on this today and found this Innovation in the Crowd web site that provides more information about the Orteig Prize, and also provides extensive information that can be used in creating competitions like this.

Why is this important?

I see competitions as one strategy to draw more attention to the ideas we share on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site and to draw more consistent visibility, volunteers and philanthropic support to tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago. I also see it as a way to earn income to support the T/MC efforts. The graphic below illustrates how a competition at key times each year could be a "spark" that motivates more people to get involved, or stay involved, with volunteer based tutor/mentor programs.

Competitions and awards that recognize people and businesses for how they support one or more tutor/mentor programs could provide such a spark. So could competitions that recognize teams of students and/or volunteers for work they do to help the T/MC increase the reach and frequency of its communications.

For instance, I’ve had the idea of a Business School Connection on the drawing board for more than a decade. This wiki was created by a University of Chicago NetImpact fellow in May 2007 but I’ve not found other volunteers or sponsors to help move the idea forward since then.

In this article, I show work interns are doing of converting illustrated essays into animations and videos and the potential that this could be a competition involving students from all over the world.

As one of the professors said to me at the Loyola reception, “It’s a good concept but making it operational is your challenge.”

He’s right. However, the people I met at this reception, and the information I’ve found about using prizes to inspire innovation, are more fuel for my efforts to add these competitions to the Tutor/Mentor Connection’s year-round strategy.

If you want to help, let me know.

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