Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Growth of the middle-man in non profit sector

I've used this graphic for many years to illustrate the role of the Tutor/Mentor Connection as an intermediary connecting those who need help (non school tutor/mentor programs and the young people they serve) and those who can help (business, volunteer, donor, etc).

From 1993-2011 I did this role as a non-profit and did not charge a fee to either side to support my services. Furthermore, I built an extensive map-based information system and a year-round schedule of activities intending to draw volunteers and donors DIRECTLY to individual tutor/mentor programs the same way advertising draws customers to retail stores. Let the zip code and the web site of the program provide information the volunteer, donor, parent use to decide about getting involved.

In recent years I've seen the growth of consulting firms who "tell you how to do it" but leave you without the manpower, talent and resources to apply their ideas. I have seen very few consultants acting like the T/MC, using their articles and blogs to draw volunteers and donors directly to the organizations they are trying to help.

A few days ago I saw an article on Facebook titled "The Philanthropic-Consultant Industrial Complex . . . editor notes issue #74". I was not able to comment at that time. Then today as I read Charles Cameron's introduction to a Social Edge forum discussion titled Philanthropic Advisers: Experts in Successful Generosity, I saw a link to a blog by philanthropic consultant, Lucy Bernholz, titled The Business of the Business of Good which pointed me back to the original article that I'd seen on Facebook!

I think the intermediaries like philanthropic advisers can be a good thing. I was given $50k in late 2007 to rebuild my mapping capacity because an advisory was doing research on funding tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and he came to me for information. As I showed him how to use the Program Locator to find programs in the West part of the city I said "If your donor really wants to make a difference, give me some money to rebuild this capacity." He did.

I never would have connected to this donor otherwise.

However, the opposite side of this conversation is that I don't think the consultants and experts, including researchers, are doing enough to drive needed operating resources and talent directly to all of the small and mid-size places who need flexible, on-going resources to build talent, knowledge, experience and human capital within their organizations. Without this there are too few programs reaching too few kids.

Due to my inability to connect consistently with enough philanthropic investors over the past 18 years I've not been able to maximize the potential impact of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. In the end the strategy was dropped in April 2011 by the Board of Directors at Cabrini Connections. I had to create Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in July 2011 in order to keep the T/MC going.

I've always been a consultant, but I gave all my ideas away for free. Now I'm trying to find ways to get paid for sharing some of these ideas.

Part of my strategy is to earn consulting fees from cities, businesses and others who want to duplicate the T/MC concept in their own cities, without the costs of starting from scratch.

I'm committed to finding the dollars and talent to do this, but will never change from the philosophy of using my own time and talent to draw needed resources to the programs on the front lines of the war on poverty who must have these to win.

I encourage you to follow these discussions over the coming weeks and think of ways you can be an intermediary who connects "those who can help" with "those who need help".

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