Saturday, November 19, 2011

Raising Funds for Tutor/Mentor Programs

This photo was taken almost 12 years ago during a November 1997 event hosted by the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Lawyers Lend A Hand Program. It's purpose was to raise visibility within the legal community that would help raise money directly for individual tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and for the Lend-A-Hand Program's pool of funds which it drew from each spring to award small grants to 15-20 tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.

At the right is an article from the Daily Law Bulletin of the Chicago Bar Association, telling about a collaborative effort of the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, intending to raise visibility for tutor/mentor programs in November that would lead to more contributions in the December holiday period.

This was all part of a strategy developed in 1994 where the Tutor/Mentor Connection would host a conference in November, the CBF would host a fund raising event, and we would create a "Tutor/Mentor Week" to generate greater visibility for all tutor/mentor programs in Chicago that would help recruit volunteers and donors at that time of the school year.

We're approaching the Holiday Season again and volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs still need operating dollars to do their work. From 1994 to 2001 the Tutor/Mentor Connection published a printed directory that people could use to search for different tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.
We never had much money so we were only able to send 300 to 400 copies of this to foundations, media, libraries and the programs listed in the Directory. Thus, it was a big deal when we found a way to put this directory on line in a searchable program locator back in 2004. Then in 2009 we launched a new interactive map version where you could look at a map of Chicago and see where tutor/mentor programs were most needed, based on poverty or poorly performing schools, and you could see icons on the map representing existing tutor/mentor programs in our directory. In both of these versions you could sort by age group and type of program and zip code to narrow your search to find contact information on specific types of programs.

This service consistently has recorded 500-600 visitors a month for over eight years. The chart below shows funding available to the Tutor/Mentor Connection in the past decade to do everything it does, including creating and hosting this map based program locator. You can see that we've had less than $150,000 a year which is less than what it would cost to purchase one full page ad in the Chicago Tribune on a single day!

The T/MC operated as part of a combined Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection non profit since formed in 1993. We split money each year between the site based tutor/mentor program and the T/MC, yet the time spent on the T/MC always was secondary to the time needed to support the 70-80 pairs of students and volunteers in the Cabrini Connections program. Due to the financial challenges of the past decade the Board of Directors finally decided that they could no longer support this dual strategy from a single small program, thus voted to discontinue the T/MC in April 2011.

I "retired" from my role of President, CEO in July and created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in an effort to find new ways to generate revenue and partnership to continue to offer the T/MC to Chicago and to help programs like Cabrini Connections get the volunteers, donors and ideas each program needs to thrive. I did this without any financial commitment other than my own meager savings account.

The Lend A Hand Program received a $2 million award in 2006 and has made grants totaling nearly $240,000 per year since 2007. If we can encourage other businesses and professions to launch similar programs it can generate money and volunteer talent from every industry to support tutor/mentor programs in different parts of Chicago. It's a strategy that can duplicate in other cities if an intermediary group like the Tutor/Mentor Connection is available.

I want to help make that happen but I need your help to do this. I've never been successful obtaining sponsorships for the conferences from a charitable standpoint and I have no experience approaching venture capital people for the type of investment we need to build out the features and services of the T/MC or to fund an aggressive advertising campaign to raise money for tutor/mentor programs in the Directory. Thus, my first request is for volunteers to step forward and fill the different roles visualized on this talent chart. You can see this live at this link.

At the same time I need to raise money for monthly expenses such as hosting the web sites, organizing the next conference, etc. I'm not asking for a charitable donation and I don't have a 501-c-3 structure to offer you a tax deduction for a gift. Instead I'm asking your to help me offer hope and opportunity to inner city youth, and an opportunity for volunteers and donors to be enriched by being part of the lives of these kids.

When Jonathan Kozal talked about his book "Amazing Grace" he said the "Amazing Grace is not what we do for them, but what they do for us."

You can help me by contributing dollars to help me continue to build the Tutor/Mentor Connection and by helping me find sponsors and investors who might want to put the "name" on the Program Locator or on the Conferences or on our Links Library, just like US Cellular puts their name on a baseball field or rich alumni put their name on college buildings, hospitals and sports stadiums.

Associate your name with a vision of helping more kids from poverty move through school and into jobs and careers and you'll have a legacy that can last many years into the future.

Email me at tutormentor 2 at earthlink dot net or send your contribution to:

Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC
Tutor/Mentor Connection
Merchandise Mart PO Box 3303
Chicago, Il. 60654

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