Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Guest Blog Post: Getting the Point Across

A collective effort requires involvement from many people to communicate ideas and expand the number of people and resources involved in community problem solving. At this Debategraph site you can see how an article I wrote was shared by David Price, co-founder of Debategraph.

Below is a Guest Article introducing the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to potential new friends and supporters, written by Mary Gerace, Mary Gerace Enterprises, Chicago, IL

Communicating complex ideas in a conversational way is an everyday challenge. Visionary ideas are large and abstract, requiring distillation into language that resonates.

Dan Bassill's message is visionary and distinct. While he endorses the traditional funding sources of government and philanthropic grants as necessary for the operation of nonprofit youth mentoring organizations, he insists it’s not nearly adequate. He promotes a more sophisticated paradigm for this work. He encourages comprehensive, long-term corporate sponsorship cooperation, extending well beyond cash contributions, for neighborhood tutor/mentor programs until it becomes a commonplace, everyday business practice -- a customary and expected corporate "give-back" that is very generous in its scope. The redounding benefits are myriad.

Let's set aside one-on-one tutoring in a volunteer role. We’re talking about something much more substantial. Let's say a corporation makes a commitment of $1 million over five years -- not cash, but in-kind, in the form of donated staff time and expertise. That's $200,000 a year of in-kind donations. And it takes this form: The CEO commits a webmaster, a marketing person, a graphic designer, an advertising/publicity person, a social media person, and a tech person who can service the organization's computer equipment. These are all people who already work for his/her company. This collaborative work is possible to conduct largely if not all online. Makes it very easy. And the corporation will do all the printing of miscellaneous collateral materials, and it'll include a postage stipend of some kind. And it'll throw in $75,000 in cash earmarked strictly for a first-rate fund-raiser for each of the five years, with a modest salary increase each year.

Now as a result of this, the tutor/mentor organization, in effect, has just boosted its staff size dramatically, knows it can count on all of this support for the next five years, and it frees up the executive director and the programming staff to do what they know how to do best, namely, help the kids: focus on service delivery, without having the worry about all the stuff the corporate sponsor is going to provide. This remarkably significant support would make it possible for the program to expand and improve in ways that are nearly unimaginable and should prove to be hugely successful. Because for five years, that organization won’t have to scrape by, won’t have the very burdensome distraction of going out day after day, hour after hour, fighting for every possible donated dollar. It frees up the organization's staff to serve the kids; and working with the professional corporate staff assigned to the organization allows the organization's staff to learn so much more about how to do those various tasks much more effectively. Meanwhile, as we all know, since the kids are being successfully mentored, it makes it much more likely they'll stay in school and proceed on to college, and become productive, skilled members of the local workforce.

There is one extremely important point to keep in mind as we encourage CEOs to pursue a major corporate commitment to this (or any) volunteer endeavor. Today's workplace environment is now focused on uber-productivity, which is another way of saying that many employees are being expected to do the work of two or three people, and working very long, arduous hours as a result. When that CEO pitches his/her staff to become volunteers for what is likely to be perceived at first as the CEOs "new pet project," there must be an element of fairness in the equation. That is, the responsibilities the CEO is asking his/her volunteer team to assume should be treated as every bit as important as company business -- not something to be viewed as low-priority; not low-level work relegated to being done at midnight at home because that's the only time the beleaguered employee can carve out. The type of corporate sponsorship discussed herein will fail if executed thoughtlessly.

Avenues exist already that can permit this corporate sponsorship model to multiply exponentially, both domestically and internationally. It deserves much greater attention from elected officials, donors and urban business leaders everywhere.

At the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum blog you can find writing by others who are helping interpret Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC ideas.

This article shows work that other volunteers and interns have done.

If you'd like to help interpret our ideas or invite me to speak at your company, civic group or conference, join the Tutor/Mentor Forum or introduce yourself to me on Twitter or Facebook.

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