Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#InternationalMentoringDay - Connect Cities, Volunteers Throughout World

My Twitter feed is full of #internationalmentoringday motivational messages. So is my Facebook feed. This is an annual day of celebration that recognizes people involved in mentoring and (hopefully) encourages others to give a donation, their time, their talent, or even a hug to support people involved in local and global youth serving organizations.

Since I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor organization for 35 years that has depended on the contributions of time, talent and dollars from many people, I’m delighted to write about this.

In fact, I’ve been writing about the challenges of making mentor-rich non-school tutor/mentor programs available in hundreds of locations for the past 23 years in my role as leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (T/MI).

I hope you’ll take some time to read some of the past articles.

The challenge of a non-profit leader is the same challenge I had when I worked as a retail advertising manager of the Montgomery Ward Corporation between 1973 and 1990, yet larger.

At Wards during the 1980s we had a $250 million advertising budget to reach out to 20 million people three times each week with advertising intended to draw customers to our 400 stores located in 40 states. In these ads we provided a range of merchandise and services that we knew some people were looking for each week. We also provide incentives to motivate people to come to our store instead of someone else's store. These included HALF PRICE, NO MONEY DOWN, LIMITED TIME ONLY and many similar messages.

In the non-profit sector each organization competes with each other on a daily basis for dollars and volunteers and public attention and few have the advertising budgets that are available in for profit corporations. At the same time as they are searching for dollars to pay the expenses they also are innovating ways to use the dollars effectively to provide public benefit.

Few non-profits have the ability to say HALF PRICE SALE, or THIS WEEK ONLY.
Thus most don’t have the consistent involvement of volunteers and donors that are essential to build and sustain the work each program is trying to do.

That’s why events like International Mentoring Day are important. Someone is taking the lead on January 17 to motivate people all over the world to seek out and support mentoring-based organizations, locally, or globally. The many messages on social media fill an important role by encouraging bloggers, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook people to write about mentoring, thus expanding the “advertising reach and frequency” that is needed to attract the attention of millions of people who might make small donations of time, talent or dollars to fuel the work of non-profit tutoring and/or mentoring programs.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection supports the involvement of volunteers and donors by maintaining a map-based Directory of Chicago organizations that offer various forms of tutoring/mentoring in different neighborhoods of Chicago. T/MC also hosts a library of links to web sites of these organizations and to information that people can use to understand why and where tutor/mentor programs are most needed.

Since 2011 I've led this effort through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. I've not had much financial or volunteer support to maintain the on-line resources as well as they need to be updated and so forth, and still don’t yet have a giving feature tied to the maps that works like crowdfunding platforms, but we’d like to add this if we can find the money, or a technology partner.

If #InternationalMentoringDay and the weight of many on social media can draw a few more donors and volunteers to tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities, this is a good thing.

However, it will be even better if the following happens.

a) Groups of people who support the goal of tutor/mentor programs will begin to innovate ways to duplicate Wards Sears, McDonalds and other businesses, to create events 365 days of the year that draw the attention of the world to small charities doing needed work

b) Some of these groups will see the value of map directories and portals like the T/MC and will add their own time, talent and dollars to help innovate more ways that we can draw volunteers and donors directly to programs, the way mass merchants draw shoppers to stores. Help us build this capacity and help us share this with people in other cities.

c) People focused on other social benefit causes will see that the T/MC concept can duplicate in other sectors and will reach out to partner with us for their own self-interest

d) Some people will begin to use visualizations, such as concept maps, to show program design, planning processes, and the need to build public will and long-term support for mentor-rich programs in thousands of locations, and these will be shared in future events like #InternationalMentoringDay.

Margaret Mead talked about how a “few people can change the world”. Events like #InternationalMentoringDay can reach millions of people and inspire them to spread their time, talent and dollars to all corners of the earth where they can become part of the few, the proud, the difference makers.

I hope the resources I share can  help that happen.

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