Friday, December 30, 2005

Creating a Service and Learning Organization that Mentors Kids to Careers: My 2006 Resolution

If you've read some of the messages I've posted to this Blog you'll see that I lead a small non profit that seeks to connect workplace volunteers with children and youth living in neighborhoods of highly concentrated poverty.

Our goal is to create an organized framework that encourages volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, advocates, friends, leaders in on-going efforts that make a life-changing difference for these kids. By life-changing, I mean that the kids will not be living in poverty when they are adults because they will have the academic, social/emotional and workplace skills needed for 21st century jobs, plus a network of adults who can and will open doors to jobs and mentor them in careers.

I have spent time almost every day for more than 30 years trying to figure out better, more efficient, and lower cost ways to accomplish this goal.

I have learned to mine the knowledge and experiences of others to innovate strategies for tutoring/mentoring, rather than trying to develop my own solutions to problems. Using T/MC web sites, on-line networking and regular face-to-face training and mentoring, I am trying to share what I know, and the process of learning and service that I apply in my own daily routine, so that there are more people in more places accepting this role and responsibility.

So how do we make this vision a reality? We create a "learning organization", which is also the ideal of many of the best businesses in the world. We also create a "service culture" modeled after the work of heroes like Cesar Chavez, whose core values included sacrifice and perseverance, commitment to the most disadvantaged as well as life-long learning and innovation.

In a learning organization, everyone is engaged. In the world of Cesar Chavez, everyone is willing to make huge commitments, and sacrifices of time, talent and treasure to help disadvantaged people move to greater health, and greater hope and opportunity.

Our goal is to find ways to draw a growing number of our stakeholders into this learning process and to build an on-going commitment to service (as opposed to random acts of kindness). This process is intended to include our students and volunteers, our staff, donors and leaders, and members of the business, education, faith and media in the communities where our kids live. It also aims to engage leaders and volunteers from other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and in other cities, plus people and organizations in the communities that don't have high poverty, but benefit from a world envisioned by Dr. M. L. King, Jr. as well as a 21st Century America where there are enough skilled workers to meet the future workforce needs of American industry.

The Internet is our meeting place. It's a virtual library of constantly growing knowledge. On T/MC web sites we collect and hosting information that shows why kids in poverty need extra help, where such help is needed, who is providing help, and what volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can do to connect adults, kids and learning in an on-going, constantly improving process of mentoring kids to careers.

If we can find ways to increase the percent of our kids, our volunteers, and our leaders and donors who are drawing information on a weekly basis, and reflecting on this information in small and large groups, the way people in churches reflect on passages from the Bible each week, we can grow the amount of understanding we all have about the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. We can innovate new and better ways to succeed in our efforts.

This process has already started. We need to nurture and grow it in 2006.

Can you help?

Visit the various web sites at the left and start your own learning. I encourage you to read the Power Point Essay titled, Theory of Change . This illustrates our goal and the community that we seek to engage.

This and other PPT essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library illustrate the T/MC vision and the community of organizations that we seek to engage. Then share your own knowledge, time, talent and dollars to help us build this service and learning organization.

Thank you all for reading my messages. I hope you share them with others. May God Bless you all with peace, good health and happiness in 2006.

Daniel F. Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection
Cabrini Connections

Friday, December 23, 2005

Spread Holiday Hope and Holiday Cheer

I've been reading blogs on charity and philanthropy listed in the Non Profit Blog Exchange and in one the message is: Do your donors a big favor: ask them to give.

I cannot tell you how often over the past 13 years I've struggled to ask for money and how difficult others also seem to find this. Yet, here's a blogger saying that we're doing donors a favor because it feels good to give!!

I know this is true about giving of your time, but it seems harder when you're asking people to give their money. Yet, what's the difference? Time is money!! Therefore, as you head to the Christmas or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah feast, why not make everyone feel better by asking them to give to a charity that needs more dollars to do its work.

You can read more about "making donors feel good" on the Donor Power Blog, found at This is one of several non-profit blogs linked together in the December 2005 Non Profit Blog Exchange.

Let me talk about this from the other perspective. I lead a small non profit. I've had former students and volunteers tell me how much being part of Cabrini Connections has changed their lives. I've had people from around the country tell me how they have started new mentoring initiatives based on the information they found on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site or how much they valued the information. Yet, I've also had to reach into my own pocket to pay the bills each year because I could not find enough donors to share this vision with me.

For charities like Cabrini Connections, the last six weeks of the year are critically important. We raise almost 40% of our annual revenue in these weeks. I'm please to say that we've received significant grants from HSBC, Hewitt, Kraft Employee Fund, Polk Bros Foundation, the Wm Wrigley Jr. Co. Foundation and many donations ranging from $5 to $1,000 from dozens of individuals these past few weeks, so my Christmas stocking is filling up.

But it's not overflowing, which means unless we find more donations this week and in the coming months, we'll be borrowing money in June and July to pay the rent!!

Not all charities are as good as others in raising money. There are many who do excellent work but work in relative isolation and struggle to find funds to do their work. We set up the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to try to change the way funds were raised and distributed to tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. We've piloted GIS maps to show where these programs are needed, based on where poverty and poorly performing schools are most concentrated. We've created a searchable database to help people learn what programs are in what zip codes, or if there are zip codes where more programs are needed. You can find this in the Program Locator at

I spend time writing blogs like this to try to help all of these programs get the resources they need, not just the programs I lead. I try to teach others to follow this example because I think it can increase the donor pool that supports all of us.

Thus, if you want to feel good, but don't want to send a contribution to Cabrini Connections ( ), we offer you dozens of other programs in Chicago where you can help kids and mentors connect. Furthermore, if you search the LINKS library, we offer you almost 900 links to organizations who do great work in all parts of the US, and who seek charitable contributions to sustain what they do.

I have been doing this work for more than 30 years. I've been blessed in more ways that I can count, starting with the kids and volunteers who have let me be part of their lives, and going on to my own children who are the result of me meeting and marrying a women who I met in 1980 when she became a volunteer in the program I was leading.

I hope that many of you have found the same type of joy from giving of your time, talent and treasure. And I hope you'll keep giving until it feels good!!

As you celebrate this holiday please look for ways to share some of your own blessings with people who are helping kids and who are trying to end poverty through mentoring and career education. ...or who are doing other forms of charity and service that also need to be funded with your contributions.

To all who have helped Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, with their donations, with their volunteer contributions, and with their encouragement, I say "Thank You!"

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lawyers in Chicago Lending a Hand to Inner-City Kids

Last night, December 8th, a special program was held in the Chambers of the Chicago City Council. Mayor Richard M. Daley joined members of the Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Lend-A-Hand Program of the Chicago Bar Association to present $45,000 in grants to 17 volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs serving at-risk youth in areas across the city including Cabrini Green, Humboldt Park, Uptown, and South Chicago.

One of the programs was Cabrini Connections, which I helped create in 1993.

The 2005 LAH Grant Recipients include: BUILD, Inc. ; The Bridges Program; Cabrini Connections; Centro Comunitario Juan Diego; Chicago Youth Programs, Inc.; Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church; Christopher House; East Village Youth Program; Family Matters; Hermosa Community Organization; Horizons for Youth; Inspired Youth, Inc.; Life Directions; Maywood Youth Mentoring Program; McGaw YMCA Project SOAR; Midtown Education Foundation; and, Sunlight African Community Center.

Included in the $45,000 were two special awards. The inaugural Much Shelist Founders Award ($7,000 for an emerging program) was given to Inspired Youth, a program started last year by Beth Palmer. Other nominees were Hermosa Community and Sunlight African Community Center. The partners at Much Shelist have made a total commitment of $35,000 to provide grants to different emerging programs for the next five years!

The Thomas A. Demetrio Awards of Excellence ($8,000 award), which recognizes an outstanding example of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring each year, went to Midtown Educational Foundation. Other nominees were East Village Youth Program and Chicago Youth Programs. The law firm of Corboy & Demetrio has been providing funds for the Demetrio Award since 1994.

The initial Demetrio Award was the idea that launched the Lend A Hand Program. The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), which was formed by the same volunteers who formed Cabrini Connections in 1993, was one of the first applicants in 1994, and used the May 1994 Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference to help spread application forms to tutor/mentor programs who attended the conference.

In June 1994 the T/MC and the Executive Director of the Chicago Bar Foundation created a partnership and vision of expanding from making one $2000 award each year, to becoming the first foundation to fund the general operations of constantly improving volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region. This launched the grant making program of the Lend A Hand and the T/MC has helped it grow every year since then.

This is part of a leadership strategy intended to draw more consistent funding from all sectors of the business community to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs throughout the city.

I’m proud that my small voice and persistent efforts have contributed to the growth of the LAH. But, imagine how many more industries might duplicate this program if more visible voices, like the Mayor, or the leaders of Chicago's largest Law Firms, or Accounting firms, or Financial institutions, were advocating for support of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs regularly, like I do on this blog and through the T/MC web sites and email newsletter.

I’m sure the volunteers, youth and the leaders of every program that received a grant last night can tell you how important their work is to helping young people succeed in school and in life. Yet, consistent funding for non-school programs is hardly mentioned in the focus on fixing the school system in Chicago. This can change if more lawyers and law firms begin to support the Lend A Hand, or become directly involved in supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs in their communities.

I hope that people who read this blog will forward it to journalist and that they’ll write about volunteer involvement in tutor/mentor programs like Family Matters, Midtown, Inspired Youth and the others on this list. I hope they'll also write about the Lend A Hand Program, too.

If they put such a story in a December column and they encourage other business and professional people to duplicate the LAH, or to seek out a tutor/mentor program for a holiday contribution, programs throughout the city can get the extra dollars they need to operate in 2006. That's the best gift we can give to many inner-city kids.

If you want to make a donation to a tutor/mentor program, you can visit the Program LOCATOR section of to find web sites and contact information the tutor/mentor programs who received Lend A Hand Grants, and for other programs in different parts of the Chicago region, who did not participate in this year's grants competition. They all need many donations throughout they year to maintain volunteer mentoring contacts with kids.

If you want to learn more about the Lend A Hand Program, visit or call Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Esq., Executive Director, 312-554-2041. If you want to learn more about approaching a business or professional group with the idea of duplicating the Lend a Hand, email me at

Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this far on today's blog!! With your help we can make the holidays a bit happier for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs and the youth, volunteers and communities they support.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Non Profit Blog Exchange, Round Two

In September I participated in the first round of the Non Profit Blog Exchange. Through it I met some new people doing good work, learned some new ways to use a blog, and hopefully became a tutor/mentor resources to a few people who found my site as a result of being part of the Blog Exchange.

Round two starts now and runs through most of December. My blog partner is Jane King, who is located in Greater Hartford, Connecticut. Jane's Blog is titled The Giving Blog: A web log about Giving. The ULR is

I really like Jane's Blog. It's really an aggregator for blogs focused on Giving. Thus, by following the links you can find inspiration and wonderful examples of giving. For instance, one of the links to Jill Manty's is a blog that tells of chruch based charities who normally would be under the radar of most donors, and who don't have marketing and fund raising staffs to go out and find money. There are thousands of tutor/mentor programs that fit this description. I'd love to find people like Jill who would do just what Jill is doing, but focused on volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring organizations.

That's what's great about Jane's Blog. It provides examples that others can borrow and innovate from. Gee, maybe if some of the people who read my blog go to Jane's blog and then put some of her examples to work, these new blogs will some day be listed as the next examples of giving on Jane's Blog!!

I encourage you all to take a look and share this with friends. It's the holiday season and there are lots of charities who desparately need help.

To learn more about the Non Profit Blog Exchange, go to