Monday, May 29, 2006

Where does the courage come from to fight the un-winnable fight?

Some times when I am getting up in the morning, or driving to work, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of the obstacles I face in trying to create a system that would connect kids living in poverty with the adult support they need to help them through school and into jobs and careers by age 25.

I was in the Army, but never in combat. So I don’t know what a soldier might feel when he is told to do a job that seems impossible and will lead to almost certain death. I wonder which fear is worse: being in a World War 1 trench and getting ready to charge a enemy across an open battlefield, or driving in a convoy from one location to another and not knowing when and where a roadside bomb is waiting to end your existence.

I’m sure that the fear these brave souls face each morning as they anticipate their day is much greater than mine as I face my day. Yet, I’m not sure that the battles we fight are any more winnable.

Nor am I sure that it is any less important to do battle on foriegn soil than it is to fight for the heart and soul of a young person living in the battlefield of inner-city poverty. Maybe one of the inner-city teens saved by a tutor or mentor will become the leader who finds a way to build peace through different means than invasion or terror.

During the past week, I’ve hosted a conference in Chicago where nearly 200 tutor/mentor leaders of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs came together to share ideas. Many connections were made. Many ideas were shared. For example, On Friday, a couple of people from a local college and the leader of a local program, told of how they had met through the conference, and might now work together. This is one of many similar connections. I wonder where I’ll find the help to host the next conference in November.

On June 1 Cabrini Connections will host its annual year end dinner. We have 7 seniors graduating this year. We have three teens and one volunteer going to Ireland in August. I have heard from four different alumni this past year, telling me how important Cabrini Connections was to them. We have 56 teens who will be returning in the 2006-07 program, who will need our continued help next year, and for the next 4-5 years. I wonder where the money will come from.

I take the little victories out of my battles and use them to fuel my everyday courage. I try not to think of the huge obstacles, but focus on what needs to be done -- and what I can do -- in the next few moments. At the end of each day, I look back and see the progress I’ve made. I don’t compare it to the size of the mountain of obstacles ahead.

That’s what keeps me going. I do it because it has to be done.

I honor those other people who have similar perserverance in the face of obstacles and who sacrifice their lives for a noble purpose.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Education: The Path out of Poverty

The Children's Defense Fund has released its annual "The State of America's Children" report, in which it takes a close look at 37 million people living in America who are poor (including 13 million children). The 2005 edition includes Sept. 2005 poverty data and in depth analysis and recommendations for just treatment for children and poor families. Chapters can be downloaded from

As I write this post, the big question is "Who Cares?" Who cares enough to get personally involved with time, talent, treasure, and to stay involved for many years. With so many other issues bombarding us every day, how do we create a focus on the 13 million kids living in poverty, and on the various programs that are working to help end poverty by helping a youth through school and into a job/career?

That's the goal of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Last week conversations were hosted at and On May 17th IUPUI will host a one day eConference at

On May 25 and 26 a face to face conference will be held in Chicago. If you're interested in helping kids out of poverty through tutoring/mentoring, please try to attend. The agenda can be seen at

Friday, May 05, 2006

Connecting those who can help with those who need help

During May and June I'll be co-hosting a variety of on-line forums and a Chicago conference. These will be connecting tutoring and mentoring leaders and supporters with each other, and with local programs who are constantly looking for more volunteers and donors.

Today I'm at and from May 8-12, I'll be part of a Volunteer Recruitment discussion hosted at

You can find the full agenda for the Chicago conference and on-line events at

I hope you'll participate, and that you'll invite donors, like Jason who is shown above giving me a donation from his co-workers at Merrill Lynch in Chicago. If we can draw donors into our discussions, my hope is that they will become partners who make sure local programs have all of the resources they need to connect volunteers with kids.

The on-line forums are FREE. I hope I meet you there.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Innovation, Problem Solving, Collaboration

I found three sites worth visiting in the last few days. The first was a non profit blog site titled BlogDigger The site contains links to current messages in several hundred "Blogs by and/or about Non-Profit organizations". I read through a few of these, and the links highlight some of the most important challenges facing non profits in America and the world. They also provide some great tips that any non profit might use to do better work.

The second site is the Community site of Accenture, one of the largest professional consulting companies in the world. The feature on the page is "Executive Issues in Non Profits 2005/06: Identifying Enablers of Nonprofit High Performance". I printed the report and among its findings are a) 77% of non profit executives and board members say "expanding the current donor base is the top issue". 61% say "recruiting high-impact board members" is the top issue. To me, these are the same. In traditional philanthropy, you need well-connected board members who can, AND WILL, help raise money.

A few weeks ago I posted a link to a CompassPoint report, titled Dare to Lead, which provided similar information, showing lack of access to funding to be the biggest contributor to executive burnout and turnover in small and medium non profits. The report is at

The third site I visited was the India Development Coalition of America. This is a small grassroots group of people who want to support charities in India. The site is

What's the point?

The research provided by Accenture and Compass Point provides information that non profits and for profits could be using to innovate new ways to raise and distribute revenue, ideas, talent and technology to non profits throughout the world.

However, that is not likely to happen until these groups, and many others, connect with each other in on-line portals where ideas are available for innovation, where on-line meeting and discussion capacity is available, and where someone provides a blueprint, and points to maps, showing all of the places where resources are needed, and all of the existing non profits who are scurrying around like goldfish in a feeding bowl, trying to find food for their operations.

If this is of interest to you, visit the eConference page at and find a time and an on-line space where you can begin to join this process. Or, find time to send an email to others in your business, professional, faith and alumni network, to encourage them to join.