Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Participate in Tutor/Mentor Conference? Visibility, Dollars, Ideas.

Tutor/Mentor Programs in Chicago who received Lend A Hand Grants at the May 1996 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

I sent an email to the leader of one of the more sophisticated tutor/mentor programs in Chicago today, and decided to share that letter with the world. I hope you'll read it and make time to be part of the November 15th and 16th Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference being held in the Chicago suburbs.

I hope all is well with you and that you've submitted your proposal for the 2007 Lend A Hand Program grants. The size of the grant pool this year is close to $200,000, which is a huge increase from previous years when it averaged around $35,000.

This means you and others who operate volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago will receive larger grants this year, and for the next 10 years (because that's how long the LAH grants should continue at this level or higher!).

This is exactly what I've been trying to make happen since 1993 when we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC).

The Lend A Hand Program received a $2 million award last November, focused on funding volunteer based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago at a much higher level than in previous years. This was not an accident. It was the result of a concerted effort by several members of the legal community, which started in 1993 and 1994.

With much more money to award, it will be a challenge to keep LAH funds focused on general operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, but if programs are to grow, and more programs are to start in areas without such programs, we'll need consistent funding from the LAH and we'll need similar funding from other business and philanthropy sectors.

It will take the combined efforts of leaders of many tutor/mentor programs to keep the LAH group focused on funding general operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, and to encourage other industries to duplicate their lead .... in Chicago, or in other cities.

That's something I would like to talk about with you. That's something I'd like to be talking about with leaders of tutor/mentor programs throughout the country!

In order for leaders in other industries to duplicate the Lend A Hand program, they need to know about this and know why they should become involved. At the Nov. 15 and 16 conference one of my board members, Steve Miller, President of Legacy Mortgage Corporation, is hosting a workshop titled "How business leaders can and should participate in charitable organizations".

I hope leaders of tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region, and in other cities, will encourage one of your board members to attend this workshop, and this conference.

We also want health care people to participate. Last month, I wrote an article titled: Reframing School Drop Out as a Public Health Initiative.

Some programs, such as Chicago Youth Programs, Inc, are wonderful demonstrations of health care involvement in a tutor/mentor program. If these programs host a workshop, or a display table, to show how they have built hospital and health care support, and invite leaders from hospitals in the entire region to attend, this can lead to others duplicating this type of support in more places.

I also hope you'll do a workshop on evaluation. In order to keep money coming to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs we need to develop some outcomes that business leaders understand easily. As you can see from articles like this, I feel that if industry looks at a tutor/mentor program as part of a workforce development, or diversity strategy, they will invest more creatively and consistently.

I think you're further ahead than many on this, which is why I keep inviting you to share what you know vis the conferences.

Having you part of the conference helps with our efforts to motivate people like LAH to support tutoring/mentoring. On the conference web site you can see you can see photos from past conferences where LAH is giving grants to tutor/mentor programs.

I know this is a busy time for leaders of tutor/mentor programs, but the rewards from what the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been doing for the past 14 years are beginning to show up in the increase of funding from a variety of sources.

If we can build on this we can stabilize the resource pool for tutor/mentor programs
all over the region. If other cities duplicate this, and collaborate with each other, we can influence this growth in cities throughout the country.


If you cannot come to Chicago for a conference, connect with us on-line in blog exchanges, discussion forums, webnars, etc. If you host your own event, link to the T/MC conference, and to web sites of others who also host events. By doing so we create greater traffic of potential volunteers, donors and business leaders through a network of linked organizations. This is essential for building the type of public awareness needed to gain more consistent support for comprehensive, long-term tutoring/mentoring programs operating in high poverty areas around the country.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

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