Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Connecting those you know to tutor/mentor programs

We're nearing the end of National Mentoring Month. Now, what do we do for the next 11 months to assure that more kids who need mentors and would benefit from being part of comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, are given that opportunity?

I don't know what the budget was for the National Mentoring Month advertising, but to get high profile celebrities, and to have PSAs in media all over the country, represents an expense beyond what any single tutor/mentor program, or any citywide network has.

Furthermore, I don't know what impact the Mentoring Month campaign has because I'm not sure how often the person speaking about his/her mentoring experience is pointing to the place where he/she volunteers, with a goal of drawing new volunteers and new donors to that place.

I do know that in tutor/mentor programs around Chicago and in every city there are great stories taking place every day. Here's a blog on the Cabrini Connections site that introduces you to teens in our art club and shows work they and volunteers have been doing.

In January I pointed to a blog discussion where people were discussing the relative merits of story telling vs metrics as a fund raising strategy.

I believe in story telling and believe that if the thousands of men and women around the country who have been mentors, or have been helped by mentors, would tell their story consistently, they would attract more attention to tutoring/mentoring in general. If they go a step further and provide contact information for the place or places where they have been involved, the story telling can serve as advertising, to draw volunteers and donors to those places.

If they go a step further and say "where I was involved is not the only place in my city where kids need help, or the only program where people are offering tutoring/mentoring" then they can point to resources like the Tutor/Mentor Connection's Chicago Program Locator (archive since 2020) , which enable volunteers and donors and parents to search by zip code to locate programs, and to differentiate those programs between the age group served, as well as the type of tutoring and/or mentoring they offer.

I've created a Make the Connection PDF to illustrate this role of our volunteers and alumni. If more of the people who have been enriched by the tutor/mentor experience, talk about the program where they were involved, and the need that program has for volunteers and donors, the weight of these stories can become 12-months a year advertising that increases support for existing programs and helps new programs grow.

If you can incorporate the ideas of this PDF into a YouTube video, or other forms of training, please do, then send me a copy that I can post on our web site.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mentoring and Volunteerism as a Drop Out Prevention Strategy

The State of Illinois' Illinois WorkNet! web site added a new message, encouraging business leaders to think of ways their workplace volunteer and civic engagement strategies can incorporate tutoring/mentoring as part of the company or industry workforce development strategy. View the page here.

Many companies support volunteerism. Some even encourage paid time off. Many are involved in tutoring/mentoring. Some provide millions of dollars to fund charter schools. Is this strategic?

In internet forums, and in sessions of the May and November leadership conferences, we encourage business leaders to host discussions around this topic. Share what you're already doing to prepare kids for careers, and to include your volunteerism and philanthropy in support of this strategy. Other companies can learn from you and you can learn from them.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Locating the Drop Out Crisis

More than half the African American students in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania attend high schools in which the majority of students do not graduate on time, if at all.

This is a crisis, and we need to find ways to get people who don't live in high poverty neighborhoods more personally involved. Read this report and find additional information on the Drop Out Crisis and potential solutions at http://www.learningtofinish.org/doku.php?id=locations

Thanks for a generous donor, the Tutor/Mentor Connection is building 2008 capacity to map this type of information, as THE REST OF THE STORY. We've hired a GIS Intern, who introduces himself on the Mapping for Justice blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Complex problems require complex solutions

A featured story in today's Chicago Tribunec was about the planned firing of teachers and principals at 8 under performing schools in Chicago. Read it here.

I think that as long as big city school systems only focus on education and school-centered solutions they will never get the outcomes we all want.

I use computer mapping systems to develop poverty maps that show the relationship between poverty and poorly performing schools. I overlay this with information about churches, business, hospitals and universities in or near the high poverty areas, or to show expressways, like the Eisenhower, which link people who live in affluent suburbs with their jobs in the Loop. These people go past poverty neighborhoods every day as the come and go to work. Here's an example.

I also use the tutormentorconnection web site to host research articles written by experts in many parts of the country, so that anyone who reads an article in the Tribune or SunTimes, can dig deeper to understand the problem, and to understand how others are trying to find solutions.

My purpose in all of this is to increase the understanding and personal involvement of people who don't live in poverty, and don't live near low performing schools, but who are seriously impacted by the success or failure of our city to prepare young people for 21st century jobs and adult responsibilities.

This is intended to support the growth of a non-school learning, mentoring and tutoring network, that businesses use as part of their own workforce diversity and development strategies. At the links below you can read more about this strategy:

Collaboration Strategies

Role of Leaders

Find A Tutor/Mentor Program where you can volunteer time, talent and/or dollars

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Communicating Impact. Numbers or Stories?

I'm looking at more and more grant guidelines asking for 2 or 3 bullet points describing impact expected from their grant. I just read and article on the PhilaTopic blog that discuses the struggle foundations have to describe impact. Numbers or stories. Or both.

What do you think?

I come from an advertising background. Tell the story in a compelling way, with reach (more people) and frequency (more often). That's what I try to do.

Shop for charity involvement based on where the NEED is, before who the organization is.

The strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection aims to focus volunteers, donors, leaders, etc. on where tutor/mentor programs are most needed in a city like Chicago, before we focus on who the programs are that offer tutoring/mentoring.

That's because good tutor/mentor programs are needed in every neighborhood. It's not enough to support a good program in one neighborhood, if a different neighborhood also has high poverty, violence and poorly performing schools.

Once a volunteer and donor are shopping based on location, then the Program Locator helps you determine what organizations in the neighborhood offer various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring, and what age group they serve.

This is no guarantee that these are great programs. They are programs that are already in the area and can become great if they are consistently supported by volunteers and donors and if their leadership strives to grow from good to great.

It's a strategy that anyone can own, and anyone can lead. Everyone who reads a newspaper story about violence, poverty or poor schools, or is concerned about global competitiveness, or workforce development, is a potential leader and owner and advocate for this strategy.

Form a group, learn about the issues, learn to differentiate one program from another, just as you compare one grocery store to another, and one telephone to another. Then use that information to help tutor/mentor programs in the neighborhood you adopt, to grow from good to great so they do more to help kids escape poverty through education and workforce mentoring.

If business, professional, hospital and university leaders adopt this strategy, we can create a Chicagoland system of excellent tutor/mentor programs, making more learning, enrichment and mentoring available in the non-school hours, in neighborhoods where kids need more help. Through this, we can help Arne Duncan and Chicago Public Schools do more to reach his vision of a system of excellent high schools throughout the city of Chicago.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's our promise to our kids? What will our elected leaders do to keep this promise?

The Presidential campaign is coming to Illinois, which means we'll be bombarded with stories of hope, and change. It would give me more hope for the future, if I could see change in the way elected leaders (and candidates) act as leaders.

I have led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program since 1974. I formed Cabrini Connections in 1993 to help teens from the original 2nd to 6th grade program at the Montgomery Ward HQ in Chicago get the extra support they need from 7th grade through high school, in order to be prepared for college, vocational education, and the next steps to a job and a career.

When kids and volunteers join us we're making one promise: We will do everything we can to assure that each student who joins us will be starting a job/career by age 25. We are only limited by how much our students, volunteers, alumni and supporters are willing to share this responsibility.

Below is a message I shared with our volunteers to start 2008. This message can be just as relevant to volunteers in any tutor/mentor program, or to people looking to be elected to city, state and national office. 

I hope that all of our volunteers have had great holidays and that you are looking forward to continuing your role as a tutor/mentor volunteer at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

As you prepare for the second half of the school year, I encourage you to read some of the articles posted at Cabrini Connections - Tutor/Mentor Program in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago (archive.org)

I've been a leader of a tutor/mentor program since 1974, and I've learned that every volunteer and student are different, and constantly changing. Thus, while I can provide a structure for your participation, I can't teach you everything you need to know, or everything I've learned. I can try to help you, and your student, form a learning strategy, where you know where to find information, and find help, so that as you meet weekly, you know where to go for ideas to stimulate and support your involvement. 

Last Christmas, Rebecca Parrish (a Cabrini Connections volunteer) gave me the book "The Starfish and the Spider" as a present. As I read it, I realized that this book was describing Cabrini Connections and the role of every volunteer, staff member, and leader. It also describes the role of alumni, and veteran volunteers. 

We are a decentralized organization in which each volunteer is the CEO of his/her own tutoring/mentoring business. We succeed in life by our own efforts and by what we can learn from others. Our networks are important. They expand opportunities, open doors and provide resources. 

As you go through the tutoring year, each volunteer is learning to individualize his/her weekly activities based on the needs of your student, your own abilities and time, and the level of experience you have gained. Veteran volunteers, alumni, staff and coordinators are able to support you with ideas, information, and structure, but it is your own learning and networking with other volunteers that gives you ideas for what you do. 

Each week I'm trying to coach you with this email, with my blogs, and with the information and networks available to you on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org 

You all already know how difficult it is to motivate many kids to do home work, do extra learning, and take charge of their lives. Imagine how difficult it is for me and the leaders of Cabrini Connections to recruit busy people like our volunteers, and convince them to spend time beyond their weekly tutoring/mentoring, learning how they can become more effective tutors/mentors, or giving help to others who are seeking help. 

Yet, this is the only way we can succeed in keeping the promise we make to our kids. Read more at http://cabriniblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/good-to-great-in-decentralized.html

I thank you all for your involvement in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. On behalf of our volunteer board of directors, I welcome you back for our 16th year of tutoring/mentoring since January 1993.

Dan Bassill
Cabrini Connections 
Tutor/Mentor Connection 


In what ways will our elected leaders support the involvement of volunteers, donors, businesses and universities in programs like Cabrini Connections? Will they use maps to build a distribution of resources into every neighborhood where tutor/mentor programs are needed? Will they use their blogs, web sites, public speaking to connect volunteers with non profits in their district, using links to a Program Locator, so volunteers and donors can search for where to get involved? 

Or will the volunteer and donate button on their web site only point to themselves, in an effort to get elected, or stay elected? 

True leadership lifts up everyone. Real Generals understand the need to distribute troops in all places where the enemy is concentrated, and they understand the need to have an infrastructure that supports those troops with food, clothing, pay, training, weapons, etc. so they are better equipped than the enemy.

Which of our leaders are going to be demonstrating this type of leadership when they come to Illinois and ask for our vote?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Is National Mentoring Month Helping You Recruit Volunteers, or Donors?

We're in the middle of the annual National Mentoring Month, and I'd like to know what impact this is having on volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, or other cities.

Are you getting calls from potential volunteers? Are donors calling or sending checks? What's the impact?

Do you even need volunteers at this time of year? The Cabrini Connections program starts in September and runs through May each year. Our goal is that we keep 85% of the volunteers who are with us in October for the entire year. Thus, in January, we're only looking for a few replacements, and for volunteers who give their talent to help us support these volunteers, and our students.

We're also looking for operating dollars so we can fund everything we need to do each year, including pay the rent, insurance, staffing, etc.

What about you? Is this an important time for you to recruit volunteers? Is the campaign helping you?

NEXT WEEK: Is the Presidential Campaign helping you?

Monday, January 07, 2008

“Welcome to Chicago, Mr. President. Here are three kids “Left Behind”

Today the front page of the Chicago SunTimes had a full page picture of President Bush, with the message, “Welcome to Chicago, Mr. President. Here are three kids “Left Behind”. The sub head was President Bush comes to town today, primed to spread the gospel on No Child Left Behind. But so far he hasn’t delivered for too many Chicago Students.”

You can read this story here. http://www.suntimes.com/news/commentary/728730,CST-EDT-edit07.article

While I agree with the message, I’m disappointed that the paper did not point to web sites with more information on this subject, so that readers can learn more. They could have pointed to NCLB links on the T/MC web site

Or they could have pointed to articles on the tutor/mentor blog, with links to NCLB stories.

The role of a leader, and a newspaper, should be to bring people together, to build a greater understanding of a problem, and to mobilize resources to solve the problem. That's what we're trying to do through the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the resources on our web site.

We think tutoring/mentoring not only transforms the life of a child, but it transforms the life of the volunteer. Longterm involvement in a well organized program creates a bridge of understanding that is crossed by a child as he learns from an adult, and is crossed by the adult as he/she learns about poverty.

Until more adults cross this bridge, this nation will never have the will power or the leadership to make sure No Child is Left Behind. We'll never have enough resources of dollars, volunteers, leaders, technology to reach more of these kids in high poverty neighborhoods with the types of learning and support that overcomes the negative influence of concentrated, big city poverty.

Visit these sites and browse through the sections of this blog to see how you can be a leader in this mobilization.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

General Colin L. Powell leads January Mentor Mobilization

January is National Mentoring Month and in TV, radio and print media national celebrities like General Colin L. Powell, Grammy Award-winning R&B recording artist Usher and music icon Quincy Jones, and a variety of other celebrities will be raising attention and mobilizing volunteers and leaders to support mentoring activities throughout the country.

Follow these links to read the Press Release, see featured celebrities, and view actions that individuals, companies, civic and faith groups, can take to support volunteer-based mentoring programs throughout the country.

I've led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program for more than 30 years and currently lead the Cabrini Connections program in Chicago. I strongly support this campaign and hope that the media messages will motivate more of our private and public sector leaders to spend time learning more about how they can use their leadership strategically to support the growth of volunteer-based mentoring, and tutoring, programs.

I've written about the Mentoring Month, and General Powell's leadership before. Thus, I encourage you to visit the links below to see what I mean by strategic, and how Generals should be using MAPS, to point to where tutor/mentor programs are most needed, and to point reinforcements to the programs that are already in these areas, and need consistent, flexible operating support to build and maintain long-term mentoring connections with hard-to-reach youth.

On the National Mentoring Month Page is a featured article on Drop Out Prevention. Read the articles I've posted here and here and follow the links that illustrate tutor/mentor programs as a workforce development strategy.

View the charts that show the PUSH/PULL relationship of programs that PUSH kids to make good decisions, and business strategies that link kids to jobs and PULL them through school toward jobs and careers. Read more about Mentoring as a Workforce Development Strategy here and here.

Finally, read the essay titled ROLE OF LEADERS. If the leader of your church, company, university, hospital, or community does not make a long-term commitment to use resources strategically, I think most of the media attention generated by this year's Mentoring Month will be just more money and time spent with too little results in return.