Saturday, September 05, 2009

Keeping T/MC a mostly FREE service

I encourage you to read the analysis of the Tutor/Mentor Institute written by Bradley Troast, who is the 2009-10 NUPIP Fellow with Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

This diagram shows the role of most consultants who provide knowledge that helps a non profit connect with ideas and resources that help the non profit, or the for profit, do its work. The Tutor/Mentor Connection has been providing a wide range of services intended to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region, and in places as far away as Africa and Australia.

Other than charging a small fee to attend the Tutor/Mentor Conferences in May and November (and we give scholarships to all speakers and anyone who requests one), we don't charge anyone for the help we offer.

This diagram describes the way we've been working. Rather than be in the middle, charging a tariff for information to go back and forth between those who need help, and those who can provide it, we've moved from the middle to a third point in a triangle. Our information is intended to be used by donors, volunteers and public leaders, just as much as it is intended to be used by tutor/mentor program leaders, families, youth, social workers, etc.

If we worked like a traditional consulting firm, we'd only help those who could pay. That means, instead of trying to show all of the tutor/mentor programs in Chicago on the Program Locator maps, we'd only show those who were paying for the listing.

Those with the least resources, and in the poorest neighborhoods, would be the ones who could least afford our help. Yet, they are the ones who need it the most.

Thus, we've kept our services free, depending on donors who value what we do, and want the same outcomes, to provide the operating and innovation dollars needed to provide our services.

That has not been easy because some donors have gone out of business and others have had funding guidelines that limit how long they can fund us. Others just don't see the value of an intermediary, and can't see metrics that help them understand what we are accomplishing.

Use the touch test, sight test, the taste test, or the smell test. If you can see it, use it, touch it, then it's there. Skim through the links on this blog and you'll see resources that we have created. This is not a mirage. It did not happen by magic. It has taken many years of effort. Yet, it is there for all to see, and all to use.

There was no T/MC in Chicago prior to 1993, and in most other major cities most of the intermediaries are still charging a fee for you to get their help. There are no other organizations doing all of the things the T/MC is doing to try to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in EVERY neighborhood where they are needed.

Bradly is posing some questions for how we continue this service when donors have less to give and a major champion has not yet come forward to provide the ongoing operating and innovation dollars needed to keep this service in Chicago, and FREE to those who need it most.

We'd like your help.

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