Sunday, August 28, 2016

Help Urban Youth Connect with Tutors, Mentors, Extra Learning

School has started, or will be starting in the next two weeks. Volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring organizations in Chicago and other cities are now in the process of recruiting, screening, training and matching volunteers with youth.  There's much you can do to help this process.

When I launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993, my goal was to build a library of existing programs, and create more frequent media stories, so more people would be motivated to volunteer time, talent and dollars to help existing programs grow, or help new programs start where more are needed.

The information in the library was intended to help existing programs see what others were doing, so they could borrow ideas to help improve their own program.  However, it's also intended to be used by people in business, faith groups, media, politics, high schools, colleges, etc. who should be much more proactive in helping good programs grow in more places.

One way I stay informed about tutoring/mentoring in Chicago and around the country is by looking at what Chicago area tutoring and/or mentoring programs are putting on Twitter and/or Facebook, as well as what they are putting on their web sites.

I maintain two lists of Chicago area programs on Facebook

Connecting with other Programs on Facebook.

The easiest way to learn what other programs are doing is to look at their Facebook pages. The way I've done this is to look at web sites of programs I maintain on this list. I find their Facebook link, and then visit their page and click on the "like" button. I've created a list of programs on Facebook, so this would be easier for others to do.

Then, on a regular basis, daily or weekly, I just click on the Pages Feed button, on the left side of my home page, and scroll down through the listings to see what's being posted.

Several Chicago youth organizations are very consistent, and creative, in sharing photo stories on a regular basis. Spend time looking at these and add the ideas to your own communications strategy.

Then, go a step further. Create graphics that feature some of these programs and share them in social media, to build greater visibility for the entire sector of youth tutor/mentor programs in your neighborhood, or in the entire city.

You can also follow what Chicago and national youth serving organizations are sharing on Twitter, by clicking on my TMPrograms list, then scrolling through what's being posted. Unfortunately, only a few Chicago programs are active on Twitter. My list includes organizations from around the country, so don't limit where you look to find ideas for your own organization.

Note: If you're a volunteer, board member, parent or student in a tutor/mentor program, and active on Twitter, you could be posting messages regularly, pointing to your organization's web site or Facebook page.

Looking at program web sites (here's my list) provides the most information about individual youth serving organizations in the Chicago region. I organize my list by sections of the city and suburbs to make it easier for parents, volunteers, donors, etc. to find programs near where they live or work. Many of the web sites are full of information. Some don't have as much.

I also point to other youth programs around the country. See my list.

My vision has been that a program's web site should serve as its grant proposal, and that donors and volunteers should be educated to seek out programs in different parts of the city and suburbs, in response to negative news or other reminders. I created this SHOPPER'S GUIDE PDF to show a list of things that I feel should be included on a web site, to fully inform site visitors. Very few organizations actually include most of this information on their web sites.

Note. If you've web design, communications, marking and/or PR skills, you could volunteer time to help programs update their web sites and tell their stories more effectively.

One opportunity that most programs miss, is using blogs to share their vision, successes and challenges with each other and with the public. If you browse articles I've posted since 2005, I'm pretty open about what I'm trying to influence. If you look at this AllStars Project blog, you'll see a clear statement of some of the challenges non-school youth development programs face. I would like to be able expand this list of blogs, which I've been building for the past 10 years, where leaders of tutoring and mentoring programs are sharing their own ideas in a similar way. Send me your blog address and I'll add it to the list.

As we start this school year, and move toward the year-end holidays and into 2017, we need more people to fill the RED circle in this graphic, using their personal visibility, their social media, their blogs and company/faith group web sites, to tell the story of youth serving programs in different parts of the city, with the goal of attracting needed talent, dollars, ideas and technology support to every program, on an on-going basis.

Are you taking this role?

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