Sunday, March 28, 2021

Non-Profits Face Same Old Problems - Inconsistent Funding

Last Thursday I posted a blog article with this graphic showing the need for consistent, on-going funding, to help tutor/mentor programs and schools support kids as they journey from 1st grade to first jobs.

This is not a new problem, nor a new theme on this blog.  Below I've reposted an article from March 2006.


Over the past couple of weeks I’ve written about the shootings in Englewood, and expressed my concern that nothing will happen because there is no plan for engaging people from beyond poverty in this discussion in a process that creates ownership, understanding of the issues, and a dramatic increase the resources needed to build and sustain comprehensive tutor/mentor programs in poverty neighborhoods. 

Yesterday, 3/21/2006, I participated in an audio conference titled “Integrating Mentoring and After-School”, which focused on the need for mentoring programs in more places (like Englewood) and the potential for these programs being hosted in traditional after-school programs, such as Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, schools, etc. (publication no longer available)

Today, 3/22/06, I attended an event titled Non profit Leadership Challenges and Opportunities, which was hosted by the Donors Forum of Chicago (now Forefront). 

Representatives from Compass Point, presented findings from a web survey that was distributed in eight cities over the past year. It’s titled “Daring to Lead, 2006” and you can download the full report at

The Daring to Lead presentation highlighted three surprising findings: a) 30% of executives leave their jobs involuntarily (either fired or forced out); b) Executive directors plan to leave their jobs but will stay active in the nonprofit sector; and c) A key driver of executive burnout is frustration with funders.

While the focus of the Donor’s Forum meeting was on succession planning, which is essential to leadership stability and organizational growth, the research constantly pointed to a lack of ACCESS TO CAPITAL as the primary challenge facing small and mid size non profits. Their was a rousing cheer when the need for funding non-restricted, long-term general operations funding was raised as a pivotal issue. 

I agree. You cannot keep good leaders, or pay them well, or offer retirement, if you don’t have enough money to pay the rent on a regular basis. If you deal with this problem every day for 12 years, as I have, it tends to be a bit stressful.  (This is the primary reason I left Cabrini Connections in 2011).

How do these issues connect? If we want to reduce the violence in neighborhoods like Englewood, we must provide better education and career opportunities. To do this we must increase the range of non-school programs that help kids succeed in school, stay safe in non-school hours, and move successfully to jobs and careers. The only time when work place adults are consistently available to be involved in long-term mentoring is after 5pm, when most after-school programs are not open. 

Finally, it takes years to build good tutor/mentor programs and it takes a dozen years just to help a youth go from first grade through high school. It takes another 6-8 years before that youth is anchored on a career path. We can never support this process on a consistent basis in many locations if we cannot attract and keep key leaders for existing programs, let alone attract thousands more for the additional programs needed in Chicago and around the country. 

We cannot do this without changing the funding paradigm. 

So what do we do next? 

There must have been over 500 people at the Donors Forum event. I don’t know how many were in the audio conference on Tuesday. However, most will never be in the same room, or the same discussion, at the same time again, because there was no strategy in evidence that gave participants and opportunity to connect with each other, and the presenters, in a facilitated, and open, on-going dialogs. 

That’s why we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 (led since 2011 by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC) 

That’s why I invite anyone interested in tutoring/mentoring as a strategy for civic engagement and for increasing the understanding of poverty, to participate in the May and November Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conferences held in Chicago (held from May 1994 to May 2015)  and on the Internet. 

These were a meeting place for people to come together to present, reinforce, advocate and discuss information such as was presented over the last two days, in the context of the urgency that is reinforced by the media coverage of events like the shootings in Englewood. (visit this page to see list of workshops and speakers for many past conferences)

You can read about the past conferences at

Over the past two year’s (2004-2006) we’ve also begun to develop a web conferencing process, so that people from distant locations can connect with people in Chicago, during the May and November conference periods, and so that people can stay connected on an on-going basis. As others host video and audio conferences, or face-to-face meetings such as today's event, my hope is that they will build web strategies that link the participants to each other, and to affinity groups such as the Tutor/Mentor Connection. 

Our goal is to turn discussions into meetings, and meetings into a process of identifying tipping points, or ways to collaborate in activities, like leadership development, funding, volunteer recruitment, which effect all tutor/mentor programs in the country, not just our program in the Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago. (note: if you're an architect, or work with complex decision support, we'd like to recruit you to map this process, to create a blueprint that people could follow to understand the problems and to be strategically involved in the solutions) 

-----end 2006 article ----

If you read back through the blogs I’ve posted since 2006, you’ll see that there have been many forums where information of importance was presented to a gathering of interested people. 

However, I still don't see a consistent effort to bring people from face-to-face events, and now ZOOM events, into on-going discussions where all of those who are creating and presenting research on poverty, workforce development, tutoring/mentoring, violence prevention, youth development, service learning, etc. are using Internet space as additional times and places where anyone can present their information, help more people understand it, and contribute to a long-term process that leads to the development of more and better programs that keep kids safe, successful in school and moving toward jobs and careers. 

While I continue to lead the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC I no longer have the capacity to build this network of learners and problem solvers. Yet I have probably spent more time thinking of ways to connect people and ideas and support all places where help is needed than most others in America. Thus, I'd be a valuable contributor to anyone's brainstorming. 

You don't even need to invite me to meet with you. Start out by digging through my past articles and information I share on the site.  

Open this concept map and see how interns from different universities have spent time building an understanding of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, then creating blog articles, videos, animations and other media where they share their understanding.

Create a learning program in your high school or college, and duplicate this process.  Some day in a few years you'll be able to point people to a page where your students are sharing these ideas.

Want to connect with me? I'm on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram (see links here). 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Want to make a difference? ReThink Philanthropy

 One of the people I follow on Twitter is Vu Le, who posts Tweets like the one below:

I've focused on improving the flow of operating dollars to non-school, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago since starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.  In one section of the Tutor/Mentor web library I focus on fund raising challenges faced by non-profit organizations.  

I've been using this "Mentoring Kids to Careers" graphic, along with various versions, since late 1990s to emphasize the on-going support kids need from pre-school through high school, then beyond, to assure that more of the youth who are born in high poverty areas are starting jobs and lives free of poverty when they are adults.

In the lower left corner is a map of Chicago, with high poverty areas shaded grey. These are the areas where mentor-rich programs are most needed.  In this article you can find my list of programs and see how I plot them on a map. This helps people find existing programs in different parts of Chicago and hopefully is used by planners to determine where more are needed.

Below I've created another version, highlighting one stage on this career ladder.

Kids grow one year at a time. Support  needed for many years.

It's great to be able to provide a youth tutoring and/or mentoring activity that lasts for one, or two years, but it takes 12 years to move from first grade through high school and four to six more years beyond that to be starting a job and career.

The challenge Chicago and other places face is building and sustaining k-12 support programs in every high poverty neighborhood.  

This means we needed to find money every year to pay the bills. That was always a challenge. The graphics below illustrate this challenge.

Note the inclusion of maps in these graphics. Unless donors use maps to assure a distribution of dollars into areas with high poverty, they may make billions of dollars in gifts and still miss  most of the areas where help is most needed. I've devoted the entire MappingForJustice blog since 2008 to show ways maps can be used. You can also see uses of maps in articles on this blog.

In past years a GIVING TUESDAY campaign has attempted to draw donor attention and increase giving to non-profit organizations.  I created the graphic at the lift a few years ago to visualize the need for year-round giving, making every day a "Giving Tuesday".  Much of what I write about on this blog focuses on ways to build the on-going public attention that would motivate such giving habits, as well as the program directories and maps needed to guide giving into every high poverty area, not just a few high profile programs. 

Between 2005 and 2015 interns spent time viewing articles like this, then created their own interpretations. You can find many at this link. Others who I've met via the Internet have also tried to help share these ideas. On this concept map I post links to some of their articles.
More people need to do this. Read this and other articles I've written, then create and share your own version. Let's join Vu Le in advocating for changes in how philanthropy works.

There's a tremendous amount of wealth in Chicago, and the US, but much of it is not yet being focused on helping build and sustain great learning and mentoring opportunities in all high poverty neighborhoods, reach kids at school, and in the non-school hours.

If these graphics resonate with you then let's find places on the Internet, and in Chicago, where we can begin to connect and look for solutions.  I'm on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram (see links). 

If you value what I'm writing about please consider a small contribution to help me keep doing it. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

eMentoring and On-Line Documentation

 On Friday I listened to a webinar hosted by the National Mentoring Partnership which focused on e-Mentoring and ways organizations have responded to Covid19 by building on-line connections.  Below I've posted a few Tweets.

another another another

I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program from 1975 to 2011. Since both kids and adults were volunteers I used participation tracking to monitor matches and evaluate program success.  My primary tool for doing this was Excel spreadsheets and manual data input and monitoring. 

In 2008-9 we introduced an on-line documentation system, called Student-Volunteer History and Tracking system (SVHATS).  Unfortunately this site is no longer available, but here's one page that's available on the Internet archive and here's a series of articles on the Cabrini Blog that refer to SVHATS.   Here's a PDF that describes the planning that was involved in building SVHATS.

If you compare this to what I Could Be has created over the past 15 years you'll see that we were headed in that direction.  Unfortunately the 2008 financial meltdown reduced our funding and ability to further develop SVHATS and then my leaving Cabrini Connections in 2011 removed the energy and commitment to using an on-line platform to support youth, volunteers and staff.  

I've been using maps since 1993 to visualize the need for well-organized, constantly improving, mentor-rich non-school programs in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other places.

I maintain a list of nearly 200 non-school and school-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs, and point to many arts, STEM, and service learning programs in the main Tutor/Mentor library.  

Everyone of them could be using the I Could Be platform, or something similar, if donors and tech volunteers would step forward to offer help.  This means providing on-going operating support, not one-time development grants.  

My graphics visualize long-term goals of helping kids living in poverty move through school and into adult lives. On-line platforms enable kids and volunteers to connect with each other, and with program resources, for a lifetime!  This was never possible in the years before 2000 and still is not the vision of many youth organizations or public schools.

On Thursday I watched a different webinar, hosted by the program at Arizona State University, which was focused on "Promoting Broadband Access".  Below is a Tweet from that webinar.
Among the presenters was Paul  Signorelli who I met via the ETMOOC event in early 2013.  I've been a fan of Paul's blog and I encourage you to read some of his "changing the world articles". Several focus on digital access. is described at " is a community of dreamers, doers and drivers shaping the future of learning in the digital age. We are value-led changemakers who envision positive learning futures and undertake concrete action to bring about those futures, together." Visit the website and learn about the "10 actions needed to shape the future of learning in the digital age". Anyone can join this group. Much is done on-line.  

The Thursday and Friday events are connected. Without increasing the number of people who care about the challenges facing people in poverty and who act regularly to provide an on-going flow of dollars, technology, volunteers, talent and leadership into EVERY youth program, in EVERY high poverty neighborhood, schools and non-profits will not be able to adopt technology like that of I Could Be, nor keep it part of their programs for 10 to 20 years, with constant improvement. 

In almost all of my articles I call for those who read them to turn around and share them with others, and teach them to do the same.  That's how I'll finish this one. 

Colleges and Universities have a constant flow of talent and alumni who could be leading a Tutor/Mentor Connection 4-part strategy as part of their own learning and service.  While my focus is on helping kids in poverty via organized tutor/mentor programs, the 4-part strategy could be used to aggregate information about digital access, racial justice, climate crisis, or any other issue.

Here are a few articles where I've outlined that opportunity.  

I'm on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram (see links) and hope to connect and share ideas with people who read my blog articles or are doing similar work in different places. 

I'm also dependent of a small group of donors to help keep sharing these ideas. Click here if you'd like to make a contribution. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Role of Veteran Volunteers

 Last August I posted this article announcing that a Michigan consulting firm called Great Lakes Growth Works was interested in talking to youth program leaders about their experiences during Covid19.  Yesterday I received an email telling me the blog article showing the outcome of these conversations was now available. Then, today, I saw this post on Linkedin, by Phil Roos, leader of GrowthWorks, and a former volunteer with the tutor/mentor program I was leading in the 1980s.

Let's look at some history behind this.  I led tutor/mentor programs in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 and for many of those years I created a yearbook to end each year. These included photos and  names of each pair of kids/volunteers.  

About 10 years ago I began to go through the yearbooks to find names of volunteers. I then did a search on Linkedin and Facebook to see if I could find them.  I did the same with former students.

That's how I re-connected with Phil Roos several years ago. He was working at the Quaker Oats Company in Chicago in the mid 1980s when he was a volunteer.  That's him at the left with his mentee. 

We reconnected on Linkedin and Facebook and as I told him about my continued efforts to help tutor/mentor programs grow, he became an annual contributor to support the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (click here to donate). 

As we've interacted I saw that Phil's consulting firm had started a series of conversations with community and clients in Spring 2020 to learn how Covid19 was affecting them and their businesses.  I suggested that interviewing leaders of tutor/mentor programs might provide some valuable insights and Phil agreed. His team worked with me to develop some questions and a list of people to interview. I announced this in a blog last August and in my eMail newsletter.  That led to the blog article Great Lakes Growth Works posted this week.

This is what I've encourage many other veteran volunteers and students to do. Use your talent to share your own experiences and to encourage people you know to support tutor/mentor programs in cities across the world. Take time to learn about the intermediary role the Tutor/Mentor Connection launched in 1993 and that I've continued via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC since 2011.  If no one is building a library of youth programs and trying to draw attention and resources to those programs, then someone needs to duplicate the Tutor/Mentor Connection so that information is available.

I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 at the same time as we were launching the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program, which I led until 2011.  We had no money and just 7 volunteers when we began. Thus, while we had an ambitious vision, we had few resources to tell people what we were doing.

From 1993 to 2002 we had support from a Chicago PR firm, who helped us develop a year-round event strategy, including networking conferences in May and November, a Tutor/Mentor Week in November, and a volunteer mobilization in August/September.  We published our list of programs in a printed Directory every year from May 1994 through 2002. We also published a quarterly printed newsletter which grew from 400 people in 1993 to 12,000 in 2002.  You can find past news articles here, and past newsletters here.  

However, all of this was too little to reach and influence the millions of people in Chicago and around the country who need to be strategically involved in  helping youth in poverty areas, via organized, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs.

In 1998 we began to put our library and list of programs on the internet, and use email newsletters to share ideas.  This enabled us to reach more people in all parts of the world, but was still only reaching a few people.  In addition, the loss of Montgomery Ward as host and funder, the dot-com financial meltdown, the 9/11 market collapse, then the 2008 collapse all increased our expenses but reduced the money we had to do all that needed to be done to support our Cabrini Connections kids, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy.  

Since 2011 I've had even fewer resources to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection.  The Cabrini Connections program became Chicago Tutoring Connection, and is now struggling to stay alive.

Without money for advertising and public relations I've always encouraged our volunteers and students to help tell stories of the work we were doing, in an effort to increase the number of people we were reaching and who would support us, or other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.

I created this concept map a few years ago to show how others have been helping me tell the story of the T/MC and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and help others learn what I was doing and how they might duplicate it.

I added a node at the bottom left of this concept map today, showing the blog articles on the Great Lakes Growth Works site. I'd love to add more showing others who are helping make sense of the strategies I've been sharing and to find others who will apply them in more places while helping me re-energize them in Chicago.

Thank you Phil, Elizabeth, Taylor and the team at Great Lakes Growth Works. 

I'm on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. You can find links on this page. I'm looking forward to connecting with you. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Movement Building - It Takes a Village

Last Friday, March 5, 2021 I watched a series of Poverty Narrative panel discussions hosted by the Poverty Solutions program at the University of Michigan.  Their commitment is to "provide rapid response data and analysis to community stakeholders and policymakers who want to enhance economic mobility and decrease poverty." At the link shown above you can see descriptions of all four panel discussions and find links to the recorded events.

The above photo is from the final panel titled: Confronting Inequity in Public Health 

As panel members described the massive effort to find a cure for Covid19 and then build a distribution system to get the vaccine to millions of people, I thought of the concept map I'm showing below

This includes my "mentoring kids to careers" graphic showing 12 years of support needed to help kids from first grade through high school.  At each stage a wide range of support is needed.  I've created a concept map to visualize some of these supports. I hope you'll look at it.
To the right of the "mentoring kids to careers" graphic is a visualization of the many challenges kids and families living in high poverty areas face as they make this journey.  Public health issues are just one of those.  Each one of these challenges represents an ecosystem of people from around the world who have expertise or are working to solve that piece of the problem. 

I'd love to find others creating concept maps for each of these challenge areas.  I'd add a link from my map to each of those, providing a much deeper visualization of the complex challenges. 

The UN's Sustainability Goals website does a good jobs showing the ecosystem around each of it's 17 SDG goals.  The World Economic Forum (WEF) also has an extensive library, organized by issue.  

The "challenges map" also includes a small map of Chicago, with high poverty areas shaded. Each of these areas needs a full set of birth-to-work supports that address each of the challenges facing kids and families. Maps of other cities would show similar concentrations of poverty. 

As I watched the final panel another one of my concept maps came to mind. This one is a worksheet, showing "talent needed".  

Building and sustaining organizations and movements requires an ability to recruit people with needed skills and talent, who represent a wide range of stakeholders.  If you're missing some of these the work will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

In the blue box at the top of this concept map are links to another maps, showing "network needed"

As I watched the panel discussions I shared what I was seeing and what I was thinking with a series of posts on Twitter.  Below is a Tweet where I highlighted the use of maps in communicating information. 

You can see all of these if you search #PovertyNarrative then look at the latest posts. What depresses me  is that less than 100 people were watching the live panel discussions last Friday and fewer than a dozen were posting introductions, comments or ideas to the PovertyNarrative Twitter feed.  Thus, the number of people connecting to each other was too small to do much with the information shared.  

However, that's how movements get started. 

As you look at these ideas think about the work needed to build networks of people who focus on solving big or small problems in one or more specific places.  I've used the graphic at the left for more than 20 years to show how one person, with a vision, starts sharing that vision with others, hoping to build a team of people who will embrace it and share the work needed.  If that team has the mix of talent shown above, and can stay involved for many years, great things can happen.  Here's one article that I encourage you to read.

However, depending on the level of resources you have, and the power or influence of the people in your network, this can be just a really difficult process, or an almost impossible one. 

If you share this article with others, you're helping me build the network. If you write your own article and interpret what you're reading, and how it applies to a piece of geography that you care about, you are doing even more.  If you reach out to me with a "how can I use my time, talent and knowledge to help you do this work, you become one of the people in that small first group on the far left of the graphic. 

I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social media sites. Find links on this page.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Case for Business Investment in Tutor/Mentor Programs

I created graphics like the one at the left to visualize the 12 years of constant support needed to assure that more kids born or living in high poverty areas are in jobs with networks of support by their mid 20's.

You can find examples like this in many of my blog articles.  Most of these focus on non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs as an important resource.  They provide on-going benefit to youth and to the volunteers who get involved.  

They need constant support and that's the problem for most, who are relatively small and don't have staff for advertising, public relations, fund raising, etc.  Thus, I've created a series of concept maps showing why businesses should support such programs. Below is one:

Here's the link to the cMap.

Creating these is only one step in an on-going process. Sharing them and increasing the number who view them, then use them, is actually much more difficult, since I've never had the advertising budget to build awareness for them.  

So I've been sharing them via my Twitter feed and on Facebook and Linkedin.  Below is a Tweet thread posted in the past few days.

Take a look.  Share the concept maps and my blog articles with others. Use 
for your own learning and leadership and create your own versions to share with others.

I don't need a huge advertising budget if every day one, or many, are reading these articles and sharing them with others.

Visit this page to find my social media links.

Visit this page if you'd like to make a contribution to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.