Monday, August 4, 2008

Volunteer recruitment and other things

The month of August is upon us, and that means that our Fall Volunteer Recruitment Campaign is now officially in full swing. From now until the start of school we will not only be recruiting volunteers to be paired up with Cabrini-Green youth in tutoring/mentoring relationships throughout the year vis a vis Cabrini Connections, but we will also be promoting Tutoring/Mentoring programs across Chicagoland through our Tutor/Mentor Connection Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. So last week I sent PSA releases to every single Chicagoland radio station promoting tutoring/mentoring. Below is the 30 second spot I created that will be airing from now until the end of September all over the Chicagoland airwaves.

"As thousands of children prepare to go back to school in the Chicagoland area, we need to remind ourselves of different ways we can make a positive impact on their lives. Nearly three dozen Chicago Public School children were killed last year as a result of violent crime. Thousands more will drop out of school this year or turn to a life of crime. Let's create change. Become a tutor/mentor and make a difference in a child's life. Tutor/Mentors not only improve a student's academic performance but contribute to their overall well-being by simply being a friend, a parent and a mentor all in a just a few hours each week. Visit WWW DOT TUTOR MENTOR PROGRAM LOCATOR DOT NET to find a program near you and make a difference today. "

A shout out is due to my friend and WNUR General Station Manager Adam Clark for recording this and a number of other spots that we'll be playing in the future. Thanks dude!

So as I was writing this PSA for Adam to record, I figured that I might as well save him some time and have him record some spots that we could benefit from in the future, pertaining to our year end/holiday giving campaign, Fall Tutor/Mentor Conference and National Mentoring Month (January). This made me think about the importance of planning far ahead and having a regular set of events that systematically move towards our organizational goals of both improving and expanding our own tutoring/mentoring program for Cabrini-Green youth as well as expanding and facilitating access to tutor/mentor programming to all high poverty regions of Chicago and youth who could benefit from it. This is done through a carefully planned series of yearly events that build off each other, increasing the profile of tutoring/mentoring through a consistent flow of programming.

For example, I came on board here a month ago, in the middle of the summer. Summertime around here means that, besides a few scattered events like the Six Flags trip and the Edgewood College Visit, and a couple after school clubs, there aren't a lot of kids running around. To the uninitiated it may appear that a tutor/mentor program without kids around isn't doing a whole lot, but yet, we staff still manage to fill our days to the brim with things intrinsically related to our organizational goals. For instance, we planned and held a year end banquet and golf benefit, one of our largest fundraisers of the year and are currently organizing another fundraiser, a bar crawl known as Martini Madness.

I have been updating our tutor/mentor program locator, which has information for more than 400 tutor/mentor related programs in Chicagoland. As one might expect, this is an enormous undertaking for one person to do on their own. However, the goal is to empower each organization with the tools to constantly update their own profiles as their programming changes by making the program intuitive and user friendly enough for both programs and potential clients to come together to their mutual benefit. Also, we are hard at work planning not only our November tutor/mentor conference, but also our May Conference as well as lots and lots of volunteer recruitment events. These events include the Volunteer Recruitment Coffeehouse that Nicole is organizing at the ING Cafe on August 21st to foster collaboration between various programs and numerous recruitment fairs and events that begin this week. So as you can see, there is always more work that can be done to improve both our own program and myriad others, even when the kids we serve are conspicuously absent.

On a related note, I'm beginning to realize that my life is no longer organized in neat 3 month increments like it has been for the past 4 years, and that I need to start thinking over the much longer term in order to really understand the impact I'm having here. Rather than do crazy amounts of work in short bursts and having it be more or less irrelevant 3 weeks later, is much more important to work consistently, building on prior work and cultivating relationships over the long term, so that they are sustainable if/when you leave or change positions. For this reason it's important to have very clear goals, an effective plan for reaching them over the long-term and a system for documentation as you progress towards said goals. I'm fortunate that Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection seem to be so well planned and organized, perhaps that's what allows them to continually play a leadership role in the Tutor/Mentor community both here in Chicago and internationally. I'm hoping that during my time here, these modes of long-term, strategic thinking will begin to come more naturally to me, and I can play a significant role in the creation of new plans, ideas and programs to better serve our youth and grow our organization in the long run. More to come...

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