Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping the PIPblog magic alive

Hello! So as you've hopefully realized from my past few posts, I'm officially finished with my PIP fellowship. Though I'll be continuing to contribute (albeit less frequently) both here on this blog and in other places, Bradley Troast, the new 2009-2010 PIP fellow at CC/TMC has already begun blogging about his experiences on the new PIP blog. So I would strongly recommend checking out Bradley's blog, since it will be updated a heck of a lot more often than mine, now that I'm no longer an official employee. In his first couple weeks on the job, Bradley has already blogged about our recent Golf Benefit and Edgewood College Visit as well as our brand-spankin' new and improved Video Club and his thoughts on his new work. It's clear he is getting off to a great start so be sure to add to your RSS feed reader of choice and stay tuned!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Concept Mapping my blog

Today marks my blog's 145th post! Who'd have thought that I'd have stuck with it, especially considering my only previous foray into the blogging ended after a mere 11 grueling posts. However, the blog continues to go strong. If you're interested, my most popular article has been the one I wrote summarizing some research about Racism in the Job Market. Anyway, since my year is up and I'm going to be leaving my full-time position at Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection, I thought it would be prudent to offer a new and exciting way to relive the magic...A CONCEPT MAP!

Anyway, you may have seen my map of Northwestern University's assets a couple days ago, well in a similar vein, I've mapped the various articles in my blog according to some general themes. Interestingly, since I've blogged about much of the work I've done here, the concept map can also read as a job description or summary of some of the projects I've embroiled myself in during my time here. Hopefully Bradley Troast, my NUPIP successor and others will not start from scratch, but rather build from some of the knowledge and expertise I've accumulated and shared in these articles and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the work we're doing and how to constantly expand and improve our social impact! So, without further ado, here's the official Chrispip concept map (be sure to click each node to find the relevant articles).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One year later, what have I learned?

As of yesterday I've officially been working at Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection for a full year. As you may or may not know, this is my last week here as an official staff member. Thinking back to where I was at this time last year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In fact, I was still wondering whether I had made the right choice in choosing not to pursue graduate work in neuroscience immediately after my graduation. Though I knew I needed to do something disorienting (in a good way) in order to put myself in a situation where I could grow as a person and develop my social and political consciousness outside of NU, I never could have predicted how profoundly a year of non-profit work would change my personal perspective on work, life and my own future.

One huge surprise was how easy, natural and engaging the work seemed after 4 years of grinding through research papers, oral presentations and other thesis related mumbo-jumbo with varying degrees of interest and enthusiasm. Knowing that the work I do is contributing to the well-being of 70+ kids in whom I'm now personally invested, makes me a lot more inclined to put in the necessary time and effort, than when I was at Northwestern writing papers for an audience of one and giving presentations to a dozen or so disinterested students.

Another is that the social reward of knowing that my work is helping disadvantaged youth succeed so far outweighs the relative lack of financial compensation that I'm taking a completely unpaid position at a radical Guatemalan non-profit school next year to further hone the skills and knowledge I've developed through my year here as a PIP fellow. Perhaps I'll reconsider down the road, but for the time being, living in relative poverty and loving my work is far preferable to any number of potentially more financially lucrative alternatives.

One other big one, and perhaps the most important is that connecting a youth with a caring adult volunteer through a tutoring/mentoring relationship is really one of the most powerful ways to help a disadvantaged youth succeed. Just spending a year here and coordinating our Cabrini Connections program exposed me to dozens of case studies that make a strong case for the value of programs like ours. Given the obvious benefit of our work in the areas of: academic achievement, employment gang-prevention, drug-prevention and violence-prevention, it is shameful that organizations like ours are constantly scrambling for the necessary operating dollars because government, business and other sectors with a stake in the future of youth growing up in poverty haven't taken a more active role in supporting programs like ours. Though much lip service continues to be paid to programs like ours, from our nation's capital all the way down to conversations at the nearest bus stop (I can't tell you how many times people have told me "oh that's so great" when I explain what we do), the fact is that programs like ours can't continue to do this necessary work without the necessary human and financial resources, which are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Therefore, now more than ever, we need to bring more leaders and other motivated folks into the fold to advocate for our youth, our programs and our future.

Personally, I'm becoming more and more convinced that I am and will continue to be one of these people. For this, I have to thank Dan and EL Da'sheon, who have gone to great lengths to get me to understand the ins and outs of running a successful non-profit, been incredible mentors and true sources of wisdom and inspiration to me throughout this past year. Thank you for your guidance, thank you for your willingness to collaborate and most of all thank you for the difference that you're so committed to making in the lives of youth all over the city.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


So, in case you haven't heard, Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection have hopped aboard the TWITTER bandwagon and are now tweeting updates and links with the best of them. We're hoping to use this resource to keep people abreast of our activities and potential supporters in the loop with constant updates. With the ability for people to follow our activities and subscribe to our feeds, TWITTER is another way to direct traffic to relevant content on our blogs and websites (such as this blog). So, stay connected to us wherever you are with TWITTER by following us at: tutormentorteam

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mapping Northwestern University for Tutoring/Mentoring Programs

So as I've mentioned in previous posts, Colleges and Universities are full of valuable assets for Tutor/Mentor Programs like ours. They are chock full of smart and engaged people who want to make a difference. However, for better or for worse, universities are multifaceted communities, with a wide variety of buildings, departments, offices...etc. They also have an unfortunate tendency to be composed of various organizational silos that inhibit communication between different parts of the university. In fact many a program coordinator has been frustrated by the seemingly endless amounts of emails and phone calls necessary to reach the right administrator who can actually begin to help forge a mutually beneficial relationship.

Therefore, after facilitating a workshop about ways to constructively engage Northwestern University at our May Conference, I decided it would be beneficial to put together a concept map of all of the different parts of NU that could help a tutor/mentor program like ours. From the various service learning, work-study, internship and practicum opportunities available for non-profits to secure skilled and committed volunteers to the various philanthropic wings of the university, consider this map a guide to the assets of Northwestern University. Don't forget to click through to the links embedded on each item to find out more. The JPEG above is just a static graphic, click here to access the map complete with all its links. Hope you like it and pass it on to people and organizations you think it could benefit.

According to our tutor/mentor program locator there are 8 programs currently operating in the 60201 area code and about 10 more close by in Rogers Park. Programs like these could greatly benefit from knowing what parts of the university to build relatoinships with, I know Cabrini Connections certainly can, and is benefiting from our connection to Northwestern. Anyway, stay tuned for more useful concept maps in the near future!

Find the map at:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A few of the many uses of the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator

If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to visit our interactive tutor/mentor program locator and take a look around. Whatever your aims, it's a powerful tool that allows you to visualize complex sets of information and draw new and exciting inferences about. Though we created it as a tool to help potential leaders in youth tutoring/mentoring build capacity and relationships with other non-profits and community assets, you can just as easily use it to look at your neighborhood and see who your neighbors are, or learn about neighborhoods that you've heard mentioned in the news but never actually bothered to look up. There are as many potential uses for the interactive maps as there are potential users, the key is taking the plunge and visiting and taking a look around. For inspiration, check out the following case studies, which provide some examples of potential uses of the interactive maps.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Telling the Tutor/Mentor Connection Story

As I've mentioned in the past, one of the most difficult parts of my job is to explain the Tutor/Mentor Connection quickly and effectively, while not misleading people into thinking of it as something it's not, such as a simple membership organization. For this reason, we have been working with a number of interns from IIT who are helping us to animate some of our concept maps and links libraries in order to make the information more engaging and straightforward. Check out this animated resource map that our interns Sungjoong and Gunwoong have been working on! I'm currently recording some audio voiceovers that will come up when you first load the page as well as when you scroll over the various page elements.

They're also doing this for our homework help links and Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy map. So check out their progress and be sure to stay tuned for the finished product in a week or so!

This type of project is an example of something that tech savvy volunteers like Sungjoong and Gunwoong can do from a distance. Since we are sharing strategic planning information via our wiki's, anyone, from Seoul to San Fransisco to the South Side can be helping us to build and share knowledge about what we and others are doing to help at-risk kids. What role can you play?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tutor/Mentor Exchange

As someone who spends more than half of his waking hours working in some capacity to connect at-risk youth with the resources they need to graduate high school, enter college and embark upon meaningful postgraduate careers, I've spent a lot of time researching successful strategies. In all my time here, I'm yet to find a more comprehensive source for information about these topics than With our abundance of websites and other online content such as our blogs, twitter and tutor/mentor program locator, it's easy to overlook However, to miss out on the valuable tips and strategies here would be to do yourself a disservice, particularly if you're already involved with a youth tutor/mentor program or have been thinking about constructive ways to engage with programs near you.

On this site you can find everything from an extensive How to start a tutor/mentor program tutorial, to strategies for engaging faith communities, hospitals, students, lawyers and business to build resources for your program. Much of the content is informed by our own personal experiences and history running Cabrini Connections as well as our constant networking and information sharing with other programs around the city. There are links to our GIS maps and essays about the many ways that the Tutor/Mentor Connection is trying to build a network of effective, well-distributed and resourced programs in every high-poverty area of the city. Just when you think you've reached a dead end, you realize that an entirely new level of information is just a mouseclick or scroll away.

Therefore, for anyone interested in deepening their knowledge about tangible ways to help kids who could use a hand, please check out I guarantee you'll stumble upon an idea you've never considered before.

Friday, June 26, 2009

United We Serve

Yesterday President Obama kicked off his new summer volunteerism campaign, United We Serve, which aims to motivate Americans of all stripes to volunteer their time and talents through an online clearinghouse of volunteer opportunties, As a volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring organization, we depend on mobilizing passionate volunteers to achieve our mission of helping at-risk Chicagoland youth enter college and careers by the age of 25. However, few of our potential volunteers comprehend the wealth of potential volunteer opportunities at our organization. Beyond mentoring a youth one-on-one or in enrichment activities such as Tech, Writing, or Art Clubs through our Cabrini Connections program, volunteers can help The Tutor/Mentor Connection accomplish it's important aims by serving in the following roles.

Information Management

Web Researcher and Links Manager —Collect and maintain the information and links on the T/MC Web site. Volunteers search the internet for new links, check existing links and organize online discussions to help people find and use this information.

Event Organization

Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign—Work on a year-round basis to develop and implement strategies that recruit volunteers for tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region. Raise funds to support the campaign. Time commitment: approx. 4-6 hours per month

Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference and Volunteer Training—Organize the May and November leadership conferences and eConferences. Provide training, education and support to volunteers, leaders, and business, media and philanthropic partners. Time commitment: approx. 3-6 hours per month

Public Relations

Here are links to some articles about the Tutor/Mentor Connection.
Help us increase the number of people who visit this web site and use this information, and you play a valuable role in helping us connect inner city kids in long-term volunteer-based programs.

Communications—Prepare publications, brochures and other media used to connect youths, volunteers, parents, donors and other stakeholders with each other and the tutor/mentor community. Volunteer roles can be ongoing or project-based. Time commitment varies.

Net-Worker—Actively spread the word about tutoring/mentoring to others through church sermons, Web site links, email, letters, or word-of-mouth. This is the easiest and possibly most important role anyone can take. Just by encouraging someone to visit this Web site you enlarge the army of tutors/mentors and resource builders in Chicago. Time commitment varies.

Blogger—Write about tutoring and mentoring in blogs and forums. Time commitment varies.


Fund raising—Raise funds to support T/MC or other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. Become a champion of tutoring/mentoring in your company, church or civic organization. Help organize fundraising events, write grant proposals and recruit a network of potential donors. Time commitment varies.


Technology Planning—Develop and implement the TM/C technology plan. Determine necessary technologies, acquire technologies through a variety of fundraising efforts, and work with Technology Coordinator and volunteers to maximize use of technologies. Time commitment: approx. 4-8 hours per month.

Database and Information Management—Develop and maintain interactive databases used to collect and share information. Volunteers should have extensive experience in database design. Time commitment varies.

GIS Mapping and Training—Build the GIS mapping capacity of T/MC and create a youth apprentice program that teaches teens to create map views and Web pages that show where tutor/mentor programs are needed and where they are located. This is a career development activity. Time commitment: approx. 4-6 hours per month.

Call (312-492-9614) or contact us if you're interested in volunteering. Volunteers can serve more than one role and can also be one-on-one tutor/mentors if they wish.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Anyone can make maps! (That means you!)

For those interested in learning more about the many applications of our free online, tutor/mentor program locator, check out Tutor/Mentor Connection's President/CEO Dan Bassill's blog, where he demonstrates how you can use it to create your own maps that help you better understand the news, the geography of Chicago's many unique neighborhoods and ways to get involved in improving opportunities for the youth of these neighborhoods. In his post, Dan explains how he used the interactive maps to create a map showing the location of failing schools and tutoring/mentoring programs in relation to census data about the amount of poverty in these neighborhoods. This helps him and others make sense of the recent ranking of Washington Park's intersection of State St and 55th as the 2nd most dangerous neighborhood in America. His map shows a clear relationship between increasing amounts of poverty and increasing numbers of underperforming and underresourced schools, while highlighting the few programs that are present in these areas where people like you and I can get involved.

Instead of encouraging people to avoid the neighborhood for fear of being victims of crime, an act that only serves to further isolate and deprive its residents of vital commercial activity and positive media attention, mapping the news in this way helps us to understand what positive steps we can take to help the neighborhood's residents change the violent face of their neighborhood through engaging its youth in constructive tutoring/mentoring activities. Though we may not live in these neighborhoods, we can play a role in helping foster their future success by informing our US and IL state representatives as well as aldermen of the positive benefit of tutor/mentor programs that youth tutoring/mentoring programs are already having in these communities. For example, using the interactive tutor/mentor program locator, you can easily look up your congressional district, see what high poverty neighborhoods fall within its borders and identify programs that are already making a difference there. As a constituent, you can contact your rep and encourage them to support these programs.

For example, residents of some of Chicago's most affluent communities, including: Lincoln Park, The Loop and Oak Park share the same 7th district representative, Danny Davis, as residents of some of Chicago's poorest communities: Austin, Washington Park, Garfield Park and North Lawndale (see map above). As Rep Davis' constituents, residents of these affluent neighborhoods have a uniquely powerful voice that can be used to encourage Rep Davis to support programs like ours. I encourage you to go to and map your congressional district to see who your political neighbors are. You might be surprised!

Monday, June 22, 2009

campusCATALYST and the future of our GIS mapping

So as I've offhandedly mentioned in this blog, over the past dozen or so weeks, a campusCATALYST team of 5 Northwestern students have been working with us to develop a marketing strategy for our GIS mapping capacity. For more information about our use of GIS mapping see my rockstar friend and coworker, Mike Trakan's "Mapping for Justice" blog. Over the past year he has been creating static maps using his GIS skills that help us "tell the rest of the story". That is, in the wake of a tragic shooting or a piece of investigative journalism that highlights high-poverty neighborhoods, Trakan creates maps that can be used to help show leadership strategies that can help individuals and organizations improve their strategy, fundraising and knowledge.

Since the budget for continuing this mapping project has run out and we are struggling to secure funding to keep him on, we had this team of undergraduate consultants, working in tandem with a Kellogg Graduate student, Diego Ibanez, develop an earned income strategy for our use of GIS technology to create a sustainable income that would permit us to contine and hopefully expand our mapping capacity. After a number of meetings with us they decided that the best course of action would be to survey a variety of people affiliated with our organization to see if they would find any value in our mapping were we to offer it via a fee-based service. So they sent out a survey to our databases and received just shy of 100 responses. From these responses and their own marketing coursework and experience, the team concluded that the best course of action would be for us to serve in a consulting role to provide GIS mapping services at a cost of $250/map. They suggested that we market these maps to other non-profit organizations through one-on-one conversations with potential customers.

In order to successfully market these services, they recommended that we create a webpage on dedicated to selling our mapping services that clearly lays out our services and their cost. One major finding of their survey was that many potential customers are unclear about the benefits of using this mapping technology to their organization. For this reason, we should include testimonials and examples of how this analysis can be utilized to benefit their organization. This site should also have examples of ways that organizations can benefit by utilizing our maps to help us make our case. They also advocate clearly connecting these mapping services to the underlying mission of the T/MC in order to justify to potential clients why we're offering this service. Since we are going to be marketing these maps primarily via one-on-one conversations with potential client organizations, I think this is particularly important, particularly given that it's rarely clear at first glance how exactly GIS mapping relates to our underlying mission. I for one constantly find myself explaining the many ways that GIS mapping helps our organization try to more effectively tell our story and develop leadership strategies that bring in volunteers, dollars, policy change and media awareness. For more info, stay tuned, or check out Mike Trakan's blog at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fundraising: Cause Marketing 3

So in my quest to find out more about cause marketing, I've found a plethora of resources on a website called...big surprise here... This is an excellent resources for folks like me who want to find out more without having to wade through tons of MBA marketing jargon. I've found their best practices section particularly interesting. With articles such as "The Ten Commandments of Cause-Related Marketing", case studies and conversations with cause marketers on both the nonprofit and corporate sides of these partnerships, this site is a great resource.

As someone with little business or marketing background at all, poking around on this site was a fairly eye-opening experience. For instance in The Ten Commandments of Cause-Related Marketing the author, Kurt Aschermann, Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director of Corporate Opportunities Group at the Boys & Girls Club of America, emphasizes the mutual benefit of cause-marketing. He points out that, though there may be some money to be had through traditional philanthropic requests such as foundation grants and workplace giving campaigns, the real money in a corporation is in their sales and marketing departments. Thus, if a non-profit can make the case that a cause-based partnership is good for business and not just pure charity, a whole new world of resources opens up. For Aschermann, who has had incredible success securing over $100 million worth of resources from a wide variety of companies, cause-related marketing is a simple partnership. Successful partnerships occur when both sides understand what they have to bring to the table. Knowing the unique value of our brand as a nonprofit and our ability to execute and our ability to articulate this to the corporation is what makes partnering with us worthwhile to a corporation.

For us, we bring 30+ years of experience in the youth tutoring/mentoring community and our position as a convener of leaders of over 150 tutoring/mentoring programs around the city. Given our leadership role in the Chicagoland tutor/mentor community, and our organizational history, corporations looking to maximize their impact through a city-wide strategy would benefit from engaging with our organization rather than any individual standalone program. We also have tools such as our Interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator that make it easy for companies to visualize potential leadership strategies using GIS mapping and determine the most effective course of action. Our focus on providing easily accessible, useful and constantly updated online resources via our numerous websites, means that we have a much higher level of visibility than other programs as can be seen by our high levels of web traffic and the fact that our websites and blogs are among the first hits that come up when you google keywords such as "tutor", "mentor", "golf benefit" and many many more. Plus our reputation as an organization dedicated to building not only our own organization but ensuring that comprehensive youth programs like ours across the city have the resources they need means that we have the kind of reputation that corporations looking to improve their image would want to associate with. Finally, our particular cause, helping inner-city kids succeed, is one that needs little justfication or explanation to most people. The grand majority of people understand the need for programs like ours and perceive them as necessary and beneficial without further explanation. For all these reasons and more, it seems that Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection would be the ideal partner for corporations looking to form cause-marketing partnerships. Now we just need to get on their radar. Any ideas?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

NYC Mayor supports youth mentoring...why not Chicago?

During a recent visit to I came upon a press release announcing that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just appointed the nation's first municipal Chief Service Officer to lead volunteer recruitment efforts across the city. During the official announcement, Bloomberg and Diahann Billings-Burford called on New Yorkers to volunteer to mentor at-risk middle schoolers through their first NYC Service initiative, which aims to connect 2000 mentors with inner-city students across the city. Read more details here. In this historic initiative, the Department of Education partnered with a variety of high-profile mentoring organizations and funders to train these new mentors and connect them with children in need. The NYC Service program has three main goals:

::Channel the power of volunteers to address the impacts of the current economic do
::Make New
York City the easiest city in America in which to serve, and to
::Ensure every young person in New York City is taught about civic engagement and has an opportunity to serve

This large-scale public/private partnership is using the Mayor's office to connect nonprofit tutoring/mentoring organizations with the resources they need to increase their impact. These resources include volunteers, publicity and dollars. At a fundamental level, this is what the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been doing since 1993, albeit without the abundant resources of the Mayor's office.

Given that in his press release, Mayor Bloomberg sets out a major goal of this initiativ
e to be making New York the easiest city in America in which to get involved in mentoring at-risk youth, why hasn't the leader of America's Second City, Mayor Daley, stepped up to the plate and taken him up on his challenge?

Given that Chicago already has an infrastructure in place that is designed to connect tutor/mentor programs city-wide with volunteers, which includes an easy to navigate tutor/mentor program locator that helps potential volunteers find the perfect program for them, it's not like Daley would have to start at square one. He could very easily use the bully pulpit of the mayor's office to inform people about what we're already doing, directing people to our myriad online resources and connect us with funders who could help us dramatically increase our impact on the city. Considering the flak Daley has been getting for his recent parking meter deal and promise to the IOC to take full financial responsibility for the Olympics (a potentially disastrous deal for Chicago taxpayers) this could provide Daley with some sorely-needed political capital and a great opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of thousands of at-risk youth citywide. Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fundraising: Cause Marketing Part 2

So, as promised, here's round 2 of my fundraising series. In this post I want to talk about one way in which we're starting to utilize cause marketing concepts and professionals to benefit our organization. I want to start with the person who introduced me to the term "cause marketing" in the first place, Alla Ioffe, recent DePaul University graduate and founder of the socially conscious Chicago-based events company Pallandrome. We connected through Meagan, our Media Outreach intern who recommended that I chat with Alla about getting Cabrini Connections onboard a potential fundraising event, which has now materialized into a Sunday Funday Party that will take place on Sunday, Sept 20th from 11am to 2pm.

The event, which is completely organized by Alla's firm, will take place at the Windy City Fieldhouse (2367 W Logan Blvd) and will bring together approximately 500 children and their parents for a day of fun, games, snacks and marketing opportunities for companies looking to showcase their back-to-school related goods and services in front of affluent parents and their kids. Like past events, such as her Just Be Cause green business showcase, which took place at the Funky Buddah Lounge not too long ago, her fundraising model is ingenious. She comes up with an idea of an event that will be attractive enough to people to pay to attend and then charges sponsors for tables at the event so that they can promote their products in front of this large, engaged pool of potential customers. Then she donates a chunk of the proceeds to a good cause, like Cabrini Connections.

So at this upcoming event, young families will be lured by the prospect of relay races, food, bounce houses, games and prizes and will pay to come to the Windy City Field House. At the same time, sponsors eager to market their products to parents whose children are running, bouncing, eating, playing...etc will pay for tables in the Field House, providing an additional income stream, plus some added draw for the parents since there will be informative presentations about how to pack healthy lunches, sustainable living, how to encourage kids to live healthily...etc. Plus we, as the showcase organization, will have an opportunity to tell our story and connect with all the attendees, not just the affluent parents who might support our cause, but the socially conscious businesses who may be interested in partnering with us to provide volunteers, publicity, dollars or other types of support.

Therefore Alla, as a cause-based marketer/events planner, serves as the lliason between our non-profit, and the corporate world, connecting us in a mutually beneficial way that provides us with both dollars and positive public relations opportunties while providing the same for the sponsoring organizations, who pay for the opportunity. Since in this current economic climate many nonprofits like ours are trying to sustain our programming with contracting donor bases, dwindling foundation funding and cutbacks in government grants, we should be looking out for opportunities like these to provide much needed general operating funds. For this reason it's particularly important to understand the growing trend of cause marketing which is not only supplementing traditional corporate philanthropy but in increasing cases, replacing it. Stay tuned for part 3.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fundraising: Cause Marketing

Happy Monday faithful readers! I apologize for the radio silence, I've been dedicating all my time recently to fundraising in order to try to keep our program afloat during this difficult time. However during this time I've found out about a couple things that are worth sharing that both have something to do with...surprise...FUNDRAISING!

So, in my quest to encourage people who support our program to reach into their personal networks and tell the story about what we do to potential donors, I've found that people rarely understand the true ability of their networks to help organizations such as ours. So many times, I find myself explaining that being a mentor is not the only way to help our program make a difference in the lives of inner-city kids and that especially at this juncture, securing the financial resources we need to sustain our program in the short term is perhaps more important. One way I've been trying to get people to support our program is through identifying fundraising opportunities at their workplaces, either through corporate foundations, employee-matching funds or internal giving campaigns. Since the decision to give or not to give is so-often dependent upon personal relationships between the grantor and the grantee, which unfortunately I often find myself lacking, we have had some success using our volunteers and others as middlemen/representatives of our cause to approach their superiors and put a familiar face on our requests for financial support. However, though we try our best to impart on our volunteers a through understanding of their ability to help fundraise and build other resources for our organization, we understand that as volunteer mentors, they are already giving their time and that not everyone is willing to go the extra mile and become an evangelist for our cause at work and in their day-to-day lives. For this reason I was extremely excited to discover that there exists a whole job field dedicated to bridging this gap between non-profit organizations and for-profit companies for their mutual benefit. These people are called cause marketers and according to the journal On Philanthropy, cause marketing sponsorship by American companies is growing at a rapid rate. For example last year 1.52 billion dollars was spent by American companies on cause marketing campaigns.

To make this more concrete, a 2006 study demonstrated that 89% of young American consumers would switch brands of a similar product if a different brand was identified as supporting a "good cause". Additionally this same study found that a majority of people would prefer to work for a company that is considered to be "socially responsible". Based on this and other research with similar findings, companies have been expanding workplace giving programs and "cause-based marketing" in order to retain employees and build market share, while also supporting non-profit organizations that are doing good. One example of a cause-based marketing campaign would be our ongoing "One Dime At A Time" campaign at Chicago-Area Whole Foods stores where if customers bring their own bags, Whole Foods will donate 10 cents to our organization.

Campaigns like these are designed to not only bring valuable dollars to non-profits like ours, but to increase awareness about our program, while at the same time providing Whole Foods with positive public relations, improved customer relations and additional marketing opportunities (because we are also publicizing the campaign). I'll be expanding on this idea throughout the week discussing cause-based marketing more in depth, and our past, present and future experiences with it. Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Engaging Universities Workshop

So fresh off the heels of our 31st Tutor/Mentor Conference, which we hosted on May 27th and 28th, I feel invigorated. I attended the November Tutor/Mentor Conference but was able to take a more proactive role at this conference due to the fact I already had one under my belt, and was more familiar with the organizational aims of the conference. One highlight was having the opportunity to present my own workshop about Engaging University Communities to help non-profit tutor/mentor programs find many of the resources that they need to sustain and grow themselves.

To help me I brought in a number of friends and colleagues to share their perspectives. First was Molly Day, co-founder and executive director of CampusCATALYST, an organization that engages college and business school students in high-impact, pro-bono consulting projects with local nonprofits. She graduated from NU last year and is currently a PIP fellow. We're actually working currently with a team of campusCATALYST students who are helping us to monetize our static and interactive GIS mapping capacity, found on

Another friend and PIP fellow who joined us was Ryan Pederson, who currently serves as the Campus Director for the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) at Northwestern University. He graduated from Northwestern University last year where he was heavily involved with the campus chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He discussed some ways that programs can effectively engage faith communities on campus as well as shared some insights he gleaned from working with student leaders through the Center for Global Engagement. He also spoke to the advantages and disadvantages of engaging Greek communities on campus.

We were also lucky enough to be joined by Sue Sowle, who coordinates Project SOAR, a remarkable mentoring program at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston. At McGaw, NU students play integral roles in nearly every aspect of their youth programming, particularly their mentoring program, which is comprised of both paid and volunteer staff recruited from NU via work-study positions that are paid by the university. This provides the YMCA with a reliable source of motivated, intelligent and passionate students who can mentor area youth. Sue spoke about the benefits of their relationship with NU as well as details about how exactly she went about setting it up.

Finally, future Cabrini Connections fellow Bradley Troast and co-chair of the Northwestern Community Development Corps joined us to share his successes with engaging students as volunteers at dozens of non-profit sites around Evanston and Chicago. As a current NU Senior who has headed up a major student-led community service organization he lent a very interesting perspective to the workshop.

As facilitator, I also shared my thoughts about how Cabrini Connections has benefited from intentionally engaging university communties, particulaly Northwestern as half of our full time staff are NU alumni. Through making a point to reach out to the NU community via our ning group: and personal networks, we have been able to host our spring Tutor/Mentor Conference at the NU school of law downtown and will be hosting our upcoming November conference at the NU Evanston campus. We've benefited from having a full-time intern in Diana Castaneda via her SESP practicum and a part-time intern Jessica Rockswold who is currently analyzing our students grade cards in order to quantify the impact that our program has had on our students' grades. Besides NU, our Media Outreach intern Meagan Hermanowicz from DePaul has played an essential role in our Public Relations and helping to draw resources to our organization and our steady flow of interns from IIT are constantly helping us to improve our online T/MC content.

All in all, I think this 90 min workshop offered a plethora of resources to its attendees and should be repeated in the coming years. In our struggle to stay afloat in this economy, it's important for tutor/mentor programs like ours to reach out to University communities who often have the human, financial and organizational resources that we need to maximize our impact. Hopefully future workshops can continue to make this case in new ways and taking into account emerging university institutions that hold promise for non-profits such as the Northwestern University Center for Civic Engagment.

Perhaps you'd be interested in sharing your own knowledge/experiences in engaging universities like Northwestern?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Year End Dinner 2009

Last Thursday marked a very special anniversary for me. Having attended the Cabrini Connections 2008 Year-End Dinner, which was my first official event as a future Cabrini Connections employee, the coming and going of this year's Year-End Dinner meant that I've been involved with this remarkable organization for over 1 year! As inspired as I was last year, attending the dinner with my girlfriend, Alyssa, and meeting many of the students, volunteers, board members and their families for the first time, I left this year's dinner with an even greater sense of the importance of our program. Though last year's event was moving, bringing together over 100 people in one room, public housing residents, fortune 500 company executives, students and their families who would never otherwise shared a meal together, this year's event drew well over 200 folks and left everyone who attended with a true appreciation of the importance of our program on not only the kids we serve, but the entire Cabrini-Green community.

We began the evening with a delicious meal of chicken, salad, pasta, rolls, cookies...etc which got everyone talking at the 20+ full tables we had set up for the event. Next the Youth Leadership Council and I premiered our new documentary, simply entitled "Cabrini Connections", which you can stream in its entirety here. If you haven't already checked it out, I would strongly encourage you to follow the link because this movie, which I produced with help from 2 very generous volunteers Matt Lauterbach and Dinesh Sabu as well as Sean, Savon and DeSean of the Youth Leadership Council, features current students interviewing 30 year veteran volunteers, program alumni and concerned community members about the role of our program in the lives of the people we touch.

Next we heard from 3 parents who spoke about the impact that our program has had on their children. DeSean's mother Ms. Norrine Rhodes, Arden's mother Ms. Rhonda Wright and Savon's father Mr. Rodney Clark all gave moving testimony to the effectiveness and importance of our program, which was great to hear directly from the parents. Following the parents' remarks, a couple of our recent graduates, Jonathan Summers and Kenneth Chapman, spoke about the impact their involvement with our program continues to have on them and how much the program means to them. This was one of my highlights of the night because, though it was clear that they weren't 100% comfortable addressing a crowd of 200+ folks (which is completely understandable for young college students), their commitment to our program allowed them to overcome their anxiety and speak from the heart. Similarly, our Administrative coordinator El Da'Sheon Nix, went without a preprepared speech and wrapped the evening up beautifully with a touching play-by-play of some of his personal highlights from the year.

Some other highlights from the night were a dance performance from Yolanda, Breonca, Cierria and Shante, a hilarious play with a positive message performed by the Cabrini Connections Writing Club, a brave & honest poetry reading by 8th grader Ashaunti Roby, an incredible musical performance by 6th grader Ana Tate and a great keynote speech by Dan. Also, I don't want to forget to mention the wonderful job that our student emcees, Raheem, Vontesha and Victoria, did hosting the event.

All in all, last Thursday was truly a night to remember. This year's Dinner served its job of sending us into the summer months with the momentum we need to keep drawing more and more passionate individuals into our organization that will both sustain us and catalyze our constant quest to offer the best, most comprehensive tutoring/mentoring program possible to the kids we serve. They deserve it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Youth Leadership Council Video!

Hello! I know at least some of you were lucky enough to spend Thursday and Friday at our 31st Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference at the NU School of Law. Hopefully those who attended left on Friday afternoon feeling as energized and hopeful as I did, knowing that all 100+ of us who attended are slowly but surely building a tutoring/mentoring movement that will eventually ensure that every child growing up in poverty has access to high quality tutor/mentor programs in their neighborhood. Anyway, today I wanted to share something very meaningful with you all. It's a video that I produced with the help of Matt Lauterbach, Dinesh Sabu and the Cabrini Connections Youth Leadership Council, Savon Clark, Sean Mayfield and DeSean Hale in particular. Check it out here on youtube.

The goal of this project was to give the Youth Leadership Council one last opportunity to work on a project with lasting impact for the program that would inspire others to get involved over the summer. In order of appearance the video features:
--Cabrini Connections Founder/CEO, Dan Bassill
--Skinner Elementary 8th grader Savon Clark, who interviews his mother Shavonne, a participant of the program back in the 80s.
--Sean Mayfield an 8th grader at Newberry Academy who interviews his mentor, veteran volunteer Allen Tyson, who has been with the program since the 1960s.
--DeSean Hale, a Wells High School Junior, who interviews his mother, longtime Cabrini-Green resident Norrine Rhodes
--LaMonica Garth, Cabrini Connections alumnus and nursing student at Chicago State University. Her sister is Cabrini Connections Senior, Posse and Gates Millenium Scholar, LaFaye Garth

Please let us know what you think about the movie! If you like it, share it with people in your network so that they might find out a little more about the difference we've been making in the lives of students for the last few decades. Hopefully some will be inspired to help support us in this difficult time. See you at the Year end dinner this Thursday where we will be premiering the movie in front of 175+ participants and friends of Cabrini Connections!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Year End Dinner

Next Thursday, June 4th, marks a very important event at Cabrini Connections. It's our annual year end dinner celebration, which brings together students, alumni, potential students, mentors, staff and donors together along with their friends and family, for an evening of free food, entertainment and celebration! Longtime volunteer Courtland Madock along with her Year-End Dinner Committee have put together another great night for everyone and I wanted to make sure that you knew that you are personally invited to attend. This event is open to the public and is a great opportunity to connect with everyone whose involvement makes our program possible. Last year I attended the year-end dinner before I started working here and was very impressed by the diverse mix of attendees and presenters. Alumni and current students alike spoke to the value of our program and how it has positively influenced their lives, parents of students and alumni gave testimony to the effectiveness of the mentoring relationships that we facilitate between their children and our volunteer mentors and

This year current students Victoria Rivera, Raheem Muhammed and Ashaunti Roby will serve as the evening's MCs, again introducing inspirational alumni and parent speakers. The writing club will be debuting a short play that they have been working on and our Youth Leadership Council will premiere a short documentary about the history of Cabrini Connections, shot with the assistence of professional videographers Matt Lauterbach and Dinesh Sabu. The theme of this year's dinner is "Hope, Build, Believe, and Achieve" and you can easily RSVP online here, so please join us. The dinner will be taking place at the Cornerstone Academy banquet facility, which is located at 1111 N Wells. Dinner will last from 5:30-8 and those over 21 will continue the night at Spoon, located across the street at 1240 N Wells St. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Last Wednesday and Thursday, dozens of our students cruised out of our last night of tutoring in style, with their very own bikes, locks and helmets. In an effort to get our students more engaged in our various enrichment curricula and to help us determine the impact of our program on our students' academic performance, we offered to give a free bike to each and every student who earned more than 400 points last quarter. Students earn points through their attendence at our weekly tutoring sessions and attending our clubs, which meet 3 nights a week: Art club on Monday, Tech club on Tuesday and Writing club on Wednesday. Students also receive points every time they enter data in our "Student and Volunteer History and Tracking System" (more popularly known as SVHATS) which helps EL Da'Sheon and I to keep tabs on all of our mentor/mentee matches. Most importantly, students also earn points for bringing their report cards to tutoring and earn additional points for every A, B and C on their report cards. One of the primary goals of this bike promotion was to get more data about our students' grades so we can determine the impact that their involvement in our program has had on their academic performance.

We received donated bikes from two non-profit bike cooperatives, Evanston's "Recyclery" and The Working Bikes Cooperative. Both organizations utilize volunteer bike mechanics to assemble bikes from spare and discarded parts. They then donate large quantities of these bikes to organizations in countries with high rates of poverty, such as Angola, Guatemala and Cuba, that use the bikes to empower local communities. Some of their bikes make it to local organziations such as Cabrini Connections and we are very thankful for the generosity of both organizations. In addition to donating a large number of bikes, Working Bikes also donated a dozen or so helmets to ensure our kids keep their brains safe while riding their new bikes! Through some independent fundraising, I have been able to secure some donations for additional helmets and locks so that every kid received a lock, however, any additional financial contributions would be much appreciated to help offset the cost of these pricy (but essential) accessories.

So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Sharlyn at The Recyclery and Raul at Working Bikes for all the time and effort they spent ensuring that our kids received the quality bikes that they deserve for all their hard work and dedication to our program and their own futures. Thanks again!

2009 May Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference

Just wanted to remind you that our Annual May Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference will be taking place this upcoming Thursday and Friday at The Northwestern University School of Law from 9-4:30 both days. Registration will begin at 8:00am both days and I strongly encourage all of you who have any interest in what I've been writing about over the past year to come out and meet/learn from others who are exceedingly passionate about helping at-risk youth succeed through involvement with constantly improving tutoring/mentoring programs. Though the majority of attendees are involved with leading or supporting Chicagoland tutor/mentor programs, year after year folks come from far and wide to connect with others and learn ways to become more effective advocates for youth tutoring/mentoring initiatives of all stripes. From learning strategies to engage the resources of university communities to build your program to sharing effective fundraising strategies to weather the current financial storm, there are workshops and speakers that will interest anyone looking to make a difference in a child's life. So, I encourage all of you to please check out our conference website at
and register. If the $100 2 day advance registration fee would otherwise prevent you from attending, give Nicole White, who coordinates both our conference and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, a call at 312-492-9614 to discuss some scholarship options.

Even if you can only make it for one day, the conference is all about connecting people with the resources they need to run and support constantly improving youth tutor/mentor programs everywhere where there is need. So please join us! We want to hear your experiences, your ideas and your perspective.

See you then!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Student Spotlight: Gregory Hatchett

Gregory Hatchett, a Junior at Rauner College Prep, has been with Cabrini Connections since the 7th grade. He’s currently paired up with longtime volunteer Mike Jozwik. Gregory is certain that he wants to go to college after he graduates and even knows where: Mississippi State University. He is very excited at the prospect of attending a historically black college, and not only because he won’t have to deal with the Chicago winters anymore! He’s learned a lot about the University from his cousin who is currently a student there and knows that it will be a great place to prepare for his two potential career paths: graphic design or law (at this point he’s undecided). Gregory has loved to draw for as long as he can remember and continues to fill notebook after notebook with his signature mix of graffiti and Japanese anime stylings. He’s been actively involved with the art club over the past few years, which has helped him to hone his craft outside of the countless hours he spends on his own working on his art. In fact his artwork has graced the walls of numerous Chicago-area galleries through his participation in our Annual Cabrini Connections Art and Film Festival. Eventually, he hopes to use his talents to make his own series of comic books, inspired by some of his favorites such as classic DC comics such as spiderman and superman.

On the other hand, if Gregory decides to commit himself to studying law, he hopes to eventually be able to help people coming from low-income neighborhoods like Cabrini Green navigate the IRS’ complex webs of tax code. He realizes that these individuals often don’t have the resources to hire accountants to help them identify the various tax breaks and loopholes that that may qualify for and that consequently, these individuals often are shouldered with unfair tax burdens. He is also considering injury law because he has experienced firsthand the need for lawyers in low-income communities to help people with injuries and disabilities fight for their rights to fair compensation and not be intimidated, like his father was, into working while injured. Cabrini Connections salutes Gregory and his desire to help others! Hopefully his desires will become a reality and we can stay in contact throughout his college years and as he enters the working world!