I started leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in 1975 while in my 2nd year of a retail advertising career with the Montgomery Ward corporation in Chicago. I quickly learned that what we did to draw customers to our retail stories was exactly what I needed to be doing to draw volunteers and youth to the tutor/mentor program.
I practiced both crafts for 15 years before leaving Wards and converting the tutoring
program into a non profit, which I led for another two years. In the fall of 1992 I and a few volunteers from the first program created a second non profit, with a local-global mission.
The local mission was to create a program to help kids who aged out of the first program after 6th grade have a support system to help them through high school.
The global mission was to create a master database of similar programs operating in Chicago and lead an on-going marketing/communications program intending to help every program, including my own, get more of the attention, dollars, volunteers and ideas each program needed to grow.
This 1994 Chicago Tribune story announced a strategy that I’ve followed for the past 23 years.
Building a list of tutor/mentor programs and a library of ideas that could be used by non profits, volunteers, donors and any one else concerned about poverty in Chicago was Step 1 of a 4-part strategy launched in 1993. Getting more and more people to look at the information was Step 2, and borrowed from advertising strategies used by companies like Montgomery Ward.
I never had the money Wards used to draw customers to its stores (not even close!), so built an event and mapping strategy that drew programs together, helped them attract volunteers, and generated media stories.
I also borrowed from 4 years experience with the United Way/Crusade of Mercy, to develop a strategy that called upon leaders from different sectors to use their own visibility and media to draw people to this information, using visualizations like this “it takes a village” map to communicate that idea.
For any number of reasons I’ve had different levels of support and success over the past 23 years. Unfortunately, there never was enough, and too few were committed to the long-term work needed to build and sustain programs in poverty areas that helped kids from pre-school into adult lives, jobs and responsibilities.
I saw a quote on Twitter the other day that said “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
I borrowed that to say, “The best time to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
You can see from this photo that I’m no longer a youth. Thus, when I ask people to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I’m asking for new leaders, new energy, and new commitment to “do it over” so that in 20 years you and others can look back at a system of supports helping kids through school and into jobs, that is reaching kids and families in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.
Read about what a “do over” looks like to me.