Monday, March 21, 2011

The First Cut: Cabrini Madness

The first cut for Cabrini Madness 2011 took place last night at 11:59 pm (long after all of the NCAA games were over for the night--I guess we now know which tournament is more intense!).

Due to some confusion regarding tournament policies for matching donations, Commissioners EL Da'Sheon Nix and Bradley Troast have decided to advance 9 teams this week.

The following teams are advancing to the next round:
1. $2,161..... Cabrini Allstars
2. $2,118 ... The Dream Team
$1,561..... Boom Goes the Dynamite
4. $1,385 ..... The Kids Are All Bright
5. $1,338 ....... The Golden Stars

$1,285 ..... Team High5ive
$1,265 ... Change Makers
8. $1,215 ..... The Green Team
9. $1,208 .....
Cabrini Loyalty

The following teams didn't make the first cut, but still raised a combined $1,828 for Cabrini Connections:

10. $785 ... The Blue Chips
11. $600 .......
The Free Agents

$330 ....... Team 5Dragons
13. $113 ..... Running for Cabrini

Teams have demonstrated a lot of creativity thus far in the tournament. We've seen teams raise money through bowling nights, wii tournaments, wing eating contests (see an action shot to the left), chili cook-offs, pizza sales, and online giving campaigns. I look forward to seeing what teams do in the final few weeks of competition!

I'd like to take a moment to thank my family and friends who have supported my team, The Kids Are All Bright, and have helped us move to the second round standing strong at #4. My personal competitive side and desire to win the tournament aside, your generosity helps us keep the doors open to a really amazing program!

As many readers know, it has been a challenging financial year for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. However, our organization is not alone in facing ongoing financial obstacles. A study was released just today by the Nonprofit Financial Fund which indicates that 87% of nonprofits feel "the recession is not over." The study also found that while 85% of nonprofits anticipate an increased demand for their services in 2011, only 46% of organizations expect to be able to meet this need.

While this study reinforces the challenging landscape faced by nonprofits such as Cabrini Connections, Cabrini Madness is a really positive reminder that we have a lot of people willing to support the program and advocate on its behalf.

Congratulations to all teams, and good luck in the rest of the tournament. For all tournament fans, stay on top of tournament news, media updates, and standings on the
official Cabrini Madness site.

Please support your favorite team before the next cut on Sunday, March 27th

Friday, March 18, 2011

May 2011 Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference Announced!

As those familiar with Tutor/Mentor Connection know, every May and November we organize the Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference. Each conference provides an opportunity for leaders of tutoring and mentoring programs to share best practices and collaborate toward shared goals.

Since late Spring is when tutoring and mentoring programs generally finish their sessions for the school year, the May conference celebrates each program's accomplishments while also equipping program leaders with momentum and fresh ideas to plan for the next year of programming. In addition, the May conference is intended to generate attention for tutoring and mentoring programs from
outside of the nonprofit community so that organizations can recruit volunteers, donors, and investors during the summer months.

This week Tutor/Mentor Connection President, Dan Bassill, and I had a meeting to finalize the May 2011 conference date and location. The next conference will be held on Thursday, May 19th and Friday, May 20th at Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson, IL.

Victory Apostolic Church was built in 2008 and has a beautiful facility including wireless throughout, various breakout spaces with natural light, and free parking. In addition to this state-of-the-art facility, partnering with a church in Matteson helps us to reach toward the goal of connecting with more programs in the South Suburbs. Although the church is about a 45 minute drive from the loop, we hope many programs will view this as a chance to expand the collective knowledge about tutoring and mentoring throughout the Greater Chicago Area.

We are also thrilled to be partnering with a religious institution since Tutor/Mentor Connection strives to engage faith communities in supporting tutoring and mentoring programs. You can learn more about this strategy by reading:
How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization.

Dan and I had an energizing conference brainstorming meeting with Pastor Issac Greene (center), leader of Youth Ministries at Victory Apostolic Church, and Bernard Key (left), President of Key Link Technologies. Both Pastor Greene and Mr. Key have an excellent understanding of the organizations, leaders, and needs in Matteson and surrounding regions. They discussed a number of ideas for keynotes that would attract increased conference participation in addition to brainstorming ideas for raising awareness about the conference through a press conference.

Thanks to Pastor Greene and Mr. Key for helping with the planning process and to Victory Apostolic C
hurch for agreeing to host us in May. Thank you also to the many individuals who helped us search for a conference location including Toinette Gunn of PEAK, Amy Schachman of EPIC Academy Charter High School, and Carl Hurdlik of Chicago Public Schools (and a Cabrini Connections mentor).

If you would like to be a speaker at the May 2011 conference or know someone else who would lead a great workshop, please refer to the
Presenter Interest Form. Please contact me if you would like more information about getting involved.

Stay tuned for registration information and information on keynotes!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Cleaning of Chicago Area Program Links

With Spring just around the corner (according to the calendar, not necessarily the weather forecast), I have been doing some cleaning of the Chicago-Area Program Links on the Tutor/Mentor Connection website.

While the Program Locator enables visitors to search for tutoring and mentoring programs based on a variety of criteria such as zip code and age group, the Chicago-Area Program Links provides a list of website links for tutoring and mentoring programs according to their region in Chicago. This allow prospective students and volunteers to find programs in their areas. Likewise, it provides an inventory of programs that the leaders of organizations themselves can use to build awareness of programs operating in the same region.

I went through all the links during the Fall to make sure programs are still operating. I revisited every website in the past week to ensure that all links are still correct and to touch base with many of the programs.

Of the 214 programs currently listed in this links directory, the regional breakdown is as follows:

The distribution of programs doesn't necessarily align with the distribution of need. This map that Mike Trakan created (click here to see enlarged view) shows the locations of programs in relation to poverty and poorly-performing schools.

It isn't rocket science to surmise that where there are more poorly performing schools, more tutoring and mentoring programs are needed to give kids academic skills, guidance, and motivation to graduate from high school and prepare for their next steps such as college, vocational schools, or careers. For those growing up in poverty neighborhoods and with failing schools, building relationships with a mentor can give students the support they need to realize their own potential.

Each one of the dots on the map represents a story, a program, a unique vision, a group of youth, a group of volunteers, and a staff.

When I look at Mike's maps, I try not to just see "dots" where programs are located. I try to picture in my head the tutoring sessions and programs occurring on a weekly basis at that center. By putting a "human face" on these locations, I realize more fully the impact of these programs and their vital roles within each community.
For a sneak-peak into a tutoring session at one of these locations (Cabrini Connections), see the latest Cabrini Madness video below.

Wednesday Night Lights from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

What would it take to keep these programs operating while also expanding the number of programs to reach all neighborhoods with failing schools?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Strategic City Planning through Maps

For my PIP seminar this week, I had the opportunity to visit Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). CMAP is a government organization that collects and aggregates data, then makes policy and planning recommendations for the city of Chicago based on the statistics they gather. Their goal is to use information to track quality of life changes and trends for citizens of Chicago based on a number of indicators such as health, education, transportation, and arts and culture. CMAP created a plan for the city called "Go To 2040" that provides suggestions for the city and its communities moving through the next few decades.

Much of CMAP’s work resonates with the work of Tutor/Mentor Connection. Both agencies create plans for
Chicago based on maps and data that can be visualized using sophisticated technologies. CMAP even launched a new site, "MetroPulse," in November 2010 where visitors can search and view maps and charts. It reminds me of T/MC's Interactive Map.

One staff member of CMAP, a self-proclaimed "tech geek," discussed how rare it is for a nonprofit to have staff members with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills. He emphasized how important it is for nonprofits to be able to base their services and their strategic planning on information that can be analyzed via GIS maps that provide region-specific indicators for issues like poverty, health care, and education. As he asserted, CMAP works to fill a void in the nonprofit industry by enabling access to GIS maps and data for organizations that don't have that staff position.

While most small organizations certainly don’t have GIS staff positions, Dan Bassill values this type of thinking enough that our 6 person staff does include a part-time GIS specialist. This is something that differentiates the type of work T/MC does from most other nonprofits. T/MC uses whatever information is available to help communities make strategic plans involving tutoring and mentoring. The maps that Mike creates show where tutoring and mentoring programs exist, where there is poverty, where there is crime, and a variety of other relevant statistics and community assets that enable leaders of municipalities, organizations, churches, and organizations to recognize areas of need.

While CMAP focuses on broad issues and general statistics to create a city-wide plan for a variety of issues, T/MC focuses specifically on what we identify as relevant to tutoring and mentoring youth.

During the seminar, several other PIP fellows asked questions about how CMAP connects its GIS maps, data, and recommendations to actually impacting change. My ears perk up since this is oftentimes a question that arises surrounding the work done by T/MC. How do our maps and articles translate into change? Is there evidence that this information leads to more high-quality, well-funded programs in Chicago’s most needy neighborhoods?

From my limited experience working at T/MC, I do think that the organization fills a necessary gap within the hundreds of organizations providing tutoring or mentoring services to youth in Chicago. Countless times since I’ve been here, Dan Bassill has told me about the ways he helped new programs get started or provided consulting services to existing programs. Events like Mapping Solutions also bring visibility to the needs in our city and provide information for leaders to make strategic plans that will yield positive impacts in their community.

At CMAP, the speaker asserted that the impact of GIS mapping is tough to track. It is hard to know when people use the information or when it clicks with the right individual. But he also spoke about some pretty tangible benefits that their maps and data can provide for organizations that I think T/MC also provides. For instance, organizations can use information aggregated and mapped by CMAP or by T/MC to use in their grant proposals to demonstrate needs in their areas. They can also use this type of data to help track changes and evaluate success of their programs.

This is just one example of how maps can be of use within the nonprofit community. But in order for this to happen, someone needs to be doing this work.


"Increasingly, job growth relies on the availability of well-educated, skilled workers for knowledge-based industries. We can gain a significant advantage by ensuring that businesses and residents here have the skills necessary to compete with other global economic centers. Providing equitable opportunities to gain those critical skills is among our region's most complicated challenges. Disparities in educational attainment, health, and other measures--often based on income levels, race, or ethnicity--put the entire region's economy at risk."

-From CMAP's "Go to 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan"