Monday, November 30, 2009

'Tis the Season to Donate!

It's almost the first of December, which means we're winding down from the November Tutor/Mentor Conference and winding up for Holiday Donation Season. I think the former will reinforce the latter as evidenced by these comments from our conference evaluations:

" Overall, I felt the conference was AWESOME!! Kudos to Dan Bassill and his staff." (They also, very kindly added a kudos specifically to Bradley for his awesome job directing parking - "Kudos . . . especially [to] the guy who 'stood outside to handout the parking passes/direct attendees to the conference. Who would want that job?:) NOT ME!!")

"I'm ecstatic that I learned about this conference and could attend. I have a new energy to develop and and implement new initiatives into my organization that I never would have come up with I wasn't here."

"Well organized!"

"Thank you! Great location!"

"Everything was excellent!"

and I think this is actually a compliment to the conference as well "More workshops need to be offered and more days need to be added."

A lot of people also inquired about when the next conference is going to be and what workshops will be offered. As of now, the only thing we're sure of is that it will be sometime in mid to late May. But in order for the great momentum that the November Conference created - we need your help - both organizationally and financially. If you would like to be a part of the Tutor/Mentor Conference Planning Committee, leave a comment and I'll contact you. If you would like to donate to tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago, there are two ways:

1) We have a nifty FirstGiving Page dedicated to Holiday Fundraising. Many of you are going to donate to your favorite charity for the Holidays, why not it be for tutoring and mentoring?

2) You can also print this form out, write a check payable to "Cabrini Connections," and mail it to: Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, First Floor, Chicago, IL 60642

Also, just to illustrate where your dollars go to, the graphics in this post were created by the Cabrini Connections Tech Club, one of our four clubs where students explore their interests and use their talents to create wonderful things. Donors like you make it possible for students like the ones in the tech club to be able to explore their talents and even possible careers for the future.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (Today is Thanksgiving Eve?) and I just want to wish everybody a happy, pleasant, and safe Thanksgiving!

Of course Thanksgiving is a time where we count our blessings and remind ourselves what we are thankful for. In addition to being thankful for my health, a loving family, wonderful friends, and a loving and supportive (and fundraiser-extraordinaire!) boyfriend, I'm also thankful to have such an amazing job where I can make a difference, albeit a very small one.

Thanksgiving is also a time where we remember those left fortunate and is the start of the biggest giving season of the year. Please read my co-workers blogs, Dan Bassill's, Bradley Troast's, El Da'Sheon Nix's, and Mike Trakan's who all talk about different ways you can help out at-risk youth.

However, to give my 2 cents, please consider being a sponsor for the Tutor/Mentor Conference, or even for the admission of one person who qualifies for a scholarship. In total, about 155 people attended the November Conference last week at Norris University Center at Northwestern University in Evanston. Of that number 51 people were granted full scholarships, 51 speakers were granted free admission, and 12 people received reduced admission rates. We believe that attending the Tutor/Mentor Conference is important no mater what your financial situation is and that everyone who wants to, should attend. The conference does cost money to put on - we need to pay for room rental, catering, and photocopies, among other things. And to put things in to perspective - when you sponsor the Tutor/Mentor Conference or sponsor someone's admission to the conference, you are helping out tutoring and mentoring programs, and thus, children all over the country.

A final note, the graphic in the upper right-hand corner was created by Kierre Halbert, a 7th grader in Cabrini Connections in our Tuesday night tech club. Hopefully it will put a smile on your face and remind you to give something so to tutoring and mentoring programs this Holiday Season, so that kids like Kierre can continue to create wonderful and creative things like the graphic and explore their talents in places like Cabirni Connections.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference was a Success!

This morning I received a very nice e-mail from a conference participant. We talked about how his organization can work with the Tutor/Mentor Connection at the conference and he was e-mailing to follow up, but he also added this nice note:

" It was great to meet you at the Conference last Thursday. I found it as an excellent opportunity to meet some great people and get some valuable information. I found the last session of the day, on fundraising strategies: 10 Ways to Stay Ahead in This Economy, to be one of the best; I'm glad I stuck around for it."

I think this note sums up what a success the November Tutor/Mentor Conference, was. Sheer numbers-wise, we had around 155 people attend this conference - more than any November conference since 2001. We also had a lot of people from organizations that I had not seen participate before, and people from Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Also, since we were at Norris University Center on Northwestern's Evanston Campus, we were able to have the participation of students from Northwestern. Finally, we were able to hear from a DePaul Chicago Studies class on what they learned about tutoring and mentoring programs in Chicago. Hopefully these students from two fo Chicago's top universities will take what they learned from this conference and become the future leaders in the tutoring and mentoring communities.

The first day was a bit hectic due to having swine flu vaccinations in one of the rooms on the same floor that we were having our conference. This meant that we had to not only direct many students to the swine flu vaccines, but also that we had to have one of our morning workshops and our lunchtime keynote in the Block Art Museum Auditorium next door. Fortunately, Block were gracious hosts and really kind about letting us use their space. Norris also proved to be very helpful in making sure all of our technical difficulties were taken care of and that everyone had internet and working PowerPoint projectors in their rooms.

Due to dealing with swine flu vaccines, making sure people go to Block museum and back, and dealing with a slight catering snafu, the only workshop I got to sit on was the volunteer recruitment panel that I was moderating. However, I felt that particular panel was the best one that I've moderated due in large part to the fantastic audience we had, who all had great and probing questions.

Fortunately, the next day I was able to sit in on two fantastic keynotes. Our first was Isaiah Brooms, who is a former Cabrini Connections student and now is the Director of Admissions at the Westwood College Virginia Ballston Campus. I was absolutely riveted as Mr. Brooms told his story of going from living in Cabrini-Green during the 1980s at the height of the crack epidemic and being shot at by gangs on a daily basis, to being an administrator in academia. I think many of the programs felt like what they do everyday was put into perspective by Mr. Brooms' story and were inspired to continue to do the good work that they do.

The other keynote that I was able to listen to was Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell talk about mobilizing your social network. Unfortunately I was only able to hear a portion of their talk because I had to deal with some technical difficulties in another room, but from what I did here really energized me to consider who is in my network and who do those people in my network know in their networks. As I mentioned in a previous post, I mapped my network for the Chicago Marathon donations that Nick and I received, but I think it would be worth it to map other networks as well.

So, with this great energy coming out of the conference we enter the Holiday giving season. If you have been inspired by these posts and learning about our conferences, there are a couple of things that you can do:

1. Help plan the May 2010 Conference.
2. Help promote the May 2010 Conference and everything that the Tutor/Mentor Connection does leading up to the May 2010 Conference
3. Help fund the May 2010 Conference - we had 50 people request full or partial scholarships. We also gave all of the speakers and panelists free admission. This adds up but we strong feel that these people deserve to come to the Tutor/Mentor Conference no matter what their financial situation is. Just think - your financial support of someone attending the conference today will foster a future leader in tutoring and mentoring in the future.

Inspired? Let me know in the comments! Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tutor/Mentor Conference is TOMORROW

Hello Everybody. I'm sure you can imagine my absence from this blog is a result of me being busy with last minute preparations for the conference. Well, the conference is TOMORROW, so a couple of things:

The November 2009 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is at Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Dr., Evanston, IL on the Northwestern Evanston Campus. Parking is in the lot just south of Norris on Campus Dr. Parking Permits will be $7 and will be available outside the parking lot from 8-9am and inside from 9am on. Registration is from 8-9am in the Louis Room lobby on the second floor of Norris.

If you have any questions or want to register, visit the Tutor/Mentor Conference Website.

I'll see everybody tomorrow at the conference!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Two Weeks Until the Conference

I can't believe it's already two weeks until the conference! October went by QUICKLY! But some great things are coming together for the conference and I hope you're just as excited as I am about it. Yesterday I talked about a great keynote speaker that we're having, Timothy Hogan of the Royal Order of Experience Design, who's talking about how businesses and non-profits can collaborate by having volunteers use their professional experience to help the non-profits.

Today, I would like to highlight a keynote speaker and a workshop that that touches on a topic that is currently quite relevant for many non-profits: the state of the current economy and how non-profits can stay funded and running through the current recession.

On Thursday morning, November 19th, the morning keynote will be by Jill Zimmerman of the Alford Group. Jill spoke at last May's Conference on grant-writing. This November, Jill will be doing a State of the Union on the economic climate and how it's affecting tutoring and mentoring programs. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know the struggles we've had here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection to stay afloat, especially this Fall. We're not the only ones though. I've talked to several programs that have had to shut down and lay off key staff members in order to stay open. This is not okay, especially in light of the continued violence that plagues Chicago and other big cities. (read Dan Bassill's blog article about the tragic shooting death of a DePaul student over Halloween weekend to get a glimpse of what we're dealing with). Knowledge is power, and since everybody has been affected by the economy, it's definitely worth your while to listen to Jill's keynote.

Then, later that day, during the second afternoon workshop, Liz Livingston Howard of the Northwestern University Kellogg Center for Non-Profit Management will be speaking about 10 Tips for Staying Ahead in this Economy. This workshop was also held this past May, but the topic is just as relevant now, if not more so and we really appreciate the Kellogg Center for Non-Profit Management coming back and doing this workshop again.

Like I've said before, the Tutor/Mentor Conference usually has a little something for everyone, so if using volunteers' professional skills or fundraising in a tough economy doesn't persuade you to come to the conference, maybe one of the future blog posts will!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cabrini Connections Bake Sale - How do you get Volunteers and students more involved?

This past Saturday, on Halloween, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection hosted a bake sale organized by one of our students, Melissa Young, and her tutor/mentor, Elena Lugo. At the beginning of this school year, when there was a distinct possibility that Cabrini Connections would not be able to stay open through the 2009-2010 school year, students, volunteer and staff came up with ways to raise money. I raised money by running the Chicago Marathon (which is still live and taking donations through January 1st, 2010!) El Da'Sheon Nix, our administrative coordinator, and Kurt Kittner, one of our board memebers, created a Northwestern-University of Illinois Challenge to see which universities alumni could raise more money before the Northwestern-UofI football game. Mike Trakan, our GIS and Mapping Coordinator hosted a mapathon. We also had the TRW hill challenge, hosted by a former Northwestern football teammate of El's - Matt Ulrich, which raised over $6000 at last count.

While we truly appreciate everybody's efforts in fundraising for our organization, we were especially impressed that one of our students decided to take the initiative and organize a fundraiser herself. Melissa decided that she was going to host a bake sale on Halloween. She got the word out to our volunteers, students, and staff through SVHATS and we had many volunteer tutor/mentors and friends of Cabrini Connections bring in delicious baked goods. My boyfriend Nick and I helped out, but most of the organizing that day was done by Melissa and Elena. We also had nine of our students help out by standing on Chicago Ave. And Halsted St. holding signs beckoning people to come into Cabrini Connections and buy delicious baked goods. The bake sale was a great success! People were coming in off the street as well as buying baked goods while they were in their cars, stopped at the stop light. Also, many of our friends and volunteers came in to buy the baked goods as well. Overall, we raised $328, which was a lot more than we had expected to raise. Hopefully other students will take Melissa's initiative and organize fundraisers of their own.

In the coming month, we will have more fundraisers hosted by volunteers. On Sunday November 22nd, one of our volunteer tutor/mentors, Sarah Randag (also in our volunteer spotlight this week!) will be hosting a wine-tasting for Cabrini Connections at Cellar Rat Wine Cellar. Only 15 spots are left and it's $25 admission to find about wines that go well with turkey and other Thanksgiving food staples. During the holidays, one of our college zone volunteers, Stephanie Rogers, will be hosting a card-writing fundraiser by sending holiday cards written to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. For each card sent, $1 will be donated to Cabrini Connections.

Volunteers can be a great source of other services than tutoring and mentoring and fundraising as well. At our November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, Timothy Hogan, of the Royal Order of Experience Design will be doing the lunchtime keynote on Thurday November 19th. He was once a volunteer tutor and mentor but had to stop due to being too busy with his job. However, he did stay in touch with the Tutor/Mentor Connection through our monthly newsletter. Mr. Hogan realized that he could volunteer in a different way - by using his expertise in technology to help rebuild the Tutor/Mentor Connection website. He also has helped recruit other volunteers as well to help tutoring and mentoring programs with their technology needs. This is the perfect example of how volunteers can help out non-profits not just by volunteering directly with the service they provide (such as being tutors and mentors at organizations such as ours), but also by offering their professional expertise in technology, accounting, legal advice and much more. As Mr. Hogan demonstrates, even if you can't help out once a week as a volunteer tutor/mentor, there are still a variety of ways that you can help at-risk youth succeed simply by offering your professional skills to a grateful organization.