Changing Worlds: A Success Story

A student works with a volunteer at Changing Worlds. Changing Worlds is one of One Good Deed Chicago's VolunTEAM partners.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Changing Worlds is an educational art nonprofit whose mission is “to foster inclusive communities through oral history, writing and art programs that improve student learning, affirm identity and enhance cross-cultural understanding.”

One Good Deed Chicago connected Changing Worlds with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the VolunTEAM program. ESC is a volunteer corps of nearly 300 men and women who use their skills and knowledge from long and successful careers to help other non-profits thrive.

The project is scheduled for completion in May, but the results to date are already a noticeable and satisfying success story on many levels for everyone involved, including the volunteers, the program staff and of course the children who benefit from these programs. 

Identifying needs

Changing Worlds Executive Director Mark Rodriguez points out that it was critical to the project’s success to create a clear direction at the beginning.

“We needed to be able to create an infrastructure for our volunteer program as well as a system and a process that would be sustainable when the project is over,” he said.

Patti Pangborn, Changing Worlds manager of office operations, finance and program support, said “we had a database we weren’t using, a wonderful core group of volunteers and no system or anyone on staff who could coordinate the volunteer experience or make it truly satisfying for the volunteer.  We weren’t fully utilizing our volunteer strength”

The ESC project management team, David Marienthal and Estelle Holzer, worked with Patti and Mark to evaluate specific needs. They then began identifying lasting solutions and immediate changes that could be readily implemented without additional workload burden or cost.  Both David and Estelle brought more than 20 years of experience in project and program management to the assignment and were able to make recommendations that produced immediate results.

Marienthal describes the process.

“We met every three weeks or so and tracked our progress together to ensure we had the solutions we needed,” he said. “First, we recommended the addition of a volunteer ‘volunteer coordinator’ position!  This focused more dedicated attention to an area of need and removed the additional workload burden from staff while we set up a process and procedures to get a structured volunteer management program set up.”

Seeing results

“Claire Gilbertsen is our new volunteer coordinator, a volunteer herself with lots of experience, who comes in two days a week to concentrate on this program,” Pangborn said. “We added a volunteer management module to our database to better track volunteer experiences, and we have begun putting together a handbook of policies and procedures and an orientation and recognition program for our volunteers.”

Rodriguez says “we value our volunteers and hope, through this project with ESC and One Good Deed, to advance our three primary goals toward 1) greater public awareness of our programs, 2) recruitment and retention of volunteers and, 3) fundraising to support our programs.”

As the economy struggles, as money from state and local governments dries up, and as donations and foundation monies shrink, non-profits are facing the perfect storm. Demand for their services is increasing dramatically, just as revenue sources are dwindling. The need for non-profits to improve their organizational performance is as important as it ever was. It’s ESC’s mission to help them.

To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago or apply to be an consultant, visit the ESC Website at www.esc-chicago.org.  For a list of all 19 nonprofits currently in the One Good Deed Chicago’s VolunTEAM program, go to www.onegooddeedchicago.org/priorities.

This February, Step Up to LOVE and ignite girls to fulfill their potential

By Kristen Field, Program Manager, Step Up Women’s Network

The New Year brought many resolutions that often have fizzled by now. Reflecting on my direction for the New Year, I challenged myself to take a different approach. Establish a theme for your year that inspires you. For me, it’s doing “everything from a place of love.” This theme is fitting for the month of February, where we often see hearts everywhere, celebrations of love, and cheers to Valentine’s Day.

Working for Step Up Women’s Network allows me to take my passion to give back and use this theme of love to make a difference. Step Up Women’s Network creates and implements impactful after-school and weekend programs that empower teen girls from under-resourced communities to be confident, college-bound, and career-ready. As a nonprofit membership organization of dynamic women coming together for this mission, Step Up is also able to propel professional women through connections, collaborations and continuous development.

I LOVE what I do! The main focus of my job is inspiring others to join Step Up’s mission to connect you to the professional women you need and the underserved teen girls who need you. How could I ask for more in a job?

On January 27th, our Teen Programs Manager, Whitney Capps, asked me to chaperone one of our Pathways to Professions field trips with our Step Up teens to The Big Ten Network. I of course was thrilled! Pathways to Professions is a Step Up program that inspires Step Up juniors to explore new careers through field trips to Step Up member companies. During our time at The Big Ten Network, Step Up teens toured the facility, met with individuals who had positions in advertising, sales, on-air, human resources, executive leadership, and so on. The women at The Big Ten Network gave their time to mentor for an hour or two, coming from a place of love, to impact a girl’s life. That’s all it takes.

While we were all in the studio, I paused to look around and take this day in. These young, eager minds wanting to learn as much as they possibly can about what career they may have in the future and women who have “made it” sharing their stories with the next generation of young women. Truly inspired to be part of something so amazing, something so necessary.

What inspires me even more, is that every week, throughout the year, Step Up Women’s Network provides opportunities for women to mentor girls in our dynamic afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs. Do you want to be a mentor for Step Up teens and a member of Step Up Women’s Network? For more information and calendar, go to www.suwn.org and contact me at kristenf@suwn.org

Do something “from a place of love” this February and invest in the future success of girls through mentorship and financial support. YOU are the match that will ignite a girls dream

And They Told Two Friends and So On…

Five tips for nonprofits to turn your constituents into your biggest advocates

By Suzy Whitfield and Rhett Del Campo, SocialRaise

You may already know that your best advocates are your most vocal and passionate constituents. They are the people who tell your story often and with enthusiasm. They are the folks who work the room, sell the tickets and ask people to show up on a Saturday morning to lend a helping hand. They personally thank their friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues for their financial support. Without some of these people, your fundraising and programs would be struggling.  You want to hand those folks an engraved, gold plated, supercharged megaphone, right?

Well how about giving a megaphone to other people who are also great supporters, but maybe a little less vocal, and make it easy for them to communicate their enthusiasm for your organization’s goals, programs and events. Give them the tools to become your biggest advocates by providing the ability to share your message to their friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues – easily.

Are you old enough to remember the shampoo ad with “And they told two friends and so on and so on” until the screen was full of faces? If not, stick with me here.

Enter Social Media tools. The beauty is in the math. Say you have 300 loyal supporters and they each share your message with 10 people. Now you have increased awareness of your organization by 3,000 (use your own numbers). Think of what it would mean if only a small percentage would get to know your organization and become donors, board members or volunteers. OK, not everyone is on Facebook or Twitter, but most have email, right? So make it easy for them to share – any way they might choose.

How do you get this done without hiring an IT staff (or a teenager)?

1)    Make it easy for people to “share” – attach social media links to everything on your website (articles, announcements, events, donation opportunities, contests, volunteer needs etc.) to allow your constituents to forward, post, send, or share your message on their preferred social media networks.

2)    Make the message tell your story (and then ask for something specific). Illustrate your successes and highlight how the donors, volunteers and board members made a difference and how they can too.

3)    Ask your constituents to tell your story, engage their friends etc. Tell them they can help by spreading the word about your story or event.

4)    Thank or acknowledge the message sharing and tell or show them it makes a difference. Make sure that their efforts are noticed and appreciated by talking about growth and new constituents.

5)    When new visitors come to your site, make it easy for them to engage or get involved (e.g. make a donation, buy a ticket, volunteer, get more information, join a support group, attend a meeting etc.). In exchange they will leave their contact information and become part of your growing list of “leads,” people who are likely to become loyal constituents.

Think of your own experience. When a friend passes along a short article about the wonderful impact their favorite nonprofit organization has made in your community and asks you to get involved, you are much more likely to read it and, if asked, to act. Give your constituents the tools (great stories, links, offers, events and the means to share) and then encourage them to email, post, and tweet your organization’s successes with their friends, neighbors and colleagues. Include simple requests to join, sign up, donate, and volunteer. While this is not simple and requires a plan, it is no more complex than writing your end-of-year appeal, printing, addressing and mailing. But the potential reach is much bigger than a single letter. End-of-year appeals are great, but imagine if your mailing list were four times bigger this year.

In short, social media is much more than something teenagers use to plan a weekend. They are tools for success. Give lots of little “megaphones” to your volunteers, beneficiaries, donors and board members and ask for help in spreading the word.  With the right message in the right hands, Social Media can become a powerful communication vehicle for your organization.

Suzy is the Vice President and Rhett is the Director of Arts Initiatives at the Chicago-based company, SocialRaise. To learn more, please visit www.socialraise.com

Three ways to see can’t-miss doc ‘The Interrupters’ for free

 “The Interrupters” is a can’t-miss documentary about the struggle to stop the cycle of violence and poverty in America. The One Good Deed Chicago team was lucky enough to attend a screening at DePaul University earlier this month, and we can’t help but be moved to spread the word.

This incredible documentary from Kartemquin Films tells the moving and surprising stories of three violence interrupters, working with Cease Fire, who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. This film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our city. Filmed over the course of a year, it captures a period in Chicago when the city became a national symbol for youth violence. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago high school student, whose death was caught on videotape.

This documentary is a must-see for anyone living in Chicago or working in public service. You can see the film by attending a free screening or catching it on PBS.

– Tuesday, Feb 7 at 7 p.m. – Screening at Francis Parker School

– Thursday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. – Screening at UIC, followed by a panel discussion with interrupters from the film

– Tuesday, February 14 on PBS’ Frontline (check local listings)

To see screenings in other locations, click here.

Why volunteering makes sense, from a human resources professional

Volunteering can help you find your career path.

by Tony Rea, 20/20 HR LLC

There are many good reasons to volunteer your time and energy to a worthy cause. Volunteering can be rewarding whether you are currently employed or even if you are looking for work.

One of the strongest reasons to volunteer is the sense of fulfillment one gets from giving back to the community served by the nonprofit organization. You may volunteer because you are drawn to the mission of a particular nonprofit or because someone in your personal circle was helped in some way by that nonprofit.

You could volunteer you time assisting the nonprofit in their operations. A good example is the bell ringers during the holidays for the Salvation Army.

Another way to volunteer is to contribute your personal and / or professional expertise. Many nonprofits seek out this type of assistance which can be provided on a pro bono consulting basis or by serving as a board member. Board membership is typically built around having the right combination of business, marketing, accounting, legal and other professional level skills to lead the organization.

For those who are looking for work, this represents a “win-win” for both the individual and the nonprofit organization. What a great way to stay active and connected to your profession by giving back. For new graduates and those considering a career change, it is also a great way to break into a desired or new field of interest.

Volunteer experience looks good on a resume and can be helpful in covering employment gaps created by a period of unemployment. If you give of your professional skills, it will keep you sharp and also show initiative to any prospective employer. It also shows that you are resilient and respond to adversity in a positive and proactive way.

Volunteering can help improve your visibility through networking with people throughout your community. While most likely not a direct path to a position at the respective nonprofit, you will have the opportunity to meet and work with people within the nonprofit, those served by the nonprofit and possibly even influential board members.

While I don’t believe in spiritualism, I do believe that volunteering brings good karma!

Tony Rea is a human resources professional at Orland Park-based 20/20 HR, LLC.

 

This is part of a guest blogging series highlighting good deeds and volunteerism. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it! Email alexandra.baird[at]cityofchicago.org for more information.

Instituto Honors Martin Luther King Jr. with Clothing Drive

By Gabriela Alvarez, AmeriCorps LENS Member

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the AmeriCorps LENS (Latinos Empowered through National Service) Program at Instituto del Progreso Latino came together to give back to their community on Jan. 16. We hosted a clothing drive for the families of Instituto and those in our community.

This event took place at the new Instituto site, which houses the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, located at 2520 S. Western in Chicago. The drive took place in the community room, which ran from 12PM-4PM. Families that participated in the clothes drive were allowed to take five items per person in that family. Each family that came through the doors for the drive was given a complimentary Walmart and Chase Bank reusable tote bag.

In order for this event to take place, the AmeriCorps Members had to take action. Fliers had to be made to get the word out and drop boxes were to be placed at three Instituto sites for donations. Donations of clothes, coats, shoes, purses, and winter accessories were all accepted. All types of clothes were donated, including women’s, men’s, children’s (boys and girls), and baby clothes. When we finished gathering and sorting, we had tons and tons of clothes, shoes, coats, etc.

One Warm Coat, One Good Deed Chicago, Our Lady Tepeyac Parish, and San Jose Obrero Mission were recognized as the official partners with us for this event. So many clothes were left and our partners were more than happy to accept the donations that were not taken by participants. We were very excited and pleased to provide this service because we knew this would put smiles on people’s faces.

As soon as 12 o’clock hit, people started entering. When they asked for help, we did not hesitate in assisting them. A man came in believing he would leave empty handed, but he ended up leaving with a pair of shoes and a few shirts, and a smile on his face. It was a great feeling seeing so many people walking into the room. Many people left satisfied.

The clothing drive turned out great! By the end of the night, 58 families -a total of 190 individuals- left with more than they thought they would have. Families were more than pleased with what they left with. I asked an individual what her take was on this event and she replied, “I believe what AmeriCorps is doing is something great!” She had a big smile on her face which put one on mine. Not only did I feel great at the end of the day, but the other AmeriCorps Members felt great as well. We helped out so many families and we still want to continue doing so.

Instituto del Progreso Latino is a 34-year-old community-based organization driven by the belief that education is power. This core belief fuels Instituto’s mission to contribute to the fullest development of Latino families in Chicago through the creation of leading programs in workforce development, education, and citizenship.  Instituto is also a One Good Deed Chicago Success Coaches partner.Visit Instituto online at www.idpl.org and on Facebook.

Three great ways to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 16. Instead of taking a day off, “make it a day on” and commit to a service project or special activity in honor of his astounding legacy. Here are a few great ideas to get started:

1. Hear Geoffrey Canada Speak at the University of Chicago Celebration

On Thursday, Jan. 12, Geoffrey Canada will be the keynote speaker at U of C’s celebration. Canada is the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York and a passionate advocate for education reform. The celebration kicks off Black Heritage Month at the University. The event is at 6 p.m. and is free. For information, visit http://mlk.uchicago.edu/.

2. Attend an African Dance class at the Joffrey Academy

Fun for all ages, the prestigious Joffrey Academy of Dance will present an African Dance workshop on Monday, Jan. 16 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his influence on human rights. The class will be held from 12:30-1:30p.m. in the third floor of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street; the cost is $10. To register, email reception[at]joffrey.org or call 312-784-4600 with your name and the number of guests in your party by 5 p.m. Jan. 13.

3. Serve!

– Calling all crafters! On Monday, Jan. 16, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will engage in an in-depth conversation over breakfast on the legacy of MLK and the continuing challenges. Then, the group will put their words into action and engage in a service project, Operation Lap Wrap. The group will create comfort quilts for wounded service members, new mothers whose husbands are overseas in the military, and service members’ families and children for their hospital visits. The event will be held at the AKArama Community Service Center- 6220 S. Ingleside Ave in Chicago from 8:45 a.m. – 1 p.m., and brunch will be served. To RSVP, email mbell0415[at]aol.com or call Martha Bell at 773-374-2932.

– Start your spring cleaning early! One Good Deed Chicago partner Instituto del Progreso Latino will host a clothing drive for its client families on MLK Day. In preparation, Instituto is accepting donations at its 2520 S. Western Ave. location from 9 a.m. to noon every weekday through Jan. 13. For more information, call Yvonne Nieves at 773-890-8020 or email y.nieves[at]idpl.org.

Just added: Alternatives, Inc. is also hosting a clothing and supplies drive. For more info, click here.

For more, visit this great post from the Case Foundation.

Do you have any great ideas to share? Post them in the comments section, or Tweet us @OGDChicago.

One Good Deed Chicago will be taking part in Chicago Cares’ Celebration of Service on Jan. 14 and City Year’s day of service on Jan. 16. Keep an eye out for photos and updates!

-Alex