Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Building your personal brand

I've led a tutor/mentor program for 30 years and it constantly frustrates me that so many of the kids who come each week don't do more to take advantage of all of the help volunteers are offering. Some don't show up regularly. Some don't speak to volunteers, or show minimal interest in homework or school. Some are what I call "volunteer killers" who because of their behavior cause volunteers to leave the program.

I'm not sure this condition is limited to kids living in poverty. I think it's a condition of being a teen. Yet, when teens in more affluent areas create a poor brand image, they have an existing network of family, neighbors, community members willing to help them overcome a poor start, and help them move to careers.

If kids in poverty don't get it right the first time, they can end up out of school, out of luck, teen parents, ex-offenders, and with no network to help them get their lives back in order. Every now and then one of our former students reinforces this message when they talk about how they are now struggling to get a GED, and get a job.

If I had a medicine that would motivate teens to listen to the advise adults were giving them, when they were young, I'd be a wealthy man. And Cabrini Connections would not need to be asking you for money all the time.

Nicole wrote an article on her blog recently about building your personal brand. It talks about how important your personal image is and how it influences how other people help you. For instance, if a student just shows minimal interest in class, by asking a question from time to time, it's amazing how much more the teacher will work to help that student. It's the same in the tutor/mentor program. The more interest you show, and the more responsibilities you take on, the more people will respect you and want to help you.

I think many of us can learn from this article, because it applies to more than kids. It applies to all of us. As you read this, I encourage you to think of ways you can discuss this with your student, to help them begin to build a their own brand image.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thinking Ahead to Year End Giving

This is the graphic that will be used with our annual holiday fund raising campaign. It was created for us by a volunteer who lives in Indiana. We met via the Internet. She's been helping us for about a year now.

I hope you'll think of two things as you look at this:

a) who do you know that would make a year end donation if you just told them that you are a volunteer or an alumni, and how important it is to raise donations to fund our work in 2008 and beyond. We raise 40% of our money each year in November and December, and the Holiday Fund is a big part of that. I hope you'll begin to make a list of people who might help.

b) we don't need to be in the same room to be helping each other, or to be helping our kids. I needed graphic design help. I found a volunteer in another state willing to help. Can we teach our kids to use the Internet to find people who will help them with homework, or with college and career choices, or with finding a job, or solving a problem once they get on the job?

The world our kids will grow up in is one without borders. It's a virtual world. We need to teach them to navigate that world, and to use its resources to be problem solvers.

One way to do this is to create stories about what you and your student do at Cabrini Connections, that you and your student can tell via our blogs, or Facebook, or MySpace or YouTube. If some of you do this every week, we'll create a much richer understanding of what happens at Cabrini Connections, and why people should volunteer time, talent, or dollars to help us, and our kids.