Division A - 2
Category 1 – Community Relations
Submitting Person/Agency: Jo Lynn Dea

Research/Situation Analysis:  In 2007, Community Partnership for Children established a Foster Youth Mentor Program.  The program was designed to cultivate long-term relationships between caring adults and those children in foster care who are between the ages of 14 and 17.  A significant problem with the program was that development did not include a mentor recruitment component and there were only three mentors active in the program for the first two years in existence, with an average of 25 teenagers aging out of foster care each year in need of a mentor.    With the program in place, the agency determined the need to develop a one-year community relations program to introduce the organization to the community, provide an overview of the program, and recruit qualified volunteer mentors.  Research methods used included stakeholder interviews with case managers and foster youths; a focus group of the three current mentors and mentors of other similar youth mentor programs; and use of online research to benchmark recruitment efforts of similar programs.  Based on the findings, the optimal target audience for mentor recruitment is established working professionals between the ages of 35 and 50.  The community relations program would begin January 1, 2009 and extend through January 30, 2010.

Objectives: To develop a community relations program that would: (1) attract a minimum of 20 qualified volunteer mentors by January 30, 2010; (2) secure three to five positive media placements to introduce the agency and the program to the public; (3) in Volusia and Flagler counties, increase community awareness of the organization, the mentor program, and need for volunteer mentors through a special event, a minimum of 10 speaking engagements to local civic groups and 5 online community postings reaching the target audience; and (4) fund the community relations effort with donations adhering to a project budget of less than $1,000.

Implementation: Community Partnership for Children’s signature fundraising event is the Friends of Children Breakfast.  Held in the spring of each year, the forum provides an audience of 150 to 200 invited guests.  Guests are invited by the Board of Directors, executive staff, and various agency committees.  This year’s event audience would target potential mentors.  The event program always includes a keynote speaker who has in someway supported the children in care with Community Partnership for Children.  We decided to re-introduce the Mentor Program to the public at the 2009 Friends of Children Breakfast by asking one of the three existing mentors to serve as the keynote speaker.  Mentor Jennifer Ferguson volunteered for the task.  Event invitations were also extended to all local media.  The event garnered the attention of the Daytona Beach News Journal and a feature article.   A Mentor Program dedicated web page was revamped through the Community Partnership for Children web site directing.  Post-event contact was made to every guest directing them to the dedicated Web page for more information about the program.   To build upon the momentum of the event, a one year speaking calendar was developed securing speaking engagements at local area civic group meetings targeting business professionals.  The organization also held monthly Lunch and Learn events where targeted business owners were invited to meet with the Chief Executive Officer for lunch on site and a tour of the agency.  The Mentor Program was highlighted during each of the lunch sessions.  Three mentor orientation and training sessions were scheduled between January 1 and December 31, 2009.  The training sessions were promoted through the speaking engagements, the Community Partnership for Children Web site, and through online postings on popular community-driven Web sites.  The Mentor Program was prominently highlighted in articles within three issues of the Community Partnership for Children quarterly newsletter.   Local radio stations were contacted for guest spot interview opportunities.

Evaluation: The Community Relations Project supporting the Mentor Program was a great success. (1) Three mentor orientation and training sessions were held and a total of 36 guests attended the sessions.  Of these 36 individuals, 20 completed the application procedures and became mentors.   (2) One dedicated news article was secured with the local newspaper and two radio interviews were secured.  The Mentor Program was prominently featured in three agency newsletters reaching an audience of 1,000 via mail, and mass audience via the electronic versions posted on the agency Web site.   (3) The Friends of Children event served as the special event to introduce the program to the community and garnered an audience of 140 business professionals.  A master speaking calendar was developed and 11 speaking engagements were secured.  Information was posted on six community-driven Web sites.  (4) None of the $1000 budget was used with the program.

Budget: Due to federal funding cuts, Community Partnership for Children determined this to be a grassroots public relations effort.  The maximum funds available for media placement were $1,000.  Staying under budget, the Friends of Children Breakfast event cost of $3,500 was covered entirely by sponsorships from local businesses secured by the fundraising staff and the Board of Directors.  The dedicated Mentor Program Web page was developed in-house using existing PR staff.  Trainings and orientation sessions were facilitated by the existing Mentor Services Coordinator and a volunteer trainer.  Speaking engagements were managed by PR staff and the Chief Executive Officer of the agency.   There was no out-of-pocket advertising costs with the program.