Fighting Poverty with Passion
It’s something I’ve known for a long time. I’ve tried to deny it and convince myself otherwise but it’s a harsh truth I can avoid no longer. The truth is… my nonprofit’s organization isn’t very sexy!
Let me explain myself. It’s not that Partnership for Youth Development doesn’t do great work. We have a small staff that works extremely hard day in and day out to strengthen this city’s youth-serving sector. We have a clear vision and a mission statement that is concise and extremely relevant:
Partnership for Youth Development helps school-age children and youth in New Orleans maximize their learning opportunities and educational experiences both in and beyond school. The Partnership maintains strong connections between community groups, schools, government agencies, and families. Serving as this critical link, we strive to leverage resources to community based organizations that serve youth and fill any gaps between existing local youth systems in order to create a strong infrastructure that effectively supports the children and youth of New Orleans.
PYD is at the epicenter of a network of non-profit, community-based and school-based organizations serving school-age children. Our organization brings a sense of accountability to a decentralized school system devoid of a central governing body. We hold these programs accountable to quality standards that would otherwise be absent. The PYD team boasts education experts, social workers and academics that are equipped with the best practice research, policy expertise and training on national standards in youth development. On a daily basis, staff members assess, critique, analyze, map and advise. Their hard work ultimately serves parents and guardians who can rest assured that when they send their child to a writing club or running group or mentor program that it is high-quality and not merely a glorified daycare center. PYD’s staff leverages their expertise to work collaboratively to “create local infrastructures [that] support youth.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Simply put, we make what’s out there, better.
It all sounds impressive, huh? Well, that’s because (hopefully) I’ve held your attention long enough to demonstrate how this day-to-day work has a lasting impact for children. But most of the time, as soon as I’ve muttered the words “best practice,” or “quality standards,” the undergrad I’m recruiting has turned away. Halfway through my practiced speech, I see their eyes glaze over and their attention drift. For example, last week I attended the Tulane service-learning fair with the hopes of recruiting a couple of interns for PYD. I was seated at a table between Parkway Partners and Louis Armstrong Park. Parkway touted the trendy community garden/green space opportunities. Louis Armstrong had a cool banner and loud, jazzy music playing. I knew immediately that I was in trouble. Their tables were so much sexier than mine! I tried my best to display the printout of our Online Resource Map in a sultry way. I smiled and jumped around talking about marketing internships for our partners: Big Class and Online Storytelling. It was no good. I got a few sign-ups but for the most part, people humored me until they could politely move along and sign up to save puppies or something.
I guess the moral of my story is that PYD’s mission is never gonna be a tear-jerker. I’m never going to give an elevator speech that elicits the same reaction as those sappy commercials with the kittens and the Sarah McLachlan song (you know the one). So, when I’m promoting PYD for fundraisers like GiveNOLA Day (May 6th! GiveNOLA.org!) I just have to be a little more creative. When we are competing with over 300 other nonprofits for donations, I have to work to find captivating visuals and graphics that tell the PYD story. I have to find ways to display our partnership network and collaborative work in ways people can understand. PYD’s work may not necessarily be sexy, but it’s important, worthwhile and well worth the extra effort.