Friday, May 29, 2015

Study Results - Improve Financial Management

In the May 29th Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring, Dr. Jean Rhodes featured this study as follows.
This study examines a Wallace Foundation-sponsored initiative aimed at improving the financial management skills and practices of 25 Chicago after-school providers through training and coaching. Two models for this professional development were provided and each produced long-lasting improvements. Moreover, organizations receiving the less-expensive group training and coaching improved almost as much as those receiving more intensive customized coaching.  

Ret. 5-29-15

Below is the "Executive Summary."

The Importance of Strong Financial Management for Organizations Serving Young People Nonprofit 
Organizations serving young people exist to provide meaningful opportunities for those young people to build their skills; experience positive, supportive relationships; and prepare for the future. No one would judge an organization’s worth by its financial soundness alone, but financially unhealthy programs threaten an organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Unfortunately, although they are critical to effective management, core organizational capabilities and effective administrative functions often are mistakenly perceived as peripheral to an organization’s mission.1

To the contrary, good financial management is essential to effective youth interventions. First, it enables organizations to plan strategically: A clear understanding of the resources needed to serve program participants well serves as a guide to fund-raising efforts. It also provides information on the types of investments in an organization’s core capabilities — management, support functions, and infrastructure — that need to be made to sustain program quality. Second, good financial management means organizations can deploy their resources thoughtfully. It enables them to predict the impact of changing circumstances, such as funding delays or shortfalls, and respond to them while managing their effect on program quality. This report examines what happened to a group of organizations that attempted to strengthen their financial management systems from 2009 to 2013.

The Current State of Financial Management
Good financial management is not easily achieved in organizations that often have grown organically out of community need, funders’ compassion, and the passion and good ideas of people committed to bettering young people’s lives. Indeed, weakness in financial management is pervasive across the nonprofit sector. The following problems were common among participating organizations at the beginning of the current study:
  • Staff members with less than optimal financial management skills, understaffed financial departments, and underdeveloped information technology (IT) systems created inefficiencies in routine tasks. Staff members in organizations’ financial departments often operated in crisis mode or were absorbed with daily tasks such as paying bills and responding to funder requests, leaving long-term financial planning functions underdeveloped. This could potentially have serious consequences for organizational sustainability and efficiency. 
  • A lack of transparency regarding organizations’ financial positions, and an absence of useful forecasts, meant leaders often could not make informed choices about program and organizational needs.
  • Incomplete understanding of the true costs of program delivery, including the support functions necessary for high-quality programs, left those programs chronically underfunded. 
  • Organizations’ financial staff members operated in isolation, with few connections to staff members who understood the resources needed to support and strengthen programs and who knew how to respond effectively to weaknesses. 

The challenges that arise as a result of poor internal financial practices are exacerbated by certain funder practices. Funders place limits on allowable overhead that are often insufficient for organizations to manage programs well. Funding is often insecure, obtained through short-term contracts. And payments for contracted services may be late — sometimes many months late.

The Wallace Foundation Initiative to Strengthen Financial Management in Nonprofit Organizations 
Recognizing these challenges, the Wallace Foundation — which has a long-standing commitment to improving the quality of services for young people — set up the Strengthening Financial Management in Out-of-School Time (SFM) project. The aim was to equip organizations with the ability to plan and manage their financial resources and increase their potential to deliver high-quality services, and at the same time to record lessons from the experience to aid the many organizations that face similar challenges. The foundation took a three-pronged approach:

1. Directly build the financial management capabilities of organizations serving young people.

2. Work with funders and policymakers to reform practices that strain the ability of organizations to manage their resources well. 

3. Fund research into the project and inform a wide audience about the effects of this approach (or lack thereof).

Staff members from 25 organizations that provided a variety of out-of-school-time programs for Chicago young people participated in the initiative.2 Their budgets ranged from $800,000 to $36 million, although most had budgets of $3 million to $8 million at the initiative’s beginning. All fell short on some or many aspects of financial management. The 25 organizations were divided into two groups based on the Wallace Foundation’s assessment of the level of intervention they could undertake. From 2009 to 2013, Fiscal Management Associates (FMA), a consulting firm that works with nonprofit organizations and foundations to strengthen financial practices, provided all of the organizations with access to peer networking opportunities, and provided each of the two groups with one of two models of consulting and training. The two models varied in the amount and type of professional development assistance offered to the organizations involved. This report refers to the more intensive intervention as the “customized learning plus group learning” model (or “customized learning,” for short), and refers to the other intervention as the “group learning” model. See Table ES.1 for a brief description of the models. Many of the activities involved the participating organizations’ senior leaders, particularly the chief executive officers and chief financial officers (CEOs and CFOs), although other fiscal and program staff members participated when appropriate. Importantly, the professional development support provided mostly occurred during the first two years of the initiative. In addition to paying for that support the Wallace Foundation provided grants to the organizations to enable them to undertake the work, and the amount and timing of those grants also differed between the two groups of organizations. 

FMA made a number of assumptions about what financially stable organizations require: First, organizations need to understand their financial positions on an ongoing basis, as efficiently as possible. Good financial software makes that possible. Second, having well specified internal financial procedures ensures that all parties know what they need to do and when, with minimal redundancy. Third, in order to develop accurate, realistic budgets, an organization must calculate not only the costs directly linked to the delivery of program services (such as equipment and program staff salaries) but also the overhead costs of running the organization itself. Lastly, to make appropriate financial decisions, organizational leaders need information not only from financial staff members but also from program managers and others. Program managers are likely to know how and when to spend resources to maximize a program’s effect, and if cuts need to be made, they are likely to know which will be the least damaging. 

FMA designed its group learning sessions around these assumptions, providing guidance on how organizations could make their financial procedures more rigorous and systematic, 
ensure adequate controls on spending, involve staff members from programs in budgeting, acquire needed financial software, and create realistic budgets. The major difference between the models was the degree of customization. FMA consultants worked with the staff members from customized learning organizations, helping them design policies and procedures specific to their organizations. In some cases, they prepared customized manuals for the organizations’ use. They also assisted organizations in assessing their staffing configurations, and they made specific recommendations about hiring. In contrast, the group learning model organizations received general advice and options in group learning sessions that they could then take back to their organizations. While the staff members from group learning organizations could discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various options with the FMA consultant during a one-hour phone call that followed each group learning session, and while the FMA staff could help them figure out how to address specific problems, the organizations had to make many more decisions on their own. 

Component Customized Learning Group Learning Financial needs assessment Individual, on-site financial Assisted self-assessment audit Work plan Developed in partnership with consultants Self-developed Individual coaching In-depth 8 one-hour consultations Primary staff focus of intervention CEOs CFOs Frequency of peer learning sessions Quarterly Quarterly Initial grant to organizations ($) 115,000 40,000 Follow-up grant to organizations ($) 0 25,000 Grant for cash reserves ($) 125,000 0 Median number of hours of professional development provided by FMA 704 183 Strengthening Financial Management Table ES.1 

For the second prong of the initiative (the one focused on reforming funding practices), a Chicago-based organization, the Donors Forum, was selected to work with funders, state and city policymakers and officials, and organizations serving young people. Its aim was to identify barriers to effective financial management and set priorities among them, develop principles to guide decisions, develop and implement practical solutions to improve the way funders manage contracts, and build momentum for wider reforms in Illinois. 

The Study and This Report 
As the third prong of the initiative, the Wallace Foundation commissioned an independent evaluation of the extent to which the initiative achieved its intended results, and at what cost of money and effort. The foundation was committed to informing a wide audience about whether and how results were achieved, what challenges were encountered, and whether and how the challenges were overcome.3 It also sought to inform a wide audience about the Donors Forum’s efforts to improve the funding environment. To address these issues, the four-year study relied on information from interviews with CEOs and CFOs, conducted every 9 to 12 months for four years; annual visits to a selection of the organizations; and document reviews. 

This report presents findings that should be of interest to practitioners, funders, policymakers, and the public. It examines the following questions: What forms of support do organizations need to strengthen their ability to manage their resources? What type of time commitment does this require from the organization itself? From consultants? What types of changes need to be made to funder practices, and how might those changes be achieved? When those changes have been achieved, how effective have they been? What lessons can the evaluation offer those who seek to strengthen the financial management of nonprofit organizations?

Summary of Findings About the Professional and Organizational Development Models 
  • The financial management practices of nearly all of the participating organizations improved over the course of the initiative. 
Of the 25 participating organizations, all but 2 strengthened their financial practices in at least some areas, and improvements persisted beyond the first two years of intensive professional development. Meaningful changes were seen in a range of areas: improved financial skills; better — and better-used — computer systems; more useful internal financial reports and procedures; and more — and more effective — collaboration across program and financial divisions, which strengthened organizations’ ability to create good budgets and monitor them effectively. Overall, organizations improved the quality of their financial decision making. 

Nearly half of the organizations that received customized learning and nearly half of those that primarily received group learning improved in 80 percent or more of the areas in which they had been weak at the start of the initiative. 
  • According to organizations’ leaders and senior staff members, better financial practices led to better program planning and management, and to improved organizational stability. 
Executives and senior staff members reported a range of benefits from better financial management that directly affected their ability to pay for and deliver high quality services. For example, a better understanding of programs’ real costs, combined with improved decision-making processes, better equipped organizations to evaluate funding opportunities, rejecting those that did not fully cover programs’ true costs. Organizations were also better able to plan their program spending. Many organizations have predictable cash-flow cycles over the year, and having staff members from across an organization understand those cycles helped the organization better manage its cash flow. Executives also reported that as a result of improved financial management, their organizations were better able to respond to external financial pressures such as funding cuts or late payments, leaving them more stable in the long run. With one exception, SFM organizations weathered the Great Recession that began in 2008.
  • Multiyear professional and organizational support — combined with funding to purchase new financial software and to defray some of the cost of staff time — helped organizations achieve long-lasting change. 
It typically took two to four years for the organizations in SFM to lay the foundations for and build a new way to do business. Two years of involvement by expert financial management consultants enabled organizations to diagnose areas of need, develop work plans with ranked priorities, train staff members in good financial management practices, and implement their work plans. The median organization in the “customized learning” group received 704 hours of assistance from FMA, while the median organization in the “group learning” group received 183 hours. For both groups more than 90 percent of FMA’s support was provided in the initiative’s first two years. 

This type of deep change required organizations to expend significant staff time (typically 800 to 1,000 hours over the course of the four years) and money ($30,000 to $60,000). The money was used to recruit new financial staff members, buy software, and pay for associated training. Taking into account the value of staff time, the full cost to each organization is estimated at $70,000 to $110,000. The unrestricted grants from the Wallace Foundation — $115,000 for customized learning organizations and $65,000 for the group learning organizations — enabled organizations to make the investments required to improve their financial management.
  • To succeed in achieving the aims of SFM, an organization’s leaders needed to be motivated to change from the outset. 
When CEOs reported at the beginning of the initiative that they were strongly motivated to participate in SFM because it aligned with their organizations’ needs and plans, their organizations made significant progress in all aspects of financial management. The reverse was true for organizations where strengthening financial management had not previously been part of their plans. Sustaining an organizational change initiative like SFM beyond an initial burst is not easy, and leadership quality — the ability to communicate the change, execute it, and adapt to emerging circumstances — was critically important for achieving rapid, deep, and long-lasting improvements. Ironically, the initiative’s goal may have been helped by the harsh economic climate, which reinforced the need for better financial practices. Thus, despite the recession’s adverse effects on organizations’ finances, it may have helped sustain the initiative’s momentum.
  • The financial practices of organizations receiving the group learning model of support significantly improved, though more slowly and not quite as much as those receiving the customized learning model, indicating that this less expensive approach was cost-effective. 
The customized learning organizations made slightly more progress than the group learning organizations, but the gains for the group learning organizations were still impressive, and those organizations received approximately a quarter of the consulting help and half the grant funds. While the financial practices of the customized learning organizations typically changed within two years, the group learning organizations took three or four years to achieve a similar level of change. This slower pace of change might have been in part because group learning organizations received their grant money in two payments, one at the beginning of the project and the second two years later. Organizations in the customized learning group received their grants at the start, which allowed them to make investments in financial staff members and software sooner. 

Summary of Findings About the Policy Work 
  • The second prong of the initiative, aimed at influencing funding practices, made some progress, but was slow to achieve results. 
The Donors Forum was successful in convening key stakeholders in Illinois; identifying major challenges facing the state’s nonprofit organizations and setting priorities among them; and developing principles for moving forward. The initiative made significant progress toward streamlining contracting procedures, working closely with stakeholders to develop solutions. Along with major nonprofit organizations in Illinois, the Donors Forum supported legislation that would streamline human services contracting. It then went further by providing staff support to an interagency committee charged with putting the legislation into practice. As a result, the state created a cross-agency reporting database. Where previously organizations had to provide the same information (such as audits or letters demonstrating nonprofit status) to multiple agencies when submitting proposals, now they only had to provide that information once. However, organizations did not see this as a significant enough change, for two major reasons. First, the reforms only touched one set of funders — four Illinois State human services agencies — and the organizations still had many other funders with their own reporting requirements. Second, the more serious problem facing organizations with state contracts was late state payments, and little progress had been made on that issue at the time this report was written. 
  • The most pressing funding problem facing the SFM organizations over the course of the project was late state payments. The Great Recession resulted in payments that were delayed by up to six months, and little could be done to speed them up. 
Although the Donors Forum recognized the challenges that late payments presented to grantees, it was unable to address the issue. Illinois, which had been accruing debt over a number of years and which had large unfunded pensions, was in dire financial straits. One of the ways it juggled its finances was by delaying payments. In Fiscal Year 2011 the state legislature lengthened the time the state could take to pay its invoices, further exacerbating the problem. 

The Wallace Foundation’s initiative casts light on the financial practices of organizations and on what can be done to improve them. If 25 well-established and respected Chicago organizations were struggling with financial management, it is highly likely that many more organizations across the country face similar challenges. Encouragingly, the initiative demonstrated that with a concerted effort it is possible to achieve significant and lasting improvements in financial management. Together with improvements in funding practices, these have the potential to strengthen program quality by permitting organizations to focus on programs instead of managing financial crises. 

Implications for Funders and Consultants Who Support Organizational Development 
  • Widespread weaknesses in organizations’ financial management can have negative effects on their stability, planning, and programs. Good financial management is an important factor in facilitating and sustaining long-term improvements in program quality. The organizations involved in the initiative all had strong reputations for providing high-quality programs, but it was clear that internal financial weaknesses plagued most. Opaque budgeting practices that did not include program managers left program staff members ignorant of their budgets, leading to over- or underspending. Organizations that did not understand how to allocate overhead costs accurately across programs faced budget shortfalls that affected program stability. Inefficiencies in financial procedures took up a lot of time for staff members already stretched thin. This initiative suggests that efforts to create change in financial management can be effective in achieving lasting organizational improvements. Improved program quality is not guaranteed when financial practices are strong, since high-quality programs require other important forms of support, such as good planning, reliance on evidence, high-quality program staff members, high-quality staff training, and activities that engage participants. But financial management provides critically important support. 
  • In order to create lasting changes in their core administrative infrastructures, organizations need to work consistently for several years on strengthening their financial management. Many initiatives to build organizational capabilities last only a short while, and there is little evidence that they work. It is important that organizations know how to change, but it is not sufficient; organizations also need time and resources. In SFM, changing organizations’ financial management required changes in software, written manuals, and organizational practices, and each of these changes took time and money. Given that many of the changes were interrelated, it is unlikely that lasting improvement could be achieved in substantially less time. 
  • Change in financial management requires widespread organizational change. It is important to emphasize that the changes under SFM occurred because the initiative addressed multiple aspects of organizations’ financial practices and multiple senior staff members. The effort focused on training senior leaders, including organizations’ CEOs and CFOs, rather than only training more junior staff members. Organizational leaders were expected to support the effort, and the evidence shows that when they were motivated to do so, their organizations made more changes to their financial management that affected more areas: staffing structure, staff members’ skills, accounting IT systems, the quality of financial reports, and internal decision-making processes. Not every organization needed to change in every area, but many needed changes in most areas related to financial management. 
  • Unrestricted funding made possible the necessary investments of time and capital. The amount of money required to create lasting change in an organization depends on the organization’s size and needs. In this initiative, the Wallace Foundation’s investments of $65,000 to $115,000 in direct grants covered staff time, software, and training. These costs will vary from place to place, since salaries vary across the country. 
  • The group learning model was a cost-effective method of improving financial practices. The grants provided to the group learning organizations totaled a little more than 55 percent of those provided to the customized learning organizations, and the former group received only about a quarter of the hours of assistance received by the latter. While the customized learning organizations demonstrated slightly larger changes, the group learning organizations also substantially improved. Achieving larger change faster is desirable, but it is possible to achieve meaningful change at a lower cost. 
Implications for Organizations 
  • Organizations interested in undertaking efforts to improve their financial practices should be prepared to spend between 800 and 1,000 staff hours on the work over two to three years. Organizations involved in the initiative spent significant amounts of time on activities designed to strengthen their financial management, spread across multiple staff members. 
  • An organization’s top leader and its top financial manager must be involved in this work. Without the motivation and commitment of the organization’s top leaders, changes are hard to achieve. An organization’s CEO must have a basic understanding of good financial management practices and the risks that organizations face if practices are lax. The CEO also needs to communicate the importance of the work, to maintain staff interest and commitment. And finally, it is the CEO who has the ability to oversee changes in staffing to ensure that good practices are adopted and that program and financial staff members work together. The CFO must also be involved in communicating the importance of the work to financial staff members, in ensuring that staff members get the training they need, and in overseeing necessary changes to software and policies. 
  • Changes in software and manuals help sustain organizational change. One of the challenges in helping organizations build their capabilities is sustaining those changes over time. In SFM, changes were made to manuals and software. Once such changes were made, staff members were trained in the changes and managers worked to ensure that they were adopted. The fact that the new procedures were built into software and written into manuals helped to sustain them over time. It appears to be especially challenging for organizations to maintain increased communication between financial and program staff members, so that change in particular should be written into organizations’ policies-and-procedures manuals. 
Policy Change: Supporting Changes in Practices for Public Funders 
Influencing funder practices appeared to be an attractive route for reform, as such changes should logically benefit many organizations at once. However, the SFM initiative’s experience revealed several limitations to the approach. First, in order for new procedures to generate tangible benefits, organizations and funders must learn and use them. Second, changes must affect a substantial portion of organizations’ funding to be valuable to them. From an organization’s perspective, is not enough to influence a single funder, particularly if that funder is not the organization’s major source of support. Third, as is often the case with advocacy, change is slow to materialize. For these reasons, those seeking quick results in the financial management arena may find it more effective to focus on building organizations’ ability to manage their finances, helping them to withstand adverse funding practices. And in fact the SFM initiative demonstrated a feasible way to do this, albeit a labor-intensive one. 

Nonetheless, there is a limit to how much an effectively managed organization can improve its financial stability, given the existing funding environment. Thus it is valuable to pursue changes in funder practices alongside direct capability building, even though achieving such change will be a long-term endeavor requiring significant resources. The following sequence of steps worked well for the Donors Forum in its efforts to improve contracting practices in Illinois: 

1. Convene key stakeholders, including organizations, multiple funding constituencies, politicians, and agency officials. 

2. Define the problem, garner support for change, and define common principles of good practice. 

3. Decide where to focus attention (for example, on specific issues or on types of funders), depending on what types of changes would benefit organizations most and on where change can be achieved. 

4. Provide concrete solutions that respond to funders’ needs. 

5. When new legislation passes, provide support to help public agencies develop concrete plans to implement it. 

While working in this way is useful, it may not lead to change in the highest-priority areas. Policy advocates need to find opportunities where change can be achieved. 

Final Thoughts 
Today organizations have to achieve more for less. Funders increasingly demand results but are not always prepared to cover the attendant core organizational costs. Given this climate, the Strengthening Financial Management initiative provides powerful and very encouraging evidence for organizations and funders alike. Organizations can strengthen their financial practices if they put in the time and make the needed investments. Funders who want to build the core capabilities of an organization or sector now have a blueprint for effective work.

     1 Though many organizations use the term “capacity,” this report uses the term “capability” throughout. 

     2 Twenty-six organizations were initially selected to participate in the initiative, but one dropped out shortly after selection and was therefore excluded from the evaluation. Another closed due to financial problems in the initiative’s penultimate year. 

     3 The Wallace Foundation initially awarded the evaluation to Public/Private Ventures. When Public/Private Ventures closed its doors in mid-2012 due to financial problems, MDRC and Child Trends stepped in to complete the evaluation. 

     4 In 2012, Public/Private Ventures published an early report on the progress of the initiative that presents an overview of the participating organizations and their financial management challenges, along with a summary of good financial management practices and early lessons from the first year of the initiative. See Kotloff, Lauren, with Nancy Burd, Building Stronger Nonprofits Through Better Financial Management: Early Efforts in 26 Youth-Serving Organizations (Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures, 2012). 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Role of Relationship Quality

By  April 30, 2015

How mentoring affects academic outcomes: The role of relationship quality

airplaneBayer, A., Grossman, J. B., & DuBois, D. L. (2015). Using volunteer mentors to improve the academic outcomes of underserved students: the role of relationships. Journal of Community Psychology43(4), 408-429.
Summarized by Bridget Nestor
Introduction: School-based mentoring (SBM) refers to mentoring relationships in which mentors meet with mentees on school grounds, either during or immediately after the school day. For financially strapped school districts, SBM has the potential to provide a cost-effective way to assist and support struggling students. However, little research has been adequately conducted to understand the efficacy of SBM in improving academic outcomes, as well as the underlying mechanisms that could contribute to SBM’s effectiveness.
Rather, past research has focused mainly on community-based mentoring (CBM), or more traditional mentoring relationships that typically comprise of longer meetings between mentor and mentee and the participation in varied activities in different locations, not on school grounds. Additionally, the prior research that has been conducted on SBM has found mixed results with respect to the efficacy of SBM – some studies have found SBM to yield significantly improved outcomes for youth, while others have not. These conflicting findings are likely the result of studies with less rigorous research designs than the current study.
In the current study, Bayer, Grossman, and DuBois (2015) seek to address this gap in the literature by exploring whether SBM does yield significantly improved academic outcomes for youth, while also investigating the mediators of the effect of mentoring on youth outcomes. In doing so, the authors consider what makes for greater academic outcomes in SBM relationships – are feelings of closeness enough to produce successful academic outcomes, or do special focuses on academics within the SBM relationship lead to greater academic outcomes?
In addressing this question, the authors also strive to inform the debate between two competing perspectives in theoretical mentoring models – “mentoring-as-relationship” vs. “mentoring-as-context.” The former asserts that relationship closeness and quality are an integral precondition for positive youth outcomes in a mentoring relationship; many believe this notion to be particularly relevant for CBM, but the effects in SBM are unknown. In contrast, the “mentoring-as-context” perspective focuses more on how the mentoring relationship itself provides a space for improving skills and development while striving for specific goals, independent of the closeness within the relationship. Thus, this study measures relationship closeness and academic outcomes in SBM relationships to shed light on these points of discussion.
 Students who participated in the study were drawn from the randomized control trial of the Big Brother Big Sister Association (BBBSA) SBM program that was conducted during the 2004-2005 academic year. 1,139 students from 71 public schools in rural and urban school districts met criteria to be in the study. Half of the students were randomly assigned a mentor, while half were waitlisted to be matched with a mentor at the end of the study; there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups. 54% of the students were female and the average age of students was 11 years old. Mentors who participated in the study were also drawn from the BBBSA program. 72% of mentors were female and 48% were high school students.
Baseline surveys were administered to students, teachers, and mentors at the beginning of the school year, and follow-up surveys were also administered at the end of the school year. Measures of academic outcomes were assessed through both teacher and student ratings. Other explanatory variables were also assessed including mentee ratings of relationship closeness with their mentors, the length of the mentee/mentor match itself, and the status of the match. Match status refers to whether the original mentoring match was “intact,” the mentee had been “rematched” once a match ended, or the mentee had not been “rematched” once a match ended. 
  • Relationship closeness: only relationships which mentee rated as “somewhat close” or “very close” showed positive impacts on academic outcomes.
  • Match length: both long and close relationships as well as short and close relationships showed positive impacts on academic outcomes.
  • Match status: both intact matches and rematched students in close relationships showed positive impacts on academic outcomes. However, rematched mentees who did not feel close to their new mentors did not show positive academic outcomes.
 Above all, the findings of this study highlight the importance of relationship closeness within mentee/mentor relationships in the context of SBM. Particularly, if mentees did not find their relationship to be at least “somewhat close,” then there were no significant differences in their academic outcomes as compared to the academic outcomes of students who were not matched with mentors. Moreover, relationships closeness trumped both match status and match length as predictors of academic outcomes. Specifically, so long as relationships were deemed at least “somewhat close,” then neither the length of the match, nor the status of the match (either original match or rematch), significantly affected academic outcomes for mentees. These findings suggest that relationship closeness may be the most integral component of relationship closeness.
The current study also sheds light on the debate between the “mentoring-as-relationship” perspective vs. the “mentoring-as-context” perspective. This study found more merit in the “mentoring-as-relationship” perspective as it was relationships closeness, not a focus on academics, which led to greater academic outcomes in mentees. Future research should thus focus on how to maximize relationship closeness and how to better understand the underlying mechanisms that facilitate this closeness.
Ultimately, this study’s findings have exciting implications for schools that are looking for cost-effective ways to support struggling students. Simply by cultivating emotionally close relationships with mentees, mentors may be able to improve students’ academic outcomes. This means that volunteers need not be trained with a rigorous academic background, and that mentors might prove as beneficial as tutors to struggling students. Finally, by underscoring the efficacy of SBM, this study emphasizes the multifaceted and ever expanding effects that mentoring can have on young people.
Ret. 5-20-15

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mentor Mini-Training Docs

Useful resources for mentors of older mentees, many of these should be customized for different towns or cities.  Note that more will be added each month on the Friends for Youth website. 'Clever!

Friends for Youth, located in Centennial, Colorado, specializes in working with youth involved in the corrections, the juvenile justice, and child welfare systems.   Ret. 5-22-15

Resources and TrainingsSteph___KacyEDIT.jpg  

Friends for Youth has many different resources available to you to help best equip you on your mentoring journey....

Our Mini-Training series - 
Each month we are 
developing a mini-training 
for mentors on the go!  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mentor Tact More Important than Wisdom?

Read reflectively and to watch/listen to the videos. Among many "favorite" parts are the description of what a mentor's job really is and the discussion of the word tact.

By  May 7, 2015

Tactful mentors: A mentor is often someone older, but must she also be wiser?  

Michael J. Karcher, Ed.D., Ph.D.When I train mentors, especially those with considerable life and work experience, or when I discuss training with mentoring professionals who provide training to such mentors in their programs, I try to make clear my belief that mentors need to know that a youth mentor’s job is not to “talk at” or “inform” the mentee about what they should do in life. Nor is it to get the mentee “on the right path” by teaching them what to do and not do. (We all know most kids referred for mentoring programs already get this information from [too] many other adults in their lives, whether they want it or not.)
The mentor’s primary job is to sit with the youth, show interest in the youth, respect who the youth is, and try to really, deeply, and respectfully understand the worlds in which the youth lives (family, community, etc.). A mentor’s primary goal, I think, should be to validate the mentee’s worth by conveying an interest in and respect for the mentee and all aspects of the mentee’s world and experience.
This, I believe, can awaken some kids to the idea that there are other, similar adults in the world, outside their family and community, who will take an interest in them and support them. A mentor of mine, Mike Nakkula, once shared with me this view—that what a mentor does is help the child or youth learn how to receive and ultimately solicit mentoring from others in the future.
There is the parable that says if you give a person a fish, you feed the person for the day; if you help the person learn to fish, you help that person feed himself or herself for a lifetime. Similarly, rather than try to solve the youth’s problems (as if you could!), help the youth learn that others will value, listen to, and care for him or her and you have done the best job of pointing a child down “the right path” by your actions, your compassion, your interest, your love. You’ve pointed them in the direction of openness to others.
Don’t misunderstand my analogy. Teaching the person to fish is not what we typically consider to be imparting “wisdom” to the child or telling him or her “what to do” in life. Rather, this mentor teaches the youth that he or she can be successful at fishing for other mentors. This sort of “teaching” happens when the youth experiences being received by the mentor.
This older and wiser mentor does not impart wisdom. This mentor is wise to the extent to which she operates from a place of tact, from a place of integrity that respects and honors the depth of the youth’s personhood and life, and acknowledges the vastness of what the mentor knows she knows nothing about.
To underscore this point, I suggest having mentors view a video about the final virtue in the Eriksons’ developmental model. It is about wisdom. Joan Erikson describes what achieving integrity, as the last developmental milestone, looks like in real life. In this video, Joan Erikson revisits and revises their 8th stage. Joan is the wife of Erik Erikson, who is usually given full credit for identifying and detailing the 8 stages of development. (Yet Joan was in fact instrumental in its development—no mentoring pun intended.)
In that video, Joan says she wanted to make this video (at age 90) because she realized “We were wrong. We had not been there,” and she and Erik did not know what we were talking about. We should all be so “wise.”
Parts of the video usually seen—not about wisdom:

A more focused clip for mentors to watch about the nature of “wisdom” as tact:
In the video, she suggests it is not wisdom but tact that reflects the developmental achievement of integrity in the 8th stage of life. I just thought you might find her “correction” interesting and useful when helping orient mentors, especially experienced ones, to their true task.
For those who might have mentors read and discuss Joan’s video during training, I’ve tried my best to transcribe the video so you have a text source for what she says in case video is not available during training. Below, at the end of this entry, I pasted what I view as the best parts of this interview.
But let me excerpt my favorite part of the interview. In the first 20 minutes of interview she says she wanted to know how “wisdom” is defined. And, because wisdom is, as she and Erik defined it, the product of successfully achieving the developmental task of integrity, she looked that word up. And there, this artist and theorist found a definition of integrity that she (from my perspective) would like us to view as a replacement for the notion of what it means to be wise.
Tactful. And that seems to me to be really the word that describes how you relate to other people, to other things also, but particularly to other people, because if you are tactful then you have taken into consideration who they are, where they are, what they are and give them full credit and somehow manage to make a contact with them that makes you empathic and interested and open to their friendship or their acquaintance and their understanding.
Indeed, I found in my Mac’s dictionary the following definition of tact, that seems so much was a mentor should prioritize in her dealings with a mentee: “adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues. For example, ‘the inspector broke the news to me with tact and consideration.’ ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (denoting the sense of touch): via French from Latin tactus ‘touch, sense of touch,’ from tangere ‘to touch.’ ”
The goal of the mentor is to emotionally, spiritually, and interpersonally touch the child, to consider who they are, in their totality and with deep respect, and do to so with the intention of receiving the child, not the child receiving the world of the mentor. A mentor’s tact, as realized by the child or y outh feeling valued, understood, important and unique, may open a youth, who might otherwise be closed and guarded, up to a real friendship.
Perhaps being and older and “wiser” in this way, a mentor may help that youth come to more deeply trust that there are other people, even those who might seem very foreign to the youth, who will care about him or her. Tactful mentors may affirm for youth, in a new or deeper way, that both familiar others in expectable future worlds (high school, workplace, etc.) as well as unfamiliar others in foreign future worlds (e.g., higher education, etc.), there will be mentors there for them, to value, care for, listen to, and tactfully interact with them.
Mentoring program staff, thank you for bringing tactful mentors to the youth who need them most.

My transcript of the interview, for folks who want to share or cite Joan Erikson’s interview.
Joan Erikson, On Old Age I: A Conversation with Joan Erikson at 90 (Davidson films ©  1995)
Final stage is integrity versus despair, with the final virtue “wisdom”
“The thing that I had on my mind and felt responsible for was when I looked at the eight stages, I realized all of a sudden that what we had decided was a good way to put the final stage, the 8th stage, that that was not necessarily right—that it was just plain wrong—because all of the other parts of the life cycle, as you experience them, you experience them and you are in contact with them and you know what is going on in them to a certain extent, not entirely, but by the end of the stage you know you have been coping with the problems that are in the very naming of the stages.
Generativity, which is the next to the last one, you are feeling very strongly about that, and particularly when you think, “Well what have I done?” And you get to be 90, and when you get to be 90, and you say well, what do I feel about the last stage and think about it, you realize you don’t feel very great about it, because you don’t feel wise. And you don’t feel as it were that you have conquered integrity or really come to terms with it actively enough to say you “got it” which you never do. So wisdom and integrity are things that, something other people might see in old person, but it is not something older person is feeling, and that’s what kind of roused me to want to see what old people feel and what they have to face as far as life is concerned.
What you feel is when someone turns to you and says now you are in the 8th stage, and that’s wisdom and integrity, and you think, well how do I feel standing up there about wisdom and integrity, and you feel like the Emperor in the story, when he did not have any clothes on at all and you have faced reality, that you come up very bare, that you have nothing to offer, that think touches on those things, and it makes you thoughtful. It does not mean that you don’t have them in mind, but that you question them, you question the fact of whether you are ever going to have, what we use to think, which was that a lot of knowledge made for wisdom, but suddenly you realize that having a lot of knowledge is not going to help anybody, there is so much you don’t have and are never going to have that it is a pittance…but what you do have is a sense that nobody is going to have wisdom in the way we thought about it. They may have some very good ideas in some elements of their life; but a wise person is very hard to find, and that is interesting for you to consider when you think about who the wise person in world have been.
And I think the dictionary itself gives you the clue, if you look it up, that really being wise is know “how to”—not “know” something—because if you know “how to” then you are resilient, you can move from this to that and so on; and to know how to is the epitome of wisdom, really, and you have had a lot of it, in sprinkles all through your life, but you don’t suddenly feel blessed with it in quantity just because you are older. So that’s off the beat {?}”
The word we discussed, integrity, is just as problematic if not more so. …What I thought to do about trying to figure out what it was, was to look it up in small dictionaries but they never gave enough…So finally, I looked it up in the Oxford, great big dictionary, that you can barely hold on your lap, and I found it in there, and it was amazing to me to see how much of a page it took up, one whole half of one big sheet was showing the word and then all of the little bits of it that…go all the way down to the bottom of the page…and way down on the bottom of the page you come to the word, and you wouldn’t believe what it is, and it’s tact. And if that isn’t an amazing soul. You think, what in the world does that mean, and you see it means contact, impact and, what I like, it includes tactful. And that seems to me to be really the word that describes how you relate to other people, to other things also, but particularly to other people, because if you are tactful then you have taken into consideration who they are, where they are, what they are and give them full credit and somehow manage to make a contact with them that makes you empathic and interested and open to their friendship or their acquaintance and their understanding. And that I liked that so much thought to saying “Hallelujah” that I finally found something that really means something to me because touching and doing and making and the contact that you have with all materials and everything in the world is so important to what life for me has been that to find out that that is the source of integrity or at least the beginning source of it that seemed to answer many, many questions for me and to make it come alive in a wonderful way.
Ret. 5-5-15

Friday, May 22, 2015

Books, Boyhood to Manhood

We liked this collection of books found on Earl Hipp's Man Making website. Some of them are literary classics. Order them from your local library.

Mentors should always read books first before giving them to their mentees. Discussion of ideas is inevitable and desirable.

Other Hipp links:

Note his disclaimer preceding the book list.

This is a collection of titles that have either been referred to in the Man-Making book or suggested by contributors. They are in no particular order and I don’t necessarily endorse the ideas in every book. I offer them as a broad spectrum of view points on man-making, manhood, and related topics. Clicking a title will take you directly to or the book’s website where you can read more about the book and purchase it if you’re interested.

·         Retribing: The Unpaved Road to Manhood ; by A.J. Rippo

·         Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger; by Kevin Bolger

·         Hold On to Your N.U.T.s: The Relationship Manual for Men; by Wayne M. Levine

·         Men on a Mission – Valuing Youth Work in Our Communities; by William Marsiglio

·         Squires to Knights – Mentoring Our Teenage Boys; by Jeff Purkiss

·         Boy Smarts: Mentoring Boys for Success at School; by Barry MacDonnald

·         The Lord of the Flies; by William Golding

·         The Wonder of Boys; by Michael Gurian

·         The Peter Pan Syndrome; by Dan Kiley

·         Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood; by William S. Pollack

·         Puberty Boy; by Geoff Price

·         Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys; by Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon

·         Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD ; by Peter R. Breggin and Dick Scruggs

·         From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our LivesAudiobook by Robert Fulghum

·         The Art of Ritual: Creating and Performing Ceremonies for Growth and Change; written by Renee Beck, Metrick

·         Manhood; by Steven Biddulph

·         The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By; written by Carol S. Pearson

·         Reviving the Wonder: 76 Activities That Touch the Inner Spirit of Youth; written by Ric Stuecker, Suze Rutherford

·         The Hero with a Thousand Faces ; by Joseph Campbell

·         Primitive Mythology – The Masks of God ; by Joseph Campbell

·         Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation; by Richard Rohr

·         The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life; by James Hillman

·         From Age-Ing to Sage-Ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older; by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Ronald S. Miller


Ret. 5-22-15