Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) is committed to providing compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence while partnering with the community to promote safety, healing, and prevention. AmeriCorps VISTA, April Comperda, began the process of automating DCFOF’s bi-weekly newsletters and weekly board member newsletters to ensure that donor communication remains effective and sustainable. Automation provides non-profits, like DCFOF, with an innovative platform for functional, instantaneous donor behavior tracking. After sending the email newsletters out, April was able to determine how many people opened them and which parts received the most attention/clicks. Studying the feedback responses, April had the capacity to formulate segmented marketing personas based on similar behavioral trends. One persona that April identified was Millennials and the continuous upward trend of social activism. As a Millennial herself, April recognizes that her generation makes decisions based on personal values and actually will engage in the causes they care about. Even though, at the start of their career, Millennials don’t necessarily have the means to contribute financially, their giving capacity grows as their careers progress. Using their voices to speak out, volunteering, and participating in peer-to-peer fundraising are just some initial stepping stones leading to the future of committed donors. In the upcoming months, April plans to strengthen DCFOF’s donor communication methods and maximize the agency’s full potential with automation.
North Texas nonprofit Christian Community Action (CCA) continues its efforts of service to the communities of Lewisville, Texas and the surrounding areas of Denton County. With over 40 years of service, it’s no wonder that CCA has come to be well respected by many. AmeriCorps VISTA Steven Tillman took the challenge of developing a new program for CCA’s clients which would assist them with laying a foundation for continued employment and successful endeavors in the professional business market. Steven’s research and curriculum development have resulted in a program which incorporates job market awareness, the vision-scaping of future plans, and personal brand marketing with concurrent case management and assessment. His program takes a progressive approach because it not only focuses on clients securing employment but also on clients assuring that the same employment aligns with their personal habits and ambitions. Steven conducted research on the entire county of Denton and concluded that its citizens deal with a chronic matter of underemployment, with some households having as many as five means of employment distributed amongst two adults. He says that this is due to the average living wage not being sufficient enough to sustain the average worker through a singular means of employment, resulting in many individuals requiring additional employment. Steven is poised to roll out the program to an extensive degree once an embodiment of case managers are trained and additional trainers are recruited. He states that his work with CCA is directly connected to his “life’s work” and future ambitions.
Rebecca Dake, Community Outreach VISTA at Interfaith Ministries of Denton wanted to boost her site’s ability to implement the goal written in its mission statement. The emergency financial assistance nonprofit serves the working poor and those on fixed incomes in northern Denton County. The nonprofit’s goal is to help those clients become self-sufficient–one interpretation meaning to help those clients plan, budget and save for future emergencies to avoid the need for outside assistance. This can be quite hard for those on low and fixed incomes, but it is not impossible. Rebecca’s site already offers financial counseling, and recently had a staff member and volunteer complete a financial training; however, it is challenging to get clients to sign up for financial counseling after they have received emergency assistance. Rebecca wondered if more financial education could be offered for her site’s clients before they receive assistance. The VISTA member met with Metrocrest Services, a nearby agency who provides this service. Rebecca interviewed a staff member about their agency’s best practices and made recommendations to her site about the feasibility of doing something similar. The suggestion was well received by Interfaith Ministries and Rebecca plans to help with the creation of materials that can be administered pre-assistance and ultimately be used to help those struggling become self-sufficient and break the cycle of poverty.
VISTA Steven Tillman, a second time AmeriCorps member from Chicago, Illinois, has launched a pilot version of his Life Skills & Job Readiness Training course for nonprofit staple Christian Community Action. Steven developed surveys to administer to clients for the purpose of data collection during the course’s trial run. This is the first of two trial run data snapshots to be captured before the program is officially launched. Having spent a sizable amount of service hours conducting online research in the areas of Occupational Psychology and Workforce Development in order to obtain data and information to add to the curriculum, Steven now feels that his research oeffors are nearing completion.
As the holidays were rolling around, VISTA Leader Chanell Rose focused her efforts on setting up the VISTA North Texas Project for a successful year in 2017! With the project expanding, there is a need for increased outreach and awareness for the VISTA program throughout the counties the project covers. A new VISTA site in Sherman, Texas spurred Chanell to reach out to Austin College as a possible outreach and recruitment venue. She was able to speak with a representative from their Career Services office to partner with the college on a formal informational session to be held early in the new year.
VISTA member, Nicole Owens and the Denton County Friends of the Family Community Education team worked together to revamp and organize their presentation for Denton High School’s freshman class. Nicole and the team added several activities and vital information to help the freshmen understand the dynamics of abuse and sexual assault. Each group of freshmen will be presented with three 90 minute classes on topics such as boundaries, abuse, and healthy relationships. Nicole and the team have already started the presentations for over 400 students at Denton High School and the presentations will continue into December.
In the past month, Melanie Kuriger, an AmeriCorps VISTA at Plano Children’s Theatre/North Texas Performing Arts, has been working on developing a knowledge of the local businesses in Plano and establishing relationships with potential funders. On November 22, Melanie attended her first Chamber of Commerce meeting for the Fairview/Allen areas. She arrived alone, and was nervous about giving the 30-second elevator pitch that all attendees gave, which her supervisor had explained previously. When they drew her business card out of the bucket and her 30 second pitch began, she surprised herself and ended up giving a very clear, timely description of the new location, the organization, and their mission. Afterwards, she networked with many of the chamber members and ended up meeting a reporter for a local newspaper, with whom she set up an interview for the following week.
Because the Fatherhood EFFECT program is very new to Denton County, it is always actively seeking referrals of fathers to its parenting classes. To further the program’s reach into the surrounding areas, VISTA Meghan Kajihara has focused on contacting groups in the communities of Lewisville and Sanger. The initial outreach Meghan made to churches and Parent-Teacher associations in these towns has been warm and productive, resulting in Fatherhood EFFECT’s mentor-navigators being put on the agenda to speak at 3 PTA meetings in different school districts. In addition to referrals already received from CPS, Meghan’s efforts to engage Fatherhood EFFECT directly with parent communities will improve their capacity to receive self-referrals from parents who may be in need of such services but do not know where to turn for help.
Rebecca Dake, VISTA at Interfaith Ministries of Denton, worked hard this month to publicize the emergency assistance nonprofit’s fall fundraiser: The Interfaith Ministries Wine & Craft Beer Tasting & Silent Auction. Rebecca created graphics and videos, to involve sponsors and vendors and engage the public before the event. The graphics and videos were posted on social media and distributed to email lists through Constant Contact, an email marketing tool. She designed two Facebook promotions to target potential event goers in Denton, resulting in 74 link clicks that her organization would likely not have gotten through the organic reach of posts. A discount code in one of the promotions produced 13 confirmed ticket sales. Through the VISTA’s hard work, attendance at the fundraiser was increased.