I am fortunate that my group was assigned Vibrant Boston because not only do we have a lot to offer them, but also they have a lot to offer us.
By Alexina Prather
For the Strategic Communications for Non Profit Organizations course, I am currently partnered with Vibrant Boston as a service-learning organization. Vibrant Boston is essentially located in Northeastern University’s backyard. They are a free after school and summer program for youth of the Lenox-Camden area, ranging in ages from 5 – 18. Vibrant Boston is an extremely unique program that caters to the youth of their community. They provide a safe and nurturing location for youth to go to once they leave school. It is a free program that includes a meal each day for the youth that attend. They provide monetary incentives for students that prove they are getting good grades in school and volunteering in their communities.
It is important to note that two extremely motivated individuals founded and currently run Vibrant Boston. They started Vibrant Boston four years ago and have committed their entire lives to its success. For our service-learning project we are creating a communications plan for a SMART goal that was identified by the staff. This goal was selected because it is a pressing issue for Vibrant Boston and one that needs to be addressed. They are hoping to raise $45,000 by November 2016 in order to sustain their monetary incentive program for the older youth. This will help not only the program sustain itself but will help protect the youth. They are able to come to Vibrant Boston, rather than work after school. They are able to commit their afternoons to completing their homework and focus on their grades. This money is not only important for the staff at Vibrant Boston, but for the youth, and by default their surrounding communities. Due to limited staffing, Vibrant Boston does not have a communications team or the capacity to fundraise by themselves. Hopefully our project will help them achieve this fundraising goal.
My group has faced many challenges while approaching this project. Vibrant Boston is an extremely small program that is doing incredible work. The motivation of the founders is wonderful and has lasted for so long, but they need some outside support. We want to offer them suggestions and help them in so many ways but we have had to focus on the SMART goal and narrow our scope for the purposes of the project. At the beginning we felt a bit overwhelmed with how much help they needed. However, since the beginning of the semester and the first time that we met we have been able to take a step back and actually consider what we could offer them through this service-learning project.
As a student who has taken other service-learning courses, I have been pleasantly surprised with how this one has turned out. At first I did not know what to expect, since it is not built like typical service-learning courses. We don’t have weekly time slots to volunteer and there isn’t a consistent partnership throughout the semester. Rather it is a consistent one behind the scenes. Similar to how communications departments must work at non profit organizations, not constantly in the field but consistently working on ways to improve and promote the message. Moving forward this is going to change how I look at the role of communications in non-profit management. After this experience I have developed much more respect for communications departments and all that they entail for an organization. I am fortunate that my group was assigned Vibrant Boston because not only do we have a lot to offer them, but also they have a lot to offer us. It has definitely seemed like a mutually beneficial relationship and I am excited to present our final communications plan to them.
Alexina is a student in Kate Marple’s Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations course.