The Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI) provides mentor programs for students in the Hamilton Southeastern (HSE) School District that encourage the development of personal values and self confidence. They are a community funded and fueled initiative, relying only on private grants and donations to help create a support system for the youth in Fishers, Indiana. The program is proving to be quite successful because it caters entirely to the students by having the mentoring program accessible during the school day. YMI works with the schools to identify kids exhibiting behaviors that may suggest social or emotional struggles. These students are matched with an adult mentor to meet with once a week and, together, they work on their developmental assets. What a student receives from the experience is an elevated sense of self-worth and an increased ability to communicate and process their thoughts and feelings. YMI views this as a necessary investment in the community that will ensure Fishers, Indiana remains one of the “Best Places to Live in the U.S.”.
YMI’s passion for helping the youth in Fishers has quickly become an asset to the Hamilton Southeastern School District and they already have the data to prove it. What they lack now are the mentors to meet the increasing demand for student mentorships. Their grassroots approach up to this point has served them well and the founder of YMI, Darren Heil, makes an excellent case to anyone willing to listen. However, the word was not spreading fast enough and YMI knew they needed to evolve their approach to marketing the initiative. They already had a proven program fully supported by the HSE School District, they just needed help educating the community about it.
Springboard got word of the situation, met with their leadership team to discuss their needs and began planning for growth. Together, we identified their areas of opportunity and developed a strategy to increase social advocacy, educate the community, and acquire prospective mentors. The output required a responsive website design, local SEO enhancements, and online integrations with their donation portal and mentor management software.
Because we’re a bunch of internet marketing nerds, the business aspects of this project were cause enough to get us jazzed. Now add the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something that truly makes a difference in a student’s life, and, by extension, an entire community, well, we just couldn’t remove the silly smiles from our faces. The result of this project was everything we hope to achieve with all of our partnerships: engagement, trust, challenge, appreciation, respect, and impact.
The goal is to help students that are struggling. Period. They are hurting and need guidance from adults with perspective and advice that can offer support and encourage them.
Achieving this is predicated by creating awareness around the need for YMI in Fishers, Indiana. This community, for all intents and purposes, is an idyllic place to live. And yet, the schools are seeing an increased number of students that are struggling socially or emotionally. People don’t always want to admit a problem exists so education and advocacy is crucial to success.
Acquiring prospective mentors is another key goal to YMI’s plan for growth. With ambitions to help 600 students by the year 2020, YMI needs to have the mentor resources in place to achieve this goal. Therefore, it’s important that we effectively communicate the mentoring process and provide an easy way for the prospective mentors to connect with YMI.
At the end of the day though, YMI can only help students if it has funding to do so. There is a real cost to providing mentorships and private donations are a necessary component to the success of this initiative.
Internal Process Consultation
YMI came to us at a pivotal moment in their journey, and we’ve seen this many times before. They had ambitious plans for growth but the current internal processes in place needed attention to help streamline efficiencies and prepare them for the road ahead. During an early discovery session, we identified a growing need for a management software that could reduce the manual labor associated with managing the mentorships. In doing so, YMI was able to write a grant and find private funding to cover the costs for a new software that could support the growth they had planned.
UNDERSTANDING THE AUDIENCES
With any community initiative, there are a lot of moving parts and many different audiences you must communicate to in pursuit of your mission. It was clear from the beginning that understanding the purpose of the website was hinged on who the audience was and the information they were seeking. Yes, YMI is ultimately trying to help the youth in Fishers, but these individuals aren’t the ones visiting the website. Rather, it’s their parents, teachers, or Fishers community members that believe in the cause. After identifying the different audiences and outlining the information they are likely seeking, we turned to key messaging to help effectively communicate to them. The major takeaways we established were:
- Potential Donors
- Prospective Mentors
Direction for Key Messaging:
- Education & Awareness about the need in Fishers and how this program provides a solution
- YMI is an investment within the community and is cultivating the future success of Fishers
- Establish an emotional connection and provide easy ways for people to advocate or volunteer
DESIGNING AN EFFECTIVE WEBSITE
The next step was designing a website that effectively communicated to the audiences we identified. Yes, the program helps kids, but this website couldn’t feel childish. The initiative deals with very serious topics and the people coming to the website are wanting assurances that YMI is an organization that knows how to approach such sensitive subjects. We prescribed a bold, fresh creative direction that reflected the strength of their convictions as well as the hope they have for a bright future.
Our approach to the website design was not just about pretty colors and catchy adjectives though. We mapped out the steps each audience should take through the website, created paths that directed them deeper into the content, and established ways to connect with YMI throughout their time on the site.
CONTENT & MESSAGING
Early on in the process, we identified the need for delicately considered content and messaging. The folks at YMI felt very strongly that the communication should always have a positive spin and that no fear-tactics be used to convey the need for YMI in Fishers. This was actually a very easy task after reading some of the testimonials from students, parents and mentors. In fact, after learning more about the program through research and discussion, we were overwhelmed by the impact YMI had on these kids. Inspired by this, we jumped in to assist with writing content for almost 80% of the pages.
- Responsive Web Design
- Online Resource Section
- Easy-to-use Content Management System
- Local SEO
- On-page SEO
- Application Integration with Mentor Management System
- Social Media Sharing
- Google Analytics
- Google Webmaster Tools
"Thank you for what you have done for us!! Wow! It is so clean and user friendly...
You all are the bom-diggity!"
YMI has always been an organization that advocates for the healthy development of children by creating a support system through mentorships. We wanted this website to celebrate YMI’s commitment to Fishers and ignite the community as advocates for this initiative. The YMI brand was fairly new and not much had been established when we began our engagement together. That’s okay though, we let the power of their mission and the strength of their impact in the community serve as our inspiration.
Therefore, our creative approach used bold colors to maintain a hopeful perspective and photos of real students and mentors to communicate an authentic mission that the community could easily relate to. The creative direction successfully balances dry, and sometimes grim, statistics with positive testimonials and powerful images of real individuals whose lives have been forever changed.