While people currently know me as Dr. Bell, 12 years ago I was Ms. Bell to my classroom of 1st-grade students in Houston, Texas. I became a teacher because of my belief that all children, regardless of where they are born deserve a high-quality education. I entered the profession with a ton of passion, but lacking in the knowledge of exactly what I needed to do to make sure my students had a strong foundation to make sure they were successful after they left my classroom. All I knew was that I wanted to help my students!
As one might expect, as I prepared my daily lessons, I made several missteps. And a major mistake that I made was that I focused on creating activities that were fun. For example, oh, it’s Thanksgiving! It’ll be great if they use their hands and paint to make cute little turkeys! One day, one of my mentors pulled me to the side and explained to me that it was ok for my students to do fun and cute activities, but only if they were connected to the larger goals that I had for them. Was that turkey activity going to make sure they were ready for 2nd grade when they left my classroom? If not, I needed to remove it entirely or think critically about how to modify if so it helped them reach their goals.
That lesson has always stuck with me and it’s a major reason why I do the work that I do with nonprofits today. As I work with leaders, I notice a common thread: they are passionate about serving. And that passion oftentimes leads them to create a number of activities within a program that are intended to help their communities. However, what is lacking is a clear picture of how each of those activities connects to the outcome of the organization and with the data to back it up. For example, if you have a mentoring program that aims to increase the number of girls who enter STEM careers, you need to be sure that each activity that mentors and mentees engage in leads to that outcome. Your organization has limited resources, so it’s important to be sure every action is contributing to your larger outcome.
If you need help with connecting your program activities with your outcomes, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to help!