Last week I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Jenn Mikelait of Project Serve about her program, a new website they're launching, and the role strategic communications could play in helping her further her reach.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Project Serve is a program of Youth Unlimited that facilitates short term service projects for young people to grow in their love of others in practical ways. The trips are designed to expose teenagers to the realities of poverty and injustice both in the GTA and around the world.
Jenn first dreamed up the idea for Project Serve as a part of YU's Launch program as a vision for service projects that weren't just for Christian teens. Eventually this idea went on to become a full fledged program here at YU and Jenn came on staff to oversee it. I'm a big fan of Project Serve, having been familiar with it for several years now through my friend (and sister-in-law) Bianca's time working with them. I really believe that there's nothing more important than getting teenagers (and adults!) to think outside of themselves and serve others. Project Serve puts on really incredible opportunities to facilitate this, while also taking youth groups into the city where they can see the gospel breaking in to ares of poverty and injustice within our own country. So it was really exciting to now sit across the table from Jenn as a part of the Youth Unlimited team and brainstorm ideas on how strategic communication could help her program reach even more youth.
This has become one of the favourite parts of my job here - getting to help programs that I love do what they do even better. Every time I have the chance to sit down and learn about what a staff worker or program is doing, I walk away so excited about the work YU is doing around our city. Being able to add to that work is just such a thrill.
With Jenn I had the chance to explore the idea of adding value to the youth pastors and youth workers that Project Serve reaches out to on a more regular basis. She wanted to know how to launch her website in such a way that people would visit it. I said that there's a lot more to it than just telling people about a new site. We often think about communication only in marketing or transactional ways. You have event, you need to promote that event, so communication exists to do that. Yet what is forgotten is the importance of the ongoing communication that leads up to the promotion of the event. Think of it like a relationship, if you only ever call your friend when you want something, what's the likelihood of that friend responding? Strategic communication is about adding value to the lives of the people you're communicating to. Creating free workshops or ebooks or a consult that offers something to others. That's what it means to add value to their lives and asking nothing in return.
So Jenn and I discussed a newsletter that could be created that equips youth groups to serve their neighbourhoods and communities better; something that adds value to the lives of the people she wants to visit her webpage. This is what I love about communication, it touches on so many areas of what we do every single day!
For more information on Project Serve, their new website should be launching very soon.
Or, if you're interested in supporting my work with Youth Unlimited currently all donations are being doubled for the next year.