Friends for Youth II
Established in 1979, Friends for Youth’s (FFY) mission is to positively impact the health and well-being of disadvantaged youth who lack adult support in their lives by connecting them with caring adult mentors. FFY recruits, trains and monitors 25-30 adult mentors annually and matches them with 8-17 year old youths. These youths live in poverty in single parent/guardian homes and are at high risk of academic and life-skills failure.
FFY is nationally recognized throughout the mentoring community with a long history of success helping youth become productive members of their families and communities, and is considered the gold standard in the mentoring field. Its core program is a 1-to-1 mentoring program which matches a youth in need with a fully screened and trained adult volunteer for a period of six months to one year. FFY currently supports the work of about 160 matches. In 2016 FFY piloted a mentoring program for groups of 10 students just entering Sequoia High School, which has since expanded to five local middle schools serving 7th and 8th graders. There are currently about 100 students participating in this school-based program. FFY has accomplished this with a staff of five full- and two part-time people and an active 11 member board.
Recruiting, screening and training mentors is an intensive process. Once a volunteer is recruited, it can take two or more months to execute the screening process and match the volunteer to a compatible mentee. Presently, only 20% of the volunteers make it through the process and are assigned a mentee. The efficacy of the process has translated into a 90% completion rate for long term matches. A recent (2018) development is the Whole Health for Youth Initiative, which entails collaboration with four other local youth-serving agencies focused on mental health concerns.
The pandemic in 2020 forced the program to be conducted virtually, rather than in-person. While this change was unexpected, it also gave the client an opportunity to improve the operation of the program by understanding the pros and cons of virtual and in-person programs and to design a more efficient process.
Friends for Youth asked the ACT team to develop an operational framework to improve its 1-on-1 mentorship program by understanding how the program is being operated, what are the operational bottlenecks, and what key KPIs to track going forward.
The project consisted of three key phases. First, creating a workflow through interviews with key managers. Second, measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of each step in the operational workflow through surveys. And finally, discussion with the client to present our findings and get feedback.
The ACT team recommended the following:
• Friends for Youth should focus more on the mentor-side than the mentee side to scale the program.
• Friends for Youth should improve the mentor’s conversion rate (a mentor who successfully ends the program / all mentors who showed interest in the program) by lowering the dropout rate during the recruitment stage.
• Friends for Youth should implement an alumni program to keep growing its mentor base by constantly engaging with the previous mentors.