Using program evaluation as a marketing tool, necessary non-profit practice.

This is a 5th week.  At SCVRJP I’ve structured our programs to be monthly or every other month.  The recipe goes like this:  3rd Wednesday Victim Impact Panel, 1st Wednesday’s Safe Teen Driving Circles, 2nd Tuesday Underage Consumption Panels, 3rd Monday’s board meeting.  You get the idea.

I don’t have any 5th week sessions.  Therefore it’s like a whole extra week in the month!  How many people want an hour in a day!  I got a whole week!  On top of that, things are great at SCVRJP, I have two staff and an intern right now, everyone is quickly learning and taking on tasks.  This freed me up to focus on a project.  The project: our evaluation forms.

Every session we do has an  evaluation form.  I use the results to explain how we are doing.  Usually for grants, but these results are also used in marketing SCVRJP.  For example, a powerpoint:   Quotes from our community providing the reactions of people involved in our services.

I love the work of Clay Shirky,  I heard him say that you only need 1 question for marketing:  would you recommend this to others?  That made sense to me!  So I updated all 2010 evaluation forms, all 7 of them.  Now in addition to program related measurement, each survey has 2 consistent questions.

1.) Overall, how would you rate this program?


2.)Would you recommend this program to others?

I can’t wait to keep track on that, not just for each program, but for our services overall.   This is a marketing tool.

At the recent MN Council of Nonprofits Tech Conference, I learned a TON about marketing and fundraising.  The echo in my head, from the keynote presentation, I heard:  the economy is in a recession, our mission’s are not.

As non-profits we have to position ourselves as necessary and relevant.  The first quarter has passed, and I’ve just got my survey’s updated.  I thought I was too busy (well I was), I now realize the power I have harnessed by taking time to focus on my data.

In addition to using the aggregate data from the surveys, I plan to do volunteer spotlights in our monthly e-newsletter, (to sign up, email your email to, subject line: NEWSLETTER).  Guess what my common question in the volunteer spotlight?  Would you recommend this program to others?  Why?

I also learned at the #MNnptech  (facebook link) conference that individual stories will do better to promote your program.  I am scooping up stories right and left now, preparing for a website update.

If you are in a non-profit, your work at evaluation and marketing never end.  In restorative justice all relationships are bilateral, things go both ways.  You might as well, make your evaluation and marketing a two way street.

Props to MNnptech conference keynote Katya Andersen, she did a great job!

Everyone can relate in a Restorative Justice Talking Circle.

We were having a Circle to address harm related to threats with a firearm (I have to be vague for confidentiality).  It turns out that one of the community members/volunteers in Circle had a related experience.  A story was shared from the volunteers past, where a man threatened a woman with a firearm.  The volunteer shared that their Dad, got involved in the confrontation.  The story hit home on how deeply bystanders experience crimes.  The story was 15+ years after the incident, but was recalled like it was yesterday.

That’s a bulls-eye on the intention of the Circle.  Volunteers and community members sometimes tell me they don’t have any stories.  People assume since they haven’t ever done X, they don’t have a story.  Everyone has a story, and maybe your story is that you don’t have a story.

It came up again, and the person sharing they didn’t have a story, went on to tell me the closest thing was when a principal had to jump over a locker bay to come break up a fight.  I said, “See, that’s a story!”  I went on to explain that some stories are on the bulls-eye and some are in a ring around it.  The idea is for people to understand harm from somebody else’s point of view.

I am working on developing a program where we have 3 people involved in drug court, and 3 family members of people in drug court.  Let’s say you and I are both in drug court.  I would have your Mom in Circle with me, you would be in Circle with my Mom. (hypothetically here) My Mom and I have baggage.  Mom blames herself for my drug use, she’s been so burned by me, she can’t see that I have remorse, or that I am trying.  I know she’s frustrated with me, but she’s my Mom. 

Now hypothetically, imagine me in a Circle with a woman and I learn about her.  I learn how her daughters drug use impacts her.  I can see it and feel it differently because we don’t have the baggage bonds I have with my Mom.  It will be healing for me, to understand her, and better understand my own Mom.  It will be helpful to her, because she may see her daughter in me.

That is what pulls community together, when we reduce isolation.  When crime/conflict occurs people have lost their belonging.  They have lost and hurt relationships to people close to them.  Restorative Justice repairs relationships.  When we find, in others, something similar to ourselves, we get connected.  That connection heals a little something. 

A little healing goes a long way.  I believe healing on the inside is the biggest factor in our personal growth and change.  Find your Mom in someone else, try to gain a little perspective, you may find it helps.

Wisconsin Restorative Justice Coalition – statewide conference details.

WRJC and WARP (Wisconsin Association of Restitution Programs) are pleased to present
The Fourth AnnualRestorative Justice ConferenceJune 3 and 4th 2010
Kalahari Resort and conference Center
Conference Registration $95.00
Kalahari Reservations: 877-253-5466
Conference Rate until May 7, 2010
$70 single, $99 double – Cancellation Fees Apply
Please see the 2010_RJ_Conference_Registration attached. Hope to see you there!

Tina Pohl
Restorative Justice Program Director
Nova Services
email questions on registration to me

Facilitating restorative justice has helped shrink my ego, a good relationship skill.

It’s not about me. 

That simple line will solve issues.  Tell it to yourself, again and again.

When my teen is acting fussy, making me mad.  It’s not about me.  I just finished reading Zero Limits, (more info) which very briefly gave me the tool to use specific thoughts.  The thoughts are: I love you.  I’m sorry.  Forgive Me.  Thank You.Like other restorative justice programs referrals ebb and flow.  I am handling a larger number of cases at the moment.   Complicated cases, with lots of layers and multiple issues.  I have been using all my resources to do these pre-conference meetings.  I’ve been teaching and role modeling at the same time, which makes me even more aware of what I am doing, so I can process later.

I’ve been doing restorative justice for so long, that I take what is in front of me.  There are the necessary agenda items to prepare people to conference but you never know how many meetings it will take.  I’m going to use the word listen as a verb now.  You listen people to the conference.  Doing restorative justice well, means taking yourself out of it.  It’s not about me.

You listen to the victims experience.  You listen how people were impacted.  You listen for intentions, you listen for healing.  You listen to offenders, you listen to stories.  You listen, listen, listen.  Did you ever use a word so much you question if your even spelling it correctly, you don’t recognized it anymore.  That just happened.  Listen didn’t look like listen anymore, and I guess that is how it goes in preparing people for restorative justice sessions.

I observed someone frustrated after sitting in on a pre-conference meeting.  The persons own issues, buttons maybe were pushed.  I responded by listening, exploring it a bit in that moment.  The student of the process, said “I don’t buy it”, and shared perspective on the situation.  Later I realized restorative justice facilitators, have to remember:  Its not about me. 

We don’t have “buy” anything because it’s not about us.  What we facilitate is restorative justice.  That means we meet people were they are at.  We explore and support a process of coming together to talk about what happened, sharing our impacts, and perspectives on what needs to happen to make things right.

The skills we use are empathy, respect, understanding and knowledge about the process.  The process.  The process requires respect by the parties involved, committment to prepare and be present in the process.  To bring people together successfully, for healing requires shrinking your ego.  Its not about me.

Maybe your already really good at reducing your ego to facilitate, and you can leave yourself out of it.  Maybe your just learning and this is an aha.  We don’t get a skill if we don’t practice it.  And we don’t get better at something without focus. 

I love you.  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.  Thank you.

Intentional Treasures website photo

I feel more accountable when I am trusted, how Restorative Justice builds trust.

At a recent staff meeting, I asked everyone for blogging permission.  Which was actually kind of a funny question, I’ve never been asked that.  The girls had a few questions, asked for examples.  I usually ask for permission on specific statements, or experiences.  I was asking them for ‘carte blanche’ permission.  We discussed the important part of the blog, is the lesson it contains, and by not being descriptive of the players, keeping that in the background and the lesson in the foreground, was my approach.  I did point out that a blog that said ‘coworker’ could mean the three of them.

We continued our discussion with a few examples.  I offered them read it first rights, like I used to do with an old boyfriend.  Who once had me change ‘alcohol’ to ‘beer’.  The staff declined the need to read things first, and put their trust in me.  I said if I felt like I might step on toes, I would run it by them.  I was trusted.  I was really, really trusted to use our office interactions where they could promote lessons and learnings about restorative justice.  I felt proud, honored, connected, respected and that made me feel even more accountable to do what I said.  I thought of this later, and I realized how that kind of trust comes so easily in Restorative Justice sessions.

Juvenile cases, with parents attending, or adult cases, volunteers/community members in the room, really seem to put faith in those that are required to attend, the x-offenders.  The trust of strangers seems to mean a lot to the participants.  Parents seem to be cross-contaminated, with hope for their child.

Our restorative justice sessions also seem to use gratitude.  I love theWoodbury  Bikram Yoga studio model:

You are always safe in gratitude.

I’ve been using that in conversations lately, and using it on myself.  Safety feels good, it feels like belonging.  I am in gratitude for my coworkers trust.  I am also really impressed with this feeling of being trusted, and as it will help me be better, wiser, more aware and appreciative of the gift of trust, I hope others that are trusted, specifically those that come through our restorative justice program, that they feel this trust.

Restorative justice work has put me in front of a few “empathy-impaired” individuals (none my coworkers!).  Childhood issues, like neglect and being exposed to trauma cause some empathy impairement.  These people are the bite before bit types.  The mantra of the empathy impaired: If I am stolen from it means I get to steal.  I myself was faced with this recently, someone took the parking spot I had been waiting for.  As I was angry, off my center, I thought how I would just go burn the next person.  Now I caught myself, and I remembered who I want to be.  Empathy-impaired people can’t easily get back to that center.  I believe restorative justice can help, as people show those centers of empathy to others.  Being empathetic takes a little trust. 

As we trust and support people that have done harm, we help them.  We trust them because they need to feel a belonging and a connection to not hurt other people.  Coworkers trusting a boss that blogs, made me feel connected. 

Is there somewhere you could extend trust?  Is there someone trusting you, that you could be safe in that gratitude?

Restorative Justice Circles, help us realize our own relationship values.

Cross contamination happens in Circle.  As someone talks about their experience, it resonates with someone else.

I’ve been thinking about how to explain this magical awareness that happens.  I’ts part of why I think Circles are so effective.  I want to promote a mentoring program that involved Circle as a mentor/mentee activity.  Its the cross contamination of our understanding of values.

I just had a realization of my own, that can demonstrate what I mean.

One of the first things in Circle, is to hand out paper plates, and ask participants to think of someone special.  Then to write on the plate the one quality or characteristic most important to that relationships.  I do this backdoor approach to the value, because if you flat out asked someone to write down a relationship value, you would probably get what they think they should write.  I also do the back door, because if we think of our ‘special’ person, our brains get flooded with that positivity of thinking of our loved one.  It puts relationship on the mind.  Restorative Justice is about relationships.

One participant picked the word ‘communication’ and spoke of his Mother being the hub for what is going on in the family.  Talk to Mom and you know what is going on with everyone else.  I immediately thought of my Dad.  He is our families ‘hub’.  I realized my Dad is doing a good job of being my Mom.  The Circle went on. 

Later while watching TV, the thought of my Dad being a good Mom came up.  I wondered if had my Mom, not died 22 years ago if my Dad would be in that role.  He calls my brother, my sister and me, he goes down the line.  We’ve laughed as talking with my Dad, prompted me to call my sister.  Typically our conversations include my Dad’s updates about talking with my sibilings.

I explained to my daughter how my Dad was being a good Mom.  Someone elses awareness of a relationship value had a ripple effect.  It created awareness about my own relationships.  That’s what happens in Circle and that’s why it helps.

A few years ago I did an interview with a domestic violence advocate and a member of support group.  After being trained in Circle the advocate introduced the process to the DV support group.  The women wanted to have group in that format, again.  So the advocate agreed to once a month.  After the second Circle the women in the group said, we want Circle all the time.  The interview was conducted, I was going to write up an article about it.  So I have permission to share their reflections.

The support group participant preferred Circle over group for several reasons.  She appreciated the equality of the circle, instead of the tables and square format.  She appreciated hearing from each person in the Circle, support groups could get dominated by one individuals ‘solutions’ for everyone else or one persons crisis.  She also liked that instead of focusing on ‘what he did’ they talked about relationship values.  She also shared that everyone has values inside, Circle helps you make those values stronger.  She thought that was much more helpful than a support group on budgeting or childcare, when those issues don’t relate to everyone.  In Circle, each person relates the topic to themselves and that helps.  She also felt empowered in being part of the Circle, rather than just a recipient of the service.

The advocate, she felt the Circle, helped people be safe in a way that they actually explored being different.  She shared an ‘aha’ one of the woment had about why she was battling with her x over child support.  The focus on relationship values, really helps people get along well, with others.

Tips to sustaining a Restorative Justice program, from the front line.

Lots of buzz lately about sustainability.  Whew, that makes me happy.  That means that necessary conversations are happening about how to keep restorative justice programs and services on-going.

I can tell you from the directors seat, here at St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice I am designing a game plan to keep our program going.  Some tips:

1.)Hungry dogs hunt harder.  Just read that phrase.  A three year $150,000.00 grant ends, I should have been doing more in year 2 to prepare.  I now realize that if I need to make up the $40,000.00 we aren’t getting next year, I need to be writing grants for about $80,000.00, maybe more.  I have checked my percentages of success and failure when it comes to applications, this analysis let me know, to be safe, I need to write for 50% more than what I might expect to get.  This gave me a target.  A specific measureable target.  That will help.  My tip – get a target.

2.)Rule of 3.  Non-profits have 3 revenue streams.  Fees, grants, donations.  Balance these three, beat the kettle for all these types of revenue.  Look at what you need.  Later today in a staff meeting, I am letting my co-workers know this, we need to see 55 more people in CSI classes (Controlled substance Interventions), we need 572 customers at Victim Impact Panels.  That’s what’s needed to make the budget income.  SCVRJP has 5 other sessions with fees, and we anticipate revenue from training sessions.  Again, clear indicators of what we need to come in.  Also focusing equally on these 3 different areas of revenue.

3.)Commit to the cause.  I love teaching at UWRF – I teach Into to Restorative Justice, I have the students in Circle every week.  I am going to take next semester off.  I need to commit my time the sustainability of SCVRJP.  I am hoping by leaving this joy, on the table (and the income) it will pay off.  I am going to ask my board to step up similarly and understand, we need bank!  As I’ve set my mind to this, I have had different ideas pop up.  Maybe a 40 for $40 theme, and a prize to the person who gets 40 people to donate $40.  I am hoping our annual fundraiser just rocks!  We need it to, last year was great, we need to make an even bigger splash.  Commit, commit to the cause.

4.) Remember abundance.  My final tip, is to operate out of abundance (there is enough for all of us) rather than scarcity (I need to get it before you).  A volunteer once stopped by and in passing said that SCVRJP is so important to the community they won’t let anything happen to it.  Wow, what a great thought.  If I start to operate from a point of fear, scarcity, oh no I might not have a job, then panic hits.  It does take a special person to run a non-profit, and the love of the mission out weighs the good sense to be in a stable job.  As the economy is now, no jobs have been stable anyway.  Remembering abundance takes trust.  I trust my board, I truse my community, my staff and my skills.

Hope these tips have helped, and if you get to the end of the rainbow, send me some gold!

Restorative retreat experience; aligning role and soul and I take a day off!

I had the good fortune to participate in a Circle of Trust retreat.  If you want to know more about these types of experiences, the Center for Courage and Renewal.  I took serious the task and intention of the retreat, to recall my committments to aligning my role (what I do) to my soul (who I am).  Before I left I was reading Parker Palmer’s book, Let your Life Speak and journaling.  I have a blog post draft from four months ago, about how Palmer’s work aligns with restorative justice.  To summarize this paragraph, I was prepared to go and have a transformative experience.  I’ve learned all that takes is a little extra intention.

I’ve been fortunate in my work travels, for the past 5 years, usually once or twice a year I am on a plane.  I take preparing and going as chapter heading in life.  I have a strong need to be at the gate waiting, tothe point it’s annoyed a travel partner.  I hurry up to wait.  Its out of character for me, in the larger context of how I operate.  I realized this trip, gate time is down time.  I am not good at down time, yet it is something we all need.  I realized I can slow down, I just need a ‘cover’ for it.  You know in case my Dad, who taught me how to be a workaholic, ever sees.  (How weird is blogging?  You tell everyone your secret cover for down time.)

See the paragraph above illustrates a nugget of understanding who I am and what I do.  That is just a small example of the many pieces of self-awareness I had on this trip.  Self-awareness is necessary for growth, and we are all growing, one way or the other.  I prefer to grow bigger, better and brighter, or at least I try. 

I feel so connected and confident about who I am and what I do.  As I waited to for my shuttle to get to the airport, I pulled out my calendar, 5 days of not being opened and it did not disintegrate.  No appointments Tuesday, called the office took the day off.  I have PLENTY of Paid Time Off right now.  For me to actually take a day off, WOW, that’s a real sign the retreat worked!  I took a day off for my birthday, and even though I was at the office in sweat pants [WAIT, need to stop right here].  See I rationalized that if I went to work, in sweats it wasn’t really working.  Sheesh.  Anyway . . . I go in the office on my day off, I took questions, had a meeting interupted for a question, did a task or two.  I was struck by no one shooing me away, it was as if, me working on a day off was now normal.  Point being I don’t disconnect much or very well.  I did it this trip.

I left the rush, buzz, thrill, busyness of SCVRJP for 5 days.  The retreat itself was one full day, with a half day on each side, then I vacationed for two days.  WOW, that is the way to go.  I actually and honestly let it go.  I enjoyed the company of a new friend, someone from the retreat and I hung out after.  Then I enjoyed the company of an old friend, 8 years of seeing each other once in awhile.  It was fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.

Where can you get some self-awareness?  Have you thought about your role and soul lately? 

I thought I had all the answers, connecting in community gave me even more.  See what you can find out about yourself and the change you make may suprize you.