By Alana Hollander, JTFN Program Associate
Twinkle lights sparkle along storefronts and as the days grow shorter there is a slight chill in the air. This can only mean one thing; site visit season is almost here! Just as advertisers start planning for the holidays from the moment we hang up our Halloween costumes in the closet, we too must plan well in advance to schedule successful site visits for our teens.
Depending on accessibility and budget, the type of site visit that will be best suited to your teen foundation may vary. For those that are able, visiting nonprofit applicants in person enables teens to interact, engage and gain a first-hand understanding of the grantee organization. However, if travel to a local organization is not a feasible option, consider inviting a representative from the grantee organization to come to you. In some cases, the applicant may be from a national or international organization. When meeting in person is not an option, try setting up a virtual site-visit with them. The important thing to remember, no matter how your teens meet with the applicants, a site visit gives teens agency, allowing them to ask questions that help them make more informed decisions in the grantmaking process.
Whichever way you plan to connect with an organization, there are a lot of logistics to be mindful of as you coordinate. Based on a conversation with the very savvy Coordinator of Teen Programs from the Jewish Community Youth Foundation, Celeste Albert, we came up with a top 18 list of hints and tips to consider when thinking about your site-visits.
For all types of visits:
1. Do your research and due diligence about each organization to decide where to visit.
2. Once decisions have been made, set up preliminary calls with organizations to help determine what kind of visit they are able to commit to.
3. Are all the organizations that you are considering represented in some way?
4. Set expectations! For teens: Review questions to prepare for the visit, dress code, schedule and time commitments and onsite behavior expectations. For the organization: make sure to review the logistics of the visit—where and when the organization can accommodate your group. Also share the teen’s questions in advance so a representative can be prepared for the conversation.
5. Build relationships and extend common curtesy by informing organizations that they will not receive a visit.
6. Budget! (Did you budget for this? Will you need additional funds to do this visit?)
7. Transportation – how will you get there? Can parents drive a carpool and help defray transportation costs?
8. Parental consent.
10. Timing (Will this take more time than one of your usual sessions)?
11. Will you need extra staff to chaperone?
12. Availability at the organization.
Representative visit to you:
13. What space will you invite the organization to meet you in? Can you use your typical meeting space? Or will you need to rent a different location?
14. Do you want to invite more than one organization to meet at one time? Or would you prefer to schedule multiple visits from organizations? Do you have enough program time for that?
15. Can a representative meet with you during designated program hours or would you need to schedule a special session?
16. Do you have the proper equipment so that you can have a virtual meeting with a large group?
17. If you don’t have access to a webcam, can you do a conference call and just have a phone meeting?
18. What is the time difference between your location and the organization?
While this list is a great start, there is so much that goes into preparing all the details. Check out these other resources from JTFN, Rose Youth Foundation and JCYF:
This resource comes from the JTFN Camp Curriculum and outlines the goals and benefits of a site visit and how to effectively organize logistics for your visit. Sharing multiple approaches and ways to plan, this resource also references the Rose Youth Foundation’s, Site Visit Guide.
In addition to logistics, don’t forget to arm your teens with meaningful questions prior to the visit!
This worksheet allows for teens to prepare their own questions prior to meeting with an organization. Decide as a group the top 10 questions you would like to ask. Each question leaves a space to assign an “asker”. This format is a great way to make teens feel comfortable, ready and empowered to ask the important questions that will help them in their assessment!