Ronald Court is the founder of BTW Society whose main purpose is to help enrich the lives of youth in America and to build character and confidence guided by the example of Booker T. Washington’s life and legacy.
I came across a website that was discussing the 150th anniversary of Booker T. Washington and saw that no one seemed to be celebrating this significant date. This was a very influential American that history was about to pass by. As luck or providence would have it, I met a gentleman from New Jersey a couple weeks later who had “street cred” and was born in the “projects” who also recognized the mission and importance of Booker T. Washington’s life and legacy to all Americans today. Initially, it was simply to honour Booker T. Washington by providing scholarships for students around the country. It has now evolved into creating Booker T. Clubs and Booker T. Chapters.
Well, our focus has been on building and pilot testing our program before seeking serious funding to bring it to schools and youth centers. The help we’ve received has come from individual donors and my own savings. I’m very grateful for their support, as they and I see this as vitally important. I believe that, as a nation, we need to work together to become united. The only way to do it is to start with the young kids and talk about building character. We’re in the changing lives business. With more schools named for Booker T. Washington than any other person on the planet, we figured that would be a good place to start to develop a database. And, as a Rotarian, I wrote to Rotary Clubs in those communities, offering to speak about the Society and the clubs that we were looking to establish. From a lot of those public speakings, individual donors and rotary clubs have offered to help fund a Booker T. Club or Chapter in their community.
My dream is to have 200 clubs within 5 years. This is my bucket list. We now have a full program with a curriculum that includes fun games, physical activity and “focus” time. During this “focus” time, students get a chance to apply what they’ve learned. They memorize quotes from famous people and apply them to their own lives. Some examples of these quotes are, ” If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else” by Booker T. Washington or “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up some place else” by Yogi Berra. We’re modelling character. Learning about successful people in history may be what some kids pick up from their mom or dad, but a lot of kids don’t even have access to this information let alone being exposed to it. Through the BTW Society they’re able to learn at a young age to embrace character while making it fun.
It is an after school program with an emphasis on building character and public speaking. We start off in middle schools with students learning the Booker T. way that’s grounded in seven motivation principles embodied in our phrase “I choose to use my initiative to commit to hard work, to my own actions, organize my time, serve others and to endure the tough times with energy, enterprise and enthusiasm.” If you take each of those initiative principles, you’ve got our motto which is “I choose”. This speaks to the independence and freedom that every young person wants to have regardless of complexion.
The age of kids involved is from 10 years old (grade 5) to 18 years old. The first 4 years are Booker T Clubs (middle schools) and the high schools from grade 9 to grade 12 are Booker T Chapters. The Chapters emphasis is on honing public speaking skills (not debating skills). No matter who you are whether you are a plumber or a principal, you need speaking skills to get your point across. This is also about building character and self confidence through public speaking.
We’ve been using Daylite for about 3 years now and just recently switched to Daylite 4. We got Daylite because we needed a database to handle all the contact information for the schools and students involved in the program as well as an ability to track all of our potential and actual donors. When we switched to Daylite 4, it was like a 2000 watt lightbulb went off! We began to see all the things we could do with it. The fact that we can have on one screen a list of schools that we want to be in touch with as prospects, and see the main prospects in each school pop up right next to it and show all the past emails, notes and even letters we’ve written to them, all organized by date and time, is phenomenal. We realized that we had a gold mine in the data we had amassed since we started, but never “mined” it adequately, largely because it was just too much hassle to connect the dots. Daylite makes it so much easier, so we can be much more efficient.
The flexibility that Daylite has built in is unparalleled. I can easily filter through to find every company within a geographical area that is over a certain number of people and there’s so many ways that you can do it. You have total flexibility for what you want to find, it’s marvellous! The fact that now you can have predetermined templates for e-mails and you can pop them in and have them linked to each person is effortless.
With activity sets we can set up a chain of events and link it to a contact, either a potential donor, or a school as a site sponsor or club coach. The categories make sending individualized responses easy. When say, someone inquires about starting a club, Activity 1 starts with a “sent a Start-Up Guide”. Activity 2 is to send them a postcard 10 days later. (We use SendOutCards.com.) Activity 3 is a phone call to follow up. I’m always able to track the progress of each potential lead. Daylite makes it so easy to think it through by establishing these activity sets. From Daylite 3 to Daylite 4 we made the jump from using a database to now using a database that is task oriented. Daylite is a real client management system that gives me the flexibility to zero in on all the people in a particular area when I’m on the road. Being able to establish relationships between people in Daylite is key as well. I can enter in a donor and link who their spouse is or who they work for. Non profit is always a personal business. With Daylite we can track the date of first donation and it gives us a pop up option to automatically send them a thank you on their 1 year anniversary. If someone refers us to someone else we can track that as well, and this is important because we want to thank that person who made the referral. By establishing the relationship it’s easy!
We have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of kids who otherwise might see themselves as victims. Our tagline is “Building Character and Inspiring Young Lives Across America.”