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Monday, September 20, 2010

Lifeplan: A Sustainable and Scalable Asset for Young People

I'm often asked if Lifeplan is truly scalable and sustainable. Yes, it is! And here's why:

First, some background. The Lifeplan Institute is the result of over 40 years of research that found that mentoring is the most effective youth development strategy in overcoming the four major social epidemics facing kids. Teen pregnancy, gang involvement, dropping out of school, and drug and alcohol addiction cost over a half a trillion dollars a year in consequences. The Lifeplan program guides young people through the dangers and pitfalls they may experience through childhood, and helps them create a plan to avoid these challenges and to thrive.

The Lifeplan Institute has been designed to be a self-sustaining program with the capability to expand and evolve while maintaining a low overhead. Lifeplan is able to achieve its goals by leveraging existing resources and creating a scalable and sustainable business model.

One of the main reasons nonprofit organizations fail is that they are typically unable to build a self-sustaining business model. Investing time and money into an idea that requires constant funding year-after-year makes it difficult and cumbersome for an organization to perpetuate itself. The Lifeplan Institute is different. It is a major project of the California Mentor Foundation. CMF has a core budget for personnel, operating expenses, and grant-making of approximately $300,000 per year. One hundred per cent of this is funded, which means that all revenues raised for the Lifeplan program go to deploying the program.

Lifeplan program delivery costs are approximately $20,000 per site with an estimated 50 sites per year. These costs are for the Ninja trainers, travel/accommodations, audiovisual, facility, and Lifeplan materials. We estimate we will reach a minimum of 600 young people per year from each site x 50 sites = $1,000,000 per year reaching 30,000 young people. This represents a $30 per child implementation cost.

The estimated return on investment, first and foremost, is due to Lifeplan's ability to serve as an asset to millions of young people that will help them thrive and not merely survive. In terms of dollars and cents, we feel confident in the calculation that there is a $1,200 return for every dollar invested in this program. This represents cost avoidance from preventing the financial impact of the four major social epidemics, and long-term benefits from producing successful future contributors to our economy.

Lifeplan is able to utilize the existing structures of schools, mentor organizations, and various after-school programs while keeping ongoing maintenance costs to a minimum. Once Lifeplan program facilitators have been trained, the only recurring cost is the reordering of materials.

A key component of Lifeplan is its online capability to maintain the interest of Lifeplan graduates and its facilitators as the program evolves. The most current program materials, support documents, and the Lifeplan Ninja network are all accessible through the online Knowledge Management Site. This site has created the connectivity to manage the program nationwide.

A major opportunity for additional leverage and scalability is our work with national networks that serve young people. It is likely that Junior Achievement will find Lifeplan an exciting opportunity for the 10 million young people they reach every year. We work with Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Friday Night Live, Challenge Day, sports groups, churches, and all relevant youth development programs across the country. Once an organization has been trained to deploy Lifeplan, they have it forever. No new staff is necessary. No onerous bureaucracy gets in the way. Lifeplan is a new, proven, potent asset that all these entry points can adopt at a low cost - and sustain into the future for all the young people they support.

Another aspect of sustainability and scalability is the opportunity for every high school senior to graduate with a Lifeplan. There are currently 16 million public high school students in America. Add four million more from independent and parochial schools, and you have 20 million total. Over the next decade, if we could get Lifeplan started with every freshman and have them build it as they matriculate to their senior year, they could then mentor the freshman in the Lifeplan process and earn their community service credit. Graduating with a Lifeplan - after four years of refining their dreams, aspirations, goals, building a board of directors, building a game plan, and growing a solid portfolio of literacies - guarantees these young people would have a substantial asset to help navigate the next major steps in their lives.

A fertile area for revenue is the potential for corporate sponsorships supporting the various literacies that are a core part of the Lifeplan program. For example, the young participants go through a process for developing their financial literacy. Given that banks pay an average of $400 per new account acquisition, why not have banks sponsor this part of the program and give the young person $100 to open a new account with the sponsor bank when they complete the financial literacy segment? We could also ask these literacy sponsors to donate $100 per child to grow the Lifeplan opportunity for more young people.

Health, nutrition, media, study skills, and the other program literacies are all opportunities for co-branding/sponsorship from the private sector. This could create considerable financial support for Lifeplan's growth.

What's next for Lifeplan? Development of the Lifeplan app for Smartphones, an interactive learning game, and more inspiring program deployments around the U.S. Next month I'll share the story of one Lifeplan community initiative, led by a local leadership group, that's growing by leaps and bounds - another great example of Lifeplan's scalability and sustainability in action.

All the best,



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