The pandemic has brought about enormous challenges to our traditional approach to youth development. All Club and Youth Center sites in all communities, including on Native lands and U.S. military installations, can adapt finding new ways to meet the needs of the Youth that need them most during difficult times.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America understands that the delivery of virtual or distance positive youth engagement can be part of the solution. The Virtual Club Planning Tool will help you plan and implement the best way to use this approach to meet the needs of your Members in combination with your in-Club approach.
By exploring the following sections in order and reviewing the resources available, you and your staff will be well-positioned to support and train your staff to creatively deliver fun, safe, high-quality and supportive virtual programs/services that meet the needs and interests of your members and community.
What is Virtual Club?
In the field, virtual club can take a variety of forms. Here are some examples of how several Organizations have communicated their virtual club offerings:
Community Needs Assessment
It all begins with a community needs assessments, which will help you understand more about your community. In this process, there are three critical stakeholders to learn about:
- What do youth in your community need and want, and how can you help deliver?
- What support do parents and caregivers need?
- What are your school district and school leaders thinking, and how can you help them achieve their goals?
A community needs assessment can be a great way to understand how you can make your Virtual Club Experience meet the needs of your Members and Community.
Some tips include:
- Keep your questions short; don’t overwhelm assessment takers.
- At this time, focus on what you need to know (not what would be nice to know)
- Customize as you need. In particular, be sure to ask about the kinds of activities your members might find most interesting, rather than our generic set of example activities.
There are four phases to conducting your community needs assessment:
- Define: What are your driving questions? What do you absolutely need to learn or understand?
- Borrow: Read through BGCA’s Sample Community Needs Assessment below. Borrow question relevant to informing what you need to learn and discard the rest.
- Share: Disseminate your needs assessment to parents, caregivers and your wider community. This is a great time to share through your school district and/or local schools to help maximize your reach.
- Consider: What are 2-3 key themes that emerge through your needs assessment? What do different age groupings need? Do members have access to digital connectivity, or not?
Local District and School Conversations
The challenges faced by youth, families and communities due to the COVID-19 crisis present an opportunity for Clubs and Schools/School Districts to find new ways to collaborate to provide needed services, potentially funded by shared resources.
This is an opportune time to reach out to your District contacts to understand how your services and support, whether virtual or in-person, can help meet Districts’ needs.
School Partnerships Discussion
School District Partnership Toolkit
Develop your Value Proposition
In the past, families, caregivers and members have utilized your services because they perceive a benefit or value from them – otherwise known as a value proposition. One of the key traditional value propositions of the Club for parents and caregivers is the physical nature of the Club. When school is out, their young people have a safe, supportive place to thrive.
The virtual club experience does not to provide a physical ‘place to be,’ and so a Virtual Club Experience will have a different value proposition. Your community needs assessment and your conversations with local education agencies can provide you with valuable information to help define this new value proposition that meets the needs of your Members and Community.
Review the findings with your staff and ask yourself: what value do our stakeholders feel they get from the services we provide? How can we drive value to each of these audiences — which will lead to renewed and continued participation and engagement?
Some examples are:
Parents and Caregivers
BGCA’s research indicates parents and caregivers are frustrated with the lack of educational opportunities for their youth, but also challenged to support their youth in staying involved in educational and recreational activities. Time and responsibilities are constraints. Parents and caregivers appreciate consistency and regularity, and appreciate weekly, if not daily, reminders.
Teens strive to maintain and enhance their social connectivity. They express the desire to “just want to hang out” with peers in a safe, moderated environment and are also likely to enjoy socially-distanced hangouts. They are likely to be challenged by school responsibilities and have questions about college and career access.
Tweens are excited to connect with staff and peers. They appreciate and enjoy live activities delivered through high-quality sessions and participate in take-home activities through MyFuture.
Youth are looking for fun things to do on their own, and with friends. Engaging activities their parents can provide them whether inside or outside, at home or in local parks or facilities, are likely to be successful.