Continuous communication with parents, caregivers, members, your school district leaders and other involved participants is essential to building toward success.
One key finding from Clubs that have successfully implemented virtual offerings is that parent communication is hard. A solution is to communicate through multiple channels, and frequently. For example, the structure of a communication cadence might be:
Weekly schedule, edited and shared via MyFuture Club landing page, and shared weekly via:
- Email reminder to parents and caregivers
- Club Facebook page
- Club Tiktok account
- Club messaging app (Livesafe, for instance)
Daily activities, timing and reminders, shared each morning via:
- Club messaging app (Livesafe, for instance)
- Optionally, via pre-recorded robocalls sent as messages to each parent (received as phone calls)
The intensity of the messaging will ensure all parents, caregivers and members have the information they need to join or access sessions of interest to them, or to access pre-recorded or other resources as needed.
Here are sample communications:
Furthermore, this is a perfect time to continuously market your virtual and hybrid offerings to parents, caregivers and others in your community to reach those who may need and benefit from your services, but who might not have been members in the past.
Common messaging and distribution partnerships include:
- Library systems
- School districts and other local education agencies
- Food and/or other supply distributions
- Other community partners
Identify and Alleviate Barriers
As you run your virtual experience, it’s not likely your full membership will be able to participate. There are a number of reasons for this.
Among them, not all young people have equitable access to technology and other means. Identifying and alleviating these barriers is important to enhancing participation.
Run Programming Consistently
While your virtual programming may look a little different than your in-club programming, the keys to success remain the same. One critical element we’ve heard repeatedly is that consistent programming delivery is essential. This is because it will take some time for families, caregivers and members to learn about, and get accustomed to, accessing the content you’re distributing whatever its format.
- If your virtual experience includes creating and distributing pre-recorded activities, be sure to distribute at a specific day and time.
- If your virtual experience includes live sessions, be sure to notify caregivers in advance, and run live sessions at a consistent day and time.
- If you conduct phone check-ins and/or case management, the same kind of regular, consistent outreach can lead to greater engagement.
While there are similarities to delivering an in-club experience, virtual delivery may seem “quiet” or “not well attended” for some time as you build your participation and engagement. Don’t fret – just be ready to continue delivering and messaging consistently, as it’s new for your audience, too.
In addition to running your programming consistently, be sure you are utilizing all the high-quality elements related to programming.
In addition, you can find various “remote-friendly” conversation starters, groupers and more in the Youth Development Toolbox App, available in the Apple and Android App Stores and as a stand-alone website.
Build Virtual Community
Members enjoy your in-club experience for many reasons. One very important reason is that they are part of a larger community, or a place where they can engage in positive peer connections and conversation.
As you operate your virtual club experience, don’t overlook the importance for supporting and cultivating a community online. Club Staff have taken different approaches to this (there’s no right answer) but some general practices include:
- Provide Club members with a safe space online to interact with one another. Remember – you’ll need parental permission forms (see documentation within Design: Policies).
- Consider using spaces your members are familiar with and/or engaged in already. This may include creating a specialized Club social media presence “just for your members” to separate the look/feel from your community outreach and fundraising work.
- Ensure all members know how to engage with one another safely and proactively online. MyFuture.net has resources that support digital literacy and CommonSense Media has even more.
It is your duty to follow all BGCA and organizational policies and procedures related to safety, including incident reporting.
Always supervise virtual experiences and immediately respond to any potential risks.
Remember to document all incidents and report them following your organization’s incident reporting guidelines. Also remember that all Boys & Girls Club staff and volunteers are mandated reporters – even in the virtual space. Watch out for warning signs that a child may be experiencing abuse at home or online and immediately report your concerns following your local and organizational guidelines.
The following resources are available to you for confidential reporting of concerns related to child safety:
- Child Safety Hotline 1-866-607-SAFE (7233); firstname.lastname@example.org
- Crisis Text Line – text CLUB to 741741
- Ethics Point Hotline 1-866-295-3701
- National CyberTipline: 1-800-843-5678 report.cybertip.org (A resource managed by NCMEC for reporting suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet.)
Measure your impact
It’s often said that you can’t manage what you measure. Measurement of Virtual Club is important for a variety of reasons, but chief among them are to both improve program quality (and enhance your members’ experiences) and to support internal and external reporting.
To support you, there are two key documents. One, Virtual Club Quality Standards, outlines standards for quality virtual programming. The second, Using Data to Improve the Virtual Club Experience, outlines practices you can use to measure and continuously improve upon virtual club activities.