Meet a former teacher who is delivering literacy tools to thousands of families in New York City thanks in part to GG Rewards—a point system for nonprofits that listen, act, and learn.
Day after day, Lauren Poinier watched students struggle to read in low-income areas of New York City as a special education teacher.
The outlook for her students wasn’t good. By pre-school, they would know about 500 words, while their peers from high-income homes would know 1,100 words. Studies proved the achievement gap would only grow as they got older.
Lauren had to do something. In 2014, she founded Word Rebel Incorporated to fight the 600-word deficit for kids from impoverished New York City neighborhoods.
Just one year later, her volunteer-run nonprofit had established curriculum partnerships with several literacy and day care centers in Brooklyn, Bronx, and Manhattan. Through the centers, Word Rebel was able to deliver reading and vocabulary resources to students and parents across the city. But Lauren wanted to reach more kids before it was too late.
She turned to GlobalGiving and its GG Rewards system for ideas. The point system rewards nonprofits for continually learning. The philosophy? GlobalGiving has found that nonprofits that Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat are more effective.
Simple questions lead the way
Lauren used five basic questions from the GG Rewards “Charting Impact Tool” to examine Word Rebel’s impact:
- What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
- What are your strategies for making this happen?
- What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?
- How will your organization know if you are making progress?
- What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?
“The questions were perfect because they were so simple and so intuitive,” Lauren said.
The questions led Lauren to take a look at Word Rebel’s communications with parents. Word Rebel sent a weekly email with reading resources to parents from its day care centers. But only half of the parents could access the email on a smartphone or home computer—these were luxuries for families struggling to make ends meet. There had to be a better way.
A better way to communicate
Lauren read a Stanford University study about the effectiveness of text messages versus standard email newsletters. Text messages have a nearly 100 percent open rate.
Now, Word Rebel sends parents a weekly “Prep4PreK” literacy text with an actionable strategy to teach vocabulary and reading skills.
The text-message delivery system puts literacy resources straight into the hands of parents, many who wouldn’t otherwise have access.
“Our biggest point of feedback from our day care partners is that parents feel empowered and motivated knowing they can commit to doing one small thing a day to make a big difference,” Lauren said.
Word Rebel’s weekly text now reaches nearly 1,000 parents. Lauren set a goal to triple the number of parents receiving the texts and deliver 2,800 books to families in need by the end of this summer.
“GlobalGiving’s toolkits continue to hold me accountable and re-inspire me to research and create the best possible programming to always better serve our partners, families, and children,” Lauren said.
Today, Word Rebel has earned Superstar Status on GlobalGiving through GG Rewards. The top status increases their visibility on GlobalGiving, makes them more likely to be connected to corporate partners, and gives them access to bigger donor matching opportunities on GlobalGiving Bonus Days.
Most importantly, because Word Rebel is always “listening, acting, and learning,” thousands of families in New York City have the resources they need to close the achievement gap, one word at a time.
Ask these questions at your nonprofit. Download the Charting Impact Guide.
Featured Photo: A Word Rebel partner in New York City celebrates little graduates at the Drew Hamilton Stepping Up Ceremony. Photo by Children's Aid Society.