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Building Community Support

Decisions that impact the classroom are often made outside the school building. You can take the initiative to influence the decisions that affect your chess program. Building community support should be a priority for your chess program. Follow these tips and turn your constituents from passive observers to ardent advocates.

Target the Audience

Identify the key stakeholders and decision-makers who can make or break your program. Think in terms of categories: Business leaders. Civic groups. School board members. Make a list of those you need to contact or of the persons who can reach out to them on your behalf. Remember that a decision-maker may not be the person who holds the official office or title. Look for the key contact close to an office-holder who helps to set their agenda.

Tailor the Message

Yes, you need to point out the benefits of a chess program. But you need to tailor those benefits to the audience. A business owner wants to hire someone who can solve problems unsupervised. A civic leader wants to know that a program has a positive impact on character or on the family. A school board member may be focused on the overall school culture. Find out what they value and tailor your presentation to address the issues uppermost on their minds.

Take Advantage of Media Opportunities

Demonstrate your gratitude by highlighting their support. Invite community leaders to your chess club. Invite school board members to your class. Provide examples of the positive impact of your program. Take photos. Share them (and your thanks) on social media. Then encourage your parents to share your posts with others in the community.

Turn Observers into Advocates

Ask for help in sharing the message. Solicit comments from business leaders who understand the value of chess. Ask them to share the skills that they see chess building in students that are needed in the persons they want to hire. Then ask fellow teachers to share what changes they have seen in their students as a result of participating in the chess program.

One example of a teacher quote comes from Telura Hamilton, a Gifted Specialist and English/Language Arts teacher in Alabama. “My favorite aspect of the ACIS [Alabama Chess in Schools] initiative is seeing chess expand outside the classrooms and into the community.  Our community chess nights where students of all school ages, their families, and school faculty come together to play chess in our area is such a heart-warming experience.”

Building community support creates the opportunity for fulfilling program needs. such as funding an event or enlisting volunteers. Invest the time to create the kind of support that increases your program’s visibility and value beyond the school building.

Do you have other tips to offer? Share them! Send your comments to jerry@chessinschools.us.

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