Youth Music Program Expansion

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Guitars Not Guns - National Capital Area
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Guitars not Guns’ (GnG’s) mission is to inspire at-risk and underprivileged youth to succeed by providing them music education opportunities through the use of volunteers and partnerships in their community. We help instill in them the confidence and character necessary for them to grow into productive members of society and responsible adults.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Guitars Not Guns (GnG) is a National children’s charity that provides an after school music and mentoring program for at-risk and underprivileged youth. We provide them a positive alternative to the self-destructive behaviors of substance abuse, crime, truancy, and gang activity. Children who learn music generally do better in school and in life. Participation in a music program teaches:

  • Responsibility and discipline; students must practice to succeed and they must take care of their instrument.
  • 21st century skills; it helps develop creativity, higher-order thinking skills and teamwork.
  • Confidence by meeting a challenge.

When a youth is passionate about one area of learning it has a positive effect on their attitude to learn in other areas. All youth need as many opportunities as possible so each can find that learning area that invokes their passion. After school programs usually focus on academics and recreational activities. While these are important, youth should also have the opportunity to participate in a music program.

GnG partners with organizations located in the neighborhoods to provide them a quality music program. Bringing programs into neighborhoods is the most effective way to improve the quality of life in that community. In the NCA we are partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs; neighborhood centers; homeless shelters, special education schools, foster care and Big Brothers & Big Sisters. We currently serve over 300 students annually at 15 teaching locations. Our program is primarily for youth in grades 6 through 12 and free to all eligible students.

Under a 2008 grant GnG NCA purchased 2 laptop computers with Microsoft Office Professional 2007. In 2009 we purchased a desktop computer and acquired Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007, Expressions Web 2 and Design 2, and Streets and Maps 2008 through Techsoup. Through the judicious application of Microsoft software we have substantially increased the number of clients we can serve by optimizing our mission delivery, increasing the effectiveness of our organization, establishing a more professional image and creating more name recognition.

Increase the number of clients served - Our ability to expand was due, in large part, to our acquisition of Microsoft software. The new user interface, inoperability between applications and functionality has substantially reduced the time required for administrative processing. Using an Excel database and Pivot Table Reports we can quickly sort and extract information regarding clients, their class progress and equipment inventory. Using preformatted templates and hyperlinks in Word we are able to more quickly produce donation receipts, thank you letters, inquiry responses and letters of intent. The net result has been a 50% increase in the number of clients we can serve in 2009 using the same admin staff.

The ability to save files in PDF format permits us to electronically send everything we develop to our volunteers and other GnG affiliates; the wide variety of computer platforms and software that is in use by these groups is no longer a barrier to the effective exchange of materials.

Increase the range of volunteers recruited – Most of our volunteer inquires come via e-mail. Outlook and Business Contact Manager provide us the tools to easily and accurately track each inquiry and our response. More timely and efficient inquiry processing has led to a 30% increase in the capture rate of new volunteers.

Streets and Maps 2008 has been useful in finding directions and locating places to meet prospective volunteers. It has the advantage of not requiring internet access so we can find the information regardless of where we are.

Enable new services and campaigns – Web site services had been provided through our national office; design options were limited and updates were not always timely. With the addition of Expressions Web 2 and Design 2 we are now able to create and maintain our web pages ourselves. We changed the look and organization of our web pages and can now make updates in a timely manner; additional upgrades are being planned. Clients, volunteers and newcomers have found our web pages to be more informative and helpful. The traffic coming to our site has increased significantly which in turn has lead to more volunteer inquiries and donations.

With the addition of PowerPoint on our laptop computers we were able to initiate a speaker’s tour. We can now make and deliver quality presentations to local businesses and organizations interested in supporting our program. The ability to apply themes, charting functions and conditional formatting in Excel and then carry them over to PowerPoint has made it quick and easy to create custom slides depicting the data most important to the audience we’re addressing.

Enhanced quality of services –Ensuring that our programs are achieving the desired result is essential. Under a 2008 grant we purchased consulting expertise to develop a Performance Measurement Plan. With the addition of Access we now have the software to create the relational database needed to store and analyze the performance data we are collecting. The resultant information will permit us to better serve our clientele.

Increased reach of campaigns as a result of more efficient marketing and fundraising – Sustaining our program requires informing the public as to whom we are and what we do. Under a 2008 grant we purchased consulting expertise to develop a Marketing Plan. We’re using the Microsoft software to fully implement that plan. Word and Publisher are used extensively to create professional looking letters and advertisements; Outlook is used to electronically deliver them. Again the interoperability between Excel and Word has made it quick and easy to incorporate client data into our documents without having to address formatting issues.

Using Publisher has significantly improved the quality and professional look of our information brochures and advertising materials. The ability to save files in PDF format has also reduced our publication costs. Because we can now provide files in “print ready” form we can take advantage of low cost on line printers. We’re also able to find more local printers willing to donate free printing for limited quantities when we can provide them a “print ready” file.

GnG NCA began as an all volunteer organization with limited funds; it was difficult for us to process the administrative burden, create professional quality documents and maintain our web site. Thanks to Microsoft and Techsoup we were able to acquire the software technology necessary to significantly increase our administrative processing capacity, create professional documents and maintain our web site. As a result GnG NCA now serves 50% more youth annually, our support base is expanding and we are able to advise other GnG affiliates as to how they can use this technology to make similar capacity and fundraising improvements.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery