Coalitions in Action—Youth Connections Coalition – Dropping Information at Parents’ Doorsteps

The Youth Connections Coalition based in Helena, Montana, is a coalition of over 1,100 community members who work to make Helena a healthy and supportive place for kids and families. For roughly ten years, the coalition has shared community-specific resources and information for parents in the form of a quarterly publication titled, YC Magazine.

“Most coalitions really struggle, number one, to brand themselves, and number two, to let the community know what they’re doing and to highlight their work, and to get educational information to parents in a form that they’ll read. We feel like we’ve nailed it with this one piece,” said Coleen Smith, Executive Director of Youth Connections.

“We come out with issues quarterly and we try to stick with a theme, like we’ll do a back-to-school issue in September. For March, we’ll usually feature articles on how to support parents to help kids power through to finish the school year strong, and our summer issue focuses on issues that parents deal with during break like curfews, cellphone use, keeping them motivated and keeping them reading. We know that drug and alcohol-use increases in the summer, so we touch on that as well. We also have a one-page article that we always use to focus on a specific substance.”

“I work with the magazine committee which is comprised of two counselors, a teacher and a parent, and we all brainstorm who would be the best to write which article. I’ve got a psychiatrist who often lets me reprint articles featured on his blog that I think are especially helpful. I’m always reaching out to the counselors about what they’re seeing and if there is anything new. Our September issue that’s going to come out in a couple of weeks has an article on Xanax, because our counselor is saying he is seeing an increase in youth use of that substance.”

“With the new legalization of marijuana – we’re in Montana, so it just got legalized for adult use here – we’ve also been focusing a lot on marijuana, edibles and vapes. We just did an article on Delta-8. We try to be really timely and focused on the stuff that parents are dealing with right now, and then substances that are coming up.”

Another section of the magazine is known as “Faces in the Crowd”, where an outstanding elementary, middle and high school student, as well as one adult and community partner, are recognized for doing good in their community.

“We have a professional photographer that takes a picture for our cover and a marketing company that does the layout, so it looks very professional. We’ve got nine and a half pages of advertising space that can be used either for information (PSAs or activities going on in the community), or the advertising space can be sold as a fundraiser, or there can be a combination of the two.”

“We print 7,000 copies and mail them to the parents in the school district, and then we also place them in various locations around town, like doctor’s offices, dentist offices, libraries and the YMCA. Our school district didn’t allow us to send stuff home, so we had to mail everything. We get the mailing list from the school with no names, so it just goes to a parent of the Helena School District.”

“The feedback has been really positive. Everything is geared towards parents, so it’s something they find super helpful. I just hear, ‘Gosh, that’s something we were just dealing with, I’m so glad that article is in there.’ It is also great for the advertisers, too, because we don’t charge that much, and if you’re trying to target parents, it’s something that they are looking at and gets delivered right to their doorstep.”

“My board put together a policy of who we will accept as advertisers, so no alcohol, drugs, tattoos, abortion or anything controversial is allowed to be advertised in the magazine. In fact, even if a restaurant has an ad that includes alcohol in it, we won’t accept that into the magazine.”

In the past, Youth Connections has exhibited at CADCA events, such as the Mid-Year Training Institute and National Leadership Forum, to share information about how coalitions can work with Youth Connections to implement this into their own community.

“This is a way to brand the coalition, get information out to parents in a form that they will actually look at and read, and then it’s also a revenue generator and sustainability plan. So, it’s great for new coalitions as they are trying to brand their coalition and put it out there about who they are and what they are trying to do.”

To read their current issue or learn more about how you can incorporate this into your coalition’s sustainability plan, click here for more information.