Investee website: www.literacyconnects.org
Focus Area: Adult Literacy
First Grant Awarded: 2006
Total SVP funding to date: $75,000
Case Study summary below. Click here to read the entire Literacy Volunteers of Tucson Case Study
Mission & Vision: Literacy Volunteers of Tucson’s guiding principle is that everyone should have the opportunity to read, write and speak English. LVT believes that literacy opens doors for individuals and their families, and enables them to lead a full, productive and rich life. LVT provides services to two types of adults, ages 16 and older: low-literacy English speakers who have difficulty with reading, writing and math, and non-English speakers who want to learn English. LVT is the primary adult education organization in the community, and focuses on individuals who read and/or write at or below a sixth-grade level with few other educational options. Additionally, LVT offers a goal-driven, individualized approach for each student, where students are taught based on their skill-level and the goals they want to achieve. Trained volunteers teach small classes and provide one-on-one tutoring to students.
History: Literacy Volunteers of Tucson is the result of a merger between two literacy organizations in Pima County: Tucson Adult Literacy Volunteers (TALV) and Literacy Volunteers of Pima County (LVPC). TALV was founded in 1961 and provided services to individuals who did not speak English as a first language, primarily: non-English-speaking Hispanics, foreign-born wives of men stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and foreign students at the University of Arizona. LVPC was founded in 1979, and serviced English-speaking, low-literacy adults in Pima County. Both organizations did not have any paid staff up until 1990. In 1999, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson was formed by a merger of the two organizations. In December 2002, LVT became fully accredited by ProLiteracy America. Now, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson provides services to both low-literacy English-speaking adults, and individuals who are learning English as a second language.
Major Programs: LVT’s two major programs are: Basic Literacy (BL) and English Learning (ELAA). Basic Literacy students speak English but want to improve their skills. They are paired with a volunteer, who provides one-on-one tutoring in reading, writing, and/or math. Students also have the option to attend classes at Drop-In Centers with a team of tutors, where they can also learn computer skills. Other available classes include, a Basic Writing class, a Math group, a Reading and Understanding class, and a class focused on preparation for health-care careers. Students are taught according to their own goals, and have the opportunity to move on to GED preparation classes, or other training programs.
ELAA students do not speak English as a first language and can vary in their skill levels, from illiteracy in their own language to a college degree. ELAA students are taught by tutors in small teams at drop-in centers, schools and libraries. In addition to English instruction, students are taught math, health, computer, financial and problem-solving skills. LVT has a holistic approach to learning English, including cultural and social literacy. Students are also taught according to their own goals, whether it be increased involvement in their child’s education, career goals, talking to their doctor, GED attainment, taking a citizenship test, obtaining a driver’s license or money management.
Key SVP Impact to Date: Social Venture Partners Greater Tucson and Literacy Volunteers of Tucson worked on a variety of capacity-building projects over the course of the three year relationship, including creating a strategic plan, which has been operationalized and used to create work plans, and as a template for yearly strategic planning exercises. Partners facilitated board strengthening, training and recruitment. The Lead Partner also served on the Board. A Building Committee was formed to prepare LVT for relocation, and explore their options for a new building. Partners were also involved in human resources and salary review, and financial management advice. SVPGT partners facilitated connections in the community including the Executive Director’s Round Table and a commercial realtor. SVPGT also helped LVT with the ProLiteracy Accreditation process. Partners also provided advice, moral support, insight and expertise, and contributed to LVT’s credibility in the community.
At the end of the partnership, Partners were involved in the development of a community-wide fundraising strategy and marketing plan. Following the conclusion of the partnership, LVT opted to participate in a 5-organization merger with four other literacy organizations in the community. SVPGT Partners gave pro-bono coaching and consulting, and acted as a neutral convener during merger negotiations. They assisted with strategic planning and helped to write deal documents.
On July 1, 2011, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson merged with Reading Seed (a current investee), Literacy for Life Coalition, Stories That Soar! and Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona. On October 1, 2011, the organization was officially named Literacy Connects.