Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) is a non-profit organization that equips high-achieving underrepresented minorities with a winning professional playbook, one-on-one coaching and door-opening relationships that accelerate their career paths from college to MBA to senior leadership. MLT uses Signal Vine to facilitate engagement with participants, provide program updates and guidance, as well as to track participants throughout college.

We spoke with Micheal McElveen, an Associate and Coach for MLT Ascend, to learn more about their texting program.

What’s the mission of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)?

MLT empowers African American, Latino, and Native American women and men to realize their full potential and achieve outsized impact as senior leaders and achieve their American dreams. We have created a thriving network of more than 5,000 rising leaders and are fundamentally transforming the diverse talent pipelines at our partner organizations, including more than 100 leading corporations, nonprofits and graduate business schools.

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What is MLT Ascend and who participates?

MLT has pioneered four core career/leadership programs, including Career Prep, MBA Prep, MBA Professional Development, and the Career Advancement Program. In addition to this programming, one of MLT’s newest initiatives is MLT Ascend, a college persistence and career readiness program in which MLT’s Alumni or Rising Leaders volunteer as “Coaches” to “Scholars,” who are underrepresented minorities, either first-generation to college and/or from low-income communities. Scholars are nominated by MLT Ascend Community Partners from four regions: New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago, during their senior year of high school.

How do you measure a scholar’s success?

Currently we measure our Scholars’ success against our Scholar Roadmap, a detailed track for each year of undergrad based on national statistics and college access and persistence organizational research. We track success toward six pillars: Academics, Financial Aid, Extra-Curriculars, Relationship Development, Career Readiness and Problem-Solving.

What have been the greatest challenges in communicating with your scholars?

One challenge is being sensitive to the competing priorities our scholars have as college students while communicating important program updates and requests. Most communication our scholars receive is via email. Consequently, our requests or updates can get lost in the barrage of emails, rendering scholars more unlikely to respond promptly.

How has text messaging impacted the relationship between your counselors and the scholars?

The Signal Vine texting platform has added a more efficient and effective way of communicating with our coaches and scholars and enhanced the frequency in which they engage with each other. Whether it is to say “good luck” before mid-terms or to schedule their next in-person meeting, texting expedites the interactions and helps coaches meet scholars where they are – on their mobile devices.

How has the program impacted your communication with coaches?

Likewise, it has helped the program directly engage with coaches for more timely updates and requests. For example, each semester we distribute surveys to coaches for an update on their coach-scholar match. With the aid of Signal Vine, we coupled our email blast with a text blast, which resulted in us reaching our desired total for survey submissions two weeks faster than the previous semester!

What are some memorable interactions your team has had with scholars through texting?

As a national program serving 270 students attending college at more than 100 schools across the country, it is difficult to stay abreast of each student’s latest trials and triumphs. However, with a texting platform, scholars text us with questions and/or concerns and we are able to respond within minutes with possible next steps. In fewer than 10 minutes, we can turn a scholar’s “emergency” into a very manageable situation. It is always great to receive the enthusiastic “thank you” texts that follow.

What are your plans for expanding your texting program moving forward?

We are excited to continue working with Signal Vine as we expand our program to 600+ coaches and scholars during the 2016-2017 academic year. After sharing a few of our successes during an internal brown bag lunch, one of our core programs will join the platform, expanding our participant base to ~1,000!

What advice would you give to other organizations thinking about implementing text messaging?

Customize, customize, customize! Our scholars are more likely to respond when we include content specifically related to them. It is as simple as including their name or their college or coaches’ names for them to feel a part of a genuine conversation. The more information you have on each student to customize your text, the more likely you are to solicit a response.

Thanks, Micheal!

Want to share your texting story?

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About the author: Paige is the Marketing Associate at Signal Vine and manages the Signal Vine blog! Find her on LinkedIn here!