Q&A: Building Year-Long Attention Around National Runaway Prevention Month

Lashawnda Carter

Lashawnda Carter is Outreach Coordinator for the National Runaway Switchboard, an organization dedicated to keeping America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the street. Every November, NRS co-sponsors National Runaway Prevention Month with the National Network for Youth. As part of its outreach efforts, NRS has held a National Runaway Prevention Month Community Contest since 2006.

Organizations send their entries to Carter, who passes them along to a committee. The committee judges entries based on how well their activities meet the goals of National Runaway Prevention Month:

  1. To raise awareness of the issues facing runaway youth,
  2. To educate the public about solutions and the role they can play in preventing youth from running.

We talked to Carter about the contest, and what organizations can do to use its momentum to stay in the spotlight all year.

NCFY: What makes a good campaign stand out?

CARTER: A good campaign raises the conversation. It lets people know what the statistics are – for example, NRS handles over 100,000 calls a year, but 1.6 to 2.8 million youth will run a year. It lets people know what resources are available, like calling NRS and other national partners. It encourages collaboration and partnerships.

NCFY: What makes a good campaign work?

CARTER: Utilizing partnerships. Collaboration. Resources: free resources, like the NRS online toolkit. People you already partner with, like a board member in an official office somewhere who can get a resolution or proclamation signed. Social media, which is free, effective, and can go viral.

The National Runaway Prevention Month section of our site has an entire listing of resources, like the Let’s Talk Curriculum, especially module 6, which is a 45-minute activity. There’s the Community Action Toolkit. We also have free and promotional materials they can order. If youth service providers need a display, for going to a school or another event, we can help them with that.

NCFY: How do organizations measure the impact of their November campaign?

CARTER: Most measure by how many pieces of material they passed out, or attendees at an event they had. If they have an e-newsletter or a website, they can measure based on opens and hits. So they use those different measurements to see how effective it is.

NCFY: How do they carry out that work throughout the year?

CARTER: Keep the conversation going. If you partner or join our Street Team you can go to malls, hit the street, pass out wallet cards, add the NRS banner to your website, and so on. As long as they focus on the two goals, and use the free resources, it’s the first step to building attention all year.

NRS receives funding from the Family and Youth Services Bureau to run the national communications system that connects runaway and homeless youth with their families.

9-5 pm Eastern