Middle Schoolers Matter | Skillshare Projects



Middle Schoolers Matter

Middle school is often filled with braces, awkward moments and memories one would rather forget.

Many people overlook middle school because it is a "transition" time. Students have moved past childhood but are not yet young adults.

We believe that middle school should be celebrated and that middle schoolers are leaders...TODAY.

Enter Joel Daniel Harris and TomTod Ideas. A youth worker for 8 years, JDH was amazed by the wild potential of middle school schoolers. He launched TomTod Ideas in September 2012. TomTod is non-profit in Canton, Ohio that empowers middle school students to launch absurd ideas that enhance the common good. We release the potential of tomorrow today.

We offer mentorship adventures that celebrate the vibrancy of youth. Students explore a city center through our week long summer Dreamoratories, launch their ideas to better the world through an Idea:X project, or embark on the ideation process through our in school program, Grasp. Go. Grow. 

Your Business or Brand:

TomTod Ideas is a creative non-profit that works with middle school students in Stark County, Ohio. We empower middle schoolers to launch absurd ideas that enhance the common good through 1 week-18 month long mentorship adventures. The lingo, colors and attitude of TomTod reflect the spunk and enthusiasm of middle schoolers.

11 Questions:

1.) What is Marketing for? What does this department/function/budget exist to do?

Marketing is for communicating the heart of an organization. For TomTod, this means sharing our mission with our audience (students, parents, schools), funders and the broader community. Since we are under 2 years old we are still working to get the word out concerning the impact we are making on middle schoolers in the community.

2.) What are we allowed to touch?

As the TomTod communication/marketing professional, I am allowed to touch Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), the website, and promotional design/materials. I can also impact programming and make budget requests.

3.) What can we as marketers measure?

Response on social media, visits to the website, SEO, donor base, awareness of the organization that turns into action.

4.) What can we change?

Internally: We can become more organized and strategic about sharing our story. We can develop our website, implement our Social Media plan, and utilize the strengths of our team to get the word out about TomTod. We can also make sure that TomTod team: volunteers, staff and the Board understand TomTod’s mission and programs.

Externally: A large portion of society views middle school as an awkward time of transition. Students move past childhood but are far from adulthood. Middle schoolers are encouraged that they are the leaders of the future but often not viewed as leaders today. We want to change people’s perceptions of middle schoolers. TomTod exists to empower middle school students and to share their stories; stories that show they want to use their talents to enhance the common good. We also want to change the public’s unawareness of TomTod to action. We want people to believe so strongly in the potential of middle schoolers that they become involved. Involvement could mean giving of their time, talents and generosity. 

5.) What promise are you going to make?

I promise to share compelling stories about middle schoolers, increase the public’s awareness about TomTod and give people opportunities to mentor students.

6.) What’s the hard part?

The hard part is getting people to understand our programs and impacting the public to move from awareness to action. 

7.) Should your organization be making trends or following trends?

It should be a combination of both. We should follow trends in our areas of interest: education, innovation, creativity. But, we should be making new trends through our organization’s programs and mission. 

8.) Where is the risk?

The risk is that the public often doesn’t understand our programs because of our unique wording and approach. Another risk is that we are taking on more program expenses than financial stability.

9.) Who is in charge?

Our Executive Dreamer, Joel Daniel Harris, founded the organization and holds the clearest vision of who we are and where we are going. The Board of Directors work with Joel to make foundational decisions. 

10.) Marketers spend money. Where are you spending the money? What is it for?

I will spend money on print flyers for our various programs including one page handouts, Dreamoratory flyers and Storycards. I will also spend money on Social Media through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Ads. Another investment could be in Hootsuite or MailChimp upgrades.

11.) How should you be spending your time?

I will spend my time creating compelling graphics, managing brand consistent social media platforms and networking with movers and shakers in the community.

Emotion: Middle school was an awkward time for many people. Often, people want to forgot what happened during those years. We want to surprise people with the potential of middle school students and make them optimistic about the possibilities that exist for students to be leaders today.

Change: We hope that TomTod Ideas will change people’s perceptions of middle school as an odd time to a time of infinite opportunities. We want them to value the ideas of middle schoolers and move from awareness of the organization to actively interacting with middle schoolers.


Middle schoolers are full of potential and we believe they can be others centered, noble and giving. We empower middle school students to launch absurd ideas that enhance the common good. Along the way, we need the enthusiasm of adults who will support students’ dreams through offering their expertise and connections.


Middle schoolers matter! We desire to share this message through our website, tomtodideas.org, Social Media, and our print resources. When people rally together to encourage the creative ideas of middle schoolers, we team up to enhance the common good.

TomTod's 4 P's of Marketing

1.) Positioning:

TomTod Ideas is nestled in a unique place. We support education through partnering with local school districts but we work with an often over looked group: middle school students. There is a need for a place where middle schoolers know their ideas matter and are encouraged to enact ideas that make their world a better place. We offer creative services while fitting within the file of education and non-profits.

2.)  Public Relations:

We have a powerful story to tell. From the first Idea:X project in 2011, the Shack A Thon, to our annual Dreamoratories, TomTod is doing work in the community that needs to be heard. Through Public Relations, we can creatively express our students’ stories in a way that celebrates the vibrancy of middle schoolers. We can highlight specific projects, field trips and collaborations that show that middle schoolers and their ideas matter.

3.) Persistance

Our marketing approach must be consistent. This means utilizing our Social Media presence as well as regularly maintaining a blog through our website. In order for people to remember TomTod, they must hear our story and see what we are doing regularly. This means posting daily on Facebook and Twitter and at least once a week on Instagram. Our posts should have variety and showcase our programs and students. We must also post on our blog 2-3 times a week. Another way to be persistent is to build relationships in the community and then deepen those relationships through phone, email and meetings. Since our work is  unique in structure and wording, we must be persistent about sharing our story with the community. Through persistance, people move from being unaware to being active members of "Team TomTod."

4.) Purple

TomTod is worth sharing because we empower students in a new way. We work with students from all different school districts and backgrounds and when society says middle schoolers will be leaders in the future, we say they are leaders today. We are a whimsical organization that exists because of the dreams of youth. The mentorship adventures we offer are unique because they put students at the center of their projects. We give middle schoolers the microphone to share their story and make the decisions. Our summer camps are centered on innovation and exploration while integrating educational principals.

Marketing Point of View:

How do people find out about you?

Face to face networking, Social Media, emails, introduced by other people.

What is promised to them?

That we empower middle schoolers and they can be a part of it.

How many interactions need to happen before they trust you enough to give it a try?

Probably 2-3 interactions. The first interaction people are just learning our name and what we do. It may take them hearing it again before they are fully convinced that middle schoolers matter.

What do people tell their friends about you?

They tell their friends that TomTod believes in the vibrancy of middle schoolers and that propels us to empower them to launch the ideas they have to help others. They tell their friends that we are unique, community based and work with students of all backgrounds.

Who is it for? And who is it not for?

It is for supporters of middle schoolers or people who believe that middle schoolers & their ideas are important. It is not for people who don’t value education or people that think middle school is an awkward time to forget.

What does this marketing story remind the prospect of?

It reminds them of youth leaders, teachers, parents and other adults who invested in them as a young person. It also reminds them of the ideas and dreams they had as middle schoolers and the potential impact of those ideas.

How is it sold?

Through sharing stories via Social Meeting, face to face conversations, fundraiser events and hand outs.

Does it cost more than the competition?

In terms of our summer camp, the cost is more of an investment than weekly day camps in the area. There are few middle schools offered in the Stark County, Ohio area for middle schoolers. Of the camps that do exist, we stand out because we offer a program that fosters creativity, innovativeness and learning in a fun environment. Additionally, the camp is unique because it gives students an opportunity to create ideas based around a city center.



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