If You Support a Non-Profit, Read This: What is Impact and Who Defines It?

Defining impact is complicated. A broad definition may consider the measurable changes due to an intervention. Depending on who you ask about the impact (Team, Participants, Donors, Board, Volunteers, etc.), your answer may differ. 

Measuring impact allows us to clearly define and shape the way we plan and invest in programs we can prove are making considerable change, which is what we all want. Even more so, it is essential for an organization and all persons involved to have a clear understanding and inclusive voice in defining the impact its programming intends to achieve. 

Far too often in nonprofit work, Participant's perspectives on the issues, solutions, and their evaluation of the intervention when defining impact are not considered. The power dynamics, or widely accepted perception of impact, often paints the picture that impact is the result of the action done by active persons (nonprofits and donors) and the perceived/measured results for the passive persons (Participants). 

This perception fits into Oxford Language’s definition of impact: To have a strong effect on someone or something. 

But consider this other definition from Oxford: The action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another.


Impact is the result of and happens to all parties involved. What if we dismantled our widely accepted power dynamics of reporting impact and began to include all parties in our definitions and evaluations of impact? I believe when this happens, we will be able to have a more transparent conversation about what it takes to achieve actual impact.

Impact refers to the grander mission an organization aims to achieve. At Rock to the Future, we recognize the deeply entrenched inequities that deprive communities of critical opportunities. In 2010 when we launched our programs, we defined impact as offering music education for free. Our definition evolved because we learned inequities bear far-reaching, long-lasting, and complicated consequences that a music education program alone would not address.

For example, In 2015, Rock to the Future had its first cohort of graduates. Consequently, we began to understand our student's continued needs were pressing, and our ability to serve those needs was still possible. As rewarding as it was to see our students graduate, to make an impact, our programs needed to evolve to offer opportunities to impact our student's lifelong wellbeing. Our programs began to shift, and we brought in educators and social workers in addition to music instructors to guide our students with post-graduation needs, emotional conflict resolution, and workforce development skill building.

Today, 100% of graduates pursue college or trade school, students have reported significant Social and Emotional development, and several alumni students are staff members and board members. But, our work is still far from finished if we are talking about impact.

For us to truly make an impact, it is as essential for all stakeholders to understand our impact goals as it is for them to make monetary contributions. Creating lifelong well-being for students needs a community of people changing their social and economic practices, especially if they are persons of power. If we are talking about inequities, we must understand that actual change cannot happen without us all taking responsibility and shifting to more inclusive practices. Impact must happen to all stakeholders.

An alumni student reached out to us with a need to develop a pathway to career opportunities. A passionate supporter of Rock to the Future, DiPinto Guitars offered to work with the alumni student and us. We offered our alumni student a paid internship where he could build technical skills. He now works with DiPinto Guitars part-time and is a guitar tech for a popular band.

Again, we know that the work it takes to make an impact is strenuous and complicated, and the pathway to "success" is not always a straight and positive line. And we are committed to the ever-evolving work, and we hope to inspire transparency so all stakeholders are in agreement and have a voice in how impact is defined and evaluated.

Wanting to make a difference, impact, and be impacted is wonderful. But, now, we must ask ourselves, are we willing and able to be patient and invested enough in the process of reaching that goal together?

If you have not done so, check out our most recent impact report! Featured in this report are measured outcomes and impact from our 2021/2022 program year.

You can find the report here.


Experiencing Donor Fatigue? Get Inspired by this RTTF Summer Recap

The first thing we think about when it comes to summer is graduation! Nothing kicks off the summer like celebrating the end of a 12+ year journey in pure triumph with all of your family, friends, and community around you. We know the journey isn't easy. You know the routine: Waking up at the crack of dawn, catching the school bus or public transportation, taking an hour-long ride or trek to school, making it to homeroom by 8:15am, and then having a full active day of English, algebra, calculus, history, etc. (I'm getting tired just thinking of it). And then, if you are lucky, have the opportunity to indulge in an after-school activity where you can breathe life into a skill of your choice, connect with a community of like-minded friends and learn life-long skills. You know, after-school programs like Rock to the Future! (Wink Wink)

That is why we are so proud of all of our graduating seniors! Did you know since we began our program, 100% of students from our MusiCore After School program have graduated high school and pursued college or trade school? It is phenomenal. We celebrate our students by giving them a scholarship and a MacBook to help them with their post-grad plans. It's also our way of simply saying we are proud of you. This year thanks to our supporters, we raised $10,000, and we gifted this to our 6 graduating seniors pursuing careers in psychology, music technology, computer sciences, HVAC, and more.


After celebrating a successful year and our graduating seniors, we moved briskly onto jumpstarting our summer camps – free to attend, plus breakfast, lunch, and transportation passes provided. Four weeks of a full-day camp feature instrument lessons (bass, guitar, drums, and keys), band practice, creative workshops, and more – like workshops with The Antiviolence Partnership of Philadelphia and Vote That Jawn. And get this, through a new partnership with Philadelphia Youth Network eligible students GOT PAID up to $1,000 when they completed creative skill development and career exposure opportunities such as writing a song, learning graphic design, producing a beat, or performing in their summer showcase! 

Developing pathways to professional and economic empowerment opportunities is critical because we recognize the communities we serve are in high-need areas. Some families we work with face financial hardships, making access to basic needs difficult, let alone access to high-quality music education programs. We envision that our students' money will help them with upcoming back to school school needs such as uniforms and supplies. But also imagine that the money they make can be enjoyed on the simple pleasures they want and will relieve a (very small) financial need for their parents. 


As I write this on a 106 degree day, drained by the summer heat, I am reminded of a term I recently learned: donor fatigue. Unfortunately, the reality is that some supporters grow tired of contributing to non-profits or charitable organizations after having done it for some time. I don't like that term, not because the condition may not exist, but when you have an organization that is dedicated to addressing inequity issues a community faces, we must realize there is no space or time to lean into your fatigue in a way that draws you away from an organization you believe in. That community cannot say “I'm fatigued by being under-resourced and ready to be... resourced.” Not without our help. Not without your help. 


We were able to gift our students scholarships because of you. We were able to offer free summer camps and give away free instruments because of you. We were able to pay our students because of you. We will be able to do that and more next year because of YOU!

So thank you in advance. And lean into all of the summer vacations you have coming your way. And then come back to join us this upcoming school year on our journey of creating impactful programs and changing the lives of the students we serve through music education. 

Also, don't forget to join us on August 28th at Manayunk Brewery for our Summer Social. We will reveal our impact report, go into more detail about our summer and previous school year, and also fill you in on the work we plan for this upcoming program year.  RSVP Here 

Happy Summer!


More programs, new partners – Summer 2022!

We have some incredible things happening this summer!

This is the first summer we are offering our in-person programs in Germantown! AND we have grown our summer camps to operate 4 full weeks (2 in Kensington, 2 in Germantown). Students learn guitar, bass, drums, piano, write original music with peers in a band, and create in the MakeLab.  Our summer programs now also include Ready for the Future, which includes guest speakers from Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, Vote that Jawn, and other lifeskill development opportunities.

Last summer, our CEO mentioned to a colleague in the OCF office how we wanted to provide paid workforce and skill development opportunities for our students. In the fall, she sent us an application for the Philadelphia Youth Network partnership. In early 2022, we were accepted as partners.

One year later, we have 55 teens receiving paid skill development opportunities in our music programs and will distribute $50,000+ to young people this summer. Students are learning responsibility, skills like sound production and graphic design, filling out and submitting a "time sheet", and so much more. The power of hard work and partnership bring a vision to reality!

We also excited to provide our exciting music programs for wonderful community partners! This summer, we are serving young people at:

Community partnership is the key to greater impact!


Showcase 2022 ROCKED!

More than 200 attendees attended our free YES 2022 (Year End Showcase) to celebrate our rockstar young people! This much needed opportunity for positive community connection featured 12 student bands performing original music, 2 choral ensembles, $5,000 and laptops awarded to our graduating students, and a community meal.

Thank to you to One Art Community Center, Founding Footsteps, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy for supporting this incredible event!

Here’s Why Fundraising Events Still MATTER!

Should you attend or shan’t you? That is the question many of us are pondering as invitations come in the mail and fill our inboxes, inviting us to support the organizations we so dutifully care about. When we gather for the ball, gala, or golf tournament, we not only come together to make a financial impact, but we widen the network of people who are aware of equity issues that exist in our backyards.


The pandemic impacts us all, but consider its impact on the communities already in need before the pandemic. The challenges these communities face have likely compounded, and they need us to come together more than ever. 


The creative and technological support that allowed virtual engagement to become a “thing” has offered unanticipated strengths: a safe opportunity for those to continue support, plus access for those who are not able to attend an event in-person to now join in on the fun. Hybrid and virtual events are here to stay.


And fundraising events matter! It matters when you have the opportunity to see the programming you care about inaction. It matters when you can connect with the organization’s leaders one-on-one. It matters for your voice and your “why” to be understood. And it matters to be able to connect with like-minded people and amplify your impact.

Your support matters to Rock to the Future. Every dollar received from ticket sales, silent auction purchases, sponsorships, and general donations are integral in keeping our programs free for our current students and allowing us to dream bigger and strengthen our programs and partnerships.

That is why this year, we are bringing our annual Music for All Ball back on March 25, 2022, both in-person and virtually. It will be a fantastic night filled with food, drinks, conversation, performances from Blues Legend Georgie Bonds, emceed by visionary Will Toms, and of course, featured performances from our Rock to the Future students.


Have a ball with us in-person at World Cafe Live or virtually to see why we are passionate, see our students in action, and support our mission. We have worked diligently to ensure a safe and memorable night for all who attend.

Now, when you ask yourselves, should you attend or shan’t you, we hope the answer is a resounding YES. Because your support and attending fundraising events, in-person or virtually, still MATTER for the communities we serve.

We look forward to seeing you there. 

To purchase your tickets for Rock to the Future’s annual Music for All Ball, please visit our event website.

The Most Impactful Gift You Can Give This Season

T’is the season to give, and as many of us begin our pursuit of gift buying, it is essential to remind ourselves of the impact of generosity.

Generosity has a boomerang effect. The initial action is to give something to someone else. Then, as a result, you make your recipient feel loved, seen, and valued. That, in turn, then makes you feel fulfilled. 

Generosity is a key to happiness and fulfillment. That’s why this season of giving is warm, friendly, with song and the smell of freshly baked cookies. Our collective acts of generosity trigger so much goodness – it truly becomes the most wonderful time of the year.

Your giving reminds those in need of the goodness of the world. When you use your generosity to make an impact and change lives, the boomerang effect you will receive may be so significant that it could knock you off your feet. 

At Rock to the Future, we provide free music, mentoring, and college/career readiness programs for Philadelphia youth who usually wouldn’t have access. Our students build skills that will live with them for a lifetime. We believe that the magic of music combined with the magic of the giving season will inspire youth to realize and attain their dreams.

We also believe the most impactful gift you can give this season is Giving the Gift of Music. When you donate to Rock to the Future, you become a part of a mission dedicated to providing opportunities for Philly youth to thrive and rock. Your gift lasts a lifetime by helping us provide free programs to enrich the lives of our current and future rockstars.

So give the most unique and impactful gift you can offer this season. Give the Gift of Music by donating below.

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” - Hamilton Wright Mabie.

Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion

We strive to achieve racial justice, social justice, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work and in the way we lead our lives. We have decided to take an inward look to ensure these values remain at the foundation of our organization and to further educate ourselves as we continue to grow. In 2021, students, team members, and board members led a 6-month selection process to find a facilitator to support us through this work. 

Rock to the Future is excited to select Keva White and VIP Community Services (https://vipcomserv.com/) to guide our continued journey towards equity, inclusion, and anti-racism.

Keva's unique background in social work and anti-racism has helped youth and family serving organizations throughout Baltimore, NYC, and Philadelphia. Over the coming year, we will assess what we do well and where we can improve, receive training opportunities for our board, staff, and students, and work together to achieve justice within our organization and the communities we serve. Thank you to The Douty Foundation for funding this opportunity!

We'll post updates on our website and social media as we continue to work with Keva. Please reach out to us if you have questions.

5 Ways to Help Keep Rock to the Future’s Music Programs Free for Philadelphia Youth

At Rock to the Future, we believe in the magic of music. We believe that learning music is not only a transformational journey for the artist, offering them essential tools to grow and express, but their journey is also transformational to the consumer, as the artist captures the emotions and experiences that we sometimes struggle to articulate. Most importantly, we believe music should be accessible to all!

Unfortunately, many children and teens in Philadelphia do not have access to music programs due to financial barriers. That's why Rock to the Future provides our innovative programs for free to all students. In addition, there are no auditions to join - we are many students' first music class!

The reason we can keep our music programs free is because of support from people like you. Your support helps us launch music, mentoring, and educational programs that have reached over 500 students over the last school year.

This year we are aiming to raise $50,000 for our Give the Gift of Music fundraiser!

Here are five ways to support our goal and help keep our music program free for Philadelphia youth:

  1. Help Raise Awareness: We are confident that when people become aware of our mission and programs, they will be eager to become involved in supporting the growth of Philadelphia's children. One of the best ways to help is to engage with our content by liking, sharing and commenting on Rock to the Future's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Linkedin pages. When you engage, you help us raise awareness because based on the algorithm of most social platforms and the content being on your page, our content will also be more likely to appear on pages of your friends and their friends! Even better, when you make a conscious decision to engage with our work, you will get an inside look at the moving stories of our rockstars!
  2. Donate an instrument: One of the best parts of our program is giving instruments to our students to keep! Your donated instruments help us provide students with take-home instruments to practice on, and our schools and program partners with instruments for our program spaces and music rooms. Learn more about how to donate an instrument today!
  3. Please donate to our Give the Gift of Music fundraiser and start your own Peer to peer fundraiser: Help us reach our goal of $50,000! Every dollar counts, and now we offer opportunities to increase your impact. The first is when you donate before December 31, 2021, we will match your donation up to $25,000. Choose this option and double your impact. Also, you can quickly start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign by using our Givebutter fundraising tool. With a single click, you will have the tools to share our Give the Gift of Music fundraiser directly with your network via text, email, and social media. Give the Gift of Music today!
  4. Host a special event fundraiser: Do you have a birthday, wedding, or other special event coming up? Instead of asking for gifts directly, ask your family and friends to support a cause you love by starting a fundraiser on behalf of Rock to the Future. Just direct them to our donate page or start a fundraiser on Facebook.
  5. Attend an upcoming Rock to the Future event - See our students rock out during their winter showcases or join us for our Music For All Ball. When you become directly involved with the work we do and see our Rock Stars live, we are confident you will want to continue to support the impact we make on Philadelphia youth. Plus, attending our events is an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded folks who have a passion for music, support Philadelphia's youth, or both. Visit our event page to stay up to date on our upcoming events.

Our supporters help keep our programs running! Will you join us to help meet our $50,000 fundraising goals to help keep our music programs free? To start today, choose one of the options above or contact our Donor Relations Coordinator at Christine@RocktotheFuture.org.

Learn, Grow, and Rock – measuring our impact

Rock to the Future is excited to share our supporter impact report for the 2020-2021 school year! This past year has been challenging and exciting in equal measure. Thanks to your support, we were able to reach more Philadelphia students than ever before with free music programs and academic help.

Read the full impact report to measure the impact you had for Philly students this year: Supporter Impact Report 2020-2021

Last school year, Rock to the Future's volunteers, team, and supporters helped 523 Philadelphia students to learn, grow, and rock! That's over 500 students who experienced the magic of learning music through our free and accessible programs - 75% of who would not otherwise had access to learn music. We worked with over 20 school and community partners to provide fun, enriching, and equitable music programs.

Our volunteers rock! Over the past school year, volunteers provided 336 hours of personalized, one-on-one academic support and instrument help. On top of that, 8 professional Philly musicians spent 98 hours writing and recording original songs with students in the Create with a Pro Musician class! Thank you to all the rockstar volunteers who helped Philly students to grow this year!

To help students learn from home, Rock to the Future gave students 244 instruments to keep - at no cost. Having an instrument at home is an important tool for growth and creative expression!

Taking the stage takes confidence. The value of music education lies not only in learning how to play, but in nurturing a performer who is willing to take the risk and step out on stage. Every year our students play live in front of their friends, family, and community - last school year, Rock to the Future students took part in 7 virtual performances.

We're so proud of out 2021 graduates! This past school year was tough, but our seniors pushed through, worked hard, and are on to the next stage. Once again, 100% of MusiCore After School graduates are pursuing post-secondary education, like college or trade school.

Better Day – Rock to the Future student performs at City Hall

stop killing us rally

5th grade Rock to the Future student Naheim aka Young Hill performed his original song Better Day at the Stop Killing Us rally and march in front of Philadelphia City Hall. His song is inspired by the effect that Coronavirus, police brutality, and gun violence have had on his community and mental health, and his hope and commitment to work for a brighter future for his community.

Read about Young Hill's performance and the Stop Killing Us rally and march on the Philadelphia Inquirer.

They take too many lives away
We can’t go outside and go play
This has been happening since May “Black Lives Matter,” we say

We see all these people dying
We see too many mommas crying
Love is what we’re finding
We’re gonna make it a better day
We’re gonna make it a better day

Look at our past — Corona is hard We’re wearing a mask
Stop the violence
We need to do it fast
We’re gonna make it a better day
We’re gonna make it a better day

"Better Day," Naheim aka Young Hill

In Rock to the Future's music programs, Philly students learn to express themselves and gain the confidence to perform on stage. Our fall programs are enrolling now - learn more and join us!