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The Father Factor


5 First Steps to Starting (or Growing) a Fatherhood Program

There’s an old saying about starting on a path to achieving an objective: just put one foot in front of the other. Sage advice to be sure, but it doesn’t tell you much about the direction in which you should head.  For all you know, it could lead you to walk off the edge of a cliff. If you want to start or grow a fatherhood program, it’s vital that you know what to do first so that you head in the right direction. 

1. Conduct a Needs and Assets Assessment of Your Community.  You need to understand the “fatherhood landscape” in your community—the rate of father absence, the gaps in services for fathers, the programs for fathers (and the kinds of fathers they serve), etc.—before you can select a group of fathers to serve or who could also benefit from the program you already offer.

2. Identify and Learn About the Kind(s) of Father(s) You Want to Serve or Should Expand to Serve. Programs for specific populations of fathers are often more effective than programs for all fathers. Your organization alone can’t possibly address all the needs of all fathers. Educate yourself and your colleagues about the unique needs of specific populations of fathers in your community who can benefit the most from your program.

Men in Class

3. Create or Select a Program that Matches Fathers’ Needs and Wants. After you know who you will serve (or expand to serve), create or select a program and provide complementary services and resources that will meet fathers’ needs and wants. NFI has evidence-based and research-based and proven curricula, programs, and workshops to reach all kinds of fathers. There is no reason for you to “reinvent the wheel.” To get a current list of curricula and more detailed information about our resources, visit our website at or call our national office.

4. Market and Promote Your Program. Marketing a program or service is the greatest challenge of all. It not only involves recruitment, it involves retention and creating a positive image of your program or service in the community to generate referrals. (To learn how to create an effective marketing effort, contact NFI to bring the “Social Marketing for Fatherhood Programs™” workshopto your organization.)

5. Evaluate Your Program. Just because you follow the first 4 steps doesn’t mean that you won’t veer off course. An evaluation is like a GPS—it tells you whether you’re headed in the right direction as you implement your program and helps you to correct your course if necessary. Moreover, evaluations are critically important for program credibility, accountability, improvement, sharing of best practices, and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent. You don’t need a complicated design to effectively evaluate your program. To help organizations with this step, NFI includes evaluation tools with many of its fatherhood programs.

Don’t waste time. Go ahead and put one foot in front of the other—just make sure to know in which direction you should take that first step. For more information on implementing these 5 steps, consider purchasing our how-to guide on starting a fatherhood program called “A Guide to Strengthening Fatherhood In Your Community: Moving From Inspiration to Implementation.” Download a sample below. 

  Download Your Free Sample

For direct assistance from NFI on how to implement a comprehensive model that includes these and other steps, contact us at to bring “The 7 Bright Spots to Designing Your Fatherhood Program™” workshop to your organization.

I have driven a Ford lately

Besides a house, a car is probably the biggest purchase you will make in your life. And one of the pivotal times in your life when you decide to buy a car is when you are going to have kids. You have to say sayonara to the awesome, but impractical sports car in favor of something that can carry several passengers, luggage, groceries, pets, sports equipment, etc.

For me, this decision came in June of last year. My wife was 2 months pregnant, and we had just brought home a puppy who would grow to become a 70-pound adult dog. My 2002 Ford Taurus was starting to show signs of age, and I wanted something that would allow me to simultaneously transport a car seat, a large animal, me, and my wife. Since I can’t put a dog in a trunk, I knew it was time for an SUV.

I had always liked the design of the Ford Edge, and I had a great experience with my workhorse Taurus. The research I did online revealed that the Edge had been recognized as one of "Best Cars for Families" in 2007 by AAA and Parents magazine. It earned this title for its safety features, the ease of car seat installation, the ample interior space, and other family-friendly features.

That was all I needed to see. I went over to the Ford dealership in early July and purchased my low mileage 2008 Ford Edge.

It was an immediate hit with the dog. He loved to hop in the rear cargo space and go for rides. And it was large enough for him to sleep comfortably in during our 6-hour drive to our vacation spot that year. During the vacation, we had the ability to carry beach chairs, umbrellas, and other beach equipment while my wife and I sat in the front and the dog lazed in the rear cargo space.

Then, six months later, our son was born. As advertised, the car seat was very easy to install, and I felt safe driving our baby around.

And it still appeals to my “guyness.” It looks cool, has great acceleration, and a good sound system. Overall, I am very happy with my purchase.

The irony is that Ford did this without ever marketing to me as a father. Think about what brands like Ford could accomplish if they intentionally target dads as consumers and sell them on the family-friendliness of their products. Most families are two-car families, which likely means that both mom and dad have “their car.” The decision to buy the Edge for family purposes was totally my decision.

The “dad market” is still largely untapped, but more and more brands are starting to see the wisdom of reaching out to fathers, who are increasingly making home purchasing decisions. There is a huge opportunity here for Ford and others to really own the dad space. I look forward to seeing it happen.

The Father Factor Blog > Where Fatherhood Leaders Go To Learn.

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