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2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Dads Make A Difference

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Family Counseling, Leadership Development, Youth Community Service Clubs

Mission: Dads Make a Difference (DMAD) addresses two issues that significantly impact the financial stability and self-reliance of families – absent fathers and too-early parenting. The value of healthy fatherhood is increasingly evident, with research, public policy, and communities all acknowledging the need for children to experience positive relationships with both men and women. Healthy fatherhood complements and supports healthy motherhood. Children benefit from the wealth of each parent's life experiences, different styles, and approaches to dealing with life. Yet looking at male socialization, we often see a scarcity of healthy adult male role models for boys and a lack of education about what it means to grow up to become a positive man and father. In many ways, our culture fails to provide boys and men sufficient direction and support in order for them to define and adopt healthy expressions of masculinity and fatherhood. Prior to becoming dads, young men often do not give a great deal of thought or attention to whether they would like to have children, how many, and what they want their families to look like. As a result, they don’t engage in conversations about family formation and planning. Young men need the ability to be partners in conversations about pregnancy prevention and family planning, an important aspect of their development and important to their long-term success.

Results: DMAD builds life skills so youth are prepared to think critically about healthy relationships, becoming sexually active, and the consequences of parenting too soon. Too-early parenting and absent fathers are identified risk factors for poverty. Youth are educated about the emotional, physical, and financial responsibilities of having children. Educated youth are more likely to make mature decisions about relationships, take personal responsibility for life choices including their readiness to parent, and understand how children benefit from father involvement and co-parenting. As DMAD youth transition to adulthood, their communities are strengthened because they are better equipped to make intentional choices about creating families. DMAD works at the most basic level to empower youth to be self-sufficient and reach their full potential by engaging teens in leadership roles and as the messengers to younger youth. DMAD works diligently on its outreach to youth of color as they are affected disproportionately by too-early pregnancy and by poverty. Having the important conversation about when to have a child and who to have that child with is not easy. DMAD was developed to help young people consider the very important decision about when to become a parent, to include young men in the conversation, and to help young women recognize the importance of a father to their future child. From October 1994 through April 2016, DMAD trained 3,095 teen peer educators from 170 schools and community agencies across the state. These teens in turn taught the curriculum to about 79,000 middle school-age youth in urban, suburban, and rural settings.

Target demographics: We train high school-age teens, boys and girls, to be peer educators of middle school-age youth using the DMAD curriculum in schools, community agencies, and faith-based groups.

Direct beneficiaries per year: About 500 youth

Geographic areas served: Minnesota statewide, about 70% metro and 30% greater MN. We have also done some national replication and have an international presence as well.

Programs: DMAD peer education promoting the positive involvement of fathers and educating youth about responsible parenting.

Community Stories

4 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Rating: 4

Dads Make a Difference promotes the positive involvement of fathers and educates youth about healthy relationships and responsible parenting. These messages remain as important to young people today as they were when DMAD was started in 1993, some 21 years ago, helping to build the capacity of young people to develop strong future families that can contribute to strong, vibrant communities.


Rating: 5

A former board member for 6 years, I witnessed first hand the impact this program had on teens and the education that is so badly needed for youth. I continue to contribute as a donor as I firmly believe in the education it represents and hope this education will become a part of every teens education in the future. Wish this education was available to me as a youth!!

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with DMAD since 2008 in a capacity of a board member. Since that time I've witnessed the powerful message that is brought to young adults throughout MN. I am privelaged to work with such a dynamic group to provide parenting education to both young men and young women in our community about the aspects of parenting and challenges of parenting too soon.

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Rating: 5

I have been a donor to Dad's Make a Difference because I believe in this great organization and the work it does. Everyone involved is passionate about their cause and it shows in the difference they make in the community. Young people's lives are touched in a way that empowers them to find their voice and make a difference in the lives of others.



Rating: 5

During the 2012 election campaigning, there was a strong focus on women's health, access to birth control and relationships. I participated in several debates with loved ones, co-workers, friends and community members in regards to these issues and often found myself frustrated by the lack of focus on prevention. I found myself wishing for more programming like Dads Make a Difference to engage our young people in conversations about what constitutes healthy relationships, what aspects of life emotionally, financially and physically are so important to have in place before bringing a child into the world and how to make informed, planned decisions around beginning families so those children and their communities are stronger and healthier as an end result. Dads Make a Difference celebrates all families who are raising children in today's society and focuses on personal choice and control in relationships and parenting. I fully believe if there were more options for Dads Make a Difference to be consistently taught in all high schools and middle schools there would be a reduction in teen parenting, young people accessing or needing welfare and divorces as well as an increase in high school graduation rates, effective co-parenting amongst parents and healthier children. Dads Make a Difference is a program that has demonstrated effectiveness through evaluation and years of positively impacting anyone who participates and I will continue to support this program as it moves forward.

Previous Stories

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I first heard about Dads Make a Difference from a peer in college. She was trainer for the training being held that weekend and from the moment she named the program I wanted to know more. My dad was the biggest positive influence in my life so I wanted in on this opportunity to create more awareness of the positive impact fathers can have on their children's lives. I had no idea the impact this program would have on my life. Dads Make a Difference disseminates information about the positive roles of fathers in families, the importance of waiting to parent until a person is emotionally, financially and physically ready, and making healthy choices as an individual to create the future one wants. From the evidence-based peer teaching model and curriculum, to the Cadillac-version of trainings, down to each member of the DMAD family, this program strives to stay relevant, accurate and engaging for young people in all communities. The curriculum is updated regularly with current statistics, updated or new activities which match information to real life situations and new information like a focus on healthy relationships, or a new type of family that should be recognized. The trainers are offered staff development each year which highlights important social issues impacting communities and the young people DMAD serves. Jan Hayne, working as a staff of one, believes in the mission and the young people she entrusts to carry it forward each year which gives her the energy to push forward alone, always searching for more funders to recognize the wealth embedded in this organization. For the schools and communities who have chosen to use this curriculum year after year since its inception, they have seen the positive impact young people can have when they are given accurate information and encouraged to share it with others. For the individuals who have chosen to remain engaged throughout the years to volunteer as trainers, interns, board members and teen teachers, they have felt the incredible impact of a shift in mindset to consider the possibilities of a society where fathers are positively invested in their children’s lives. For me, I’ve had young people tell me they are choosing to delay being sexually active until they are ready to parent, several young men I taught went on to establish paternity and become involved in their own children’s lives and I continue to honor my dad’s role in my life each time I share about my experience with DMAD. Dads Make a Difference truly is a GREAT non-profit!