How the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Encourages Online Engagement with In-App Chat
The Boys & Girls Clubs launched a digital programming platform called MyFuture to encourage online engagement. Here’s why Stream was the right choice for the organization’s unique use case.
Challenge: The MyFuture website was created to provide a self-directed online portal to support the 4 million children and teens participating in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. A messaging functionality with easy-to-use moderation features and block lists was required to drive engagement and participation in the platform.
Result: The MyFuture platform now supports educational, creative, and entertaining live and on-demand events. With Stream Chat, moderators can effortlessly control the livestream chat settings and review comments flagged by the API’s robust content moderation to keep conversations safe and appropriate.
An Online Chat Solution for 4 Million Kids & Teens
Founded in 1906, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) provides after-school activities for over 4 million children and teens across the United States. The organization supports youths ages 6-18 from all walks of life. It aims to help teens prepare for the future through academic improvement, team sports, creative endeavors, avoiding risky behaviors, and engaging in their communities through mentorship and volunteering.
Each of BGCA’s 4,300 chapter Clubs serves as a hub for the community youths it serves. When the pandemic forced Clubs in North America to temporarily suspend in-person programs and activities, the BGCA executive team rallied to develop a self-directed educational and entertainment platform where students could socialize, participate in entertaining virtual events, share their creative work, and even get a headstart in school. The platform — called MyFuture — was so successful, BGCA continues to develop this online resource even after most Clubs have opened.
Here, Chase Turner, Senior Director of Youth Development Program Innovation, and London Reeves, Director of Program Innovation and Activation, share why the Boys & Girls Clubs required an in-app chat solution for MyFuture events, what value the Stream Chat API has provided to Boys & Girls Clubs members, and how they were able to integrate a best-in-class messaging feature with just a few developers.
Why MyFuture Needed In-App Chat
The MyFuture platform is a safe, inclusive, and kid-friendly online space that delivers educational, creative, and entertaining content. The site is comprised of events, pre-recorded videos, and educational modules and blurs the line between an edtech platform and a livestream event website. After an initial launch, it was clear that a chat solution was required — particularly for MyFuture’s live content. “We needed to have more engagement with our members,” explains Reeves. “An in-app chat solution helps kids feel like they’re participating in an event — not just watching an event.”
After evaluating several in-app messaging options, Reeves, Turner, and Dave Crusoe, the then Senior Director of Product Strategy, were drawn to the Stream Chat API primarily due to AI moderation features and the API’s flexibility. Additionally, ease of integration was a key reason why the Boys & Girls Clubs of America chose Stream, as they used an external contract developer to integrate the chat functionality because the organization has minimal in-house engineering resources.
The BGCA integrated in-app messaging using Stream’s Angular SDK and a customized UI.
Self-Directed Programming with Chat
Now, the BGCA has a high-performing in-app chat functionality that enables MyFuture live events to have audience participation and dynamism that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Maintaining a safe online space is paramount for Reeves and Turner. So they make ample use of Stream’s robust chat moderation features — particularly by leveraging pre-defined block lists that prevent offensive, toxic, vulgar, and spammy language from entering the public chat. “To further protect our Club members, we also customized our block list to prevent kids from including their Instagram handles in a chat by prohibiting the ‘@’ symbol,” explains Turner.
Already, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has launched innovative and fun virtual events for individuals at home to watch or for members to gather onsite to view together. For example, Stream recently powered in-platform messaging for a Virtual HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Battle of the Bands, which featured six university marching bands. During the event, chat participants from Clubs across the United States asked questions, shared their favorite band, and connected with other participants.
Other events using Stream Chat included a multi-series poetry course conducted by nationally recognized poet Joan “Lyric” Leslie, a guided creative program by illustrator and influencer Danielle Coke, and STEM-focused learning courses.
In the future, Reeves plans to launch “bigger and better” live events that have high-profile celebrities, athletes, and artists to drive even more viewership, and make a bigger impact. For instance, Reeves is currently planning an event in partnership with the NFL that will feature Dak Prescott from the Dallas Cowboys, Justin Simmons from the Denver Broncos, and even Jennifer King, the first black female NFL coach.
“We expect this event to really take off, and the chat functionality will certainly be utilized to drive engagement,” says Reeves.
“Youth will have the opportunity to log in during the live show, and we’ll specifically ask viewers to use the chat to participate in contests, ask questions, and win prizes,” explains Turner. “We anticipate some very large viewership numbers for this event and a lot of activity in the chat box.”
Using Stream Chat, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America was able to implement a sophisticated livestream chat solution with just a few contract developers.
Ready to see how in-app chat can spark engagement for your platform? Try Stream Chat for free by activating your free Chat trial.
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