Mentorship is the sharing of your expertise, experiences and advice with someone who does not have them. They are key to business success. Seventy-five percent of corporate managers believe mentorship was crucial to their own success.
Mentorship is less common in the nonprofit world, but there are ways to change that. For example, two advice-oriented groups — the Center for Nonprofit Development and the SCORE Mentors Group on LinkedIn — can link seasoned business and nonprofit professionals with those looking for mentoring.
Being a mentor can be good for your own career in addition to those of the people you mentor. It can be an experience in which you must reflect on your own experience. The best moves you made, the best tactics you employed, who your own best mentors were: All of these become occasions for reflection in ways they don’t when you simply thinking about day-to-day business.
So how do you become a rock star nonprofit mentor? Here are six ideas.
Work in Multiple Ways
Mentorships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are informal lunches or coffees, in which you’re asked specific questions. They’re one-time-only meetings. Others are formal worksite relationships where you and your mentee will meet once a week to discuss success in the organization.
Increasingly, organizations are offering reverse mentorships, where a younger person offers their skills in technology. The best mentors offer their experience and counsel in a variety of formats. Be flexible and willing to meet your mentees in a way that works best for both of you.
Find Out What Your Mentee Needs
The people you mentor may not all need the same thing. Some may need counseling on developing large projects. Others may need to know when career growth is best served by moving on. This is especially true in a sector where most employees stay at a job for less than five years. Other mentees may need to be introduced to someone in a field they need to know more about.
A good tactic is proactively asking what they feel they need, and going from there.
Provide Specific Advice
Specific examples and advice can be crucial to mentorship. If you’re asked how you developed relationships with the community, for example, be specific. Did you call and set up informal meetings? Did you make use of networking events? Was the road smooth, or did some organizations require a lot of wooing? Take the time to jot down tactics and events that were helpful to you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mention What Didn’t Work
As you’re making notes on what advice to include, you may remember some programs or tactics that were less than successful. Perhaps a community leader gave more money to a nonprofit with a previous relationship, making your attempt to connect with them a largely wasted effort. Frankly, that example can be invaluable to a mentee. What didn’t work is as valuable as what did.
Offer to Increase Their Network
One of the key benefits of mentorship, both for you and them, is a boost to networking. They come to know some of your contacts and you come to know some of theirs. While your advice and experience is invaluable, so are targeted meetings with other people.
If your mentee wants to know how to leverage #GivingTuesday, for example, and you know a development director who did so admirably, connect them.
Partner With Your Mentee, If Appropriate
Mentors are sometimes advised to contact a person whose projects they are interested in. If a mentee gets in touch for this reason, think through the best ways to benefit both them and you. Do you have an annual Walk-a-Thon that always needs volunteers? Could your mentee learn on-the-job by being in charge of recruitment? That spells win-win.
Being a mentor can be rewarding and benefit your own career and network. If you’re going to be a mentor, be a great one! The six steps above are a roadmap to being a rock star mentor.