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3 Pro Tips for Developing a Youth Mentoring Program

By December 20, 2017

By Alastair Higginbottom, UK Volunteering Maestro,

“Um, Hi! I am Alastair, are you John? I am going to be your mentor for the next little while…. err…What do you want to talk about?”

Youth mentoring progams
I am forced to wonder how many doomed mentoring relationships start this way? How many experienced professionals left to think they “don’t do” mentoring? How many mentees left feeling unsupported? How many amazing outcomes for all – mentee, mentor, nonprofit and jobs market are left unrealised?

As a professional working in the CSR sector, I love helping charities to be successful; I love to see people use nonprofit programs to change their lives for the better; and I love to see the benefits, of being a successful mentor, in action.

So how can nonprofits avoid the pitfalls of the failed mentorship program? As far as I can tell, it comes to three things. Some of these will require more management and more resources to make work or may impact on numbers of mentors, but ultimately you will have more successful mentoring pairings and better outcomes.

1. Be Selective in your Partnerships and Perfect Your Matching

Recruitment: Having receptive mentees and engaged mentors is the most important thing to focus on. Even if it means the scale of your program is smaller – remember – quality over quantity. Ask yourself – am I working with the right corporate partner? Does this partnership give me access to the right potential mentors that can support the mentees? Is this partner in this WITH me?

Matching: There are many ways to get mentees and mentors paired up – rarely is arbitrary allocation the best option – mentoring is a deeply personal thing that requires rapport and trust on both sides. Speed matching is a great option.

Introduction: No matter how you pair mentor and mentee – you should have some kind of kick-off – no partnership should be meeting the first time in a mentoring session.

2. Prepare and Inform Participants

Manage expectations: Mentors and mentees will respond better to a program if they know why they are meeting – providing a bio of each party is a nice start! The program should have a context, a planned duration, an expected meeting cadence, clear objectives (even if it is something less tangible than ‘get a job’).

Baseline knowledge: It’s important that any baseline you as the expert will have is given to both parties. For example, if it’s a mentoring program to help get girls get into tech, you need to ensure both parties understand what the employment landscape looks like and the factors acting as barriers to inclusion.

3. Reporting on Progress and Impact

Framework – providing a platform for mentors and mentees to track meetings, outcomes, record questions and set tasks will keep everyone on track and make time together as valuable as possible. This doesn’t have to be digital – pen and paper are good tools.

Endpoint and reporting back – everyone likes to see progress and get recognition for their efforts, and closing events will give this. Corporates increasingly are asking nonprofits to report back on the impact of their engagement, be prepared to gather this information and disseminate it to stakeholders.

Whilst this list is not exhaustive; I believe that if you execute these points well, you will be on the way to success. The most important thing to keep in mind is the ‘WHY’ of what you are doing. Remember, the focus needs to be on the outcomes of the youth you work with, keeping this at the core will ensure you’re programs align to your mission.

Interested in discussing this topic more? Reach out to me via LinkedIn