Think back to your first job out of college. You were probably excited and wanted to learn everything.
Along the way, did you have someone who mentored you and helped you along in your profession? If so, you probably never forgot that relationship and the people who made an impact on your career (and possibly your life).
Many people want a mentoring relationship like this, but don’t pursue one because of barriers like feeling intimidated or not finding the right match.
Your association is the perfect place to connect members with the perfect mentor or mentee. In fact, Marketing General revealed that 48 percent of associations say participation in their mentoring program has increased—a clear indicator that members are seeking this benefit.
Why You Should Start a Mentoring Program
Your association’s goals might be to advance your industry and/or empower professionals within your industry. Starting a mentoring program is one of the best ways to accomplish those goals!
Research indicates that a lack of engagement or lack of return on investment are two of the major reasons why members leave associations (MGI). But introducing a key member benefit like mentorship can help you engage your members throughout their member journey and increase renewals. We've got five tips to help you be successful in starting a mentoring program.
- Create a Framework
- Get Buy-In from Leadership
- Use Automation to Find Potential Mentors
- Seek Feedback from Mentors and Mentees
- Keep an Eye Out for Program Promotors
5 Tips for Starting an Effective Mentoring Program
The best mentoring programs aren't designed in a day. To implement the most effective and valuable mentoring program possible, remember these five tips to ensure the needs of your organization, your mentors, and your mentees are taken care of.
1. Create a Framework
Although it’s the nitty-gritty part of the process, a solid framework will help your mentoring program hit the ground running. Start by answering essential questions. For example:
- How long will the program last?
- How often will mentors and mentees meet?
- How will participants meet?
The clearer the expectations are, the more productive mentor pairs’ time together will be. In addition, include a time limit in your program. This is important for keeping participation steady throughout the program.
You could establish different mentoring “tiers” to make sure every mentor can find something that works best for them (so they’re more likely to keep their commitment). For example, participants could choose monthly coaching, a one-time resume review, or a regular weekly meeting.
2. Get Buy-In from Leadership
Getting buy-in from your leadership isn’t the easiest part of designing a mentor program, but it’s essential for gaining support and funding. If you're having trouble convincing your department head or board, ensure they understand the importance of the program for your members. Clearly explain the value of mentoring, and how the program can help you meet association-wide goals.
Consider how you’ll define success for your mentoring program. You can track program-specific metrics (e.g. how many mentor-mentee pairs you had per session), and you can track business metrics (e.g. how your mentoring program affected retention).
Then, when it’s time to justify the program to leadership, these numbers will help prove your program’s funding is worth it, and that it’s making a difference to members, and to your association as a whole. Try to tie your program’s outcomes to your association’s overarching goals.
3. Use Automation to Find Potential Mentors
Finding mentors is key to a successful mentoring program. You’ll usually have more mentee requests than you will mentors, so you should secure more mentors than you think you need.
If you have an online community, you have a natural pool of engaged members you can choose from. Use your community’s segmenting and automated email capabilities to find members who are potential mentors (for example, they have been a member for over 5 years, participate 2-3 times a month in your community, lead ask-me-anything sessions, etc.) and invite them to participate.
“Find a good core group of mentors first (more than you think you're going to need). If you're estimating 50 people who want to be mentees, make sure you have at least 50 mentors available, and make sure those mentors are in place before your program launches. We did that by asking our mentors to register first before launching with our mentees.” – Barb Boggs, Events & Volunteer Relations Manager, Grant Professionals Association
For more about how your association can propel long-term growth by integrating more membership activities into an online community, watch our free on-demand webinar: How to Fuel Long-Term Member Engagement that Propels Growth.
4. Seek Feedback from Mentors and Mentees
Actively seek feedback from mentors and mentees about the program. What was helpful in the program, and what wasn't? Do they have any suggestions for how to improve it?
As participants leave the program, send them a survey to collect feedback. (Again, automate this to make it easier on yourself.) This should rate their satisfaction and give them an open-ended opportunity to provide feedback and questions. Whether you collect names is up to you – an anonymous survey may mean you get more honest feedback.
5. Keep an Eye Out for Program Promotors
When your first round of mentor-mentee pairs is underway, start thinking about the next round by considering who will help you promote it.
Develop a core group of ambassadors: During the planning process, you may have noticed a few mentors/mentees who seemed especially engaged or offered more feedback than others. These participants are great candidates to help you promote the mentoring program. Set up an automated campaign to ask them to recommend the mentoring program to other members.
Invite engaged members: To maintain participation, set up an automated campaign that goes out to members who meet a certain level of engagement and invite them to participate in the mentoring program. This can help you consistently get new people in and rotate former pairs out.
Start Achieving Your Association’s Goals with a Mentoring Program
With the right leadership and planning, your mentoring program can emerge as a top member benefit and help you meet association goals like recruitment, renewal, and engagement. But these tips are only helpful when they’re part of a broader strategy, so we outlined 11 steps that will walk you through starting a mentoring program at your association.
Check out our tip sheet: 11 Steps to Start a Successful Mentoring Program.
Editor's note: This post was originally published by Julie Dietz in July 2016 and has since been refreshed to make sure we're bringing you the latest and greatest.