Core strategies to strengthen your non-profit with mentoring

The right non-profit training can empower your team to make progress toward your mission. Check out these key tips to develop valuable mentoring opportunities.

People learn best with hands-on training and relationships, and mentor programs allow you to harness the power of both. Training via mentorship allows you to develop a culture of learning from the get-go. Having a program in place will allow you to communicate expectations the moment someone joins your team.

Newcomers can go to trusted, knowledgeable individuals who have gone through similar experiences, helping them to navigate the non-profit world. 

Not only is a mentoring programme effective for newcomers, but those who volunteer to mentor can grow their own skills and visualise their impact on the non-profit. They’ll contribute to a collaborative environment, helping to position the organisation in a positive light internally and externally.

With a well-built programme, your non-profit can put its best foot forward and make powerful strides toward its mission. Before jumping headfirst into designing your mentorship programme, there are a few vital steps that will help develop engaging, valuable learning experiences. 

Determine the type of training you need

First things first, you need to define who needs to be mentored and what skills need to be taught. This will serve as a solid foundation, helping you choose the right participants and format for your programme.

Who needs to be trained

Everyone needs to understand the non-profit’s history and mission. After all, your cause is what binds everyone together. However, it’s also important to provide role-specific advice to help individuals carry out their responsibilities effectively. The three types of people who would benefit from role-specific mentoring include:

  1. Board members. Board members support your non-profit’s strategic direction and help assure a revenue stream. However, they might lack non-profit-specific experience, which they’ll need to make high-level decisions.

  2. Volunteers. These individuals can bring vocational and interpersonal skills. Though, they might lack the strategic training necessary to put those skills to use in a non-profit environment.

  3. Staff members. Non-profits attract a variety of employees with a range of skills. Staff may need more extensive mentoring, or they may already possess valuable skills that can be repurposed with guidance from someone who has experience in the role.

Knowing who needs mentoring to fulfill expectations is a solid first step for any organisation. Whether it’s a volunteer completing light office work, a board member making programmatic decisions, or a staff member reaching out to sponsors, each position needs the expertise that mentoring brings.

With a well-built programme, your non-profit can put its best foot forward and make powerful strides toward its mission.

What gaps need to be filled

Before moving forward, you’ll need to determine the areas in which these individuals need guidance. Perhaps mentees need help developing soft skills, which are non-technical abilities like collaboration, time management, and problem-solving. 

For example, if board members aren’t hearing each other out, it can lead to a tense boardroom, inadvertently impacting board engagement. They may benefit from hearing from someone who’s been in their shoes, teaching them the value of active listening and teamwork. 

On the other hand, maybe there needs to be a heavier focus on hard skills. Perhaps your staff needs help developing fundraising strategies or learning how to use your technology. A mentor who’s navigated the landscape before can help explain processes in an understandable way.

The point is that every non-profit has different gaps that need to be filled. Defining these shortcomings ahead of time will help you determine what type of mentoring you need so you can select the best process moving forward.


Pick the right model

After determining your participants and their knowledge gaps, define how you’ll assign mentors and mentees. There are several approaches you can take, and three of the most common mentorship models include:

  • One-on-one mentoring: This is the most traditional type of mentoring. A one-on-one model requires that new individuals are paired with a senior mentor. These pairings can be preassigned or self-selected by the mentee.

  • Group mentorship: This model requires a mentor to work with multiple mentees at once. The group meets on a regular basis to discuss various topics. While this is an effective choice for non-profits with limited resources, it lacks the personal relationship that most people prefer in mentoring.

  • Executive mentoring: This top-down approach requires senior leaders at the organisation to mentor upcoming leaders. This is often used as a succession planning tool. For instance, this guide to board chairs indicates that the chair should mentor their successor to improve strategic decision-making skills. This “ensures board continuity and smooth transition toward a strong leadership team.”

There are other types of mentoring that you can offer, such as those from third-party consultants or course-based mentoring. In any case, the model you select depends entirely on your team’s preferences and needs.

Offer digital mentoring

Once you’ve selected the right model, consider how mentoring will be conducted. Currently, organisations have shifted to virtual learning opportunities to account for social distancing. Non-profit Leadership Alliance indicates that online training is the most convenient and flexible option. It allows everyone to connect and learn wherever they are, whenever it’s most convenient.

While this is effective for an all-remote working environment, it’s also beneficial when you have a mentor that possesses the exact insight to help someone but isn’t available for consistent in-person mentoring.

With distance mentoring, you’ll need to provide several points of engagement, like email and phone calls. The relationship will progress further with regular face-to-face interaction, so incorporate video chats to provide much-needed face time.

Mentoring is a valuable opportunity for any non-profit, but effective mentoring looks different for each one. Putting forth a well-built mentorship program will benefit the entire organisation. While newcomers will receive that much-needed hands-on training and relationship building, mentors will enjoy contributing to the non-profit’s success. Good luck!


About the author

Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a non-profit board management software provider.



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