Mentorship can be a key component in fostering diverse associations and leaders. As seasoned aid administrators look down their bench, many recognize that the future of the profession requires them to be involved in mentoring less experienced professionals.
There are two basic types of mentors - those found through formal programs, and those formed via organic relationships. In either configuration, association leaders cite among the biggest challenges: a.) encouraging time-strapped professionals to make room in their busy schedules for regular meetings with a mentee, and b.) maintaining the mentor/mentee relationship into the future, as participation tends to drop off over time.
Formal mentorship will be a key part of NASFAA's Diversity Leadership Program - and in the past various regions and states have also developed mentoring programs.
Mentorship software provider Chronus offers best practice tips for designing a successful mentorship program, paraphrased here:
Determine the goals for your program, and understand how they impact the mentor-mentee relationship. Goals could be to a.) facilitate a conversation to increase awareness about diversity and inclusion issues and b.) get a diverse group of individuals involved in their state/regional associations - and to encourage and support these individuals as they move up to leadership roles.
Establish a committee to determine the goals of the program, create the publicity initiatives for the program, set up initial contacts, etc.
For the program to be successful, you have to sell the benefits of the program to both prospective mentors and prospective mentees.
Mentors may be driven by their desire to bring along others who may be future leaders of the profession. For their part, mentees must see how the mentoring relationship will benefit them. So the recruitment tools must clearly stipulate what each type of participant can potentially gain from the program.
Many times you will not know the applicants to your program, so you will have to rely on an application process that allows you to gather information about the individuals, and what they expect to gain from participation in the program. If their goals are different than the program intent, they will not be satisfied with the experience, and could undermine the goals of the program.
Mentors and mentees will need guidance as they begin their relationships. Establish clear rules for participants. Guidelines might specify:
Participant feedback - whether qualitative/anecdotal or via a more quantitative survey - can be a good indicator of program success. Once you've received the results of your program assessment, you then need to act on these results. Your mentoring committee then needs to propose updates and changes to the association who then decides whether to move forward with the enhancements to the program.
Outside of formal programs, informal mentorship can play an important role in building a diverse volunteer and leadership pipeline in your association. It can be daunting to reach out to someone you don't know well and ask that person to be your mentor. Lisa Quast, a writer for Forbes.com, offers tips for approaching an informal mentor, which are paraphrased here: