Having a mentoring program at your association or chamber has clear member value. Not only can your mentors give back to an organization that’s helped them, but your mentees can learn from those who’ve been in their shoes before.
But there are inherent challenges that come with managing a mentoring program. While your association or chamber can set it up, the long-term success of those relationships depends heavily on the parties involved. You can pair two people together, but if those two people don’t maintain contact with each other - meet up regularly, keep in touch via email, etc. - there’s not too much you can really do.
And what’s unfortunate about that is when individuals aren’t pleased with how the relationship played out, they often blame the association or chamber.
So are you better off not offering a mentoring program? Not necessarily. Again, there’s GREAT member value there. But to overcome some of those long-term challenges, consider one of these two approaches:
Don’t try to pair every member (or even new member) with a mentor
Too often, organizations will try to encourage everyone to take advantage of their mentoring program. (After all, it IS a big member benefit, right?) Or, if not that, they’ll try to pair their newest members with a mentor as part of the new member onboarding process.
While those approaches are certainly admirable, they’re also a bit hard to execute long-term. A solution? Rather than trying to pair all members or all new members with a mentor, create a space for your members to pair themselves. For example, do you have an online social community for your members? If so, you could create a forum for interested mentors and mentees. They could then pair themselves, taking the burden of management off your association or chamber.
But the real advantage here is, since your members will have to seek out this forum (you would obviously publicize it, but they would have to login and post), it weeds out all the members who aren’t 100 percent into it. The members (both from the mentor and mentee side) who seek that channel out are going to be the ones who really want it, and because they really want it, they’re also more likely to follow through on their commitment.
Offer short-term mentoring opportunities
Another approach you could take to improve the overall success of your mentoring program is to offer short-term mentoring opportunities. A MAJOR reason mentoring relationships fizzle out is because the thought of maintaining them for years just seems impractical. Maybe a member wanted to and could be a mentor last year, but they recently got promoted (yay!) and can no longer give as much time as they had.
That’s understandable, so rather than your mentoring program be an ‘all or nothing,’ consider offering short-term mentoring opportunities instead. For example, you could add a mentoring component to your annual conference. You could pair interested members (“interested” being the key word) for that event only. Or you could host short, one-off events designed around the mentoring concept, entirely. Members would need to sign up in advance, but you could then pair the interested parties, and they could meet exclusively during that time. (Think of it like a Brain Date!) Once the event is over, that’s it. The two parties could choose to keep in touch if they’d like (same as they could and would with any other networking event), but the long-term commitment wouldn’t be required.
By offering short-term opportunities like that, you’re much more likely to see interest from your members on both the mentor and mentee side.
Want more tips for engaging members at your association or chamber (and thus, provide them with MORE value)? Check out our free guide below!