In a sector where structured career paths are few and far between, a nonprofit mentor can help you and your organization carve a path towards professional success. While 80 percent of small businesses fail in the first year and a half of operation, 70 percent of mentored businesses stay in business for more than five years—double the success rate of businesses without mentoring.
Whether they provide a guiding hand, help you turn your ideas into reality, or offer words of wisdom regarding your business, mentors are an invaluable resource. Here are 10 quick tips to find the right nonprofit mentor for you.
1. Know What You Want
Before reaching out to a mentor, make sure you have clearly defined goals for what you want out of the relationship and how this individual can help amplify your career. This should be explicitly stated in your initial outreach, as precise and to the point as possible so they understand your goals from the start. Your potential mentor can then determine if they’d be the right fit for helping you achieve them.
2. Perfect Your Pitch
Just as you carefully craft the perfect email to donors, so too should you tailor your messaging for your potential nonprofit mentor. Prior to reaching out, take the time to research the individual. Find out information about their:
- Current job
- Previous roles
After you’ve done your due diligence in getting to know your potential mentor and defining your goals, now is the time to explain:
- Why you chose to reach out to them
- The type of relationship you’re trying to build with them
- The time commitment involved
- Anyone who is going to give their time for your benefit should be reassured that their time would be well-spent.
3. Seek Out Experience
Perhaps you’ve been in the sector for a few years. You’ve gotten enough job experience to understand the ins and outs of working for a nonprofit organization, but you could always benefit from surrounding yourself with people who have more experience.
An influential leader in your sector who has years of experience working with your cause could be the perfect candidate for a nonprofit mentor. A seasoned mentor in your industry can help you stay informed on best practices, keep up with industry trends, and help you overcome a problem they’ve already experienced.
4. Consider Multiple Nonprofit Mentors
Sometimes the traits or experience you are looking for can’t be found in one person. If this is the case, it may be better to seek out multiple mentors instead of limiting yourself to just one.
Finding a few different nonprofit mentors also provides different perspectives to your challenges. This can help you gain clarity and determine the best course of action moving forward.
5. Attend Networking Events
Networking events bring like-minded individuals together in an informal environment. These events are designed to connect you with new contacts in your industry and build meaningful relationships. Networking events also present the opportunity to meet key influencers and leaders in your field. Bust out your business cards and social skills and you may be pleasantly surprised by who you meet.
6. Buy Them a Coffee
You’ve clearly defined your goals, determined the time commitment you’re looking for, and done your research on your potential nonprofit mentor. Now is the time to determine if they will truly be the right fit. An email can help you gain a basic understanding of what a person might be like, but to truly gauge whether your partnership will be beneficial requires an in-person meet-up. Buy them a cup of coffee for a more relaxed environment, minimal time investment, and casual conversation.
7. Find Someone You Admire
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” says American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn. With this in mind, you should think about who you spend time with in both your personal and professional life. A mentor who exhibits the traits you idealize and admire can influence your own behavior in a positive way.
8. Take Advantage of Referrals
You may find you have no connections to your ideal nonprofit mentor. The best way to effectively reach someone outside of your network is to first see if they are connected through anyone in it. LinkedIn is a good tool to determine if you might already have a mutual acquaintance who can make an introduction. This can increase your chances of getting a response.
9. Look at Previous Mentors
Whether you realize it or not, this will not be the first mentor you’ve had in your life. If you take a look at the past, you’ll realize you have been shaped and influenced by the people who have surrounded you. Some of these influencers likely left a positive impact on your life.
Think back to those who’ve helped you get to where you are now in your career or caused you to take a risk in your professional life that resulted in positive change. You may have not even considered these individuals as potential mentors you can continue to contact, yet they’re right in your back pocket.
10.Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Unfortunately, hearing “no” is an inevitable part of life. You hear it when you ask someone to attend an event, ask a donor to give, and apply for a grants. The same can hold true when you pursue a mentor. It is important not to feel discouraged by a “no” and focus on the positives instead.
Perhaps, your potential mentor may not have the time in their schedule to support your career goals right now but in the future they will. Alternately, maybe they truly aren’t the best fit for you but could recommend someone better for you to reach out to.
Finding a nonprofit mentor doesn’t have to be an arduous process. In fact, they may be right in front of you but you haven’t realized it yet. Whether you have a mentor in mind or not, these tips are a great place to start growing your career and forming a long-lasting professional relationship.