Mentorship. No one will ever claim that it’s the sexiest or most exciting word, but you shouldn’t underestimate its power throughout the world.
If any part of society can appreciate the function of a great mentor, surely it’s the movie industry:
Any role played by Morgan Freeman.These timeless figures provide context, knowledge and guidance. And just as mentors play a critical role in the journeys of our favorite characters, they should be integral to the journey of your association. Here are 3 steps to lead you down a path of identifying and nurturing mentors to strengthen your association, its community and its cause.
Build a strong, safe community
Mentors can help boost member engagement. But how?
Mentorship is an indicator of involved, caring association members - but it doesn’t materialize out of thin air. Mentors and mentees alike need a reliable, safe place to interact, and it is the association’s job to pinpoint exactly what type of environment they require based on their members’ industry, lifestyle and needs.
Strong communities create space for frequent, personal interaction, which in turn increases the potential for an association to function at its peak and reach its goals. Basically, when your members are collaborating and sharing, everyone wins. And members feel more encouraged to get involved organically if they have a reliable space, whether that space is physical or digital.
This also begs the question of cause and effect - should you be focused on building a stronger community in hopes that mentoring relationships fall into place, or encouraging specific mentoring relationships in order to strengthen your community? You guessed it - it’s a complex waltz of working on both (more on that below). However, having a robust, comfortable community is certainly the baseline for mentorship and its magic to blossom.
Inspire influencers to join and step forward
This second step is no doubt on every association’s to-do list. But not enough associations have the end-game of encouraging mentorship in mind. So how can you attract new members with a background in leadership? You need to focus in on them using your content marketing strategy. Clearly identify the attributes of this potential member’s persona, and then ensure that everyone in a marketing role has that clear vision communicated to them. One way that many mentoring organizations achieve this is by angling it as a "call to service." They entice new members with the benefits of their community, but also tell them that they’ll have the opportunity to give back and share their knowledge with people who are rising in their field of interest.
In addition to inspiring new members to take on mentoring roles, you should also pinpoint current influencers that could be hiding in the woodwork or have never been given a chance to shine. Take a look at your members from a fresh perspective by brainstorming and reviewing if there could be untapped potential lurking in the crowd. Then, try to initiate that potential by asking them to step up and take on a mentoring role or assume a position of greater responsibility. Sparking just one revamped relationship with a current member can have exponential benefits for your entire association.
Create a culture of mentorship
Be the bridge, the catalyst, whichever metaphor you prefer. Sometimes, members need reminded that they are not there to solely have a relationship with the association and what it offers, but also to mix, learn and share with each other.
Take responsibility for thinking of ways to encourage real mentor relationships to spark up in your association. Then take actionable steps to get people face-to-face. Set up more local events that act as mixers to network and link up with a mentor. Or, at your next planned event, add some flavor by setting members up in pairs or smaller groups (small is the key) for the first 10 minutes to take part in an icebreaker. You can find some great ideas here. Icebreakers aren’t anything new, but you can get the most out of them from a mentorship aspect by selectively matching people with one another. In order to do this effectively, knowing the expertise of your members is an important factor, so a long-time member, community manager or coordinator should definitely be involved in the setup.
These types of initiatives help to create a more ubiquitous culture of mentorship in your association. It ensures that people feel motivated and comfortable to share knowledge, and it is a healthy, self-sustaining ideal to have in any organization.
The meaning of a mentor is different for everyone. It is a deeply personal relationship defined by guidance, trust and leadership. For your association to be effective and have a profound impact in members lives, use these 3 steps to strengthen member interactions and champion their bonds. Great things are sure to follow.