In a sector with constant challenges and where structured career paths are limited, a nonprofit mentor can help your personal development to put you on a path to success. According to SBA, 30 percent of new businesses may not survive past the first 24 months, and 50 percent of those may not make it past five years. However, 70 percent of mentored businesses survive longer than 5 years.
Whether they're helping you step up to become a leader, to offer encouragement or to help with a specific fundraising campaign, mentors are crucial and everyone should actively be looking for help from others. Here are some tips to help find a great mentor.
If you're reaching out to somebody to become your mentor, don't expect them to put all the work in. Have a specific goal or an issue you want to work through, 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.
Treat it as if you're applying for a job. Research the potential mentors, find out where they have worked, the positions they have filled, achievements, hobbies and anything of interest. This could be great opener, for example you may both be interested in surfing, or hiking, use this to have a mutual connection.
Once you have done your research, sell yourself and why you would be a great mentee. People want to help, but they want to know that the effort will be mutual.
If you're fortunate enough to have gone to a college with a good alumni network, try and target somebody who is a fellow alum. Not only a good resource, but it could also increase the chance of the mentor wanting to work with you. LinkedIn is great for this, use search tools to find somebody whose professional career you aspire to and reach out.
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.
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.
Additionally, join associations such as the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Sites like this can be a very useful tool if you lack to connections and network.
You may have made initial contact online, or met briefly at a networking event, now find out if you could work together. By taking them for coffee it shows you have a genuine interest in being mentored and allows you to talk in depth about what you're trying to achieve together. Plus, coffee is great!
Don't worry about hearing a no, often potential mentors may not have the time at the moment, or perhaps they won't be a good fit to help your career development. Regardless, keep networking, and keep emailing potential mentors.
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.