5 Tips for Onboarding New Volunteer Mentors to Your Program

Posted by jmeyer on November 21, 2022

Every mentoring program has common elements but their uniqueness is important, but new mentors need to know about the specific history, policies, rules, and regulation of your program. It’s important for mentors to know about your program, not just mentoring as a whole—but what it means to be a mentor in our program.

A survey by Mentoring Central shows 83% of participating program staff report their program required mentors to complete a pre-match orientation session that includes an overview of their program and rules. While all mentoring programs are going to have rules around the safety of mentors and mentees, how each program communicates its unique rules is different for every program. It’s important to go over expectations for everyone involved in a match to ensure a safe and effective relationship. The best way for mentors, volunteers, staff, mentees, and parents or guardians to understand the boundaries of programs is through a comprehensive onboarding process that includes an orientation and trainings.

Importance of Onboarding Volunteer Mentors

Onboarding is critical to give mentors knowledge and expectations for your program. Essentially, this process is all about informing a mentor about your policies, regulations, the goal and vision of your program, and any other necessary details about the program. This will help mentors live out and support your mission within mentoring. Onboarding is the space between being accepted into a program and when mentors meet their mentee(s) for the first time. During the onboarding process, you, as a program, are orienting and training people. There is a notable difference between orientation and training. The purpose of orientation is to be clear on the specific requirements of the program. Training is more focused on how to complete the duties and role of a mentor — what mentoring is, and how to be effective and safe, and may not be specific to the program. Together, mentors learn how to implement the goals of the program in their mentoring relationships effectively. Some programs will do both training and orientation at the same time.

What Needs to Be Included in Onboarding

During the entire onboarding process, the mentor should learn about every policy, procedure, and expectation you have for them and be trained on how to best support their mentee. This can include, but is not limited to, time commitments, minimum and maximum number of meetings, how they are to communicate with everyone in the program, ethics training, and courses about mentoring basics and the specific area of the program’s focus (for example mentees affected by substance abuse).

5 Tips to Make Onboarding Smooth

Onboarding volunteers can be an overwhelming process, but focusing on five areas can help ensure a smooth process for both programs and volunteers alike.

  1. First, programs must figure out what policies and procedures they are putting in place. We suggest programs should have policies in advance for every topic and situation — from what could go wrong to what could go right and from the ridiculous to the sublime. Taking our free Risky Business course first can help define the rules, roles, responsibilities, and regulations within your organization. Here are a few examples of scenarios and topics programs need to have policies on
  1. Next, have a clear way to communicate these policies, procedures, and expectations to mentors before they meet mentees. During orientation and training, using something like an instructor-led course to go over these topics allow volunteers to ask questions, understand the program, and meet other folks involved.
  2. It is also a good idea to create a better sense of community by having mentors meet each other and other staff members.
  3. Next, conduct training using quality and research-informed ethics training programs and mentoring training. Ideally, mentors should be trained on what it means to be a mentor before they are onboarded, but some programs may prefer to onboard volunteers about the program itself first.
  4. Finally, check in with mentors after they have gone through orientation and training about whether they feel prepared and ready to meet their mentee.

Mentoring Central Helps Onboard Across the Nation

Mentoring Central has research-informed training for every mentor, mentee, parent, and staff member in your program. Our goal is to help mentoring programs across the nation develop safe, efficacious, and efficient programs. With the proper onboarding process, ethics training, and orientation, your program can support vulnerable youth in your area to help them become the best versions of themselves.

Our toolkit, Orientation to Your Mentoring Program Toolkit, comes with a facilitator’s manual so your program can tailor the important orientation process to fit your needs. This customizable tool can be edited specifically for your organization with slides for every safety, risk management, and ethics topic covered in MENTOR’s Elements of Effective Practice (EEPM).

Purchase our Orientation to Your Mentoring Program Toolkit.