Tips for Recruiting Committed Mentors to Your Program

Posted by eporter on January 19, 2024

Tips for Recruiting Committed Mentors to Your Program

Many mentoring programs have difficulty recruiting mentors to volunteer in their program and begin a mentoring relationship with a mentee. Program staff often report challenges to 1) recruiting a sufficient number of mentors to match the number of mentees enrolled in their program, 2) recruiting mentors who have similar interests to mentees, 3) recruiting mentors whose skills and motivations match the program’s goals, and 4) recruiting mentors who are committed to the mentoring relationship who will not leave the relationship prematurely. To address these recruitment challenges, we have outlined some tips to consider while recruiting mentors to volunteer in your mentoring program, so you can locate and enroll committed, trusting mentors to meet the unique needs of each of your mentees.

How to Recruit Mentors

There are a few effective methods for recruiting new mentors to a mentoring program.

1. The first thing we recommend you do is to ask your existing mentors if they are willing to assist you with recruitment efforts. This strategy allows your staff to utilize your organization’s existing connections and resources to find appropriate volunteers for your program. Mentors who are already involved in your program are likely well-versed in your program’s practices, benefits, and goals through their own experiences and trainings. Staff can speak with existing mentors to explain your program’s need for new mentors and share qualities to look for in potential volunteers.

Your mentors can contribute to your recruitment efforts in several ways:

Mentors can identify adults they know who may become effective mentors and then, share your program’s mentoring opportunities with them. This method of recruitment is direct and personal. It may help your program reach potential mentors that you may not be able to reach using other methods of recruitment, such as through postings on social media platforms or websites.

Your mentors can also share their personal experiences as a mentor with prospective volunteers. Stories of personal experiences may be inspiring to people who are unfamiliar with mentoring and can be an effective way to convey the benefits of and establish realistic expectations for mentoring.

If your program is considering using word-of-mouth as a recruitment strategy, it is important to provide mentors with recruitment resources or materials containing accurate information about your program, so experienced mentors can convey realistic expectations and be prepared to answer or redirect questions from potential volunteers.

An ancillary benefit of current mentors assisting in recruitment is that involvement in recruitment efforts may help prospective and existing mentors understand the diverse and important roles of mentors and the value they bring to your program. Being offered important roles in your mentoring program, beyond typical responsibilities as a mentor, may help existing mentors feel a sense of importance, belonging, and confidence. Feelings of importance and being valued can be a motivating factor for your mentors and can influence them to continue contributing to your program and their mentoring relationship, as well as to your recruitment efforts.

2. A second method of mentor recruitment is youth-initiated mentoring. This form of recruitment may be most suitable for programs serving older mentees, such as late adolescents, because it involves training mentees to identify and recruit their own mentors. A main benefit to this type of recruitment is that it promotes the development of relationship-building skills that mentees can use long term to build impactful relationships in their academic, career, or social lives. Youth-initiated mentoring requires thorough training for mentees with opportunities to build their capacity for finding a mentor in their environment. For example, the Connected Scholars program is Mentoring Central’s research-informed mentee training course designed to teach high school and college students the value of building their social capital, as well as the skills they need to network, build helping relationships, and locate and form meaningful, long-lasting connections with mentors.

3. A third effective method for recruiting mentors is developing and disseminating recruitment materials. Sharing flyers, posters, slides presentations, radio announcements, and/or social media posts may help potential mentors discover your program’s volunteer opportunities. In addition, repeatedly sharing recruitment materials on the same channels may boost your recruitment successes because adults are more likely to choose to volunteer if they have been notified of volunteer opportunities multiple times, rather than only once or twice.

Asking local corporations, Greek life alumni chapters, and faith-based organizations to share your recruitment materials; posting recruitment announcements on social media; sending announcements via email; and asking local libraries, colleges, youth centers, and afterschool programs to hang your program’s flyers on their bulletin boards are ways to spread the word about your program. If your program chooses to involve community groups or faith-based organizations in your recruitment efforts, it is prudent to ask participating organizations to emphasize voluntary participation in mentoring rather than “mandatory volunteering.” Volunteers may feel more motivated to stay involved in a mentoring program after joining if they volunteer of their own accord than if they feel pressured to volunteer. Emphasizing volunteer choice and freedom may support your program’s long-term mentor retention goals, in addition to your recruitment goals.

Optimizing Your Recruitment Efforts

Before crafting or disseminating marketing materials to recruit mentors, it is important to define your program’s recruitment goals, consider your target audience, and determine how to appeal to your target audience. For example, if your mentoring program aims to provide support to unique populations of youth, such as children impacted by opioids or children with an incarcerated caregiver, you likely want to recruit mentors who have background or expertise that may help them support these vulnerable youth.

After determining your target audience, you can choose the appropriate language and channel for your marketing materials to attract the subgroup of mentors you are looking for. For example, research has shown that mentors who are college students have higher rates of ending mentoring relationships early due to busy schedules and academic responsibilities. However, homeowners and married or cohabitating people are more likely to volunteer to mentor. By choosing to display marketing materials at local libraries or organizations near neighborhoods, rather than at colleges or universities, program staff may attract and retain more volunteer mentors. In addition, choosing to include language in your materials that is applicable and persuasive to your target audience, their goals, and their daily lives may boost recruitment.

Crafting Effective Recruitment Materials

When your program is in need of new mentors, it may be tempting to focus on recruiting as many mentors as possible, as quickly as possible. However, when crafting recruitment materials to disseminate, it is also important to consider your program’s long-term retention goals. When mentors choose to end a mentoring relationship early, mentees may feel abandoned or confused and experience negative impacts on their behavioral health. For this reason, your program should aim to recruit volunteers who are committed to a long-lasting, meaningful relationship, instead of aiming to recruit anyone who is willing to participate. The information you choose to include in your recruitment materials can impact the types of volunteers your program attracts. For example, using the phrase “mentoring is for anyone and everyone” may persuade individuals to volunteer even if they are not a good fit for your program, or it may limit your program’s ability to recruit mentors who have specific skills or experience that can help them serve unique populations of youth.

There are four main messages that your program should aim to communicate in recruitment materials: benefits, practices, challenges, and support associated with involvement in your program. Including each of these messages in your recruitment materials can help you realistically explain your program’s goals, intended outcomes, and expectations for mentors.

1. The benefits of becoming a mentor may be one of the most persuasive and motivating points to include in your recruitment materials. Brainstorming reasons why mentors may want to volunteer in your program and asking current mentors in your program why they enjoy mentoring may help you determine benefits to highlight in your materials. Examples of benefits associated with mentoring may include opportunities to form new connections, receive training, build skills, and make a difference in the lives of youth.

When communicating benefits of participating in your program, be sure to avoid exaggerating. Over-emphasizing benefits of mentoring to new volunteers may foster unrealistic expectations about mentoring, which can lead to mentor dissatisfaction and matches that end early.

2. New mentors and interested volunteers often have questions about expectations and responsibilities involved with participation. To help prospective volunteers understand what to expect from your program, you may consider including information about your program’s practices in your recruitment materials. For example, potential volunteers may be curious about where they are expected to meet with their mentee to determine commute times, or they may wonder if they will be expected to use personal expenses for match activities. Listing information about predicted time commitments, training requirements, and consistency of communication and participation for mentors may help interested volunteers determine if they are a good fit for your program. Since you will likely not be able to list most of your program practices in your recruitment materials, it may be helpful to list contact information for your program on flyers and communications so interested volunteers can contact your staff with questions about participation.

3. In order to set realistic expectations for mentoring, your program should be open about the challenges that are associated with being a mentor in your mentoring program. For example, you may need to communicate to potential volunteers that working with unique populations of youth, maintaining consistent contact with mentees and program staff, and maintaining boundaries with mentees and their families can be challenging for mentors. Setting these expectations early prevents mentors from being surprised and overwhelmed when challenges arise during the course of their participation in your program, which can lead to premature match endings.

4. Mentoring responsibilities and challenges may seem daunting for people who are unfamiliar with mentoring, and interested volunteers may feel unsure about their abilities to be a mentor. However, when prospective mentors understand that they will be supported by program staff when challenges arise, they may feel more comfortable volunteering. Communicating the support that mentors in your program receive from your program may boost prospective mentors’ confidence in their abilities to be a successful mentor. To do this, list the types of support mentors receive from your program in your recruitment materials, such as regular meetings with staff, resources and trainings, and program-hosted activities for matches.

Though setting realistic expectations for mentoring should be a main goal of your recruitment materials, mentoring is largely a positive experience for many matches. Mentoring is a practice rooted in uplifting, progress-driven ideas with the ultimate goal of providing rewarding experiences for matches. Therefore, the language you use and attitude you adopt when communicating to prospective mentors should be positive. Disseminating testimonials from mentors involved in your program or sharing photos of matches in your program doing activities together may be effective ways to communicate a positive message about mentoring. When speaking about your need for new mentors, your program should avoid language that conveys an urgent need for volunteers. Desperate language may make interested mentors question if and why your program is unable to retain volunteers or feel pressured to volunteer even if they are not a good fit for your program. By following these tips, your program may be able to recruit mentors that are committed to driving positive change in your program.

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