Volunteering has its own built-in rewards, but it is always nice to know your work is appreciated. Mentors in youth mentoring programs give their time, energy and knowledge to help prepare a better future for a child. Apart from the reason that every unselfish job deserves a thank-you, there are many incentives for showing your appreciation is a must. Mentors are a crucial component to the success of a mentoring program. You need mentors to have a program! A mentor who feels unappreciated or unsupported will not want to continue on in the program. Not only will your program lose a mentor, but so will a deserving child. Research shows that early match termination may be more damaging to the child. To some, it is just another adult walking out on them.
Mentors are also helpful to a mentoring program because they help with recruitment. Many mentoring programs get mentors because they have been referred by a friend or family member who is a mentor. When someone has a bad experience, they will tell more people than if they have a good one. You would rather want your mentor to tell a few people of a great experience than tell a lot of people about a bad one. Also, your support will help the mentors feel good about what they are doing and feel responsible for getting others involved in doing good work, too.
There are many ways to recognize your mentors’ good work. Thank you cards and letters are always a great start. Halfway through their commitment or usually around six months, send your mentors a card or note to thank them for their commitment to the program. If your program does not have a large amount of mentors, hand written notes show that you put your time and consideration to thank them. At the end of their commitment or after one year, give your mentors an appreciation certificate and small gift. Many mentoring programs hold recognition events at the completion of a one-year commitment. Many recognition events include dinner and an awards ceremony. Some programs pick and award a “Mentor of the Year.”
You can also recognize an outstanding mentor each month in a newsletter that is sent out to program participants or write to a local newspaper and have them do a story on one of the relationships in your program. Helping the program as well, you can have a mentor tell his or her story at a recruitment presentation or use a mentor to facilitate a training session.
To make mentors feel important, make sure to send them birthday cards and holiday cards with signatures from the program staff. You may also want to have mentees make their mentors cards for certain holidays, events or just because. An appreciation from their own mentee really helps the mentors see the impact they are making on the life of a child.
Besides recognition, you also want retention. To help keep your mentors in the program, you should make their experience as fun and stress-free as possible. In order for this to happen, your mentors must feel supported.
Always make sure that your mentors know you are there to help in any way possible. To better equip mentors with resources and knowledge to help their mentee, trainings are offered. Mentors will learn how to handle situations that may arise in the mentoring relationship and feel more prepared when they meet with their mentee. Responding to your mentors’ questions and concerns in a timely manner will also help them from getting frustrated.
Provide a list of ideas of activities mentors can do with their mentees. That way, they won’t feel the pressure of having to think of something fun to do. They can plan ahead of time. You may also want to hold events and activities through the program for mentors and mentees. This is a stress-free way for the mentors to hang out with their mentees because they do not have to do all the preparation for it.
You may also want to set up a support group for mentors. That way, mentors can meet other participants in the program and get ideas and support from each other. They can get advice from someone who knows what they are going through and has experienced it their self. For this support group, you can hold monthly meetings, create a phone chain and even have workshops with various speakers.
It is crucial for a program and its participants that a mentor feel appreciated, and there are endless opportunities to do this. Many mentoring programs do not have funding for extravagant gifts and parties, but a simple thank you is all that is needed. And thank you comes in the form of support and recognition.