Many mentoring programs have expressed that recruitment efforts took more energy and time than they expected. The best way to avoid recruitment difficulties is to assess your community, make a plan and start the process as early as possible. Don’t simply wait for responses to your media, but be proactive by promoting to volunteer-rich locations such as a university social work class.
When recruiting mentors, it is important to consider who you are targeting to be involved in your program and how they might best be engaged in a mentoring opportunity. Knowing who your potential mentors are and what type of mentors you want for your program will modify your recruitment strategy. Recruitment should not be a one-time activity. Since mentors’ lives can change and circumstances can lead to early relationship closure, it is important to maintain ongoing communication with the community about the ongoing opportunity to get involved. Some organizations have found it helpful to have a small reserve of ready-trained and screened mentors that take on smaller volunteer roles until a more formal mentor position becomes available.
There are important considerations when recruiting volunteer mentors for a girls group mentoring program. Group mentoring programs have been shown to attract volunteer mentor applicants who might be uncomfortable with the level of intimacy and commitment needed for one-to-one matches. However, group mentoring also requires mentors who have the confidence and experience to navigate and facilitate a group setting. Group mentoring is unique in that mentors have to manage relationships with and between several mentees, and often with other mentors as well. The characteristics required in a group mentor go beyond proficiency in a specific activity such as a sport or craft.
A coordinated and planned approach to recruitment will be the most successful. The following list will guide you in creating your Mentor Recruitment Plan. Using the questions, considerations and examples below, complete your own Mentor Recruitment Plan using the template located in the Additional Resources of this section.
Recruitment Questions, Considerations & Examples
“A mentor is a woman role model from the community. A ‘role model’ is someone whom girls can admire and look up to because she leads a good life … A mentor can be almost anyone—mother, young woman, religious leader, community leader or professional woman in any field. A mentor has real concern for the young women in the community. She builds trust. She speaks wisely and listens closely. She plans mentoring sessions and activities. A mentor is willing to do what she can to help girls succeed. A mentor inspires girls to do their best and helps them to succeed.”
- AED Centre for Gender Equity (2009)
Who are you targeting to be a mentor?
- Will your program engage youth, university or college students, professionals, corporate sector employees and/or seniors as mentors?
What attributes will your mentors possess?
- Take time to list and prioritize the most important attributes for mentors in your program. This should reflect the girls you work with and the uniqueness of the community you are working within. For example, you may want mentors who have demonstrated consistency, the ability to connect with others and specifically young people, those who take on a strength-based approach or those who will fulfill the commitment of the program. Engaging in targeted recruitment will ensure that your program engages the right mentors. Depending on the population of girls you work with, you may prioritize other skills sets such as conflict management, knowledge of behavioural disorders or experience living in a vulnerable neighbourhood.
What are the common motivations of your target mentor group?
- Consider key motivations: What will your mentors receive from the experience? What kind of impact can they have on girls and their communities? What would be appealing to attract the participation of your desired mentor pool? For example, high school students may be looking for volunteer hours whereas university students may be interested in taking on more responsibility to gain professional development. Consider why you’re running this program and how you can best express that to others and get them excited too. Passion and excitement are contagious!
What are the common constraints of your target mentor group?
- Ensuring the program is accessible for your desired mentors is critical, so consider key constraints. Among them, scheduling needs should be considered. For example, university students are not typically available during exam time and often live in a different location during summer months. Similarly, corporate sector employees may not be available during the day or conversely, may have to balance in work commitments if their mentor meetings take place during work.
How will you recruit mentors?
- Consider engaging in both formal and casual tactics. For example, presentations to groups of potential mentors about your program, as well as more casual one-on-one conversations. Some other tactics to consider: Advertisements or press releases (in local newspapers, community or school newsletters, flyers, e-bulletins, posters in community and shopping centres, etc.); booths at community service fairs, shopping centres, community events, conferences or educational institutions; presentations to classes and/or staff meetings; and word of mouth (encourage those who are eager about the program to share about it).
- Utilize and ask for support from your program champions, such as board members, advisory committee members and/or community liaisons. Often, these individuals have strong networks of adults that they can tap into. Ask for their support in developing appropriate messaging for particular target groups and then work through their contacts to recruit mentors. Use common accessible and strength-based language in your recruitment materials. Consider including testimonials and/or statistics about the program or the other work you’ve done in the community. Ensure that you include a call to action and information about how potential mentors can get involved.
When will you recruit your mentors?
- Keep in mind that recruitment always takes longer than we can expect or plan for. Programs should build a timeline that includes deadlines for screening and training to ensure the program start date will stay intact. Work backwards to plan out your recruitment period and always build in buffer time. For example, if you are planning a program start date for September, it would not be unreasonable to start recruitment in June given the chaotic schedules in the July and August summer months. Provide yourself with enough time to recruit all of your mentors before proceeding to training. This will save you time and resources by hosting a combined, large group training as opposed to ad-hoc individual sessions.
Where will your recruitment efforts take place?
- High Schools, universities & colleges: Depending on your target mentors, school-based recruitment can include advertising to the general public or involve more strategic engagement of prospective mentors within a specific area of study or with a specific skills set as identified by school personnel. In order to work effectively within schools, it is useful to access and develop a relationship with a champion in that school whether it be a teacher, guidance counsellor or administrator. Cultivating a strong, strategic relationship with a school representative (or two) can often allow for more internal movement and more directed recruitment than generally promoting your program widely.
Research by Deloitte has suggested that there’s a powerful link between frequent participation in workplace volunteer activities and several measures of employee engagement that, in turn, contribute to employees’ perceptions of positive corporate culture.
- Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey (2011)
- Corporations, businesses & government offices: Many employers will support their employees to give back to the community, whether that be by distributing information about opportunities, allowing staff to alter their work schedule to accommodate volunteer activities, allowing employees paid time off to volunteer or by matching employee volunteer hours with a financial donation to the local organization. When recruiting mentors, it can be useful to target and approach a specific staff person in the corporation/business/government office to share information on the value of mentoring and the impact on work culture. It is ideal to have a preexisting relationship with the staff person and you are encouraged to do this through your existing networks and contacts.
- Community locations (e.g. shopping centres), events (e.g. fairs, pancakes breakfasts) & conferences: These locations typically involve widespread, public promotion through posters, signs, in-person promotion, advertising through booths and general networking.
Who will be doing the recruitment?
- Will this be the responsibility of staff? How much time and labour will be required of them? How can you utilize volunteer resources to support this process? For example, could a staff member and an experienced volunteer champion with your organization work together at a booth or presentation?
Sample Volunteer Mentor Job Description
For distribution as necessary, create a Volunteer Mentor Job Description to give potential mentors additional information about your program and what would be expected of them. Equip potential mentors with the information they need about your program to make an informed decision about their involvement. This will ensure that mentors are able to fulfill the commitment you ask of them. Organize the Volunteer Mentor Job Description in an accessible and easy to follow format.
For example, a Volunteer Mentor Job Description can include:
- The key activities, tasks and responsibilities expected of mentors.
- A defined time commitment and frequency of meetings.
- Expectations of general conduct (for example: positive role modelling, investment in the girls and the program, reliability and communication with program staff).
- Events that mentors are expected to attend, such as orientation, training, banquets and/or retreats.
- Important program rules (these will be very program-specific, but could include restrictions on contact between mentors and girls outside of scheduled meetings, non-tolerance for discrimination against girls, process for closing or terminating a mentoring relationship).
- Qualifications (for example: strong listening skills, sensitivity to differences among girls, non-judgmental attitude).
- Information on next steps and how they can get involved in the program.
- It can also be helpful to distinguish what a mentor is NOT. Consider listing out qualities that better suit a staff person or general volunteer.
The Benefits of Mentoring
Mentoring has great benefits to the young person being mentored, but mentors also benefit from the experience of mentoring. Keep this in mind as you are recruiting volunteers! Mentors in Canadian Women’s Foundation's Girls’ Fund (2014) programs shared that the experience of mentoring a girl provided them with:
- A way to give back to the community
- Affirmation of their knowledge and expertise
- A sense of hope for future generations
- A way to stay on track with their own healing/goals
- A way to practice their skills and/or get experience towards a future career
- Increased self-esteem
- A way to connect to the community and contribute
- Lessons in becoming more patient with their own daughters
- A boost to their spirits and increased happiness
Your mentor recruitment messages should highlight what the mentor will receive from the experience, including training, support and other benefits listed above.