Each January, National Mentoring Month—sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health, The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR), and The Corporation for National and Community Service—provides an opportunity to raise awareness of and celebrate mentoring across the country. This year’s theme, Mentoring Works!, brings attention to the value of mentoring.

According to MENTOR, mentored youth miss less school, are more likely to go on to higher education, and tend to have more trusting and communicative relationships with their parents.

For communities that already have a mentoring program in place, this year’s theme is an opportunity to communicate the outcomes of mentoring and your mentoring program. Bringing attention to a program’s successes can help you build community partnerships, which can help sustain your program in the long term.

Successful mentoring programs involve much more than recruiting mentors and matching up mentors and mentees. Organizational capacity, staff training and support, office space, program management, evaluation, and so forth are just some of the needed resources to keep programs running. While funding dollars can get a program off the ground, building collaborations and partnerships with community organizations and individuals can help secure resources that will remain when funding ends

What kinds of benefits can mentoring programs gain from community partnerships? The Hamilton Fish Institute and the National Mentoring Center discuss several in their 2007 publication Sustainability Planning and Resource Development for Youth Mentoring Programs:

  • Opportunity to develop collaborative projects: Collaborative projects have the potential to address more issues in the community, from multiple perspectives. Collaborative projects may also appeal to local, state, and federal funders, which can help to diversify funding sources and reduce any sense of competition within the community.
  • Additional resources: Organizations or individuals in the community may volunteer physical space or professional services for your program, which gives people who wish to volunteer but are unable to commit the time for mentoring a way to support the program. Partners can help you reach out to the community regarding your program’s mission and needs.
  • Increased public awareness: More partnerships can mean more media coverage. For instance, if a partner is interviewed, he or she may take the opportunity to mention the other community organizations the partner works with. Partners may also agree to put each other’s names on their marketing or public information materials.
  • Influence: Becoming involved with other community organizations can increase understanding of who in the community may be good candidates to be on the mentoring program’s board of directors or on an advisory committee. Getting to know agency leaders in the community can be a great place to start. These people are experts in their field and are often well-connected—meaning they may be in a good position to advocate for the importance of mentoring programs to policymakers. 

A mentoring program in your community is a worthwhile investment. Building broad, supportive partnerships is essential to sustaining your mentoring program.    

For more on mentoring and community partnerships, please see:

Have you started a mentoring program in your community or organization? What challenges surprised you? What resources did you find most helpful? Please leave any comments or questions in the space below.

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