Your members have so much to offer each other — intentionally connecting those who want to learn and those who want to teach is a great way to provide value for your members.
At The Community Club, the long-running mentorship program is a pillar of the community offering. “It was one of the first things I wanted to build because I knew many community builders, myself included, had a difficult time finding mentors,” says Chief Community Officer Alex Angel. “I approached it as an experiment, and launched with a very minimal offering to see what would be most beneficial to mentors and mentees alike.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The program has been a roaring success, beloved by both mentors and mentees. 80% of Club’s mentors have mentored multiple cohorts, and more than 50% of all mentees are active within the community.
The program, which is open to non-members too, actually serves as an entry point into the community ecosystem. “People find the program and join it before they join our community itself,” Alex says. “Almost every single person who has gone through the program joins our community during or afterward and is a regular contributor to the community in some capacity.”
According to Alex, there are two main factors that have made the program so successful. Firstly, the incredible passion of the folks involved. “Mentees have found such value in the conversations they’ve had with their mentors that it’s motivated them and left them feeling empowered enough to become mentors themselves,” she says. “And because there’s so much to learn in the world of community, even people who have been in the industry for a decade or longer find value in being paired with a mentor.”
Secondly, constantly iterating on the program as it grew. “Each quarter we try out slightly different matching techniques, resources, and related programming to see what makes the program even more valuable to participants.”
Before doing anything, understand why you’re creating this program. What are people looking for, and what needs should be met? “Even though I launched our program pretty quickly, I still took the time to do some interviews and research,” Alex says.
Whip up a basic outline of the program so you can speak to specifics that potential mentors or mentees might enquire about. What are the expectations for participation (duration, rules, meeting cadence, etc.)?
Find a few people who you think would be ideal mentors, share your vision with them, and see if they’ll join the program. With some initial mentors to point to, it will be easier to get people to sign up as mentees.
You can either hand-pick participants or open up applications, whichever works best for you and your community. “Be sure to understand what each person is interested in learning about or contributing!” Alex adds.
Thoughtfully match your mentors and mentees, and facilitate the introductions. Don’t forget to keep time zones and interests in mind when you do.
Work collaboratively with participants to understand what’s working and what’s not, and decide if changes need to be made in flight or if they can wait until the next group of participants.