School Based: By becoming a partner you will place your program among those throughout the state that adhere to the highest standards of mentoring programs.
Workplace Based: Whether you make a financial contribution to help an existing mentoring program or you work with a local school or community organization to get your employees involved in mentoring, you are making a significant contribution to the success of today’s youth.
Community Based: Community-based mentoring programs can bring the benefits of mentoring to a broad cross-section of youth. Like some of the more well-known community-based mentoring programs, like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs, many programs of this type base their operations in specific geographic areas
Faith Based: Mentoring is often a natural extension of a faith community’s outreach efforts. Whether your program serves young members of your congregation or children in surrounding neighborhood, your faith community can make a real difference in the life of a child.
The following are important questions to consider when planning a mentoring program. If you are starting a mentoring program, you are making a positive step toward providing the children in your community access to positive mentoring relationships.
Maybe there are no mentoring opportunities for the children of your community. Your vision and dedication could bring mentoring to hundreds of children in your area. Or, maybe there are already a number of successful mentoring programs in operation. Just as you would before starting a business, know your market before starting a new mentoring program.
Our advice? Don’t re-create the wheel. If four quality mentoring programs already exist in your community of 5,000 people, creating a new program could just serve to reduce the volunteer pool for all the programs. Starting a new mentoring program is hard work -- you might make more of an impact by helping an existing program reach more children. You can often partner with an existing organization to bring mentoring to a new group of children.
Do you want to build a mentoring program based strictly on relationship building, where mentors serve as role models, build children’s confidence and self-esteem and help with career planning and goal setting? Or would you like to add an academic component to your program, where your mentors help their mentees with homework and focus on reaching certain academic targets such as higher grades or test scores? Identifying your program’s goals will help you determine which children to target and how to recruit mentors.
Note: Delaware’s students are fortunate to have the support of many school-based mentoring programs. But more children need help. If you work in a school that does not have a mentoring program, consider the benefits – higher grades, fewer dropouts, better attendance and improved behavior. Mentoring works!
Program measurement is easiest if it is built in from the start. Once you have determined your program’s focus, decide how you will measure the successes. If you are creating a program with an academic component, will you measure success by report card grades? Class rank? Standardized test scores? A relationship-based mentoring program can be even tougher to measure because you are looking at qualitative changes. Will you measure student attendance in school? Number of behavior referrals? Will you have mentors and students complete surveys before, during and after their relationship?
You will need to know who your mentoring program will serve. How many children do you want to serve? How old will the children be? If you are starting a faith-based mentoring program, will participants be limited to members of your place of worship? Will you target specific neighborhoods? Will you partner with a local school and help their students? Knowing your audience helps you to better structure your program.
How are you going to recruit mentors for your program? If your program is faith-based, perhaps your mentors will come from your congregation. A workplace-based mentoring program will draw from your company’s employees. If you are going to recruit mentors from the community at large, how will you let them know about your program? How will you screen volunteers when they arrive? Mentor recruitment should never be your first step when creating a mentoring program. Be sure you have a strong infrastructure in place – including answers to all the above questions – before you start looking for volunteers.
Hint: The best-organized programs start small and grow. Ten to 12 mentors is a comfortable number to start out with during your first year. You can grow from there depending on your community’s demand for mentoring and your pool of qualified mentors.
You have determined your program’s focus, know the children you will help and where to find mentors. Now you need to figure out the day-to-day operations of your mentoring program. Most importantly, how will you train your mentors? You should know that mentors working in Delaware’s public schools are eligible for free training from Creative Mentoring.
Where will the program be housed? Who will be available to answer questions from mentors and children? Beyond matching children and mentors, what services will you offer to support the mentoring relationship? The Delaware Mentoring Council has adopted a list of 10 BASIC STANDARDS that should be followed by all responsible mentoring programs.
School-based programs may have an advantage over other types of mentoring efforts because they are centered around an actual building. Space is always at a premium, especially during the school day. Investigate where your mentoring pairs could meet – it may be in an empty classroom, the corner of an empty cafeteria or in the auditorium.
Mentoring programs vary in intensity, from 30 minutes to one hour once a week. Think about how much time the children need – and how much time your mentors will be willing to commit. It might be difficult to find a mentor from the community who is willing to come to the school more than once a week. Take into account your school’s schedule and policy on releasing students from class. Your mentors might have to restrict their visits to recess or lunch hours, depending on the school’s policy.
In any program involving children, risk management is an issue. The Delaware Mentoring Council advises all mentoring programs to conduct a Delaware criminal background check on all volunteers. This background check will cost your program nothing but is invaluable in the peace of mind it provides. Also, all volunteers working in Delaware public schools are required to complete a tuberculosis screening form. Both the Delaware Criminal Background Screening Form and Delaware Department of Education Health Questionnaire for Volunteers are available on the Delaware Mentoring Council web site.
You should consider talking to an existing mentoring program about how they dealt with liability issues when setting up their program. The Delaware Mentoring Council can point you to risk-management resources that will help you get your program started safely.
Now that you've dealt with the logistics of establishing a mentoring program, you want to let people know you're out there. Talk to faith leaders, elected officials and school contacts to let them know about your program. Word-of-mouth is the least expensive and most effective way of advertising your program. Post flyers on bulletin boards at schools, libraries, community centers, and grocery stores. Get on the agenda for PTA and town council meetings. Ask your local government to include your program in any materials they offer on youth issues- especially if they can post a notice about your program on their web site. Once people know about your program, prepare for the phone to start ringing!