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The Importance of Mentorship for Those New to Nonprofits

There’s an old phrase in business: “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Whenever you’re introduced to a new industry or start to tackle a new project, there are going to be gaps in your knowledge. These gaps aren’t always going to be visible until you learn more. So how can you protect yourself from making mistakes early in your nonprofit board career? The answer, as it is in business, is often through mentorship.

The Role of Mentorship in Business and Nonprofits

A mentor is able to give you advice based on the experience and education they have achieved over years within the industry. Mentors provide both advice and empathy: they have been where you are and can understand how stressful and frustrating some situations can be. Even if a mentor has not been in the same situation as you in the past, they can still listen to your problems and provide their opinions. In many ways, a mentor is a sounding board.

Mentors can guide you through the first steps towards becoming a nonprofit board member and through learning to be an effective part of the board. They can preemptively explain things that you’ll need to know and give you additional advice as needed.

Mentorship on a nonprofit board

RELATED: How to Be Effective As a New Board Member

Core Benefits to Finding the Right Mentor

  • Being able to network with others in the nonprofit industry. Networking is especially important in the nonprofit industry. Many people spend decades building up their contacts, which makes it easier for them to produce fundraisers and launch extensive projects. Your mentor can introduce you to the people that they know.
  • Avoid making mistakes that your mentor has made before. Everyone makes mistakes. As noted, there are some mistakes that could be impossible to avoid unless you know to look for them. Your mentor can point these out.
  • Get a second opinion on many of your choices. Sometimes you don’t need someone to tell you what to do. Sometimes you just need validation that you’ve already chosen the correct course of action. Through a mentorship, you can find someone who can listen to your situations and your plans and advise you on whether he or she believes that you are correct.
  • Achieve better work-life balance. Nonprofit work can be difficult and time-consuming, and it isn’t uncommon for someone to feel that they aren’t achieving the best work-life balance. A mentor can help you achieve better work-life habits, as they have likely been in this situation themselves.

Finding the Right Mentor

Now that you understand the core benefits of mentorship, it’s time to find the perfect mentor for you. Not every mentor is made alike; there are mentors that you’ll instantly click with and mentors that you may never be able to respect. Finding the right one is important.

Often, a nonprofit board mentorship means finding someone who has been on the board significantly longer and who already understands the ins and outs. Otherwise, a mentor may be found in a professional group or a group related to the non-profit organization. A mentor can be anyone who has experience within the industry and who is willing to donate their time. There are even networks dedicated specifically to fostering mentor and mentee relationships.

A mentor can be one of the most invaluable assets you have when transitioning into a new role. The process of becoming a nonprofit board member doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially if you have help. For more information about developing your nonprofit board career, continue to follow Boardable.


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