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Mentorship is the Key to Membership

August 29, 2017

Membership-based organizations like trade associations, alumni foundations, civic leagues, and chambers of commerce are constantly striving to provide value to their members. The benefits these organizations offer can be vast – ranging from networking to professional development opportunities – but often membership engagement proves to be a struggle, and such opportunities and resources are underutilized. To avoid the Sisyphean task of nagging members to participate, mentorship models have arisen as a promising practice that establish buy-in for members old and new and keep them coming back with the help of a veteran member to guide their path.

Membership-based nonprofits host networking opportunities, make formal introductions, unite experts to collaborate on panels, and foster a shared-space for members in an effort to provide value. The members look forward to the exposure and community that organizations create, as well as the recognition that certain organizations deliver.

Often times, however, these organizations experience difficulty engaging all of their members and bringing that promised return on their investment. The most active members do not wait to be engaged; instead, they get their money’s worth and make their presence known. They take full advantage of their membership benefits by attending events, setting up follow-up meetings to engage fellow members, and even interacting on social media platforms. While these superstars are the shining examples of involvement, theirs unfortunately does not represent the majority of members’ behavior. When most members have busy lives dominated by work, family, and other commitments, how can membership organizations incentive greater participate for its full membership?

My alma mater recently developed its own mentoring platform, AADC Mabel’s Alumnae Mentoring Program, to connect their expansive alumnae base through a formalized program. The program paired mentors and mentees based on shared career paths, educational goals, and interests, and these pairs agree to meet or chat monthly, which allows flexibility. I enjoy chatting with my mentor about my career, as well as my educational path. A mutual passion for public service is the foundation of our connection. The feedback from my mentor is both helpful and relevant, knowing that she once stood in my position as a young professional in the nonprofit industry. My positive experience in this program made me question if a similar model would transfer to other membership organizations.

Such mentorship creates leadership opportunities for veteran members, while bringing new members into the fold through the expertise of their seasoned colleagues. Mentorship models are starting to appear across sectors, and companies in the financial services, health care, and manufacturing industries are using these strategies for their new hires. Reports have shown that “by creating apprentice models through strategic scheduling, the company can pair new hires with more experienced employees, ensuring they become engaged and productive right out of the gate.”

Having such a partner provides needed accountability for new members in an organization as well. Mentors can provide assistance in  setting goals and then ensuring their mentee follows through to meet these targets. By voicing the objectives you hope to achieve, you are putting another person on notice of the direction you’re headed toward. Sharing aspirations can make a goal more likely to happen, especially if someone more seasoned is keeping track.

Mentorship models may offer a solution for membership-based organizations seeking to engage both new and old members, and such mentorship is a win-win for all involved. Mentors acting as leaders responsible for the onboarding process of their green colleagues, while mentees are shown the ropes by those who have been around for years. Both parties unite, which in turn makes the organization stronger as whole. The mission of providing value to all members is achieved through this efficient and uniting process of mentorship. 

Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu