How Associations Can Afford a Professional Mentoring Program
Associations are increasingly aware of the potential value of association-led mentoring programs. Current members find a reason to stay, and young industry entrants a reason to join. Leadership capabilities are cultivated within the association itself and the industry as a whole. Industry or association goals such as building diversity or managing change are made easier to achieve.
There is furious agreement that mentoring programs add value. Where there is less concurrence is when it comes to the cost. Too many associations are eyeing the benefits of mentoring but telling themselves they can’t afford it.
We see things differently, and this article is to help all associations, no matter how small, see the potential to run a professional mentoring program well within their budget (even if that budget is zero).
Two Options to Fund Mentoring Programs
There are two clear options to help fund an association-led mentoring program.
Charge a Fee to Mentees:
A mentoring program provides significant benefits to both the mentee and the mentee’s employer, so there is plenty of justification to charge a program fee. This can be paid either by the individual or by their employer.
In our experience fees ranging from $50 to $3,000 have been charged, usually depending on the seniority of the cadre of mentors. We suggest that the sweet spot for most association-led programs would be $150-300 per mentee.
As well as helping to fund the program, the fee also helps to qualify mentees. Where payment is required both the mentee and their employer are more likely to take the program seriously. Unmotivated mentees can drain the energy from a mentoring program.
Associations are in a unique position to secure sponsorship for their mentoring programs.
There is likely a range of companies interested in building brand awareness and goodwill amongst your members. These companies will be interested in leveraging the rub off from the feel-good effect of mentoring.
As well, corporate objectives often align with association objectives. So, for example, an association designing a mentoring program to upskill young leaders in the industry, will likely find themselves aligned with the objectives of many employers in the sector.
Using one or both of these strategies in combination, it is possible to run a professional mentoring program at break even, or potentially at a profit.
How to Ask for Sponsorship
There is a bit of work involved in securing sponsorship, but existing relationships and tools should make this process less onerous.
The first step is to have a mentoring plan in place, so the potential sponsor is clear about your offer. The plan should include an overview of the program, how it will run, what it will cost and what you expect it to achieve. If you engage the services of a professional mentoring consultant, they should provide a preliminary mentoring plan as part of the initial discovery process, which means there are no costs involved at this stage.
Consider what organizations will benefit most from brand exposure to your membership and/or that share the same objectives. Most associations already have relationships with industry organizations that may be helping to fund conferences or events. In our experience the most obvious candidates tend to be insurance companies, banks, recruiters or suppliers to the industry or profession.
Once you have a mentoring plan and have identified the target sponsors, the next step is to put together a sponsorship proposal. Art of Mentoring can provide a template that will make this process easier.
You will need to consider exactly what benefits you are able to offer to potential sponsors. The most common would be branding on all mentoring program materials, brand mention at events or even an opportunity to speak at a training session. Sponsors are looking for ways to connect with your members, and build relationships with them. You can personalize the benefit even more by suggesting that their financial support will allow “x number” of mentees to participate, that would not have been able to access a mentor otherwise,.
Be careful not to compromise your program simply to gain sponsorship. Your mentoring program must be structured to achieve the stated goals, and should never be diverted by a sponsor’s agenda.
With all the advantages that a mentoring program has to offer to associations and their members, we hate to see costs stand in the way. We are very happy to work closely with associations to assist them in creating a plan that both meets the organization’s goals and fits within whatever budget is available.
Contact us to talk about developing a fully funded mentoring program.