Mentoring

Projects in which volunteers mentor others -- can be adult/child matches or adults matched to other adults with special needs (mental health issues, long-time unemployment, etc.) The term "mentor" has broadened in meaning over the last decade and is often used interchangeably with words such as "tutors," "coaches," and programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters..

Mixed Messages to Volunteers Whom We’ve Asked to Be Friendly, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2015
Myths and Facts about Partnerships Between Adults and Youth, Deborah Fisher, p. 10, Search Institute, 2004
A Proposal for Five Additional Goals after the Summit, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1997
Training Mentors, Elsy Arevalo and Becky Cooper, Friends for Youth Mentoring Institute, 2002
By the New England Network for Child, Youth & Family Services. A toolkit that takes a clear-eyed look at what volunteers can really do in child- and youth-serving agencies, and how to get started growing or improving your own volunteer program, whatever your setting.
, 2010, pp. 54

Assessments of 39 of the UK's volunteer mentoring schemes for court-referred youth ages 10-17. Three documents downloadable from same page.

, 2004
iEarn

"iEARN is a non-profit organization made up of over 30,000 schools and youth organizations in more than 140 countries. iEARN empowers teachers and young people to work together online using the Internet and other new communications technologies. Over 2,000,000 students each day are engaged in collaborative project work worldwide."  There is a particularly good area of the site explaining telementoring and linking to more resources.

International Telementor Program

Match IT professionals in online tutoring/mentoring of school students.

MENTOR - National Mentoring Partnership

Advocate for quality youth mentoring programs in the U.S., with many excellent resources, guides, toolkits, and more -- plus a free volunteer referral network to match interested volunteers to youth.

Mentor Recruitment and Screening Resources

A variety of materials for mentoring programs from Education Northwest.

Mentoring Partnership Resources

Excellent list of resources for any mentoring program from the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern PA. Includes materials on recruiting, screening and training volunteer mentors, many of which can be used in any type of volunteer effort.

Sanchez Elementary School Online Mentoring Program

This resource was developed by Jayne Cravens for Sanchez Elementary School in Austin, Texas through the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This online mentoring program is no longer operational but these Web materials have been preserved to help other schools develop their own online mentoring programs.

Tutor/Mentor Connection

The mission of TMC is "to gather and organize all that is known about successful non-school tutoring/mentoring programs and apply that knowledge to expand the availability and enhance the effectiveness of these services to children throughout the Chicago region."

Youth Justice Board (UK)

Practical tips on volunteers mentoring youth in the justice system.

Youth Mentor Ideas!

Site providing resources and ideas for the volunteers who mentor youth. 

Print and e-Books in Our Store

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A trainer's manual for adult leaders preparing youth volunteers to do peer helping, with 15 interactive sessions complete with discussion guides and handouts (many useful for any age volunteer learning to do counseling).

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Sensible and inspiring advice for adults who truly want to engage young people in meaningful leadership volunteer roles, with how-to tips on everything from recruitment to intergenerational meetings.

Running a Safe and Effective Mentoring Program

Clear and streamlined guide to developing a youth mentoring program of excellence, taking you from vision to recruitment, matching, retention, and evaluation.

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Stories and strategies of youth-adult partnerships that succeed, with over 20 reproducible tools to help you engage youth participants to the greatest effect in your organization.

Membership association of "mentoring professionals and interested parties," providing best practice information, guidance, and coaching.  

A 70-minute video presentation by Dr. Bernadette Sanchez made in 2007 for the Extension Center for Youth Development at the University of Minnesota. An overview of research about the effects of gender, age, ethnicity and culture on mentoring. The Web page also includes 3 downloadable PDFs with supporting information.

Working with Chlidren

One on one with children
Submitted by Debra Lynne, The Children's Aid Society , New York, New York, USA

Volunteers who work one-to-one with children want to have an impact on the child's life and usually have very high hopes and expectations of themselves. Therefore it is important for the supervisor to clearly outline what the role is and what it is not. This includes outlining the boundaries of the relationship, which are sometimes quite "soft" and hard to define. A tutor's job is easier to define than a mentor's. The supervisor also has to be clear about the support s/he will provide so that the volunteer knows what to expect from the supervisor.

Supervisors need to be clear about the do's and don'ts. Boundaries are healthy and necessary for many reasons, among them liability and risk management. Supervisors need to articulate the needs of the client and identify how the volunteer can help. Because volunteering with children can be both rewarding and frustrating the good supervisor needs to be a cheerleader. The volunteers have high expectations of themselves and will look for signs of progress, which they may not necessarily see. The supervisor must continuously encourage and support, while also providing gentle and sometimes direct guidance.

Supervisors of volunteers in one-to-one relationships also need to ask the volunteer, "How are things going and how can I help?" Often volunteers don't ask for help because they don't know what to ask for. Supervisors also need to help the volunteer identify what approaches are working in order to provide encouragement. It is important to say things like, "I have noticed an improvement in Maria's self-confidence. You are really making an impact."

Supervisors also need to be sensitive to volunteers' frustrations and boost their morale with words like, "I know it's hard to keep Joe's attention, but you are doing a great job. Here are a few other ways to...." Supervising one-to-one volunteers is high maintenance work. The volunteers are providing a service that the family and the school cannot provide. If your agency has put a lot of time and effort into screening and training the volunteers, then it is only logical to also put time and effort into nurturing and supporting them. A good supervisor will make volunteers feel welcome, appreciated, supported by boundaries and guidance.

Refrain from emotional involvement
Submitted by Laura J. King, The Children's Inn at NIH , Bethesda, Marlyand, USA

Supervisors need to advise volunteers to refrain from becoming emotionally involved with the children and their families and also help them learn how to do this. The more the volunteers know about a child's illness the more difficult it is to remain detached. If volunteers get attached and the child dies, the emotional toll can be overwhelming. If the volunteer experiences this repeatedly the result can be burnout or stress. To prevent this we encourage volunteers to enjoy and share "in the moment" when interacting with a child: to focus on the child and the activity they are sharing rather than on the disease; to focus on the present, not the future.

Supervisors also need to limit the amount of time volunteers give, especially when they are new. Taking on too much too soon can also lead to burnout. Supervisors can also help volunteers cope with some of the negative experiences they will have. Family members are under a lot of stress and may be angry, rude, abrupt and insensitive. They may not treat volunteers with kindness and appreciation. Volunteers need to be coached on how to avoid taking this personally and how to give support and comfort to families, too. Finally, supervisors have to be willing to offer emotional support to volunteers when they are having a rough day. Giving volunteers a hug or a pat on the back or listening attentively as them talk through their pain is essential.

Last Updated: December 7, 2016