What to Expect When You are a Mentor (or Protege)

What to Expect When You are a Mentor (or Protégé)

We recently sat down with Asa Irwin and Nicole Angus, a mentor and protégé pair connected through AFP Advancement Northwest's Mentor Program, to talk about their experience working together and the impact the program has had on their work. If their story inspires you, consider signing up as a mentor or protégé, visit our website.

Asa, why did you decide to sign up as a mentor?

Asa: My decision to participate started when I was a board member. We were always encouraging members to take advantage of the mentorship opportunity. I thought that, before I asked someone to participate, I should probably have the experience of being a protégé.

Last year, I signed up and my mentor was Gina Hall. It was a great experience, and after having worked with Gina, I thought it would be valuable for me to be a support for somebody else in the fundraising world. I realized that the needs of every protégé are different. By working with Gina I learned how much this formalized relationship could enhance the work I was doing as a development person. Plus, it was a great resource having Gina to talk with!

Nicole, what were you expecting when you signed up as a protégé?

Nicole: When you fill out the application, you indicate areas of interest and specialty of the mentor. One of the areas I selected was major gifts because it was an element of my position, but I knew a mentor would be helpful for me. I pushed myself to sign up as I felt like there was something missing in my employment environment and I needed help transitioning and building additional skills.

Whoever did the matchmaking did a really lovely job. I remember writing “I’m interested in someone involved in education and I want help with major gifts”. The match was very well done.

Asa: I think that’s a good point. The most effective ways a mentor can help a protégé is in the work that they’re currently doing, and/or helping them make a transition into the next level of their desired work trajectory. It’s more than just general information about fundraising. It’s really specific about what that person wants to do and helping them get there.

Nicole, can you share one specific experience that has been impactful for you so far?

Nicole: Asa has been hugely helpful in many ways. One example is that she is excellent at sharing useful resources. That’s everything from anecdotal tidbits to tangible things, like reading assignments. One book I read was It’s NOT JUST About the Money by Richard Perry and now I’m reading The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist. Asa also gave me a resource on preparing for your first donor contact.

At the beginning, Asa spoke to the notion that every relationship is different and the needs of every protégé are going to be different. She’s been good at hearing what I need, meeting me where I am and providing relevant resources, which I appreciate.

Asa, how did your experience as a protégé inform your experience as a mentor?

Asa: An important aspect I took away from my time as a protégé was the importance of having regularly scheduled meeting times set on the calendar. Knowing I was a priority for my mentor was very important to me. I wanted to make sure I was able to do that for my protégé.
Another thing I really internalized was that my mentor was paying attention to me, my issues, and my concerns. The focus was unapologetically on me and what I was trying to do. Again, I wanted to be sure that when I had a protégé, he or she knew that when we were together, I was 100% paying attention to them.

Nicole: And you’re really good at that!

Asa and Nicole, can you share recommended traits for each of your roles (mentor and protégé)?

Asa: As a mentor, you need to have time to devote to meeting with your protégé monthly. Personally, I think it’s important to meet in person. Nicole and I have been able to meet in person every time. Some people try to do it on the phone, but I think there is a lot of value in trying to meet in person. Another thing is being willing to find information for your protégé. You need to be a broader resource than just sitting with them. If he or she needs more than what you have, you’re willing to invest the time to help your protégé find the information.

Nicole: As a protégé, you have to have an interest and a willingness to expand your skillset and the commitment to that effort. If you don’t do that, it’s not a value to you, and it’s not a value to your mentor. Plus, it doesn’t honor their commitment. It’s a mutual investment of time and energy toward an end goal.

Nicole, is there anything you are excited about that is upcoming or is it meetings as usual?

Nicole: I think meetings as usual, but I look forward to our monthly meetings. That, for me, is a real gift. I appreciate the opportunity to have that space carved out. Also, I greatly appreciate the care and thought that Asa puts into the relationship.

Asa, what is next for your mentor and protégé relationship?

Asa: Nicole recently transitioned to a new position. Her job changed from a generalist to major gifts. As a result, the work that we do shifted. I’m really proud of Nicole. She’s willing to challenge herself and reach into a different type of employment and new environment to do the kind of work she really wants. I’ve seen her strength. I’ve seen her overcome some difficult working environments. I’ve seen her build on her own personal strengths and to take a leap to do something different and scary. She is making it happen! I’m really honored to be a part of that.

Nicole: well thank you, you’re a big part of the leap!

Nicole, would you consider becoming a mentor?

Nicole: I would love to be a mentor, if I could do all the things that Asa described. I think I could mentor someone who is a generalist. I have benefitted (and continue to benefit) from this relationship and I’m grateful for it. I would love to pay it forward at some point.

Any final thoughts?

Asa: Stop and look at the way you’re operating in your life. I have informally functioned as a mentor for a long time. I needed to make the decision to call myself a mentor and offer my skills in a formalized way. I would suggest, as people consider whether or not this is the right time for them to be a mentor, to pay attention to what you are doing already. You’re probably already are a mentor!

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