Connecting Through Mentorship
Ann Hale, MA, CFRE, chief development officer at Anchorage Museum, located in Alaska, shares her experience as a mentor in The Alford Group Women’s Mentoring and Leadership Development Program and how it has positively impacted her life and career.
AFP: Why did you originally want to be a mentor and apply to The Alford Group Women’s Mentoring and Leadership Development Program?
Ann: At the beginning of 2020, I was preparing to culminate my service on the AFP Board of Directors after 13 years, but I wanted to find new ways to continue my service to the profession. I felt that I had more to give but wanted to do it in a more personal way. More than ever, I felt a need to connect one-to-one. I watched the process with the very first cohort of mentors and mentees through the program, and I and was impressed by the outcomes and close relationships that were built. It was inspiring to see the relationships grow between the partners and to see the professional outcomes as well.
I have been fortunate to benefit from several female mentors throughout my career, so I knew and understood the great benefit of strong, supportive and reciprocal mentor relationships. I hoped to give back what I had been given and to learn as well. Additionally, I was also proud of my work supporting women in the profession, both through AFP and as a manager, and thought this program would be a wonderful way to continue this work.
AFP: What were the positive experiences that came out of your mentor/mentee relationship?
Ann: Because of COVID-19, the more formal structure of the program that includes completing projects and goals became less important than just offering psychological and professional support to each other. That’s probably what I enjoyed most, and was also probably the most meaningful to Cheri, my mentee, as well. We were there for each other—sharing struggles and successes, offering ideas and solutions, and listening. While it might not have been the exact outcome we expected, it was incredibly positive and valuable.
AFP: Thinking back, what will be your lasting memories of the program?
Ann: There are several, including looking forward to our monthly Zoom calls. They felt like an escape from all the daily uncertainty and were something positive when it was easy to feel negative. It was great to feel a connection with someone who lives far away, but still feels incredibly close. I ended up wishing we had been able to meet in person—but we will someday, I hope! There is as much to be gained by the mentor as the mentee.
AFP: How has your mentee positively impacted you?
Ann: The relationship with Cheri helped me gain additional perspective about the challenges that young female professionals face in nonprofits today—and not just in times of COVID-19, but before and after. I think that perspective and reflecting on my conversations with Cheri will make me a better manager, supervisor and advocate moving forward. It also makes me want to work harder to ensure that they have the resources and support they need to be successful and feel fulfilled, appreciated and valued in our sector.
AFP: What would you say to someone who might be on the fence about becoming a mentor?
Ann: Getting out of your own head is such an important learning experience, and being a mentor is a wonderful way to do that. You gain a different perspective, you get to think differently, and you are offered many opportunities to grow as a person and as a professional. And, you get to give something back of yourself too—and to another amazing human and your profession. It feels really good. It IS good. But don’t take my word for it, just do it!