President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message: The Importance of Being a Mentor

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If you’ve spent at least a few years in the profession, you’ve probably served as a mentor to someone. Maybe you decided to take a younger or less experienced professional under your wing, or perhaps you have just been helping people throughout your career whenever they come to you. Thank you for doing that – it's so very important to “pay it back” whenever possible.

There’s no official list of qualifications to become a mentor, no bells ring when you finish a mentor-mentee relationship, and you don’t receive a badge or a gold star. In fact, it’s possible you didn’t even know you were a mentor—and maybe the other person didn’t realize it either until much later.

But one of the most important ways we exchange information and best practices—how we advance both individually and as a profession—is through mentorship. That’s why networking is so important (and why we stress it at AFP events): it’s how you find colleagues, friends and, ultimately, mentors.

There’s no trick to becoming a mentor, and you don’t need particular skills—other than a desire to be genuine, open, understanding and committed to making time for your mentee. We can all be mentors, and the truth is, we SHOULD all be mentors.

Research shows that mentorship can be such a huge benefit to our profession. Yet, from our recent 2020 AFP Compensation and Benefits Report, just 30% of young professionals reported having a mentor through their workplace, and only 19% found a mentor through AFP. Yet, of those who have a workplace mentor, 84% state that a mentor has either definitely helped or somewhat helped them think about how to advance in their career or assisted them with problem solving, building confidence or other aspects of their job.

Data like that is why we recently launched two similar but distinct mentoring and leadership programs right now: the IDEA Impact: Alford Group Mentoring and Leadership Development Program and the Emerging Leaders Mentor Program. The former was created to provide support and guidance to women in the profession and to help develop their leadership skills, while the latter provides emerging leaders and young professionals with the resources needed to be successful, creating a more diverse and equitable profession for all.

Applications for mentor and mentees for both programs are due Jan. 15. You can find forms and more information by clicking on the links above.

I know it’s a busy time right now in the middle of December, typically the busiest fundraising month of the year. But I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look at the applications for both programs—or maybe leave yourself a reminder for early January 2021—and apply as a mentor to whatever program that makes the most sense to you. Or if you don’t want to sign up for a formal program, think about being more intentional in serving as a mentor and being willing to make time for others in the profession.

The mentor-mentee is one of the most important ways you advance yourself and the profession, and I encourage every fundraiser to serve as one.

I can assure you that there are professionals who value your guidance and perspective and would relish the opportunity to talk with you. Because your experience will make them better—better professionals and better people. You will have made a major contribution to someone’s career and life – and maybe even developed a life-long friendship.

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

P.S. I would appreciate it if you would go to your AFP profile and complete/update your confidential personal information so we can better offer education and experiences aligned with your needs. Here’s the link to get there now – it will take just 5 minutes (Note: you will need to sign in with your AFP login to access).

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