In my five years of being an arts and cultural fundraiser, I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from receiving guidance from three mentors. Each relationship that I’ve had with a mentor has been different depending on what stage I was at in both my personal and professional life and I’ve taken away different learnings from each of them.
I still remember some sage advice from my first mentor when I had just started a fundraising role. She told me that I can create my own meaning of success, so I don’t have to compare myself to my peers on wat stage they were at. It sounds simple, but it’s really helped me in making authentic personal and professional life choices.
Most recently, I was a mentee on RAISE’s mentoring programme and learnt a huge amount from my mentor.
RAISE’s mentoring programme came at the perfect time for me. I had just started a new role and thought that I would benefit from speaking to a more senior fundraiser who had already been in my position, someone who would be able to give practical guidance on navigating this new role with its increased responsibilities.
I’m really pleased to say that I got exactly what I wanted from this mentoring relationship. I was able to speak to another, more experienced fundraiser about my ideas and receive guidance to know I was on the right track. At times, it was comforting to know that we were both facing the same issues, albeit at different scales.
From these experiences, I have five tips for mentees to establish a fruitful mentoring relationship:
1. Take the lead
A mentoring relationship will of course benefit both mentees and mentors. However, the primary purpose is for you to get the support you need. So, mentees need to take the lead of the relationship and communications and steer it into a direction that works best for them.
2. Be vulnerable
Honesty is really important in a mentoring relationship – your mentor needs to know what your needs are in order to be able to guide you. This doesn’t mean that you have to make it personal, but an honest understanding about your working life and goal is crucial to have.
3. Set goals to mark your progress
When establishing your mentoring relationship, it’s important to have set goals to work towards so you can see whether mentoring is helping you achieve them. It may be that you want to learn more about writing successful fundraising bids, become confident in public speaking, or develop your line managing skills. Whatever the goals are, setting them at the outset will give you something to work towards.
4. Come to each meeting prepared with a topic
From my experience, setting a topic for each meeting can help both the mentor and mentee make the most if their time. It will help to keep the meeting focused and make you feel like the session was practical and valuable.
It’s important to remember that the mentor is there to support you. If you feel like the relationship isn’t working or that they’re not giving you what you need be open about it. And if the relationship isn’t working because your styles don’t match, there’s no harm in ending the relationship by mutual agreement.
Mentoring can be hugely important no matter what stage of your career you’re at. I know that I will certainly keep seeking mentors as I progress my practise, advance in my career and my personal and professional goals develop. It is, however, particularly important for those who are at the start of their fundraising journey and for people of colour who may not always see themselves represented in the wider fundraising community.
So, if you’re an early career arts fundraiser and think you would benefit from a mentor, make sure to sign up to RAISE’s mailing list to find out about when their 2021 mentoring programme will open for applications.