Effective Mentoring Practices (including LGBQT information)

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership in America has discussed, debated and researched the requirements for an effective mentoring program over many years. This is the most comprehensive, user-friendly checklist available for anyone wishing to set up an internationally credible youth mentoring program.

The detailed document can be found in the Resources section of the MENTOR website, found on the Links page. This will include The LGBTQ Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice  which offers step-by-step guidance for youth mentoring programs to become more intentional in their care of LGBTQ youth. Starting with program design and management tips, the supplement contains recommendations for inclusive recruitment, screening, training, monitoring and support and closure practices. At its core, this resource helps to make quality mentoring accessible for one of our nation’s most underserved populations of young people.


As a strategy for helping young people succeed in life, mentoring works. It helps give young people the confidence, resources and skills they need to reach their potential.

But like any youth-development strategy, mentoring works best when measures are taken to ensure quality and effectiveness. When the tool of change is a close relationship, as is the case with mentoring, everyone involved should proceed with care. The risks and improvements to the young person are proportional to how long the relationship endures. The longer a relationship lasts, usually the closer the bond and the greater benefit to the youth.

The guidelines presented here are geared toward helping mentoring relationships thrive and endure. They include measures any mentoring program can implement to offer the best mentoring possible, mentoring that does everything in its power to help young people and keep them from harm’s way. These guidelines are based on solid research, research that affirms the importance of accountability and responsibility in meeting young people’s needs. And, they are based on experience: The first mentoring Elements of Effective Practice were developed and published in 1990 by a national panel of mentoring experts brought together by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and United Way of America. For more than a decade those Elements served as the gold standard for mentoring.

These new guidelines are the culmination of a process that, once again, brought together many of the nation’s foremost authorities on mentoring. In 2003, this newly formed group [a Steering Committee representative of 20 different youth mentoring programs and an Advisory Committee of 30] began by reassessing the existing Elements. They took the best of those Elements and added new ideas and new practices that reflect the latest in mentoring policies, practices, experiences and research. The third edition of the Elements was released in 2009.

In 2015, after the Steering Committee had reviewed over 400 peer-reviewed journal articles and research reports, placing particular emphasis on research released since the third edition in 2009, as well as considering the real-life experiences and input of over 200 practitioners and mentoring organizations, the latest Elements were presented.

Some of their recommendations include:

Program Design and Planning

Design the parameters for the program:

  • Define the youth population that the program will serve;
  • Identify the types of individuals who will be recruited as mentors (such as, senior citizens, corporate employees and college students);
  • Determine the type of mentoring that the program will offer – one-to-one, group, team, peer or e-mentoring;
  • Structure the mentoring program – as a stand-alone program or as part of an existing organization;
  • Define the nature of the mentoring sessions (such as, career involvement, academic support and socialization);
  • Determine what the program will accomplish and what outcomes will result for the participants, including mentors, mentees and sponsoring organizations;
  • Determine when the mentoring will take place;
  • Determine how often mentors and mentees will meet and how long the mentoring matches should endure;
  • Decide where mentoring matches primarily will meet – workplace, school, faith-based organization, juvenile corrections facility, community setting or virtual community;
  • Decide who are program stakeholders and how to promote the program;
  • Decide how to evaluate program success; and
  • Establish case management protocol to assure that the program has regular contact with both mentors and mentees concerning their relationship.

Plan how the program will be managed:

Select the management team:

Develop a financial plan:

Program Management

Ensure the program is well-managed:

Form an advisory group:

Program Operations

Ensure strong, everyday operations:

Recruit mentors, mentees and other volunteers:

Program Evaluation

Ensure program quality and effectiveness:

Develop a plan to measure program process:

  • Select indicators of program implementation viability and volunteer fidelity, such as, training hours, meeting frequency and relationship duration; and
  • Develop a system for collecting and managing specified data.

Develop a plan to measure expected outcomes:

  • Specify expected outcomes;
  • Select appropriate instruments to measure outcomes, such as, questionnaires, surveys and interviews; and
  • Select and implement an evaluation design.

Create a process to reflect on and disseminate evaluation findings:

  • Refine the program design and operations based on the findings; and
  • Develop and deliver reports to program constituents, funders and the media (at minimum yearly; optimally, each quarter).
  • Define eligibility for participants, including mentors, mentees and parents/caregivers;
  • Market the program; and
  • Conduct awareness and information sessions for potential mentors.

Screen potential mentors and mentees:

  • Require written applications;
  • Conduct reference checks, such as, employment record, character reference, child abuse registry, driving record and criminal record checks;
  • Conduct face-to-face interviews; and
  • Hold orientations.

Orient and train mentors, mentees and parents/caregivers:

  • Provide an overview of the program;
  • Clarify roles, responsibilities and expectations; and
  • Discuss how to handle a variety of situations.

Match mentors and mentees:

  • Use established criteria;
  • Arrange an introduction between mentors and mentees; and
  • Ensure mentors, mentees and parents/caregivers understand and agree to the terms and conditions of program participation.

Bring mentors and mentees together for mentoring sessions that fall within the program parameters:

  • Provide safe locations and circumstances; and
  • Provide resources and materials for activities.

Provide ongoing support, supervision and monitoring of mentoring relationships:

  • Offer continuing training opportunities for program participants;
  • Communicate regularly with participants and offer support;
  • Help mentors and mentees define next steps for achieving mentee goals;
  • Bring mentors together to share ideas and support;
  • Establish a process to manage grievances, resolve issues and offer positive feedback;
  • Assist mentors and mentees whose relationship is not working out; and
  • Assure that appropriate documentation is done on a regular basis.

Recognize the contribution of all program participants:

  • Sponsor recognition events; and
  • Make the community aware of the contributions made by mentors, mentees, supporters and funders;
  • Actively solicit feedback from mentors and mentees regarding their experiences; and
  • Use information to refine program and retain mentors.

Help mentors and mentees reach closure:

  • Conduct private, confidential interviews with mentors and mentees; and
  • Ensure mentors, mentees and parent/caregivers understand program policy regarding their meeting outside the program.
  • Define the advisory group roles and responsibilities;
  • Recruit people with diverse backgrounds to serve on the group; and
  • Facilitate the advisory group meetings to improve programming and management.

Develop a comprehensive system for managing program information:

  • Manage program finances;
  • Maintain personnel records;
  • Track program activity, such as, volunteer hours and matches;
  • Document mentor/mentee matches;
  • Manage risk; and
  • Document program evaluation efforts.

Design a resource development plan that allows for diversified fundraising:

  • Seek in-kind gifts;
  • Hold special events;
  • Solicit individual donors;
  • Seek corporate donations;
  • Apply for government funding; and
  • Seek foundation grants.

Design a system to monitor the program:

  • Review policies, procedures and operations on a regular basis;
  • Collect program information from mentors, mentees and other participants; and
  • Continually assess customer service.

Create a professional staff development plan:

  • Provide ongoing staff training; and
  • Build on staff members’ skills and knowledge.

Advocate for mentoring:

  • Advocate for pro-mentoring public policies and funding at the local, state and federal levels; and
  • Encourage private sector leaders to adopt pro-mentoring policies and provide funding.

Establish a public relations/communications effort:

  • Identify target markets;
  • Develop a marketing plan;
  • Gather feedback from all constituents;
  • Develop partnerships and collaborations with other organizations; and
  • Recognize mentors, mentees, other program participants, funders and organizations that sponsor mentoring programs.
  • Develop a program budget;
  • Determine the amount of funding needed to start and sustain the program;
  • Identify and secure a diversified funding stream needed to start and sustain the program;
  • Determine the amount of time each funding source can be expected to provide resources;
  • Establish internal controls and auditing requirements; and
  • Establish a system for managing program finances.

Implement the program:

  • Recruit program participants, such as, mentors, mentees and other volunteers;
  • Screen potential mentors and mentees;
  • Orient and train mentors, mentees and parents/caregivers;
  • Match mentors and mentees;
  • Bring mentors and mentees together for mentoring sessions that fall within program parameters;
  • Provide ongoing support, supervision and monitoring of mentoring relationships;
  • Recognize the contribution of all program participants; and
  • Help mentors and mentees reach closure.

Plan how to evaluate the program:

  • Decide on the evaluation design;
  • Determine what data will be collected, how it will be collected and the sources of data;
  • Determine the effectiveness of the program process;
  • Determine the outcomes for mentors and mentees; and
  • Reflect on and disseminate findings.
  • Establish policies and procedures; and
  • Implement ongoing staff training and professional development.

Copyright © 2003 by MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership.