What I’ve Learned Running a Mentorship Organization

This guest post is by Carl Shan, the co-founder of CompassPoint Mentorship. CompassPoint Mentorship is a national mentoring venture that pairs up high-school mentees with college mentors for e-mentoring with an emphasis on life guidance.

To learn more about getting involved as a Branch Leader, Mentor or Mentee, visit www.cpmentorship.com

You can get in touch with Carl at carl@cpmentorship.com


“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

– Dr. Leo Buscaglia

I started CompassPoint three years ago when I was a freshman in college. At the time, I had no intentions for it to expand to anything beyond just a few friends reaching back out to the high-school that we had all graduated from.

Now, three years later, CompassPoint has grown into a national non-profit with Branches throughout California and Maryland. From the original team of just my co-founder and I, CompassPoint has grown to 6 national team members and 15 Branch Leaders. Our team is all composed of students who believe in our mission of delivering free, personalized mentorship from college students to high-school mentees.

During my time helping navigate the direction of CompassPoint, I’ve learned a great deal about leadership, mentorship and myself.

I want to share three key lessons with you today that I’ve learned through my time working with CompassPoint. These lessons apply equally whether you’re a mentor, a leader of an organization or just someone who is curious about growing yourself.

1. Listening Trumps Talking

This piece of insight sounds so obvious, and yet it’s so elusive to integrate into one’s life. Bestselling author Stephen Covey once remarked “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

When I started CompassPoint, I initially envisioned that I would be recruiting the most intelligent, knowledgable and mature mentors to dispense their worldly wisdom to high-school mentees.

However, over the course of the time I’ve spent observing and learning from great mentors, I’ve noticed that the most valuable trait they possess is not that they give great advice. Rather it’s their ability to be excellent listeners.

Their mentees are comfortable in conversation with them because they know they are being listened to, and as a result feel able to have honest and open conversations.

I’ve also incorporated this insight into my own leadership by spending more time getting feedback from my team on the direction of CompassPoint than I do spend time trying to dictate my vision of what the organization should be.

2. Check in Frequently

It’s so easy to lose touch with a friend, mentor, mentee or acquaintance. I’ve done it many times, and it is not until later that I see how my lack of communication cost me what otherwise could have been a valuable relationship.

I believe that as a mentor, one of the most powerful things you can do is to check in with your mentee frequently. Many mentees may be comfortable or inexperienced with being the driver of engagement, and it may take just a few words of openness that makes it clear you care.

As a leader of an organization, I’ve also learned how valuable it is to have periodic reflective check-ins. My co-founder and I make time to check in weekly with each other, and then with each of our team members. We ask each other questions like ‘What are you doing well?’ and ‘What do you think you can be improving on?’

Our team members then go on to check in with our Branch Leaders, the students who actually organize a mentorship community at their high school. These Branch Leaders check in with their mentors and their mentors check in with their mentees.

This chain of accountability provides a system of checking in that speaks to the amount of care and attention that is being put in.

3. Be Available and Present…Always

Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in times where I’ve let my work and schedule overshadow my ability to be available to the people around me.

And yet, the most amazing mentors that I’ve encountered have been the ones that, even in the midst of work and pre-planned busyness, nevertheless focus the entirety of their attention on their mentees when they interact.

Bill Clinton’s famous charisma has often been attributed to his legendary ability to focusing his attention on the person he’s speaking with. It’s his trait of making himself available and present to anyone around you that I’ve been drawn to and have attempted to cultivate in my own habits.

At CompassPoint, I’ve made it clear to each of my team members that I want to make myself available for them to talk about anything. They can email, text or call me at any point during my day and I will respond. I want my team to know that I am available and present…always.


I believe that the three points listed above all reflect qualities to be found in the most amazing mentors and leaders. By listening deeply, checking in frequently and making yourself available, you are setting yourself up for the opportunity to shape another person’s life.


A New Fiscal Year, a Renewed Commitment to Quality Mentoring

Today’s post comes courtesy of Friends For Youth’s Mentoring Services Recruitment Coordinator Jonathan Cowgill. To learn more about Friends For Youth, click here to visit their website.

Friends for Youth is excited to start its new fiscal year on April 1! The 2012-2013 year is ending very strongly. We made 9 matches in February and are on track for another 9 this month! With such powerful momentum, we hope to make many more matches to start our new fiscal year.

A new year means a renewed focus on providing the best mentoring experiences for the youth we serve and the volunteers we support. We’ve dreamt up a lot of exciting activities for the year, some old standards and others brand new. One activity area we’re focusing on is art and music, so we will be featuring many group opportunities to attend museums, music performances and theatre productions.

As always, the paramount focus of the Mentoring Services Department will be to make the highest quality matches for the youth who need them most. We will continue to strive to recruit, screen and train the best volunteer mentors in the bay area.

10 Ways to Sustain Your National Mentoring Month Momentum

National Mentoring Month may officially be over, but you can use some of the same strategies from January throughout the year to improve your program’s visibility and find more mentors!

  1. Use National Mentoring Month materials throughout the year by downloading and customizing the files for your specific event.
  2. Strengthen your pitch by using research from your own programtalking about the cost-effectiveness of mentoring; and explaining the benefits to both mentors and mentees.
  3. Social media tip: Know where your audience is by using the right keywords; e.g., on Twitter, use #mentor because it is the most relevant key word in our field.
  4. Keep building on the relationships with vendors in your community (restaurants, events spaces, activity providers) by continuing to ask for donations for match activities.
  5. Diversify your collaborations: work with other youth-serving organizations (ATOD or dropout prevention, youth development, mental health, extra-curricular) to highlight the value of mentoring.
  6. In April, highlight mentoring during National Volunteer Week (21 – 27) by writing Op-Eds for your local media, giving certificates of appreciation from your local representatives, and having a celebration for both mentors and mentees.
  7. Social media tip: Post thank yous to existing mentors on your accounts as well as the mentors’ accounts April 21 – 27 as well as throughout the year.
  8. Partner with other agencies on community service projects to raise the visibility of your mentoring program and for informal recruitment opportunities.
  9. In September, highlight mentoring again while communities are focusing on back-to-school activities, sharing the link between mentoring and academic achievement.
  10. Continue giving community and corporate presentations for visibility and recruitment purposes; consider partnering with other Bay Area Mentoring programs for a bigger impact!
  11. BONUS! Strengthen your program staff’s knowledge of mentoring through Friends for Youth’s 14th annual conference, Making the Most of Mentoring.

10 Questions to Inspire Mentoring

With January drawing to a close, activity in the mentoring community is likely to slow down a bit. In order to help your program carry some of that National Mentoring Month momentum into February, here are some questions you can use to inspire people to become mentors.

10 Questions to Inspire Mentoring

  1. How has mentoring made a difference in your life or in your community?
  2. If you had a mentor, how did this person or people make you feel special? How did they help you get where you are today?
  3. If you were a mentor, how did you change from this relationship?
  4. What do you think are challenges young people in our community face today?
  5. What do you think are strengths possessed by youth in our community today?
  6. Who is responsible for making sure young people become happy, healthy, successful, and productive young adults?
  7. How can we work together in our community to make sure that no child is left behind and that every youth feels like she has something to offer this world?
  8. How can you help – can you personally volunteer time, donate money or in-kind services or goods, or connect us to more opportunities?
  9. How can people, companies, and institutions in your network help?
  10. How can we let more people know that a small investment in time now becomes worth it when you see a young person thrive over time?

A Home Within’s Re-launching of Fostering Relationships

Today’s post comes courtesy of A Home Within’s Program Director Saralyn Ruff. For more information about A Home within, check out their website.

A Home Within is excited to announce the re-launching of Fostering Relationships (www.fosteringrelationships.org), our web-based knowledge-sharing platform for mentors and staff working with foster youth. For the past two years we have piloted this program with great success. Many have given us the feedback that our resources for pregnant and parenting youth and transition-aged youth have helped them build lasting and strong relationships with their mentees, but that they want more!

This month we will be expanding Fostering Relationships, adding more curricula for working with teen parents and new curriculum for LGBTQ youth. We will also be providing Spanish versions of all resources, and links to helpful books, articles, tools, local and national agencies. We also have plans to add self care materials for mentors and begin to spot light foster youth as experts who will answer mentors’ questions. We are excited about this and hope Fostering Relationships supports you in the amazing work you do!

Thanks Warriors!

Thanks to the Golden State Warriors for allowing 25 mentor-mentee pairs from 12 of the 35 Bay Area Mentoring partner programs to enjoy a wonderful evening at last Friday’s game! Aside from witnessing an exciting Warriors win, our attendees were given an all-access tour of Oracle Arena, watched pre-game shootaround from courtside, and were even featured on the jumbotron at the start of the 3rd quarter. To top it all off, the Warriors kept their cool and held off a late rally by the opposition started by Oakland’s own Damian Lillard and hung on to win with a final score of 103 – 97. Definitely an experience that just goes to show you that mentoring works. 

Thank Your Mentor Day

As a highlight of National Mentoring Month 2013, Thank Your Mentor Day™ will be celebrated January 17. On that day, many Americans will reach out to thank or honor those individuals who encouraged and guided them, and had a lasting, positive impact on their lives.

Thank Your Mentor Day promotes “Four Ways to Honor Your Mentor”
  1. Contact your mentor directly to express your appreciation;
  2. Pass on what you received by becoming a mentor to a young person in your community;
  3. Make a financial contribution to a local mentoring program; and,
  4. Write a tribute to your mentor for posting on the Who Mentored You? website.
You can download a Thank you card from the Campaign Marketing Materials page.


  1. Have mentees make and send Thank-You notes to their mentors’ place of employment or home.
  2. Highlight mentors in your program’s newsletter or have your Executive Director write an Op-Ed for your local newspaper/feed highlighting the importance of NMM and thanking mentors directly.
  3. Ask your local, state, or national representatives to produce Certificates of Appreciation for each of your mentors and hold an award ceremony or other fun activity with food and entertainment for your mentors.
  4. Plan a “You Take the Cake” thank you gathering in the office with cupcakes and punch, inviting mentors and mentees as a way to thank mentors.
  5. Hold a raffle for gift cards and prizes for your mentors or ask a special donor to contribute gift cards for all your mentors.
  6. Plan a study break with food and refreshments on campus to thank your undergraduate and graduate student mentors.
  7. Mail or hand out special mementos (water bottles, t-shirts, pens, etc.) that display thanks as a gift to your mentors.
  8. Deliver breakfast to your mentors at your mentoring sites.
  9. Hold a special open house/mentor appreciating night where you can thank mentors and share more information about your program with potential volunteers.
  10. Post a thank you message on your social media accounts and post a thank you message on your mentors’ accounts, if you’re linked.
Thanks to Mass Mentoring Partnership for several of these ideas.
*Thank Your Mentor Day™ is an initiative of the Harvard School of Public Health.