The Power of Mentoring

By Tiku van Houtem

Charity People’s Mentoring Network is about to launch.

Who is the scheme aimed at, and who are the mentors?

The Charity People Mentoring Network is open to new charity CEOs who have been in their post for less than 18 months – 24 months, so effectively this would be their first CEO position. Also to aspiring charity CEOs who are currently in leadership roles and whose next job would be that of a CEO.

We are bowled over by the response from the CEOs we approached to be mentors. Our mentors are all experienced CEOs, with a track record of growing organisations and a deep understanding of the charity sector. They come from charities of all shapes and sizes. Our mentors all share a common passion and dedication to supporting our mentees and making our sector great.

The mentoring scheme is a no-fuss, no bureaucracy, pro-bono program. We are serious about the power of mentoring but without the formalities. We will leave the mentor and mentee to agree on how they structure their sessions. We will check in regularly with everyone and support in any way we can. It is important to stress that it will be the person that will be mentored, not the charity.

The only thing we ask for is that you make the commitment and show up for the sessions. Our mentors give up their time to impart their valuable knowledge and experience for free.

How often do you meet and how long does the scheme run for?

You will have fortnightly sessions for an hour for the first two months. From then on, you will have monthly sessions for an hour. This will be a six-month scheme, and then it is up to you and your mentor/mentee if you wish to continue with the relationship.

Why is mentoring important for people in senior roles?

I often wonder where the saying “It’s lonely at the top” comes from. And it’s cheekily followed by “The view is great though!”

Now more than ever, with working from home or in a hybrid model can often be isolating. The sector is facing so many challenges, with cuts in funding, fundraising incomes dropping, and reduced staff numbers. This, coupled with an increase in demand for their services by their clients, has meant that CEOs have had to review and re-visit their strategies. Charities have had to pivot and adapt to the changing landscape. The need for us to feel supported in our work has never been more crucial. Leading an organisation can be challenging anywhere, but it is especially true in the not-for-profit sector.

The value of having a mentor is having someone who can ask questions that can help to clarify a situation and help relieve the anxieties that build up when there is nowhere to articulate the doubts a CEO may experience. Often, they can’t share their concerns with the board as the board is effectively their employer.

To quote Mr Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” We are living in unprecedented times, and never a truer word was spoken…

Mentors can listen to issues you face and give practical suggestions or offer alternative approaches. They will build confidence and help set priorities and action plans.

We need to bring talent up the career ladder and being mentored is a great way to help and support aspiring CEOs to achieve their ambitions. Along the way, there will be knockbacks when they don’t get the job, or the dreaded imposter syndrome will rear its head, or …. The key is not to give up. Having an external mentor who is not biased to bounce ideas off and offer advice and guidance is invaluable.

The back story.

Why am I passionate about mentoring?

For me, the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement and events that have happened subsequently brought many emotions to the surface and made me reflect on my life, including my career.

For many people, it has brought to the forefront the need to have difficult conversations around representation and equal opportunities and the need to actively create this. We all have a part to play in not just being allies but accomplices. To use our power and privilege to change the status quo.

A survey by ACEVO showed that only 9% of charity workers were from a racially diverse background, and only 6% of CEOs were from racially diverse backgrounds. In comparison to the total UK population, 14% of people are from a racially diverse background. In London and major cities where most charities are located, 40% are racially diverse. These statistics speak for themselves.  There is a long way to go to get parity.

And with this in mind, I feel I can affect change in my little corner of the world. The mentoring network will be open to everyone, and we encourage people from diverse backgrounds to apply.

I am a mentor for a charity called You Make It. I mentor an African Venezuelan lady who is incredible. We meet (on zoom) weekly. She is so dedicated and focused; she is an absolute joy to mentor. It is rewarding and it grounds me. The key things I have learned from my sessions are that it is about listening, challenging ideas, and thinking, encouraging, coaching, and praising. And it must be a two-way street.

I feel fortunate to work with like-minded people at Charity People to start this mentoring network, and I feel fully supported by my colleagues who have all played a part in getting this scheme off the ground.

However, without our mentors, we would be nowhere. I would like to say a HUGE thanks to all our mentors who have so generously agreed to give their time to share their wisdom and experience with our future mentees.

How to apply.

Applications for the pilot mentoring scheme are now closed. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube for future updates.