As the founder of Girls Can’t WHAT?, I am frequently asked about the best way to start a girls mentoring program.
First, I’d like to say that there can never be too many organizations that support girls. The need for positive role models and guidance is big enough for everyone to get involved. Here are some great tips for starting a mentoring program for girls of any age.
Be THAT type of girls mentoring program
Just as every girl is different, every organization is different. This is why some groups appeal to certain types girls but not others. That is perfectly ok. When starting your group, don’t try to be all things to all people. Find something that you do well and thoroughly enjoy.
Focus around a specific topic or niche so it will be clear to everyone what type of girls mentoring program you are establishing. A great example is Girls on the Run where their mission is to get girls involved in fitness. Find that one thing and do it well.
Learn your personal strength
Knowing what it is that you do best is going to be crucial to your success. If you don’t like public speaking, don’t try to sell yourself as a speaker or plan events that involve talking in front of people. Stick to your personal gifts.
You may need to try on a few hats to discover what you really like to do and what you’re good at naturally. Once you have that nailed down, work on developing that skill so you can be the best. Your super power will be what attracts your community and the better you are, the more effective your teaching will be.
Build a team
As a group leader, you won’t accomplish as much as you could with a good team. Take your time and build your team slowly and deliberately. Make sure your team members share your vision and goals.
Your team leaders should also complement your strength. They should excel at something you don’t. Look for people that can fill in the weak spots of your organization and give them an opportunity to shine in their own way. Future leaders can be developed through your program. Look for members with the skills you need to fill and train them for leadership roles.
Where to start
Starting your own mentoring group will take a lot of work up front before you even have your first meeting. The first thing you need to do is write down your vision of what you want to achieve. Do this in as much detail as you can. It will help your brain form the action steps and give you a clear mental picture of your goal.
The next step is to write a detailed description of the person you are wanting to mentor. Write about her physical description, her education, where she lives, what she likes to do, etc. The clearer you can get on building a profile of the girl you want to mentor, the easier it will be to find ways to reach her.
The next step in your research will be determining the type of group you will form and how you will connect. The member profile you just created will be a huge help here. You may want to form a social media group, organize a meet up or partner with a local school or civic group.
Also, map out your first meeting by determining how you want it to work. Think about where you want to meet and how often. Planning this step will help you manage your time and the logistics of finding a location or working with another organization. This step may be time consuming and frustrating but it will save you a lot of headaches when you’re ready to get started.
Budget your money
Nothing comes for free. Many people who start community groups end up paying for a lot of the expenses personally. It ends up draining them financially and they start to resent the very organization they started. No matter how generous you think you are, don’t try to cover all of the costs yourself.
Avoid debt by building a budget and tracking your expenses. Even though you aren’t out to make money, treat your group as a business. If you are charging a membership fee or selling additional services to help cover costs, you may want to check in with an accountant to make sure you have all the proper paperwork filed.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your group members to help share costs. Ask for volunteers to bring refreshments or donate their time to help with meeting prep or other services. People are usually willing to help, but most need to be prompted to take action. Don’t be bashful. You can’t do everything yourself!
Budget your time
Your time is valuable resource. It has limits. When planning your girls mentoring program, make sure you leave enough time to comfortably manage your job, your family and other leisure activities. Passion, combined with volunteer work will eat up your days if you let it.
Budget your time just as you would your money. Make sure you are delegating tasks when possible and give yourself plenty of time to plan. Disorganization leads to wasted time and resources. Structured events and meetings with a clear agenda will keep you on track and keep your members engaged. Look for ways to save yourself time by outsourcing tasks and putting a stop to busy work that produces very little benefit.
No matter how big you dream, you have to start small. When starting a mentoring group, take things slowly and focus on building relationships. You will only be able to connect with a small number of people personally.
You will find that if you invest in a few people in the beginning, they will grow with you and be there to help support the group as it grows. You have to build that foundation first in order to scale up.
Above all, make the group enjoyable for all and that includes you. If you’re not having fun, chances are it shows and that spoils it for everyone else. If you start to burn out, take a breather and give yourself time to re-focus. Make fun and happiness a priority. You will avoid burnout and naturally attract new members who share your enthusiasm.
I hope you find these ideas helpful when starting your mentoring group. If you haven’t downloaded our guide on “How to set amazing goals and achieve them”, click here to grab your copy and use it to help you with the planning stages.
If you have experience as a group leader or you have a great idea to help those looking to start a group, I’d love to hear it. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!