Martha Sloan Felch (left) and Nurys Camargo discussed the Chica Project. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
My experience mentoring non-profits has been helping founders develop and review their slide presentations at the Social Innovation Forum. SIF creates positive social change in greater Boston by engaging leaders, strengthening organizations, and building networks. I was surprised to learn that mentoring is nothing new to non-profits, according to the article Older execs turn gurus to boost nonprofit missions, sub-titled For mentors, coaching work is energizing. I can vouch for that sub-title, as I definitely find mentoring energizing. And I’m certainly an older exec, though involuntarily retired. But there is an important difference between coaching and mentoring.
Mentoring non-profits has a long history. As Boston Globe reporter Robert Weisman writes:
The mentoring movement dates back at least four decades. A group of prominent captains of commerce, led by banker David Rockefeller Sr., founded the Executive Service Corps in 1977 to strengthen nonprofits. In more recent years, as large numbers of baby boomers began leaving the workforce, dozens of other groups have sprung up, including many professional and business school alumni associations, to work with younger leaders in a range of fields. From coast to coast, thousands of seasoned mentors are seeking to impart wisdom and expertise.
Empower Success Corps deploys a network of 170 consultants to help nonprofits across New England develop and refine strategic plans. Empower charges a modest fee for its services. I’m surprised that ESC charges anything – it’s the first mentoring organization I’ve found that charges fees for its services. To me the major difference between mentoring and advising or consulting is that mentoring is always free while advisors and consultants, like other professional service providers such as lawyers and tax accountants, always charge for their services. (ESC of Northern New England (ESC NNE) and Empower Success Corps, headquartered in Boston, have recently joined forces).
Mr. Weisman captures what mentors provide to entrepreneurs and what motivates mentors:
For high-octane professionals, mentoring social entrepreneurs — as paid consultants or as volunteers — offers the chance to share skills and insights gained in the corporate world with idealistic up-and-comers who need business savvy to carry out their missions
“You’re putting people with experience together with people who can learn from that experience to deliver on their missions,’’ said Doug Dickson, board chairman at Encore Boston Network, a group that helps place older businesspeople and professionals in new roles in the nonprofit sector, public agencies, and mission-driven businesses.
For the mentors and consultants, there’s also a strong desire to contribute. Some of them lost jobs in corporate downsizing moves or felt passed over by younger executives in the latter years of their careers. “It gives them a way to continue creating value in a society that doesn’t have a place for these people,’’ Dickson said.
Others simply decided they were at a time in their lives when they wanted to give back.
I was pleased to see that Ulea Grace Lago, Empower’s director of consulting, sees mentoring as a two-way street, which jibes with my experience at the MIT Venture Mentoring Service. I feel that I learn as much from the team mentoring experience of VMS as our entrepreneurs do.
Please read the full article, which tells the story of how Empower helps a non-profit organization, in this case the Chica Project, which started seven years ago to mentor young Latinas. If you aren’t familiar with mentoring this article will help you get up to speed.
And you too can have the opportunity to vibe with young entrepreneurs, if you volunteer to mentor at Empower or other organizations, such the Small Business Association, which works with a number of local partners to counsel, mentor, and train small businesses.