You don't have to convert your company to a full-fledged social entrepreneurship to make a difference in your community.
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Plenty of hands-on giving opportunities already exist in your local community – like community-based mentoring programs.
The mentoring concept has a strong foothold in the small business community. Small business owners often assign new employees an experienced mentor to guide them through the orientation process, and sometimes experienced business owners even develop mentoring relationships with entrepreneurs outside of the company.
But while these mentoring programs are designed to help people who lack business skills, community mentoring programs are designed to help individuals (usually children and teens) who lack skills for everyday life. Typically, participants in community mentoring programs face unique challenges, and are a perfect fit for small business employees who overcome new obstacles every day.
How does it work?
Most communities have nonprofits dedicated to initiating and overseeing mentoring relationships between qualified adult mentors and needy program participants. These organizations usually assume responsibility for screening mentors, identifying participants, and facilitating the mentoring relationship. Conveniently, there are often open to the idea of partnering with local businesses to meet their need for mentors.
What are the benefits of mentoring?
On the surface, community mentoring seems to provide few direct benefits to your business. But although your efforts will probably not lead to additional sales or increased visibility, your company can bask in the knowledge that its employees are genuine assets to both the business and the local community.
What are the risks?
Employee mentors represent your company to the public. If something goes horribly wrong during the mentoring process, your company's reputation could suffer significant damage. However, most mentoring organizations have a strict screening process and go to great lengths to ensure that the mentoring relationship is safe and successful. If you have any questions about your mentoring organization's process or procedures, get answers before you agree to tie your company's name to the program.
What does a successful mentoring program look like?
The success of a community-based mentoring program often hinges on a single word: Commitment. Mentors are required to meet with program participants on a regular basis. Even if it is impossible to meet face to face, programs frequently require mentors to touch base with participants at least once a week. On top of that, mentors need to be available for emergency meetings during times of crisis. Since program participants often suffer from a lack of stability already, mentors should be prepared to maintain their level of commitment over the long haul. Businesses also have the ability to provide additional opportunities for mentees to participate in the life of the company. Company picnics, summer internships, and group outings are all great ways to help your mentees feel like they are part of the team.