I was initially daunted by the thought of becoming a mentor; guiding another fundraiser is an enormous responsibility. I feared I would be asked questions I didn’t know the answer to. That would be very embarrassing.
My mentor assured me that these feelings are normal and advised me that it is okay not to have all the answers. I was both encouraged and relieved to hear this.
I have learned so much through becoming a mentor. Here are five ways in which it has enhanced my own knowledge, skills and satisfaction.
1. The feeling of giving back
Have you ever had a friend share something in confidence in the hope you can help?
It feels rewarding; your friend is trusting you and thinks you are wise enough to help find a solution. This is how I feel as a mentor. Being able to help another professional succeed is a wonderful feeling. I am helping the charity sector by creating stronger, and more professional fundraisers.
2. Learning twice
I love the words of the French moralist and essayist, Joseph Joubert, “To teach is to learn twice.” This describes my experience of mentoring. It has given me a chance to guide someone else whilst learning to better myself. I see my own challenges through a mentee’s eyes. From prioritising my daily tasks to meeting major donors, I can take an outsider’s perspective and answer some tough questions in the process. There are so many areas I am improving; perhaps the life I will end up changing will be my own.
3. Self-belief and confidence
I now realise that I know more than I thought. That may seem like a big statement but it is true. Since being a mentor, I have become a board member of a small charity and a co-opted Institute of Fundraising Committee Member. Mentoring gave me the
confidence and self-esteem I needed to reach out to these organisations.
4. Expanding network and recognition
The Institute of Fundraising arranges regular networking events for existing mentors. Through this I have met like-minded professionals and created a network of allies that I can call upon. I am receiving an increasing number of LinkedIn requests from other fundraisers and gaining more recognition for my skills and experience from my peers and superiors. This is a very humbling experience. I am so grateful for these new networks; I truly value their skills and experience and look forward to learning from them all.
5. Enhancing leadership and management skills
I am becoming better at active listening, questioning and reasoning, empathising, rapport-building and learning to motivate others. Mentoring provides the opportunity to listen to someone from a different organisation, at a different level, and provide support to determine a compelling way forward. I have learnt ask questions to help find solutions. Here are some of my favourites…
“Have you ever had this problem before? How long has this been going on for and what you have tried so far to resolve the issue? Why do you think it’s not working for you? How do you think you can move forward?”
These help me guide my mentee but also enables me to tap into my leadership abilities. I have learnt how to apply emotional intelligence in managing team members in my own job.
Becoming an Institute of Fundraising Mentor was the best thing I did for my career in 2016 and I would encourage you to do the same.
Ikhlaq Hussain is philanthropy and major giving specialist, currently Head of Major Gifts at Orphans In Need, Trustee of Mind in Harrow, Co-opted Board member of the Institute of Fundraising South East & London, Mentor at Institute of Fundraising and Mosaic Enterprise Challenge, a regular blogger on the topic of fundraising.