Mentoring programs that offer stipends and reimbursements versus programs that don’t

The pros and cons of mentoring stipends will be explored to determine if they should be used or not.

Mentoring is defined as someone teaching or giving help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.  According to Michigan State University Extension, one key word that stands out in that definition is giving.  Mentoring is about giving back to someone in need or providing another with a learning experience.  Mentoring requires the giving and sharing of one’s time and skills.  The mentor has to be willing to commit to sharing one of our most prized commodities which is time. Although most will agree that mentoring is a gift that is given from the heart, others believe that a mentor should be financially compensated for the sharing of their advice and knowledge. 

Since mentoring requires such a large commitment, programs have opted to pay stipends as a way to recruit and retain mentors.  Many either agree, or disagree with this practice.  There is not much gray area in the topic of paying mentor stipends.  MSU Extension will explore the pros and cons of the policy of offering stipends to mentors.       

Pros:

  • Stipends can offer an incentive as a means to recruit more mentors
  • Mentors can use stipends to offset expensive costs of mentoring
  • Stipends allow programs to appeal to a diverse audience of potential mentors 
  • Stipends can require higher expectations for mentors (paperwork and hours spent with mentees)

Cons:

  • Adults  who think mentoring is a job or focus on it as a means of income
  • Mentors who want to take on multiple mentees for the wrong reasons
  • Mentors who don’t have a mindset around volunteerism to give back to a young person in need
  • Potential to loose mentors if the stipends end 

When mentoring programs are establishing policy and procedures, stipends may be considered. It is important to weigh options when determining if stipends are used, as there are benefits and downfalls.

Funding sources are another thing to consider when thinking about paying or providing stipends to mentors. Federal, state and private foundations are less likely to fund programs that pay mentors as they tend to support programs with less administrative overhead costs and more money allocated to direct services. A program may have a funder who supports stipends, in which case the funding sources change. That second funder may have a totally different outlook on stipends which would pose a challenge. It is difficult to tell mentors who receive stipends that they will no longer receive payment.  If individuals are mentoring for the wrong reasons then they may leave the program, but if people are mentoring as a form of giving then they will remain. 

So, it is important to screen mentors to ensure that they are genuine and giving back in the form of volunteerism and not be attached to a monetary fee for service even if a stipend is offered.

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