Patty Alper Interviews David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership

Patty: Could you comment on the interest from corporations in the mentoring field, particularly in the last several years? What have been your observations?

David: The commitments to mentoring from the private sector have been incredible. Back in 2011, then First Lady Michelle Obama helped us launch the Corporate Mentoring Challenge at the National Mentoring Summit and a number of organizations around the country immediately rose to the task. To date, 53 corporations have joined the Honor Roll, serving to drive the mentoring movement with financial investments and initiatives to engage and empower their employees to mentor.  Corporations like EY, JPMorgan Chase and AT&T have continually engaged us to help drive their employee mentoring programs forward with best practices.

Patty: What characterizes a positive mentor relationship between a nonprofit and a corporation? Can you detail elements of best practices?

David: As with any relationship, transparency and clear expectations are essential. When forging trust with a new corporate partner, you want them to be both very excited about your work and informed about the realistic impact they can hope to see. From there, you have to make sure you’re keeping them informed about the progress and showing them data that supports your joint vision. But you also have to keep the other people you’re responsible to informed as well. For us, that’s our board and staff, but also the network of affiliates who make our grassroots work possible and can elevate the corporate relationship to heights we couldn’t manage alone.

Patty: How did you forge a new relationship with Nike? How did they first become interested in MENTOR and in what capacity?

David: Our relationship with Nike grew out of the successful partnership we built with the NBA, launching a campaign to recruit more mentors especially adult males of color (in support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative). That relationship put us in Nike’s vision while they were seeking partners for their EQUALITY campaign, which approaches equality through a sports lens, spreading ideas like “the ball should bounce the same for everyone.” Nike not only appreciated mentoring as a systemic solution to many of the barriers to equality, they also appreciated our ability to both mobilize and provide data showing the number of mentors recruited through the EQUALITY campaign. It really exemplifies the importance of having both compelling messages and effective infrastructure for activation and capturing impact.

Patty: What are the goals of this partnership? Its duration? How will you think about impact?

David: The partnership is a multi-year one which we believe is the hallmark of a productive partnership for multiple reasons. It has four goals:

  1. Align the launch of EQUALITY with MENTOR as one of two national partners.
  2. Engage Nike employees and consumers in the mentoring movement to close the mentoring gap.
  3. Expand the mentoring movement through creation of additional MENTOR affiliates.
  4. Continue improvements to the Mentoring Connector and the infrastructure to onramp interested individuals into supporting the mentoring movement.

Taken together, these goals will see an increase in mentors, not only nationally, but also state by state and in local communities.  Nike, with its market-leading position, has the unique ability to bring mentoring to the forefront of Americans’ minds as an urgent and critical issue, a solution everyone can play a part in, and ultimately grow the movement to prioritize quality relationships and expanded support and opportunity for our young people.

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