Skip to main content

What’s it like to be a CharityComms mentor?

16 October 2012

When CharityComms approached me to be a mentor, I was rather flattered.

I’d had a very positive experience of being mentored myself the previous year and liked the idea of being able to give someone else the perspective and support that I found so valuable. My mentee, although working in a very different field, was facing challenges similar to those I have struggled and succeeded with in equal measure over the last few years.

First meeting

We first met face-to-face to talk through her concerns and to crystallize what she wanted to achieve as part of the mentoring relationship. It was an intense hour-and-a-half and it felt like she was outpouring worries and frustrations that had been bottled up for some time. It very much reminded me of when I first met with my mentor!

By the end of the session we had clarified that the focus for her was to build her self-confidence and to develop a communications strategy for her organisation. Despite being very experienced in editorial roles she felt her knowledge of strategic communications was limited and being supported to develop a strategy would help her professional development and allow her to contribute more fully to her charity.

Since our first meeting we have met a few more times in person, had a phone meeting and also moved things forward through emails. She has made very good progress in defining her organisation’s audiences and her communications objectives and she has developed much clearer and more impactful messaging. Her next steps are to translate her thinking into a clear plan of action for the next year.

A sounding board

At times the analysis and strategy I’ve supported her with has been closely related to her immediate concerns at work, for example developing new messaging dovetailed with her updating her charity’s website. However, she has often felt frustrated with her senior management, who are reluctant to review or change the organisation’s communications activity, so one of the issues we are currently looking at is how she can engage internal stakeholders.

As a mentor I don’t think I can necessarily provide all the solutions when my mentee is facing difficulties like these. However, I think I can empathise by relating other frustrations I may have felt during my career and I can always provide a sounding board or offer a fresh perspective.

I’ve very much enjoyed the experience of being a mentor. It is really rewarding to give someone who is having a tough time a chance to get things off their chest. At the same time, I think I’m also gaining from the relationship. It has given me greater confidence in my abilities and has made me realise the wealth of knowledge and skills I’ve developed in my career. As a volunteering opportunity I think it is very flexible and giving a little bit of time can make a big difference. I would definitely recommend becoming a mentor for CharityComms.

Interested in becoming a mentor?

CharityComms runs a Peer Support Scheme where we match communications professionals working in the charity sector with senior external communications colleagues as part of their professional development. We’re currently recruiting mentors for the scheme. You can find more information here.

Fiona Lewis

head of communications, The National Literacy Trust

Fiona is Head of Communications at the National Literacy Trust. She has 12 years experience in communications, PR and marketing. In her current role she has consistently secured high-profile media coverage, grown the charity’s email and social media channels, and overseen public affairs activity.