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This page provides information and advice for prospective and active mentors of the SCC Member Mentoring programme. It is designed to give you an understanding of what you might expect from this kind of mentoring relationship and some suggestions on how to respond to common situations you might encounter.


You may already have knowledge or experience of mentoring and you are welcome to bring that into our programme where you consider it relevant. This is a reference document rather than a prescribed blueprint, and where we provide specific direction we do so either because we have a specific need (for our members, or ourselves at SCC) in mind. If you have any questions about out suggested approaches, please speak with a member of staff.


We know this resource will not cover every possible situation and you should not consider it formal (legal) advice or guidance. If you can’t find a helpful steer in here, please share your experience with us so we can assist you directly and update this document for others. 


We have assembled what we believe may be some frequently asked questions and presented them in an assumed chronological order - following the typical stages your mentoring relationship might go through.



Areas and issues covered 


  • What is mentoring?

  • What makes a good mentoring relationship? What should I avoid?

  • What does being an SCC Mentor involve?

  • For how long will I need to commit? How (and how often) should we meet?

  • Will I need a DBS or other background check?

  • How long will it take to match me with a mentee?

  • What ongoing support can SCC provide? 

  • Legal notices and liabilities



  • What should we cover during our first meeting?

  • Should I take notes of our meetings?

  • What kind of information does SCC need from our meetings?

  • My mentee is asking for more help than I’m able to provide

  • Can we take a break from mentoring?

  • Expenses policy



  • Does a match have to end?

  • How should we end the match?

  • What happens once the match ends?



What is mentoring?

Mentoring is usually a one-to-one, non-judgemental relationship where one individual voluntarily gives their time to support and encourage another, to help them move forward towards an identified goal. 


Like a project, the relationship is usually conducted within an agreed time period in order to help keep it focused on the goal. The Mentor’s principal role is to help manage the relationship towards the goal, usually drawing on your own experience to provide direction and insight. 


That said, mentoring is not just about ‘telling your story’ and helping a mentee to do exactly what you did - you use your experience as source material, whilst encouraging your mentor to find their own way. Be someone with whom your mentee can discuss their options, hopes and aspirations. 


Mentoring relationships often:

  • Take place at a time of transition in the mentee’s life and last for a fixed but sustained period;

  • Develop a mutual relationship with an intentional agenda, imparting both specific content and life wisdom through something like a ‘professional friendship’;

  • Meet a development need and help to fulfil potential;

  • Create a safe space for learning and experimentation, a protected relationship in which results are measured in competencies gained;

  • Benefit from mutuality – though giving through time and knowledge is often its own reward, many mentors also come to value what they learn from mentees, or gain from the challenge of working in an unfamiliar context. In this sense, mentoring provides a wonderful opportunity for personal and professional growth for both parties.


What is the difference between mentoring and other developmental approaches?

There are many different forms of mentoring, but for this programme we consider it to be a supportive, future-facing relationship that focuses on helping a mentee to achieve a particular goal. So as a mentor you’re not like a ‘regular’ volunteer, who might be given specific direction or delegated tasks. 


Mentoring can be quite close to coaching, but the main difference here is your background and the role that plays in helping you to reach your goal - mentors usually have some experience in the area of the goal, and draw on this to help give direction. Alternatively, a coach will usually specialise in their approach or client group (executive coaching, sales coaching, life coaching etc.) but need not have any particular experience in your area of focus. Coaches usually start from the premise that the answers are already within you, and use their skill to draw that out.


The table below will help you understand more about the difference between mentoring and similar interventions.





















What makes for a good mentoring relationship?

A good relationship gives the mentee agency; first and foremost it should be their relationship to direct in the service of their own goal or challenge. You should encourage them to take ownership of this and not rely on you to ‘tell them the answers’ or to set the agenda. As all good mentoring relationships are based on mutual trust and respect, an early focus on creating positive boundaries and clear, mutual expectations will be time well spent. 


To achieve this, don’t be afraid to spend some time agreeing ground rules, such as how and how often you will meet, and for how long you think the relationship should last (or to put it another way, how long you both think it will take to achieve the goal). It can be easy for mentoring relationships to drift and for one party to end up feeling taken for granted. Remember you’re making a commitment to each other, but you get to decide what that commitment looks like.


In a similar vein, neither of you is obliged to disclose anything you don’t wish to, or that you don’t feel comfortable sharing. However, if some disclosure is useful on either side, you might wish to have an explicit conversation about confidentiality as you work together.


Outcomes of great mentoring relationships often include:

  • Improving skills, gaining knowledge, increasing confidence;

  • Developing new approaches and strategies;

  • Identifying support structures and new networks;

  • Self-reflection and self-discovery for both.


And what is it wise to avoid, to be a good mentor?

A golden rule of mentoring is to avoid solving your mentees problems by doing it yourself. You can help your mentee work out a pathway towards their goals, and even support their progress, but they should retain ownership and any achievement should be theirs. 


You should also avoid counselling the mentee around any complex or sensitive issues. Use your own experience to give information or signpost, but avoid this tipping over into formal advice or guidance (unless you are professionally qualified and are comfortable using this in your mentoring relationship, at your own risk). If so, please be mindful of any potential liabilities around actions undertaken as a result of any advice you provide.


Finally, be aware of any potentially sensitive information mentees share with you about their charity. Encourage them to share details on a need-to-know basis, in relation to their goals. 


As a quick guide, remember that mentoring is not:

  • An ongoing relationship with no clear end point or goal; 

  • The same as being a friend or boss;

  • Trying to solve their problems or feeling responsible for their decisions or actions;

  • Making judgements about lifestyle, culture, behaviour; 

  • Counselling, therapy or giving advice that is not asked for;

  • Creating a dependency on you.


What would I be doing as an SCC mentor? 

We will probably propose a match to you based on a particular set of skills you have or a professional experience you’ve been through, which relates to the goal of the mentee in their role as a small charity leader. It’s likely that you’ll be supporting your mentee by:


  • Helping them to address a particular challenge they are facing in their charity. This may be a key risk or practical issue, where your skills and experience can offer invaluable support and guidance in helping them assess and plan their approach; and/or

  • Helping them with an aspect of their professional development - something that supports their effectiveness as a small charity leader. This could be about increasing their professional knowledge, gaining a new business skill or even developing a new emotional capability.


How long will I need to commit? How (and how often) should we meet?

There is no recommended answer to this – it’s something we encourage you to discuss and agree with your mentee. You set the terms together. The pattern you agree will probably relate to the mentee’s goal, which is why clarity around it is the key to your success. 


If you're unsure about the anticipated length of your relationship, or the clarity of the goal itself, you could choose to build in a review period or think about breaking the goal into stages to match your available commitments. If it feels like the goal or the commitment is bigger than you are comfortable with, you will then have the opportunity to withdraw. It’s up to you how long the relationship lasts, but if you’re looking for a steer we suggest you prepare for a minimum relationship of around three months. We advise mentees the same, so that you both come to your initial discussion with some common expectations of each other, but this is still just a starting point and we encourage you to agree to your own terms.


How you meet is also up to you. In the current period it is anticipated that all or most of your meetings will take place online, but this is your decision and not something SCC prescribes. If using an online meeting platform (such as Zoom) you may wish to consider which accessibility or security features would suit you both best. 


The structure of your sessions (what you cover) is also something for you both to agree. SCC will provide a template for your first and last meetings, and additional templates for check-ins or mid-term reviews if you request this. If you would welcome further structure or guidance during your match please let us know.


In terms of frequency of meetings, again this is up to you both to agree but we recommend not letting it go too long without some contact (even if this is only checking in). This is to maintain the validity of the goal, and avoid drift, more than anything else.


The information above is a guide. We ask mentees some of these practical questions in their expression of interest form. We use their answers to help create matches, so you shouldn’t be paired with anyone whose expectations are wildly different to your own. We will brief you on this before your first meeting.


Will I need a DBS or other background check?

For this mentoring programme you should not need a DBS or wider background check, as your relationship is very unlikely to be with a vulnerable adult. Though SCC is interested in supporting the outcomes of your relationship, we do not take any responsibility for what happens or fulfil any kind of legal duty to our members in matching them with a mentor. 


We do however undertake a basic risk assessment based on what you and your prospective mentee tell us at the expression of interest stage, and another once we have received your first ‘Kick off’ meeting record. Following this we will undertake suitable actions, with you, to help manage any identified risks. 


During the relationship there will be other opportunities for you or your mentee to safely disclose any aspects of concern. A contact point with staff is provided during the match.


How long will it take to match me with a mentee?

Please appreciate this is a new programme and the speed at which we are able to make matches will depend to a large degree on the available supply of appropriate mentors and demand from our members. 


There’s no guarantee we’ll be able to find you a mentee immediately, but finding the right one for you gives you both the best possible chance of a rewarding, sustainable match. Therefore we try not to rush this stage and (as you would expect) we will ultimately be led by the needs of members.


That said, we do of course recognise and value the contribution you are making, and we want you to have a great experience too. The more you can tell us in your registration form the better - this will help us to make a variety of possible suggestions, and pick up on any hard deadlines you have that might fit into your mentoring needs. We’re a small staff team and will generally process registrations on a first-come-first-served basis, but we will always try and accommodate more urgent requests where possible.


This is a new, relaunched iteration of our mentoring programme and, as yet, we don’t have a strong sense as to how long an average match takes to broker. We will update this question in the future when we have some data.


What ongoing help and support will SCC provide?

We make the majority of our support to you available in the early stages. This is because our key focus is on brokering a great match and giving you the tools to form a relationship that works for you both, on your terms. Almost all research into successful mentoring programmes stresses the importance of the set-up stages. 


We don’t consider it particularly necessary for us to join you at your first meeting – we will try to prepare you both for this and provide a suggested structure for what to cover. However, please talk to us further at the matching stage if you have any concerns. 


That said, once you are in a match please be assured that you are not alone; you will have a staff point of contact, we will continue to update these resources to help support your relationship and answer common questions and, if you choose to use them, we can support more formal check in stages to help you review and manage your relationship. 


Legal notices and liabilities

In entering into a mentoring relationship, you understand that you do so voluntarily and without the legal protection or liability of the Small Charities Coalition. Our mentoring programme does not constitute a paid service for our members and your Mentoring Agreement (which includes a code of conduct) does not constitute any kind of contract.


To protect your own liability, we strongly suggest you avoid providing any formal advice on which the mentee is likely to act, unless you are qualified to provide that advice and are prepared to accept such risks. Giving information, or signposting mentees towards such advice for them to solicit directly is usually a safer option. 


For the avoidance of any doubt, SCC is not liable for any of the actions or outcomes derived through your mentoring relationship. Thankfully, the prospect of legal issues arising through mentoring relationships of this kind is very low. The vast majority of such relationships are rewarding and fulfilling for both parties. 


If you choose to engage in this mentoring programme, you do so on the understanding that SCC recognises its relationship with you as a volunteer. We make certain commitments to you in this regard and ask for certain assurances from you in return. These are primarily to manage expectations and to keep you safe, as covered in what you agree with your mentee in your early meetings and on your kick off form.


What should we cover during the first meeting?

We suggest you spend some time getting to know each other and discussing why you are drawn to mentoring. Like any good voluntary relationship, understanding each other’s expectations is key to its success. Your first few meetings are key to establishing the mentee’s goals so ask them reflective questions to draw these out, capturing what you agree so you can refer back to it later on, helping to keep your objectives on track.


The formal objectives of the first meeting (or first few meetings, if you prefer) are covered on the template we’ll send you. You’ll be able to use this as a structure for the meeting. These include:


  • defining the mentee’s key goal(s) and the outlines of your plan to achieve them; 

  • exploring your expectations of each other and the roles you will both play;

  • agreeing your likely time commitments and matting patterns. 


You can keep these under review as you get going and amend them as you wish – the important point is that you start off on a clear basis. Beyond this, we suggest you simply focus on getting to know each other, building rapport and creating conditions of trust.


Should I make notes of our meetings?

This is up to you - you may wish to if it helps to track progress towards the goal or to frame meetings and make them more effective. Though this is a voluntary relationship, if using your professional time or equipment to support your match you should also be mindful of any personal or sensitive information to which you may become privy to, and any GDPR implications under Data Protection legislation. You may also wish to refer to SCC’s Data Protection Statement/Policy here as a guide.


What kind of information does SCC need from our meetings?

Because we want your main focus to be on your goals and relationship, we’ve made an effort to keep our reporting requests to a minimum. We ask each match to commit to a minimum of two short forms, at the beginning and end of your relationship, with optional review meetings in between if helpful. We’ve designed these to be quick, effective opportunities for capturing impact and feedback only:

  • A record of your kick-off meeting – we’ll give you a template to develop and note the goals you agree, your expected timescales and any other thoughts you have on how you want the relationship to work. We ask that you complete this together;

  • A mid-term health check (optional) – we’ll give you a short self-assessment template to work through together at one of your meetings, at around the anticipated half-way point in your relationship. It’s designed to check in on goal progress (amending them, if necessary), help with focus, flag any challenges you’re experiencing or request additional support from us;

  • An End of match report – again, a short template to reflect on the relationship, progress against the original (or amended) goals and any unexpected outcomes of your time together (good or bad). Well also ask for some estimated numbers - how often you met and for how long. This helps us analyse the benefits and challenges of the programme and report on our wider impact. And if you’re really up for it, we may ask if you’d be prepared to do a short case study for us.


I’m concerned my mentee is asking for more help than I’m able to provide

As a mentor your role is not to complete the goal for the mentee or solve their problems for them. Even if you want to be more hands on, you should remember that the goal belongs to the mentee and to ‘do it for them’ deprives them of this achievement. 


So it’s fine to say no, but of course we recognise that these conversations can be challenging or uncomfortable. You could start by reviewing the initial commitments you made to each other and any expectations you logged in your kick-off meeting. Have these changed for the mentee? Bring any thoughts to your next meeting, encourage an open discussion on how best to proceed.


Perhaps it’s your own commitments that have changed and you’re no longer able to offer what you envisaged. This can happen and it’s no-one’s fault. Again, try raising this in a spirit of openness to discover whether your mentee can accommodate you, or whether a more radical change is required (a changing of the goal, a break period, or a match ending).


If these avenues do not resolve the situation, ask us for your next check in template - we’ll review what you tell us and make suggestions on how best to proceed.


Can we take a break from mentoring?

Yes of course, if that’s agreeable to both of you. Remain mindful of the commitments you made to each other at your first meeting, but if you need to take a break (or your mentee feels unable to maintain a commitment but wants to keep the relationship open) bring this to your next discussion and address it openly. Mentoring is a voluntary relationship and always works best when both parties understand each other’s limits. 


Expenses policy

We don’t anticipate your mentorship incurring any financial costs (other than those of communication, for which we ask you to use your own devices, platforms and data packages). Nevertheless, no volunteer should ever be out of pocket as a result of their contribution. If you believe you are likely to incur any financial costs as a result of your mentorship, please explore and document these as best you can during your kick-off meeting and SCC will advise.


Does a match have to end?

We recommend that it does. Healthy mentoring is goal-oriented, which means there are usually fixed points at which the relationship can naturally end. 


This doesn’t have to be a sad occasion; it could be an opportunity to celebrate success! Neither does it mean that you have to break off all contact. You may choose to keep in touch professionally, or even become friends. 


The key point is to use the goal as a marker and acknowledge that beyond this point your relationship has changed - and that SCC’s support for it is withdrawn (this means we can redeploy our staff to support other members in new mentoring relationships).


How should we end the match?

You should look to bring the match to an end once the goals are achieved, or one of you is unable to continue and you’ve been unable to identify any alternatives. The important thing is to recognise the progress you’ve made and bring the match to an end in a positive way. Call a final meeting and we’ll send you the End of Match form – this will give you some pointers on what to try and capture and encourage you to acknowledge your successes!


What happens once the match ends?

Your match should be a supportive, voluntary, professional relationship and as such there is no obligation on either side to continue the relationship. However, if you wish to do this, here are some suggestions: 


  • You can of course remain friends or professional colleagues under your own steer. From this point, SCC has no particular requests of you, and we would no longer consider you to be volunteering through us; 

  • You may have identified a new goal and wish to continue your mentoring relationship under this new objective. We’d be happy to support this, and would encourage you to contact us with your thoughts. We may suggest using the kick-off template again to capture the new goal. If your mentee has identified a new goal but it’s not one you wish to (or are able to) support, they are of course welcome to reapply and we will seek to match them with a new mentor.

Further information for Mentors 

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