Do Program Services Promote High Quality Matches?

It takes many months to develop high quality relationships. In the meantime, programs need to make sure they are doing what it takes to support relationship development every step of the way. To attract and retain quality, effective, and involved volunteer mentors, programs have to recruit, screen, train, match and support them well. It is also necessary to support the youth throughout the program experience.

Mentor Recruitment & Screening

Recruiting and screening efforts should focus on obtaining quality mentors rather than increasing the number of volunteers. Not all individuals interested in your program will be a good fit. Programs should screen potential volunteers to assess whether they have the qualities, availability, and commitment to be an effective mentor.  Staff should have a system for screening all volunteers, tracking and documenting that each component has been completed and that decisions to accept or disqualify a mentor are based on appropriate information and in line with program guidelines.

Training for Volunteer

Mentors are most successful when they receive training on how to establish effective and long-lasting relationships before they are matched with a mentee. Training should be specific to the goals and objectives of the mentoring program, and be ongoing throughout the mentoring relationship. Programs should track whether mentors complete all required training during their involvement with the program.

Matching Mentors and Mentees

Programs should take into consideration the expressed preferences by mentor or mentee and make the match on the basis of shared interests and family preferences. When considering potential matches, ensure that the prospective mentor and mentee meet the program’s eligibility criteria, share some traits (like gender, ethnicity, language, interests), and are committed to the conditions of the match and the mentoring relationship

Ongoing Supervision and Support for Youth

Staff should check in with youth regularly to assess their satisfaction with the relationship and address any issues before they escalate. Programs should set a standard for conducting staff check-ins on a regular and ongoing basis and manage that they take place with each youth as often as intended. Staff check-ins should occur with more frequency during the early stages of the mentor-mentee relationship and during times that relationship problems are being worked through. During check-ins with youth, staff should be sure to:

  • Find out how the youth feels about the relationship
  • Encourage the youth to continue working on the relationship even when it’s hard
  • Address concerns and provide guidance

Staff should keep case note records to allow for monitoring that support to youth is provided appropriately and as frequently as needed.

Ongoing Supervision and Support for Mentors

Developing a mentoring relationship requires time, commitment, and consistent support. Staff should check in regularly with volunteers. Most programs require that mentors submit regularly a log of activities with the mentee. For the first year, verbal check-ins should be monthly or more frequent, particularly during the beginning of the match and during times that relationship problems are being worked through. During check-ins staff should be sure to:

  • Address any concerns raised by the mentor log information (including if the log has not been submitted)
  • Check whether meetings are taking place at expected frequency and ensure that the mentor takes the responsibility for scheduling them (rather than waiting on the youth)
  • Ensure that activities are appropriate and of a nature that supports relationship development (such as meeting to talk, attending sporting events, seeing a movie, going to a museum, zoo, parade or cultural event)
  • Encourage mentors to focus on building a close relationship, especially early in the match, and resist the urge to rush into big projects or set demanding goals
  • Address concerns and provide guidance

What You Should Do

For matches to have the best possible chances of success, programs should:

  • Keep a checklist and written documentation that screening requirements have been completed for each volunteer
  • Track volunteer training attendance and not match volunteers until training is completed
  • Keep a checklist and written documentation of the rationale for matching
  • Keep case notes to document support provided to youth, and review them to ensure that support is appropriate and provided as frequently as intended
  • Require volunteers to submit mentor logs (or obtain the same information verbally and record it) and review the information to monitor frequency of meetings and ensure that activities are appropriate
  • Keep case notes to document support provided to mentors, and review them to ensure that support is appropriate and provided as frequently as intended


Surveys / Assessments


Sources Cited

Deutsch, N. and Spencer, R. (2009) Capturing the Magic: Assessing the quality of youth mentoring relationships. New Directions for Youth Development, 121 p.47-70.

Grossman, J. B. (1999). Contemporary Issues in Mentoring. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.

MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership. (2003) Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (3rd ed.)

MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership. (2005) How to Build a Successful Mentoring Program: Using the elements of effective practice.