3 Highlights from Propeller’s First Speed Mentoring Event

Portland nonprofits had an opportunity to tap into a new resource for guidance and a fresh perspective last month through the Propeller Uplift program’s first speed mentoring event. The goal was to leverage the business experience of our consultants to offer pro bono mentorship and support the needs of local organizations. Because giving back to the community is a meaningful part of Propeller’s culture, we’re always looking for ways to serve local nonprofits in different and unique ways.

Propeller consultant Stefanie Galen. Photo: Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Spearheaded by Propeller consultants Stefanie Galen, Maura Koehler-Hanlon, and Sabrina Lam, the event provided a forum for nonprofit staff to interact with 16 mentors from Propeller, openly share issues they are experiencing at work, and brainstorm new ways to resolve them. Not only did this event allow mentees to get practical advice and work on their professional development, our consultants had an opportunity to learn from mentees and sharpen their own skills all while making a positive impact. It was a powerful way for the business and nonprofit worlds to come together for the ultimate benefit of our community. Businesses can be proactive about engaging with organizations on a mission to improve the cities and communities around them by investing time in helping their people be more successful in their roles.

Recognizing a need for mentorship, we built a custom program just for nonprofits

As a partner with Mercy Corps Northwest, our consultants have participated as mentors in their speed mentoring events over the last few years and have seen how well it works for small business owners looking to grow. There is always a big demand for one-on-one mentorship.

Given that employees at nonprofits don’t always have the same access to trainings and resources as for-profit businesses, we wanted to fill that gap and give them an opportunity to take advantage of free mentoring to elevate their skills. — Stefanie Galen

The people who signed up came from a cross section of nonprofits, including education, homelessness prevention, environmental protection, food services and athletics. They also hold various roles, including founders, programming managers and development directors.

Prior to the event, our Propeller team came up with a list of top 20 hot topics and issues we see across the board in various organizations. We conducted a survey asking those who signed up for the event to rate their top five topics so that we could match them with the right mentor at the event. Propeller mentors were hand-picked consultants who have a background or experience in the nonprofit sector – and all of whom are passionate about our community. The topics covered strategic planning and goal setting, communications and conflict resolution, managing up, change management to get people on board when implementing changes, board design, volunteer program management, and corporate partnerships.

At the event, each mentee met with three mentors in 20-minute increments to talk through tricky work situations and develop solutions. We also carved out time for networking among mentees so they could get to know their peers, build connections and share information across organizations.

Here is what we learned from interacting with the nonprofits and people who attended.

1. Mentees and mentors experienced mutual benefit

Photo: Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Our mentees expressed the challenges that come with working in the nonprofit industry. Bouncing ideas around with a mentor gave them a new set of eyes, and valuable perspective of someone on the outside who is not in the weeds, which allowed them to look at a problem differently and refocus their energy. The goal was for the mentees to gain more confidence and use new tools in their jobs.

At the same time, our consultants were able to work on their own professional development, gain a deeper understanding about what’s happening in the community, and hone skills they don’t use every day by combining their expertise with their passion for serving.

The mentees gave us a view into the unique considerations to be aware of in the nonprofit sector, like having to be creative with a more limited budget. We enjoyed hearing from the nonprofits about the incredible work they are doing and are excited to open doors to doing more good work with them. 
— Stefanie Galen

2. There is an appetite for mentorship

Propeller Consultants offered advice to local nonprofits. Photo: Maura Koehler-Hanlon

It was clear to us that there is a need and desire for those who work at nonprofits to access other resources outside their own organization for support and guidance. Our event retrospecetive, and surveys completed after the event, showed that getting together like this with peers from other nonprofits made the attendees realize they are not alone and that many others struggle with the same issues. Our event was a safe venue in which to motivate them to figure out how to best approach those challenges.

3. Businesses can engage their community in creative ways

Photo: Maura Koehler-Hanlon

While nonprofits certainly rely on donations to keep moving forward with their programs, Propeller recognizes there are also other ways for local businesses to get involved and provide support to not only enrich nonprofits as an organization but also make an investment in their people. The speed mentoring event was a prime example. Every business has people with special skills that can be invested in local initiatives and causes.

Through our Propeller Uplift program, which we launched in 2015, we plan to continue our outreach to touch more nonprofits and find new ways of helping them. Our mission is to impact the lives of people in our community and do work that is truly important to the community in which we live. — Stefanie Galen

The for-profit and nonprofit worlds can uncover collaboration opportunities by coming together to make an even greater impact. We can also bring nonprofits together as a whole to break down silos and combine forces as resources for one another.

Uplift has led professional development workshops, facilitated board offsites, aided in leadership goal setting, and mentored prospective small business owners. Propeller recently published our 1st Corporate Social Responsibility Report that highlights Uplift’s impacts with partner organizations.

Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our Uplift team H E R E.