Best Practices in a Virtual Mentorship


What does it take to make a virtual mentorship successful? How effectively can experienced professionals share their expertise and wisdom by mentoring non-profit organizations around the world?

Through the KnowHow Mentorship platform, a virtual mentorship program that links the professional skills of volunteers with the needs of associations and chambers of commerce from around the world seeking technical assistance, CIPE is currently facilitating 13 virtual mentorships between experienced association executives from the U.S., Canada, and Europe with mentee associations all the way from Bangladesh to Tunisia.

As highlighted previously in CIPE blog (here and here), KnowHow has helped local organizations become stronger participants in their country’s economy and governance process. For instance, using advocacy tips the mentee association received from its KnowHow mentor, the Azerbaijan Micro-Finance Association (AMFA) successfully helped reduce the fee for inquiring credit history from the Central Bank of Azerbaijan from 2 manat to 1 manat (1 manat = 1 euro). This has allowed AMFA members to conduct more credit history checks for prospective clients, thus helping expand their businesses.

To help spread share the best practices of a virtual mentorship, CIPE hosted a webinar featuring two KnowHow mentorship pairs. Panelists included the President and CEO of Advice & Consensus Elissa Myers and President of the  Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association Kakha Kokhreidze, as well as Executive Director of American Industrial Hygiene Association Peter O’Neil and Vice President of the Association of Business Women in Serbia Olivera Popovic.

Both KnowHow pairs emphasized three key factors to building a successful relationship for a cross-cultural mentorship.

1. Understand the local context: in order to have engaging discussions, both the mentors and the mentees must understand each other’s local context. For instance, if a mentor is providing advice on how associations in the US would approach membership development, the mentee should tailor the mentor’s advice into their local realities.

2. Commitment: to make any mentorship fruitful, both parties must be committed to the greater cause–to help make an impact for one another. In order for the mentee association to improve its organization, it will take some time and patience to see results. Therefore, not giving up when tough times come – such as scheduling conflicts or not seeing immediate results – is necessary.

3. Communication: lastly – and most importantly – communicate, communicate, communicate! As like anything else, communicating to each other and being honest is important in a mentorship. If a mentor’s suggestion doesn’t work, the mentee association should be honest and tell the mentor. And vice versa, if the mentor thinks the mentee association could do more, encourage them to do so.

To find out what else the panelists had to say about their KnowHow Mentorship experience,  listen to the clip on our YouTube page.

Maiko Nakagaki is Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.