Mentoring Ideas | Tips for Mentors | Tips for Mentees
Writing a Mentoring Proposal
by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones

Are you trying to gather support and funding for a new or revised mentoring program? Most decision makers want to see a written proposal.

Having a succinct, well conceived, and readable document will communicate your professionalism and organizational skills.

Even if your organization isn’t used to formal written proposals, writing out your ideas will help you present them orally.

What to Include

A typical proposal for a pilot mentoring initiative usually includes the following:

  • Statement of Need (what needs or problems your pilot effort will address)

  • Proposed Initiative (highlights of the pilot, how it will look)

  • Benefits to the Mentees, Mentors, and the Organization (what each will gain from your proposed effort)

  • Goals (specific outcomes the pilot will attempt to reach)

  • Tasks (the main activities you and others will accomplish)

  • Personnel (who will help)

  • Timeline (when each task will be completed)

  • Budget (at least an estimate of costs; see below for more ideas)

Space here doesn’t allow details on proposals and how to write them; but based on The Mentoring Group’s experiences, here are a few tips:

  1. Keep the proposal relatively short. As a rule of thumb, it shouldn’t be longer than 10 pages including one page for the budget. (If you’re seeking a grant/government contract, keep to the limit required by the source.)

  2. Show the specific benefits of the proposed ideas to the readers and target audiences. How will their lives be better as a result of this initiative?

  3. Get several people to review and react to a first and second draft of the document.

  4. Try to find out the potential funds available; gear your budget accordingly.

Common Proposal Mistakes

  • Too vague. The proposal is too general and doesn’t get to the important specifics of why, what, how, who, and how much.

  • Too ambitious. It includes goals or activities that can’t be accomplished in the proposed timeframe or budget.

  • Too long. The proposal goes on and on with too much unimportant detail. It looks padded with extra “fluff.”

  • Too shallow. It provides little, if any, research and/or lacks a solid theoretical base for the mentoring effort.

  • Too undocumented. It doesn’t provide solid data regarding the target group’s needs and motivation.

Use your organization’s normal process for submitting your proposal. Will you present it orally at a staff meeting? Do the parties like to read a written version in advance? Should your presentation be casual or formal?

Your Budget

It’s not possible here to state the actual cost of your pilot initiative. It is feasible, however, to list the items to include in your budget with a few ideas on each. Your list could include more or fewer entries. This list covers one cycle of mentor-mentee pairs or groups. Remember to multiply for repeated cycles.

  • Personnel – full-time and/or part-time, paid and volunteer helpers

  • Overhead – personnel-related costs such as benefits, office space, furniture, equipment, supplies, phone(s), fax machine, computer(s)

  • Materials development - design and production of recruitment materials, books and other resources on mentoring, production or purchase of mentor and mentee learning materials, letterhead, evaluation forms

  • Kick off event – facility, refreshments

  • Training event(s) – facility, trainer’s fee, trainer’s expenses, refreshments, audio visual equipment

  • Networking/Learning event(s) – facility, refreshments, speaker’s fee

  • Cycle completion celebration – refreshments, certificates, awards

  • Mentoring website – content/design, implementation, ongoing updates

For more ideas on planning, implementing, and evaluating a mentoring initiative, see The Mentoring Coordinator’s Guide in Products.

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