Proactive Strategies from a PM
The most effective and ideal ways to keep pairs on track to meet once a month is to be proactive, follow up often, and maintain high standards for mentees and mentors alike. Here are some strategies for proactive outreach around in-person meetings:
- Message monthly meeting expectation to mentees and mentors throughout year to maintain this norm in your cohort. If a mentee or mentor must miss the event, the norm should be that they must find another time to meet with each other during that month, before the next event. Provide pairs with as much support as they need to find a new meeting date, from providing multiple make-up opportunities (see below) to facilitating communication between the mentor and mentee on and off the platform.
- Plan multiple formal and informal make-up opportunities for pairs in each month.
- If possible, it is most effective to have at least one official make-up event on a different night following the main event, which ideally will catch most of the pairs who could not attend the main event. This make-up event should be a smaller-scale repeat of your main event. You may need to be careful not to publish make-up dates up front since you want pairs to prioritize the main event rather than choosing which event would be more convenient for them, but do actively invite pairs to the make-up event as soon as you see an RSVP of "No" on the platform for the main event.
- When possible, invite mentors to visit mentee at school on a day that you will be there as well. If the mentor has the scheduling flexibility, these meetings typically work best during the mentee's lunch period or shortly after school ends for the day.
- When possible, utilize school events to connect pairs. For example, work with pairs to connect at mentee's school-based sports games or performances, parent-teacher conferences, field days, award ceremonies, etc.
- If pairs are approved to meet independently for Pair Expeditions, research and provide specific opportunities for pairs to access. While pairs are not limited to these options, this often expedites the planning process between the mentor and mentee of choosing an activity, choosing a date, etc.
- As a last resort, connect pairs via video chat (ie Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout). According to program safety regulations, the PM must be present to supervise pair video chats. These meetings work well during mentee lunch periods or shortly after school ends for the day. Use video chatting sparingly; it is a very useful way to connect a pair for a one-on-one conversation without many distractions, but it is rarely as productive or lengthy as an in-person meeting.
- Monitor your event RSVPs starting immediately after pairs are invited to your next event, which is usually about a month out. As soon as you see a new "No" RSVP (or a "Maybe" RSVP from a mentor who is prone to canceling), reach out to that pair to first try to get both mentee and mentor to commit to a specific make-up event or opportunity. If the pair cannot meet at any of your pre-arranged make-up opportunities, maintain the expectation that the pair meets in-person during the month and provide any necessary support to help the pair meet this goal.
- Monitor a pair's total number of meetings throughout the year, as well as the frequency and patterns of their in-person meetings. If a pair does not meet for 2 months in a row but then meets 3 times in one month before another long stretch of not meeting, their total in-person meetings number does not tell a complete story. It is often most productive to provide the most support to pairs who have gone the longest without meeting, rather than pairs who have met the least amount of times; these indicators often align, but this can be a very good way to catch early a pair that started out strong, but has become at risk of becoming disengaged.
- Keep pairs updated on their progress toward fulfilling the in-person meetings benchmark, and if necessary, provide reminders around the big picture context of why it is important for pairs to regularly meet in person and maintain communication. It may be helpful to send out regular "progress reports" providing simple data on pair's lesson engagement and in-person meetings. This will provide context for your ongoing efforts to connect pairs over Canvas and in person.
Strategies to help pairs who are struggling to meet
Step #1: identify the pairs who haven’t met
It's important to stay on top of your pair attendance so that you can intervene before too much time passes. Use the platform's Participation History to identify pairs who haven't met for a given period of time.
Step #2: understand why these specific pairs aren’t meeting
Before you can attack the problem of a pair not meeting, you should talk to schools, mentees, and mentors who aren't meeting frequently enough to understand the obstacles that are getting in their way of meetings. Below are some examples of common obstacles to pair meetings from both the mentee and mentor perspective.
Step #3: create individual plans for each pair having trouble meeting
Because reasons for pairs not meeting vary, PCs should come up with custom plans for each pair based on the reasons that a given pair is struggling to meet. PCs should use these in addition to cohort-wide incentive strategies to encourage pairs to meet. Below are some examples of individual meeting plans.
Step #4: maximize opportunities for pairs to meet
Increasing the number of opportunities that pairs have to meet can make it easier for mentors and mentees to respond to the individualized plan you create for them. Some examples include encouraging mentors to visit the mentee's school for breakfast or lunch meetings, or to attend school events like sports games or school plays.
When pairs have not met for an extended period of time, there is often one or more obstacles that is consistently making it difficult for the mentee, the mentor, or both to attend events or other meeting plans. Here are some examples.
Common obstacles for mentees
- Mentee's friends are not attending event so he/she is less likely to want to attend
- Mentee doesn't yet see value of having a mentor
- Hesitance/fear about meeting a new person for the first time and finding things in common to talk about
- Mentee feels he/she has to work on schoolwork or at a job
- Parental concern about his/her child staying after school
- Transportation issues getting to/from events
Common obstacles for mentors
- Transportation issues or mentor is unfamiliar with school neighborhood and has trouble getting there
- Mentor's work schedule
- Lack of mentee RSVP discourages mentor from attending
- Mentor thinks that individual make-up meetings can take the place of group events
After speaking with schools, mentees, and mentors, the PC should design a customized plan to help the pair overcome the obstacles that they are experiencing to in-person meetings. Here are some examples of strategies that the PC might employ as part of this plan.
- Have an in-depth conversation with the mentee about the benefits and goals of the iMentor program, addressing any concerns he/she may have
- Call mentee's parents to introduce them to the program, address any concerns they may have, and discuss transportation plans.
- Tip: If mentee transportation issues are a common obstacle in a cohort, consider speaking with the school to find out how they might be able to help. Some partners and schools have provided buses/cars, organized parent car pools, or scheduled events on a night when parents might also be attending an evening event at the school (PTA meetings, report card nights, etc.)
- Have an in-depth conversation with the mentor about the importance of modeling commitment and dedication by RSVPing to and attending each event.
- Have a conversation with the mentor and/or mentee about the benefits of attending cohort-wide events, such as being able to network with and get to know other pairs and foster the school-wide college-going culture.
- Suggest or provide special talking points or materials in addition to the regularly scheduled curriculum for the pair to discuss to help them discover common points of interest (for example, ask them each to bring some family photos or favorite music to share with each other).
- Sometimes mentees are reluctant to attend events if their friends are not attending or just need a jumpstart to get to the first one. You might want to consider some ways to incentivize mentee participation on a cohort-wide level.
As always, talk to your manager for additional details and support around getting your pairs to meet outside of monthly events