Findings from the Quality Mentoring Assessment Path (QMAP®) process have provided MPM with new insights into issues mentoring programs face as they work to advance quality in their programs while also managing day-to-day functions of mentoring initiatives. One operational area that programs may overlook is developing match agreements – documents that spell out terms and conditions for participating in a mentoring program for mentors, mentees and, often, mentees’ parents or guardians. For program staff who put a lot of effort into presenting program guidelines during the recruitment, screening and training phases, having these agreements can seem redundant or unnecessary. In fact, match agreements can provide a reminder of the “rules of the road” for mentoring at a critical time, and set the stage for mentors and mentees to create a shared understanding of how they will connect and work together.
Match agreements, sometimes presented as contracts between mentors and mentees, or mentors and the program, provide a way to reiterate the program’s expectations for mentoring relationships, whether they are one-to-one matches or part of a group model. They also reinforce the commitment being made to the mentoring program and relationship. Match agreements are typically finalized as the relationship gets its official start, at the first mentor-mentee meeting. Reviewing and signing off on the agreement as part of the introduction to the mentoring relationship offers a way to share, once again, the program’s purpose and the rules, roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in the program – including the role of the program staff to provide support and assist the match. Having both mentors and mentees sign the agreement shows that both adults and youth have an equal say in determining the course of the relationship; having parents/guardians sign off on the same or similar agreements underscores the importance of family involvement and support for the match.
Areas commonly laid out in match agreements include frequency of communication and contact, expectations about confidentiality, and program requirements, such as documentation or evaluation. Samples of match agreements and contracts with parents/guardians, mentors, and mentees are available through several sources:
- The Elements of Effective Practice Toolkit – Tools to Structure Effective Program Operations, developed by MENTOR in conjunction with the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring Programs – see tools linked under Screening and Matching
- Generic Mentoring Program Policy and Procedure Manual, published by the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence and the National Mentoring Center at Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory – pages 115 – 117
- Going the Distance: A Guide to Building Lasting Relationships in Mentoring Programs, created by the U. S. Department of Education and the Mentoring Resource Center – appendix form A-19
Most of the samples referenced are customizable and can be adapted for your program’s use. If you start with an outside source when creating a match agreement, make sure to consider unique expectations your program has for everyone involved in making, and sustaining, a mentoring match; an example might be goal-setting activities that mentors and mentees are expected to complete. Incorporate those elements into your match agreements so that all expectations about program rules, roles and responsibilities are clear to everyone.
You should also consider that the audience for these documents might range from elementary school students to highly trained professionals. Language you use must meet the needs of this wide range of readers, so it should be unambiguous, concrete and easily understood. Make sure materials are available in non-English formats, if needed, or use translators when reviewing match agreements so that everyone has a chance to read through the information and ask the questions needed to build buy-in for your program’s objectives and standards.
Do you have a great example of a mentor/mentee match agreement? We would love you see how you approach this – and so would your peers! Send your materials to Polly, and help MPM build our collection of innovative best practices to share with others in the field.