Unique Experiences Highlight Mentor Program

Thursday, January 31, 2013

When a new mentoring initiative was launched by the Michigan Forum for African Americans in Philanthropy (MFAAP, a CMF affinity group) in 2011, no one was quite sure what the outcome would be for those participating.   The unique program was designed to attract, retain and promote future, diverse leadership for philanthropy by creating a pipeline of new talent and energy, pairing experienced mentors with young and/or inexperienced mentees new to the field.

From left: Douglas Stewart, DeAndre Lipscomb

A little over a year later, the first group of mentor/mentees completed their educational and interactive sessions led by Dr. Lynn Wooten, associate clinical professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a nationally recognized leader in the field of creating and building mentoring programs.

The results?

One mentoring team summed up the feelings of all the inaugural participants with such descriptive terms as “Intense”, “Game-Changing”, “Critically Important” and “Simply Wow!”

“This has been one of the most incredible professional experiences I could have ever hoped for,” says mentee DeAndre Lipscomb, vice president of community outreach for the Health Alliance Plan.

Paired with mentor Douglas Bitoni Stewart, executive director of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, (photo: left) Lipscomb described the experience as “a two-way learning experience that provided an incredible opportunity to meet, interact and learn from some of Michigan’s top philanthropic leaders.

“Doug and I clicked right away,” notes Lipscomb. “From the start we both stated what we expected from the experience, which Dr. Wooten had us put in a document, and we took it from there during four scheduled meetings and then additional conversations.”

High-quality reference materials, shared experiences, directed and self-developed discussion points ranging from nonprofit career expectations, financial realities, diversity and   inclusion issues and more kept the dialogue interesting, useful and real, says Lipscomb.

“Doug was incredibly incisive, direct, knowledgeable and open…and he made it seem like we were more like partners in the process than just mentor/mentee,” he adds.

Stewart lavished praise on his partner as well, saying, “It was almost like a co-mentorship program. There was great give and take. What makes this work so well is the program is structured, yet flexible. You really learn how to be a supportive professional.

“The program provides form, function and purpose for everyone involved. Your thinking is stretched with (lessons, current data, relevant studies) and conversations designed to bring out important questions about the field and specific jobs and expectations,” notes Stewart.

In a unique twist to the fledgling program, both Stewart and Lipscomb have decided to team up and co-mentor a new mentee this coming year using their lessons learned from each other.

“This program will definitely strengthen the field of philanthropy,” says Stewart. “And an unexpected benefit is I now have a new friend and colleague!”

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