Apr. 12, 2007

From Mentee to Mentor

I’ve been supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation for nearly five years, starting off as a member of the Peleton Project (the former name of what is now the Challenge). This was my first contact with the Foundation and my first attempt at fundraising, so a mentor was assigned to me.

Being from Europe, I was hoping that my mentor would be able to help me deal with the different circumstances and difficulties of raising money outside of the United States. My mentor was from Canada - okay, not exactly Europe, but from outside of the US, so we had something in common and I was looking forward to hear from him.

I waited for the next couple of weeks and then months to hear from him, but he didn't even write me an introduction e-mail! Sure, he did raise lots of money and I’m sure he was an excellent fundraiser, but not really a mentor. What good is a mentor if he doesn’t interact with his group of mentees?

I was disappointed, which resulted in the idea to get involved myself. Since I’ve already been a mentor for exchange students from the US who studied at my university, I was confident enough to apply. Fortunately, the LAF was very interested in having a mentor from Europe, and I started a small European group last season.

I usually get asked why I became a mentor. Some even ask me if I have some personal advantages- e.g. getting paid, getting to meet Lance, getting free entrance to the dinner party, etc.

The answer is easy: I don't have any advantages by being a mentor. I don't get paid- it's completely volunteer work. I didn't get to meet Lance and I don't have any advantages by being a mentor. We are just like everyone else in the Livestrong Challenge- trying to raise money for the LAF.

Being a mentor basically means building a relationship with participants and offering an extra level of support throughout the season. I try to send regular e-mails to the group, covering information about our level of fundraising as a group, certain deadlines which may be important to participants, updates on the website and more.

In addition, whenever a participant has questions about fundraising or the Challenge in general, I try to answer them. If I don’t know the answer or I’m not sure about it I contact the staff in Austin and then give that information to the mentee. In a way I’m an intermediary between the LAF and the participant.

Sometimes mentees have excellent ideas for fundraising or launch their own websites and tell me about them, so I can send the information to all my mentees. It helps promote their webpage and thus spreads information about the Lance Armstrong Foundation, but it’s also a great way to inspire other fundraisers and give them new ideas.

For some, having a mentor means being regularly updated on the Livestrong Challenge series - almost like a newsletter. They are not really interested in interacting, which is okay, and they don‘t reply to e-mails.

Other mentees like to keep in regular e-mail contact with me, and a few even were there when the mentors for the Austin Challenge offered a meet-and-greet opportunity during Challenge weekend. What was really astonishing for me was that although the American mentors had more mentees assigned to them, I was the only mentor who actually got to meet some of their mentees. That was something I didn‘t expect and apparently neither did the other mentors...

I hope more Europeans will join our small group this season - but either way, I can’t wait to continue working with such an amazing group of inspiring European fundraisers. I’ll definitely have a great time during the season... and by the way: I'm the one proudly wearing yellow in the picture.

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