A key benefit of membership in the Illinois Park and Recreation Association is a career-stage mentorship program that brings together early, mid-level, and seasoned professionals. It helps to grow professional networks while keeping members engaged with the association.
How to hack it? Each year, members of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association have the opportunity to apply to IPRA’s ProConnect mentorship program. The program groups members into “triads,” bringing together three professionals based on compatible characteristics, geographic location, and career stage. Each team includes one early-career, one mid-career, and one advanced-career professional,
“When we did statewide focus groups, the number-one thing that came up in every discussion was that members wanted mentoring at all levels of their career,” says IPRA Executive Director Debbie Trueblood, CAE. “That means we have mentoring for those fresh out of school and for those who are already the CEO.”
The program accommodates up to 26 teams. The groups are organized through a questionnaire and those selected commit to attending five mandatory meetings.
Why does it work? IPRA partners with a local university and uses an approved curriculum for the program. And it has kept the benefit affordable, currently subsidizing 80 percent of the cost. Members pay $90 to participate.
What’s the bonus? In addition to giving the triads plenty of face-to-face networking time, the five meetings also increase participants’ engagement with other members and staff. “It causes us to get out of our own heads and meet members where they are,” Trueblood says. “And it’s become a great way to continue to grow the organization.”