Creating a communication plan in your mentoring program

Establishing a communication plan in mentoring programs helps build, maintain and sustain strong relationships with children and families.

Two women sit at a table across from each other

Positive, effective communication is an important part of any youth development or mentoring program. Program staff and volunteers should think critically about how to engage and support participating families by creating a solid foundation for communication and coming up with a communication plan. 

A communication foundation

Laying a solid foundation for communication with families in a mentoring program starts at the beginning of the program by starting with clear and open communication. Up front, you need to communicate several things to families.

  • Program expectations. Families need to know what the rules and policies are for the program. How often does their child need to attend? What kind of commitment do they need to make to participate in the program? 
  • Program contacts. Families need to know who to contact for different needs. Who should they reach out to if their child is sick and they need to cancel a mentoring session? Who should they call if they have a concern about their child’s mentor?
  • Program goals. Families need to know what the goals or expected outcomes are for the program. Tell them what their child will be doing and why it’s important or helpful for them. 
  • Family’s expectations. What does the family need or expect from the program and program staff? Ask families if there’s anything they need you to know about their child or family. What does the family hope the child gets out of the program?

Communication plans

How will you communicate with families?

Once you have laid a solid foundation for communication with families, think about how you will be communicating with them. There are so many ways to communicate and stay in touch with families. Think about what methods you will use in your program.

  • Email
  • Letter or newsletter
  • Blogs
  • One-on-one conversations
  • Meetings with the whole family
  • Program website
  • Social media
  • Other

What information will you communicate to families? 

The next step in creating your communication plan is to think about what information you want or need to communicate with families. 

  • Program updates or cancellations
  • Upcoming events
  • Program announcements
  • Requests for information
  • Asking for family feedback on the program
  • Accomplishments or successes
  • Encouragements
  • Resources, information or education that might be useful for families
  • Check in on mentor/mentee relationship or match
  • Concerns about behavior or attendance
  • Thank yous
  • Opportunities for family engagement
  • Pictures or videos from events

How often will you communicate? 

How often you communicate will depend on the information you need to share with families. Think critically about how often you will provide updates to parents on different topics. Is it daily? Weekly? Biweekly? Monthly? As needed?

Create your communication plan

When planning communication as part of your youth mentoring program, it might be helpful to create a communication plan. Think about the different types of information you need to communicate and how it makes the most sense to communicate it. See the sample plan below to use as a guide. 

Information

Communication method

Frequency

Communicator

Scheduling mentoring activities

Parent’s preference (email, phone, text, etc.)

Weekly/as needed

Mentor

Event invitations and details

Program website/social media

Monthly/as needed

Mentor supervisor

Check in on mentor/mentee relationship or match

One-on-one meeting

Quarterly

Mentor supervisor

Asking for family feedback on the program

Email survey

Annually

Program director

MSU Extension’s Heads In, Hearts In family engagement resources

Michigan State University Extension has created a series of family engagement activities called “Heads In, Hearts In.” These resources contain simple, easy-to-follow activities where parents can engage with their children around a specific educational topic. Heads In, Hearts In activities will encourage families to use their minds (putting their “heads in”) to expand their knowledge and work, grow and learn together (putting their “hearts in”). 

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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