Teresa Huff Nonprofit mentors

The Value of Unexpected Mentors and 5 Ways to Find Them [Episode 026]

Who are your unexpected mentors?

Have you ever had a mentor in your life? Someone who has inspired you, and encouraged you, and really given you solid advice for that point in your journey? 

I’ve been blessed to have several amazing mentors along the way, and now I’m so happy to be mentoring other grant writers. If you want in on the fun, book your own session at teresahuff.com/mentor.

Why do we need mentors?

This is an episode that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for a while, but it never seemed quite the right timing. Then I interviewed next week’s guest, and things fell into place.

If you listen to the podcast much, you’ve heard me  mention several times how a mentor was pivotal for me starting out in my grant writing career and how instrumental she was in my journey. Over the years I’ve had several other unexpected mentors who have stepped into my life for a season. 

I’ve had some amazing mentors along the way, but I also learned a lot the hard way. That’s why I mentor grant writers and nonprofit leaders – I’m taking those experiences to help you.  Instead of staring at a huge gap you’re trying to cross in one leap, we’ll create stepping stones to make it much more manageable and you can go forward faster. 

Here’s the thing:

My best mentors haven’t tried to make me a clone of themselves. Rather, they’ve inspired me to be a better version of myself.

What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?

There is a difference between coaches and mentors. Coaching is more structured and follows a specific format to reach a certain set of goals. Mentoring is more about helping you where you are and inspiring you to become better or push yourself or guiding you in a wise path. 

My VIP Program, Fast Track to Grant Writer, is a hybrid of both. I know some experts might say you need to pick one or the other, but in this context I really feel like it needs to be both. 

We look at the grant writing and the mechanics and specifics of those skills that you must have. I coach my grant writing students to become better grant writers. Then on the mentoring side, we really look at what kind of business or career are you trying to build. Do you want to be a consultant or would you rather work for a nonprofit as an employee? There’s a bigger picture to consider.

Like I told my VIPs, it’s messy; it’s all interrelated, so we really need to consider all those facets when you’re making some of these decisions. 

Part of the reason I often refer to myself as a mentor is because it’s not about making clones of me as the grant writer. I want to help you figure out your goals and where you want to go, and then I can give you the tools you need to get there much faster. While the program is a combination, it’s also about you taking those tools and using them to create your own individual impact. 

How to find unexpected mentors

Along the way I’ve developed a few tips for finding mentors. You may be thinking, “I don’t know where to find a mentor, and I don’t know anybody that would be a good mentor.”

Here are a few things that have really helped me:

  1. Don’t force it. Be watchful for the right mentor, but also be patient. You don’t want to just latch onto someone for the sake of having a mentor. You want to make sure it’s the right person for the season you’re in. 
  1. Let go of your expectations for what a mentor “should” look like – age, position, structure of meeting on the regular. Throw all that out the window and just see what comes along. It might not be traditional; your mentor might come in the form of a book or author that resonates with you. It might be a podcast. It might be certain articles that really address what you’re struggling with right now. 
  1. Look for someone a little (or a lot) ahead of you in that area of life. You probably won’t find an all-encompassing mentor for every facet of life. Most likely it will be for just one or two segments of life without a lot of overlap, and that’s okay. Appreciate and enjoy that.
  1. A mentor is not a synonym for cheerleader. They encourage you, but they’re also willing to tell you the hard things that you may not want to hear. Be open to hearing those, knowing that they’re speaking those in love and in your best interests.
  2. Be discerning. There is so much noise; seek wise counsel. Don’t just pick up any mentor that’s available. Make sure it’s the right mentor for you and someone that you want to listen to, someone you know is going to give you good solid advice. 

They say we become like the 5 people we’re around the most. When you surround yourself with things that are feeding your mind with what you want to become, then you’re more likely to achieve that. Filter everything for yourself, even what your mentor says, what I say, what other podcasters and authors say. Always filter to make sure it’s good solid advice. 


Listen in to the podcast as I share several unexpected mentors I’ve had along my journey, and 5 unusual ways you can find your own mentors.

Mentors & Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

I can’t do it justice to explain how much these people have helped me along the way, whether they knew it or not. My hope is that it inspires you to look for wisdom and encouragement in unexpected places.

If you’re a grant writer or nonprofit leader needing a mentor, book a session at teresahuff.com/mentor and let’s help you figure out your next right steps. We’ll get you moving forward faster.

If you know a nonprofit leader or a fellow grant writer who could benefit from this podcast, would you please forward it to them? That helps spread the word, and helps more grant writers and nonprofit leaders out there who are looking for guidance. We’re in this together, my friends!

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