What motivates a person to become a volunteer mentor is a complex question, yet understanding these motivations can be of great importance to organisations when they are attracting, placing and retaining volunteers. The sheer volume of literature surrounding the subject of mentoring indicates the mentoring phenomenon that has occurred and the high profile it has been afforded in the last two decades. However, there is a large gap in the literature surrounding studies that have examined the question 'what's in it for the mentors'? This is especially true in relation to exploring why university students would invest their time to volunteer for an Indigenous mentoring organisation, in this case the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).
AIME recruits volunteer Indigenous and non-Indigenous university students as mentors, who are partnered up with Indigenous high school students with the aim of raising high school completion rates and university admissions. This study investigated the motivational factors that encouraged university students to volunteer their time to participate in the AIME program and to investigate what these university students got out of their experience.
The overarching reason for the participants' initial desire to volunteer for AIME came from an altruistic desire to make a difference, however the articulation of what making a difference meant differed amongst this cohort. For some it meant making a difference to the inequality of educational outcomes that Indigenous Australian children face, which was an issue they had seen either first hand, in the media or through their own education. Motivations for joining AIME included a desire to make a difference to the life trajectories of young Indigenous students by taking on the role of a mentor and role modeling the importance of staying at school. These participants wanted to break the cycle of educational attrition for the next generation. Having attended a school with a high Indigenous population also informed reasons for involvement in AIME as participants had seen many of their Indigenous peers drop out of school and explained that if a program like AIME was around and reached out to those kids, their educational futures and even their life choices may have been different. Participants also wanted to develop their own self-efficacy and give something back to the community by being 'others minded'.