The article draws on theories of volunteer motivation, documentary evidence and interview data in an attempt to understand the impact of biographical and motivational factors on perceived success in mentoring relationships. The results presented are part of a wider exploration of the developmental needs of mentors, considering the voluntary nature of mentoring, the social character of action and analyses the incentives of 52 volunteers who were trained as mentors for lone parents between 1996 and 1998, as part of a government‐funded Lone Parent Mentoring Project. The article summarises the recruitment and selection processes used to encourage volunteers to apply for mentor training, and presents results collected from application forms which describe the variety of reasons given by applicants for their decision to apply. It then considers the values and beliefs which underpin these motivations.
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