There is a lot of information floating around about the benefits of having young people/young professionals on your Board of Directors. Most of this stems from the fact that most nonprofits don’t. Some are starting the process of being more inclusive through young professional advisory groups and other similar cadres of 20 and 30-somethings, but the truth is that nonprofits tend to fail miserably in including this group (20-somethings represent only 2% of nonprofit boards).
There’s movement toward inclusion; I think, partly because boards are recognizing that they need to pass the torch or the organization could falter. There’s also growing recognition of the benefits that having younger board members brings–large networks of other young people (which can help with recruiting younger donors and volunteers), tech-savviness, eagerness to learn (and eagerness to form quality mentorships), tenacity, creativity, and flexibility.
Catalyst is a unique organization in that our Board is comprised completely of next generation leaders. Kristin and I felt it was crucial that our board be representative of the generations that we serve.
Here’s why I love our board:
1. A collaborate spirit. No Robert’s rules for them. They work together as a team and work collaboratively with us to make sure that we are accomplishing our goals.
2. Flexibility. If something isn’t working, they fix it.
3. Creativity. Awesome ideas fly around the table at our board meetings. The board members also have the tenacity and large social networks to turn the creative ideas into tangible actions.
4. Assertiveness/Openness. Our board members actively come to us (and to each other) if they feel that something needs to be changed or if something doesn’t feel right.
5. Forward thinking. Our board is strategic. They think about how today will impact our future operations. They are committed to the longevity of the organization.
Thinking about including more young people on your board can be scary. Sometimes it goes against a major norm that has been set in the organization and that has been upheld for many years. However, starting to be more inclusive is crucial to the health of your organization and is a huge part of succession planning.
BoardSource recently published a qualitative study of nonprofit leaders and their perceptions of young people as board members. The study provides some really useful information about the benefits of including next generation leaders, the strengths they bring, the barriers that prevent organizations from including young people on their boards, and some strategies to start the process. You can read the article here.
Tell us how you feel about YP’s on your board. Take our poll:
If your organization wants to learn more about recruiting next generation leaders to your board or about creating a young professional advisory group, plan on attending our “Engaging Young Volunteer Leadership in Your Organization” training on Friday, March 25. The training is from 9am-11am at the English Foundation Building in Indianapolis. Email Kristin (firstname.lastname@example.org) to reserve your spot.