The following piece is a guest post written by Jeb Banner, CEO of Boardable.
It’s common for nonprofits to want young and energetic volunteers to help with their fundraising efforts, but it’s a lot less common to recruit young professionals to serve on the board. While young people are valued for their ambition and energy for furthering a cause, they are often undervalued when it comes to the decision-making and strategic thinking that a board might do.
Some organizations create separate boards for young members to serve on. These individuals serve in an advisory capacity but aren’t granted governing power. This is better than nothing, but it’s likely that you’re still missing out on opportunities by not creating room for interactions between older and younger members. These interactions can provide valuable blending of the tried-and-true practices of your long-standing members with the fresh ideas, new skills, and tech-savvy abilities of young professionals.
In this article, we’ll go through some of the biggest benefits of integrating young professionals into your existing board of more experienced members, including:
- They can introduce fresh ideas.
- They can balance out the current board.
- It’s an opportunity to shape their skills.
- They are likely ambitious and excited.
Overall, having younger generations represented on your board will open up your organization to new approaches and can put you on the path to notable growth. Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
They can introduce fresh ideas.
Understanding traditional methods of fundraising and running an organization is always valuable, but it can be easy to default to some of these older methods when there might actually be a better way. Adding younger members to the board can help bring new ideas to the table that your current board members might not be familiar with. Sometimes, simply having less knowledge of “the way things are done” can open the door to more creative thinking. Plus, doing something different might help set you apart from similar organizations.
Younger board members can be crucial for developing a digital presence and extending your brand to that new digital space. If it’s been a while since your organization revamped your fundraising or communication methods, young members can help ease the transition into a more modern communication approach.
Especially if you are hoping to engage a younger audience, forward-thinking ideas like utilizing social media or text giving can help reinvigorate your organization as a whole. Here’s how younger board members can lead the charge with these strategies:
- Social media. Board members who are very familiar with social media will be helpful in brainstorming how to market campaigns on social media, will likely have larger social media networks themselves, and can be helpful in screening potential social media managing or marketing roles that you may want to hire for.
- Text-to-give. As people who grew up with text messaging for most of their lives, they likely use it a lot more and are more familiar with the kinds of messages people will actually respond to. While they won’t be responsible for running your entire campaign, they can be helpful in getting the ball rolling or helping your team members get set up.
Signaling not only to supporters but also to employees that your organization is working to modernize its strategies can create a buzz that excites everyone involved.
Because they have learned different skill sets and worked in more tech-friendly professional environments, their familiarity with many modern technologies will make it much easier to modernize your organization. Not all of their ideas will be better than those of your long-serving board members, but just the act of bringing a fresh perspective can enhance the dynamic of your entire board.
They can balance out the current board.
Every board member has their own role to play and their own strengths. Your long-serving board members have invaluable experiences and knowledge that your younger members may not have. Conversely, young professionals will also have experiences that older members on the board won’t have and will be much more in tune with the perspectives of the younger generations.
In a recent Monster survey, 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer. Employee engagement is greatly improved by diversity that creates an environment of different opinions and perspectives. Of course, age is only one of many diversity factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and physical ability. However, if your organization has work to do in terms of diversity, making an effort to recruit supporters who can bring forth a variety of experiences and perspectives is a good start.
When making efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), having members who are part of the younger generations leading these efforts can be invaluable. Typically, they have a stronger understanding of how effective DEI measures work because they have spent time in a workforce that emphasizes this much more than previous generations. They have seen these efforts in action and can bring that knowledge to your board, helping you put actions behind your words when it comes to DEI.
While your older members have experience with traditional methods of donor communication and face-to-face interactions, having a younger component to your board creates the opportunity for connecting with an online community. A board with members of different ages who belong to different communities can significantly increase the reach of your organization. Instead of several members all trying to reach the same or very similar communities, you can maximize your efforts and reach several different communities. By diversifying the makeup of your organization, you can also diversify your supporters.
It’s an opportunity to shape their skills.
You might be thinking that onboarding less-experienced board members will be a hassle and require more training than you have time for. Undoubtedly, there will be things that your younger members won’t know. However, having a variety of expertise can be incredibly beneficial. It’s very possible that not all members need to have the same responsibilities. Sometimes, the best method is to divide and conquer. Consider taking a look at Boardable’s guide to board member responsibilities and determining what tasks may be best reserved for more senior board members.
While some tasks, like translating your existing brand into a digital strategy, are best suited for younger members and will likely require little training, there are some other skills that are worth teaching. This is an excellent opportunity to craft a board where members have honed the most optimal skills to help you achieve your goals. Younger members have the opportunity to grow with your organization and become long-serving members.
To better integrate younger members into your current board, you can turn this into a mentoring opportunity. Pair existing members with new members. Then, mentors should be prepared to:
- Teach them the inner workings of the board.
- Coach them on their duties and teach relevant skills.
- Form relationships through one-on-one meetings, giving new members a friendly face in the boardroom.
- Have conversations where they learn about each other’s experiences and skills and how they can help one another.
When implemented effectively, a mentor program empowers board members to craft younger members’ abilities, positioning them to be highly efficient and communicate their perspectives in a way that pushes the board’s work forward––making for a much more collaborative team.
They are likely ambitious and excited.
On-the-ground work is not the only place that ambition can be useful. If you’re looking to increase your board’s engagement, adding some fresh and excited members might just boost everyone’s morale. Boardable’s guide to board engagement can give you plenty of ideas for leveraging this motivation and increasing everyone’s engagement.
Because they are new and excited, they will have the stamina to push forward more challenging initiatives. This can be an opportunity to further ideas that never came to fruition in the past. Team up one of your younger members with a longer-serving board member to get a project going and ensure the proper level of knowledge and quality.
Entrusting them with their own new initiatives can also be a great way to instill confidence and help integrate them into the board’s work. Seeing new members’ ideas or the different ways in which they do things might also get your long-standing board members thinking differently. This kind of excitement can be contagious and can get your existing members more involved in initiatives they’ve long forgotten about or lost momentum on.
Your board is responsible for shaping your organization and ensuring that your messaging, actions, and initiatives are reflective of your mission and values. As with any job, when you’re in the trenches for long enough, it can be easy to lose that big picture mindset. Adding fresh perspectives by recruiting young professionals is one of the fastest ways to remotivate your board and initiate change in your organization. Diversifying your board can help even a small team make a bigger impact through fresh ideas, renewed motivation, and new skills.