By Chris Mennel & Natalie Hopkins If you have been around nonprofits for very long, you have discovered that recruiting new board members is an ongoing challenge. Finding the best mix of talent to fill their needs (finance, development, etc) within the right age demographic can be a struggle. Add to this mix the search for younger board members so the nonprofits can effectively plan their futures, and the challenge grows.
To overcome this obstacle, an increasing number of organizations are forming a separate board comprised solely of young professionals.
At first glance, two separate boards may appear to present difficulties in governing an organization, but the benefits can outweigh the costs. Consider the varying options for shaping a Young Professionals Board (YPB). For example, the YPB could be structured to meet the day-to-day needs of the organization while the Board of Directors (BOD) maintains its responsibility and authority to govern the organization as a whole.
Oftentimes, the YPB may plan social events and brainstorm ways to attract a younger demographic to the organization’s mission through its programming and fundraising events. The ultimate goal is for this younger demographic to remain patrons of the organization for years to come.
“We worked closely with our YPB to plan and implement a fundraising event that was geared toward their interests and would attract other young professionals,” said Jennifer Collins, Director of Development for Arts for Learning. “Their input was invaluable in the planning of this event and truly made them feel like an integral part of the organization. Due to our YPB’s dedication to the success of Indy Pies & Pints, the fundraiser has outgrown its current location and tripled its revenue,” she added.
If you think your organization might benefit from an YPB, consider the following parameters as you form its structure:
- Recruit members with a purpose – Just like recruiting BOD members, YPB members should fill a need. You may recruit someone experienced in digital marketing and design, grant writing or fundraising. Blending a variety of backgrounds and professions will lead to a more diverse and effective group.
- Ramp up slowly and keep a steady pace – Recruiting is a slow process. It’s important to keep new members engaged without overwhelming them while you continue recruiting other members. Keep time commitments manageable with developing careers and young families. Informal meetings to plan events along with quarterly formal meetings may be sufficient as opposed to setting a regularly scheduled meeting every month.
- Give them freedom – YPBs are created to harness the creativity and skill set of a younger demographic. Don’t extinguish that creativity by giving them a list of tasks to accomplish. Instead, allow them to carry out events and projects within the overall strategic plan set by the BOD.
- Have realistic expectations – While there are certainly benefits to creating a YPB, there are also costs. Managing a second group of individuals takes time, and actions taken by the YPB will have to be coordinated with the actions of the BOD. Utilizing a staff member to coordinate the actions of the YPB can alleviate some of the demand on your volunteers while also providing a great learning experience for an employee. In addition, differing opinions could potentially lead to conflict that didn’t exist before. It’s important to understand and discuss both the benefits and the downsides before committing to an YPB.
Whether or not a young professionals board is right for your organization, thinking outside the box for new and innovative ways to attract new volunteers and reach new audiences is something all organizations can benefit from.
This post was written by:
Christopher Mennel, CPA
Chris oversees audit and accounting services, not-for-profit and consulting services. Chris’ specialties include manufacturing, distribution/wholesale, retail, health and welfare, service and civic organizations. Chris also prepares financial statement projections and other financial analyses.
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