PMA Consulting, LLC

Young Leaders on Nonprofit Boards

Diversity is a vital component to achieving success and progress within a board. According to the 2010 BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index, only 2% of nonprofit board members are under the age of 30, clearly reflecting a lack of age diversity on nonprofit boards. Young leaders can bring new voices and fresh ideas to the table. Today we look at three main questions related to the topic of young professionals (YPs) and board development.

Why are some nonprofit boards hesitant about recruiting young leaders?

Skepticism about the necessity of having various generations on a board is a common first hurdle. Many have an idea in their head as to the “type” of person who should be serving on the board. Often, board members would rather see a corporate-leader type brought on, who tends to be more experienced and already connected within a community.

Another reason behind not recruiting young leaders is the tendency for members to recruit others like themselves. Recruiting tends to happen in circles of people with a similar makeup, and often older members are uncertain as to where they can find younger board members. If able to identify good candidates, there’s a concern that if brought on, he or she may feel isolated from the rest of the board.

Also, there seems to be a misperception about the commitment of YPs. Many feel the younger generation lives a very disposable lifestyle that lends itself to growing tired and abandoning their role on the board.

Why don’t more YPs apply to nonprofit boards?

Simply put, many YPs just aren’t that familiar with the board and how it helps an organization meet its goals. Those who know about the board already, often feel they just aren’t qualified to serve.

Young leaders can sense the skepticism and misperceptions discussed above, and often feel that a board just isn’t accessible to them until they’ve gained some experience. If willing to serve on a board, many don’t know what’s involved in actually joining a board.

What can nonprofits do to attract these young professionals?

There are many strategies that nonprofit organizations can implement to attract young professionals to their boards. For instance, nonprofits can enhance their outreach strategy by utilizing new technology, like social media and email marketing campaigns, to advertise open board positions and market certain networking events. Emerging professionals have a lot of energy and want to make an impact. Nonprofits must value young professionals and treat them as equal board members.

One way to engage young leaders on a nonprofit board is to let them take the lead on a project. This will empower young professionals to innovate and provide excellent results. Moreover, nonprofits can provide opportunities for young members to have responsibilities that match their personal interests. This in turn will be a good motivator, as well provide them with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.