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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Bishop

We Need Younger Voices on Nonprofit Boards

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

A nonprofit board is tasked with guiding the high-level strategy, oversight, and accountability of an organization. The board needs to find a balance between the various competing challenges and act responsibly towards its employees, business partners, and the collective world. Diverse perspectives are necessary in the boardroom to pursue its vital purpose – creating value.

According to the Leading with Intent 2021 survey, 69 percent of nonprofit board members are 45 or older and only 9 percent are under 35. This lack of diversity impacts more than board members would think – including fundraising, marketing, and fulfilling the mission at large.

It’s important to include younger voices on nonprofit boards not only for looks, but for success moving forward. Gen Z and millennial leaders are focused on purpose and innovation, and it’s no longer an option to leave them out of the boardroom.

How to Recruit Young Talent

We love the recent research shared by Stanford Law School students on ways nonprofits can recruit younger directors (especially because this research was done by Gen Z students!).

Here are several of the tips they share:

Look for new ways to build the board candidate pipeline

Nonprofits seeking younger candidates can reach out to young professional organizations, ask younger staff members for recommendations, or even use networking sites like LinkedIn to identify individuals interested in board service.

Provide mission-oriented, impact-driven work

Many individuals, but especially younger people, are attracted to organizations where they can see real impact and feel that they are contributing to a meaningful cause. When recruiting younger individuals, Forbes Nonprofit Council suggests that boards adopt strategies such as leveraging social media channels and giving younger directors opportunities to work closely with the communities served by the organization.

Welcome all forms of contributions — not just financial

Nonprofits may understandably fear that focusing on younger board candidates might harm their fundraising efforts, as older board members tend to have more and better-established relationships with donors and other sources of funding. However, younger individuals can serve as connections to their personal and school networks, develop innovative fundraising ideas, and bring fresh skill sets to the table.

Nonprofits that require financial contributions from board members should also consider a "phased give or get" policy to include younger leaders that may not personally have the funds to make regular donations but can seek out funding within their networks.

Examples of Nonprofits Excelling

Nearly a third of Gen Z – those aged 16 to 24 – will choose to work for employers that proactively prioritize diversity and inclusion in their workforce, compared to 11 percent of Gen X – those aged 42 to 57 – and 13 percent of millennials – those aged 26 to 41.

We are seeing more and more workers that are leaving organizations that aren’t "getting it". That doesn't have to be the case with your organization! Here are some quality examples for inspiration:

As a coalition of socially responsible businesses, organizations, and individuals who are moving diversity, inclusion, equity, and equality forward for all Arizonans, ONE Community is succeeding at its mission internally as well.

The Young Professionals Board members serve with the same innovation and relationship building skills that helped establish Treasure House by being advocates in the community, fundraisers, and volunteers.

Founded in 2013, UMOM’s YPC is an active group of diverse community leaders between the ages of 21 and 39 that have the chance to advocate, network, and fundraise for the nonprofit on a mission to end homelessness.

According to InBusinessPHX, local nonprofit The Manifesto Project Arizona has designed a program to assist local for-profit and nonprofit organizations in their efforts to develop a pipeline of young leaders. This quote from the article shares a great perspective from a participating Manifesto Project nonprofit:

“We recognize the continual need for new energy and new ideas to solve some of the most basic problems confronting the changing face of hunger,” says Beverly Damore, president and CEO of participating organization St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. “We believe that the young leaders joining our organization have the opportunity to interact and give back to our community in ways they never have been able to before.”

Where to Look for Openings & Guidance

Another Arizona opportunity for finding young talent and organizations seeking to diversify their boards is through the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits' Volunteer Center.

The Alliance also offers a training program called Business On Board (BOB). BOB is designed to teach professionals and community members what they need to know before joining a nonprofit board or to give a much-needed refresher to current board members and other organization leaders.

Other national opportunities to connect include the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Idealist’s volunteer listings.

We hope these tips, insights, and examples help you make the leap into diversifying your board and benefitting from the talents of young leaders!

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