By Eric D. Turner, CPA | Business Assurance & Advisory Services Manager | Not-for-Profit Industry Team | December 2014
Many young professionals are attracted to the idea of doing more than just donating time or money to their favorite not-for-profit entities and desire to have a more impactful experience with these entities. At the same time, many not-for-profit entities are searching for ways to broaden their donor base and searching for younger ambassadors of their mission in order to bridge the generational gap between current governing board members and the next generation of volunteers and philanthropists. Creating and effectively using a junior board is a resourceful way of developing future philanthropists and benefiting from the networks of young professionals.
Refreshed enthusiasm, diligent fundraisers, expanded diversity, technology acumen, and the ability to engage and relate to other young community members are key traits associated with junior boards. A certain number of these members will rise to be future leaders of the not-for-profits they serve and give these organizations an opportunity to develop early relationships with talented and passionate individuals. As for the junior board members, they are given the prospect to develop new skills and broaden their professional and social circles, while serving a cause they feel passionate about. As members tend to be in their 20s and 30s, a recently Keiter Blog article by Preston Jones, CPA, Attracting the Millennial Generation to Your Not-for-Profit, may be an additional resource if you are in the process of establishing a junior board. Whether establishing or modifying the structure of how these individuals interact with your organization, the following provides insightful knowledge into the use and best practices of junior boards.
It is worth mentioning that polls of junior board members have found that the actual name “junior” board is not preferable. It tends to give a feel of being less active or committed, or the perspective of being able to offer less than their peers serving in the same role, yet under a different title. Many successful junior boards have done away with this terminology in lieu of more attractive names such as; assistant executive committee, young leaders’ council, progressive development council, and other similar naming structures.
Once a not-for-profit has decided to enact a junior board, they now must clear the hurdle of deciding how to attract the right people. Consider keeping membership of the junior board separate from your current staff. Again, one of the focus points is attracting new young faces that want a higher level of interaction with your organization while also broadening the organization’s network. A good starting point in searching for members is to look for professionals that have offered pro-bono services in the past, volunteers and/or donors in the 20-30s age bracket, or using social media or other technologies like www.handsonrva.org. Hosting a small networking event and inviting these select groups with the encouragement to bring a friend is a great step toward attracting members.
The amount of communication will vary from organization to organization, however, the key to creating open and dynamic conversation is by keeping the style of communication flexible. It is best practice to assign a staff member of the not-for-profit to be the liaison between the junior board and the governing board. This allows for members to have a friendly face to interact with at the organization without becoming overbearing to the most often volunteer based governing boards that they will be reporting to. The junior board should have one member attend the governing board meetings to establish an open line of communications between the boards. The not-for-profit staff member serving as the liaison may also consider sending brief frequent summaries of activities or consider establishing a communications chairperson to spearhead monthly newsletters giving updates on programs and progress reports of the junior board’s projects. These can easily be reformatted and disbursed via online blogs or social media. Formal meetings are recommended to occur no more frequently than quarterly or even semi-annually. This group is currently in the stage of their life where there are multiple things competing for their attention; graduate school, weddings, young children, and establishing their career just to name a few.
Once developed, the junior boards should be allowed the freedom to charter their own course by self defining their involvement and projects. The creative nature of these junior boards and ability to reach a new donor base through different methods is one of the more prudent purposes for establishing one in the first place. Expect this group to seek to launch events that focus heavily on social activity as this is an area that this age bracket is more comfortable. Members are more likely to be willing to ask friends and others to purchase an event ticket than they will be asking for a straight monetary donation. Similarly, this group tends to be more comfortable with discussing key focus areas like mission, status, and achievements in small social group settings.
Every not-for-profit should be evaluating the utility and philanthropic impact of younger community leaders not only as a current objective for fundraising and awareness efforts, but as a development strategy for future sustainability.
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