Every board of directors needs experienced and dedicated professionals with years of service, a range of skills, and a rich network of connections to draw upon. However, strong board members don’t just spring up from nowhere. Organizations have to be intentional in recruiting motivated individuals and get creative to transform them into true champions of the cause. Such people will develop naturally but not rapidly or in high numbers without a bit of help. This is why more organizations are developing young professionals boards (YPBs) to jumpstart recruiting.
The purpose of a young professionals board is to cultivate the talent of young, professionally-minded people who supplement the main board’s work. This group is a perfect way to develop promising young leaders into ideal members of the senior board. While highly effective, it’s necessary to first consider if a young professionals board is right for your organization.
To help, we’ve pulled together this guide, complete with everything you need to know about building a young professionals board and setting up these bright-minded individuals for success. Here’s what we’ll cover:
At Boardable, we work alongside mission-driven boards to serve an array of corporations and charitable organizations. We fully understand the value of connecting with the right individuals and have the expertise that your team needs to create a motivated young professionals board. With plenty of hands-on experience, we’re confident you’ll form an outstanding group of young professionals in no time. Let’s dive in.
Are you a brand new executive director at a smaller charitable organization looking to build your very first young professionals board, an experienced CEO at a major corporation aiming to revamp your current board structure and recruitment, or somewhere in between? No matter who you are, it’s worthwhile to first acquire the foundational knowledge necessary for formulating a well-built young professionals board.
A young professionals board is a group of individuals aged 21-40 who are dedicated to supporting an organization’s programming and other needs. Broadly speaking, a young professionals board reaches out to peers in the same age group, offering opportunities for them to get involved. It provides a platform for young philanthropists to learn more about the organization’s mission, learn more about philanthropy in general, and become ambassadors for your organization.
As we mentioned, its purpose is to cultivate the talent of young professionally-minded people who supplement the main board’s activity. Specifically, members of a young professionals board create and manage events for the organization, make personal donations, and volunteer. For the organization, the young professionals board raises awareness of their mission while connecting them with a broader network of supporters.
Many organizations want millennials and zoomers with fresh ideas, digital competence, and persistent attitudes. Businesses and other mission-driven organizations aren’t the only ones who can benefit from young professionals boards, though. Many young folks can also benefit greatly from these opportunities. If they have a passion that’s not met by their day job, joining a board can help them stay in touch with their other interests.
Members of a young professionals board can leverage the opportunity to:
Although certainly not the only motivation, serving on a young professionals board can also enhance their résumé as well. In summary, a young professionals board is a mutually beneficial opportunity.
Putting together a senior board is challenging, but luckily, you can leverage candidates’ track records to make hiring decisions. With younger, less experienced professionals, it’s not quite as simple, so you often have to rely heavily on being a good judge of character. Here are a few skills and characteristics to look for in your young professionals:
The success of your young professionals board relies on the candidates you select to join. Take the time to find the best members as you can expect to work with them for many years.
Unlike a board of directors, a young professionals board does not have governance responsibility for the organization. The group is strictly advisory and provides support where needed. For a nonprofit, this would include fundraising and volunteer support. Sometimes the president of the young professionals board is invited to serve on the board of directors, either in a voting or non-voting capacity.
The number of members of a young professionals board varies greatly. Some are small (with around 10-15 members) while others are large (with about 20-30 members). There is no set number of members on this type of board.
Boards of directors tend to be smaller, as determined by numerous studies. The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that indicates that the smallest corporate boards have an average of 9.5 board directors, while the largest ones have 14 or more. The average amongst all corporations is around 11.2 directors.
In terms of committees, a healthy structure gives members to participate in important aspects of the organization. Typical committees for a nonprofit young professionals board may include executive, membership, events, marketing, and volunteer coordination. For boards of directors, the most common committees include executive, finance, governance, and fundraising.
The process of starting a young professionals board is pretty straightforward. Here’s a general overview of how it works:
When everyone knows their role and purpose at your organization, your young professionals board can get to work!
At any point in the process, you can seek advice from your colleagues at organizations that have young professionals boards. Ask them what they’ve learned, what works for them, and what they suggest you do differently when establishing your young professionals board. You can also look at information online from organizations that have an active board of young professionals. Reviewing this information can provide you with insight about how you want yours to function.
Members of your young professionals board should expect regular board meetings at a minimum. The timing will vary depending on the organization. Most conduct meetings on a monthly basis, but these can occur more or less frequently as needed.
Most organizations also have annual term limits for board members, so someone can’t join a board and expect to leave a few months later. Consider adopting a similar policy for your young professionals board as serving on a board of any kind is a commitment to the organization and the community it serves.
Joining a young professionals board starts with choosing the right organization that aligns with the individual’s values. Getting involved is a great way to stay in touch with a worthwhile cause, or if they’re looking to make a career move, they might choose to join a board related to their line of work in the for-profit world. Either way, emphasize that young professionals should first feel a connection to your organization and a desire to drive its mission.
Applicants should find an opening that suits their background, consider their chemistry with other potential board members, and get to know anyone who’s already on the young professionals board. Once they decide to join, they must interview and submit materials for board leaders to review. If they’re a good fit, they’ll be invited to join and start shaping the direction of the organization.
At the most basic level, a young professionals board impacts an organization’s future growth. What this usually entails is promoting the organization, cultivating relationships in the community, and engaging others on social media and at social functions. Responsibilities vary across organizations, but here’s a breakdown of some common expectations for young professionals boards:
A young professionals board’s ultimate goal is to find ways to appeal to the new generation and introduce new technology to your organization in a way that’s more transformative than disruptive. Setting expectations like this upfront will allow them to do their best work and make a difference.
There are a handful of myths that you’ll want to debunk when promoting your young professionals board. A couple of common misconceptions you should address include:
Being crystal clear about what joining your board does (and doesn’t) entail will help open up the opportunity to a much wider audience. Be upfront with your recruits, helping them determine if it’s realistic for them to join.
Joining a young professionals board can be one of the most rewarding and impactful experiences of a young person’s life—if they’re willing to put in the extra effort. As a CEO or other board leader, it’s up to you to share actionable strategies to shape your young professionals board and guide them in the right direction.
As you bring on your next board of young professionals, here are a few tips you’ll want to share to start their terms off on the right foot:
Everyone has something to offer. Anyone working with the young professionals board should set the underlying tone that everyone has something to offer, regardless of their background. Whether it’s tapping into their networks, researching new strategies, navigating the organization’s technology, or coordinating fundraising initiatives, anyone can make a positive impact. They just need to figure out the areas in which they excel.
Communicate openly. A non-negotiable skill that any board member needs is effective communication. This applies to interacting with fellow board members and the greater community. For effective internal communication, they should take the time to fully learn how to use your board portal to communicate and make decisions for the benefit of your organization. For effective external communication, they should fully understand your organization’s mission and take the time to promote it in a way that grows your connections.
Take the time to learn about the organization’s operations. As people who are considering future involvement in your sector, members of your young professionals board should take the time to understand how your organization works. They should look into your governance structures, daily operations, pro bono services, and so on. This will shape their experiences and expedite the learning process as they get more involved in your work.
Overall, your young professionals team should be aware that their experience on your board is what they make of it. It’s up to each individual to be proactive and put in the necessary effort. While the experience will be rewarding no matter how much someone chooses to be involved, that experience can be fully tailored to their goals and help enhance their personal and professional development along the way.
Once you have established your young professionals board, consider how to develop that board and how to keep the members of the board engaged. It’s highly likely that the members of this board have little-to-no experience in this type of role. Your organization has an opportunity to educate your young volunteers while you receive the benefit of their passion and willingness to work hard for a cause.
Here are some immediate next steps you’ll want to take after welcoming your young professionals:
Taking the proper next steps will allow you to kick everyone’s terms off on the right foot, prioritizing engagement from the start. They’ll be able to get up to speed much quicker and start making a difference at your organization.
Many young professionals struggle to find time in their demanding work schedules to eat, rest, and exercise—much less volunteer their free time. The idea of dedicating a portion of their already restricted free time might seem challenging, but in reality, many young people are willing to make the commitment.
When it comes to starting a young professionals board, there’s a lot to take into consideration, starting with determining if it’s the right choice for your organization. You’ll need to take the proper steps to fully build out your plans, recruit the right members, and set them up for success.
Along the way, bear in mind that your board management software (like Boardable) can play a powerful role in all of this. Having the right tools on your side will allow your team to easily run meetings, communicate between them, complete tasks, and make important decisions.
If you’re looking to learn more about effective board management, we’re here to help. Here are a few resources that can help launch your efforts forward:
A Nonprofit’s Checklist for Better Board Succession Planning. If you’re considering recruiting any of your young professionals for your board of directors, make sure you have an effective succession plan in place. Set new board members up for success by exploring this complete succession planning guide.
Board Voting: Common Steps & Tips for Better Decision-Making. Voting can be tricky to grasp, especially for people who are new to the process. Learn about common voting procedures with this guide from the Boardable team.
How to Run a Board Meeting that’s Engaging and Productive. Want to teach your team how to run a successful meeting? Want to teach your team about running a successful meeting? Read and share these tips with your young professionals board.