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Young Professionals Board: Does Your Organization Need One?

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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.



Explore some common questions you might have about young professionals boards.

Young Professionals Board FAQ

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.

What Is a 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.

What are the Benefits for the Young Professionals?

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:

  • Learn philanthropy and business from the inside of an organization
  • Network professionally with their peers and gain new friends
  • Gain valuable leadership and teamwork experience
  • Advance their career by joining a board related to their line of work
  • Open the door to a career in a different field for those who are looking to make a switch

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.

What Do You Look for in Young Professionals?

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:

Look for these desirable characteristics in members for your young professionals board.

  1. Sector experience. Every organization has a different purpose, adheres to a different business model, and requires different needs. Any candidates that you consider for your young professionals board should have knowledge pertaining to your cause and the population you serve.
  2. Leadership experience. Look for potential members who have worked with a student government organization, been a member of a junior advocacy group, or who have a history of leadership in any capacity.
  3. Legal knowledge. Every organization—for-profit or not—has legal considerations to adhere to. Any candidate with legal knowledge, experience, or training will be an asset to your young professionals board. For instance, large law firms have young professional service committees, which are a great place to recruit beginning law professionals for your organization.
  4. Marketing. For any business—be it nonprofit or corporate—marketing and outreach are essential for growth. Young professional recruits should be interested in branding, messaging, and marketing in general.

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.

How Does a Young Professionals Board Differ from a Board of Directors?

This chart displays differences between young professionals boards and boards of directors.

 

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.

How Do You make a Young Professionals Board?

The process of starting a young professionals board is pretty straightforward. Here’s a general overview of how it works:

  1. Define the board’s purpose. What role will your young professionals board play in furthering your organization’s work? What jobs will they be tasked with? Answering these questions will help determine whether developing this type of board would be beneficial.
  2. Determine general eligibility requirements. After deciding why the board should exist, determine different requirements for joining, such as age restrictions and necessary experience.
  3. Recruit your team. Once you’ve worked out the basics of your board, start connecting with your target audience by reaching out to people in your network and promoting the opportunity online. During the recruitment process, be very clear about the purpose of your young professionals board. There should be an understanding among those you recruit that the board is advisory in nature.
  4. Assign roles and onboard your professionals. Everyone should have a clear understanding of what their purpose is on the board. Have a clear structure with assigned responsibilities. Officer positions will likely include a chair, vice-chair, treasurer (if working with a budget), secretary, marketing chair, and events chair. As you welcome new board members, be sure to teach them all about your mission and train them how to properly use your board management tools.

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.

What’s the Time Commitment for Serving a Young Professionals Board?

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.

What’s the Process of Joining a Young Professionals Board?

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.



Responsibilities for young professionals boards are largely similar across the sector.

Common Responsibilities for Young Professionals Boards

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:

These are the common responsibilities for young professionals boards.

  1. Online fundraising. Particularly at nonprofits (and occasionally at for-profits), it’s relatively common that young professionals are expected to partake in fundraising, which is largely done through social media. That doesn’t mean that grassroots, door-to-door fundraising doesn’t have its place. It’s just generally assumed that young professionals are more adept at effective digital strategies than older professionals.
  2. Promoting the organization. Marketing and networking are some of the best ways to procure funds and expedite organizational growth through higher-value targets. Most people who invest in an organization want to know more about that organization’s work, which is why young professionals are often encouraged to partake in outreach.
  3. Volunteering. The best way to learn about an organization is by connecting to it on multiple levels. Young professionals should regularly volunteer for different roles around the organization, so they can identify potential areas for improvement.

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 couple of myths about young professionals boards that need to be debunked.

Myths about Young Professionals Boards

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:

  1. You can’t serve while working full-time. While joining any type of board is a commitment, you should make your young professionals aware that they’re welcome to join even if they have tight schedules. For the most part, organizations invite people to join their boards because of their careers, not in spite of them.
  2. You need plenty of prior experience. While you’ll have some prerequisites in place, the beauty of a young professionals board is that anyone with a passion for your organization should be encouraged to join. Serving your board is the real opportunity to develop their skills. Your organization should emphasize the importance of positive qualitative skills, like communication and teamwork.

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.



Members of your young professionals board should keep these tips in mind.

Tips for Serving on a Nonprofit Young Professionals Board

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:

These best practices will set your young professionals board up for success.

  • 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.



These are the immediate next steps to take after forming a young professionals board.

Steps to Take After Starting Your Young Professionals Board

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:

  1. Get them involved. Start by reviewing the strategic plan. Help them to understand the goals the organization is working toward. They’ll appreciate understanding the nonprofit’s strategic direction and may find additional ways they can assist in accomplishing goals. Further, involving some of your young professionals in the strategic planning process can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to your planning.
  2. Catch them up to speed on your technology. After welcoming new members to your board, make sure they’re fully aware of the technology available to them. Walk them through how to use a powerful and user-friendly board portal like Boardable will be quick to learn. They’ll be able to schedule meetings, develop dynamic agendas and minutes, share documents securely, stay on top of their tasks, monitor goals, and so much more. With the tools they need readily available to them, you can streamline many backend processes and focus on developing your young professionals into true leaders.
  3. Educate your young professionals board. Just as continuing education is important for a governing board, it’s also essential for your young professionals. A young professionals board can be a training ground for the governing board, so cultivate leaders by adding an education piece to every meeting. Help them understand how a young professionals board differs from the governing board, and explain how they can get the word out about your organization’s work and accomplishments.

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.


Let's wrap up this guide on young professionals boards with some helpful resources.

Additional Resources for Young Professionals Boards

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:

Get a free trial of Boardable and see how our software can empower your young professionals board.

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