Many nonprofits inquire about starting Junior Boards (AKA Executive Boards, Associate Boards, Leadership Boards, etc.). No matter what you call them, boards consisting of young professionals designed to generate fresh ideas and attract the next generation of donors and volunteers are a vastly untapped resource for many nonprofits.
However, junior board members can be pretty tricky to find and retain. In looking at younger nonprofits who have active board members under the age of 35 or well established nonprofits who have an active Junior Board the following 5 things are what I’ve seen them to have in common:
1) They have a strong social media presence. Not just the nonprofit itself, but the junior board members specifically. This means they use Facebook, Twitter and/or Linked In to communicate with one another and the nonprofit. Both for personal messaging and for promoting their cause and/or events.
2) Nonprofits recruit junior board members though networking events designed to attract young professionals. Some are at volunteer fairs like the one Chicago Non-Profit puts together, others go to social networking events put on by young professional organizations or chambers. Young Professionals of Chicago, the Metropolitan Club and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce all put together open networking events targeting young professionals, so attending one of those events will at least help increase the awareness of your organization and give you an opportunity to collect business cards.
3) Organizations who successfully recruit young professionals are tenacious at following-up. When you do come across someone and talk to them about your organization, get their contact information and follow-up in a timely manner. Nonprofits looking to recruit volunteers/junior board members should send an e-mail the next day thanking them for the opportunity to meet, talk to them and ask them to come out again and suggest that they join their Facebook page or follow their nonprofit on Twitter. It’s a bonus if the organization has an upcoming social event – but they should at least invite the potential volunteer to meet at the office or have a cup of coffee if nothing else. Follow-up with an opportunity to engage or at least a note of thanks to make you and your organization more memorable.
4) Have defined roles for junior board members. Not just a role of President, VP, and secretary – but roles such as an events chair or a social media chair – spots designed to provide structure both for the board and for the planning of events to help raise money and awareness of your nonprofit. Let the young people design events that they would be interested in attending and support them through the network established by the nonprofit to supplement the unique network that the young professionals are bringing.
5) Have a well-defined level of expectation. Give/gets are often avoided by nonprofits for junior boards, but this is a mistake. I’ve often sat on junior boards with no defined or enforced level of expectation, and what you get are a lot of ideas and little action. Nonprofits tend to shy away from asking board members directly for money – but the ones that do are not only more efficient in not wasting time talking about what to do but much more successful in having good attendance to the events and retention of junior board members. If you take the approach of “we’ll establish a give/get later – we just want junior board members now” is only delaying the time at which you’ll find some great value (read: raise money) out of your junior board. Asking for as little as a $250 annual commitment can go a long way in cutting out the do-nothings from a junior board. If your junior board members can’t commit to giving or raising a little over $20/month for a year, don’t waste your time. That’s a fraction of many young professionals’ Starbucks habit.
You can also learn to be more social-media savvy at our upcoming Social Media Workshops for Nonprofits that we’ll be beginning at the end of August. Look for more information on that within the next 2 weeks either on our Blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed (@ChicagoNP), Linked IN group and e-newsletters (AKA all of our social media outlets). We’re also looking to put together some panels of nonprofits with well-engaged Junior boards to share their insights on what makes them successful, so be on the lookout for those as well this fall. You can also always contact us or post on our Facebook page or blog if you’d like further information.