Starting a young professionals board is one of the smartest moves you can make to supercharge your organization’s growth. Jeb Banner shares his expertise gained from his work as the CEO and Founder of Boardable, a board management software provider for mission-driven boards. He outlines three key steps you can take to launch. Seeking insight from today’s bright minds empowers all types of causes to connect with younger generations and build future leaders for the organization.
If you’re unfamiliar with this type of board, organizations typically refer to them as junior or associate boards. Whatever title you give this group, they’re comprised of individuals under 35 years old who are dedicated to supporting an organization. Broadly speaking, a young professionals board reaches out to peers in the same age group, offering opportunities for them to get involved. They also assist with the main board’s duties to maximize productivity.
These boards exist across all sectors and are not only beneficial for the organization. Volunteer opportunities give young professionals a chance to gain firsthand experience that will help in building a career — whether in the nonprofit or for-profit sectors.
If a young professionals board sounds like the right fit for your organization, here is a quick rundown of what that process might look like to set one up for your organization. Here are the key steps to get one started:
- Define the role of the board
- Recruit young professionals to join your team
- Welcome your new members
Young professionals boards are valuable assets to any organization that wants to gain more diverse insights and expand its reach to younger audiences. You just need to make sure you take the proper steps to establish a well-structured board.
1. Define the role of your young professionals board
Before you can officially establish your board, you need to figure out its role in pushing your organization forward, just as you do with your main board of directors. Defining responsibilities will give recruits an idea of what they’ll actually be doing in the role and helps set actionable goals.
At many organizations, young professionals boards usually supplement the main board’s work. These type of boards need to have a distinct purpose and a clear understanding of the decision making power they may or may not have within an organization.
For instance, the board of directors holds governance responsibility and voting power while a young professionals board might be strictly advisory in nature. Some organizations invite the president of the young professionals board to serve on the main board to strengthen the line of communication between the two groups.
After you’ve defined this group’s relationship to the board of directors, dive into outlining the exact responsibilities they’ll have. This guide to young professionals boards sums up the most common types of duties.
Here are a handful of specific tasks that a young professional board can be responsible for within an organization:
- Act as ambassadors for the organization and network to expedite organizational growth
- Recruit and engage young volunteers and donors
- Introduce new technology that can streamline the organization’s processes
- Support social media marketing efforts and campaigns
- Advise the main board on strategic decisions and help the board overcome roadblocks by providing fresh perspectives
Knowing how your young professionals will fit into your organization’s overall structure is crucial before you start having conversations with potential recruits. Being able to articulate specific duties will make recruitment much easier since everyone will know what they’re signing up to do.
2. Recruit young professionals to join your team
You can’t just decide to establish a young professionals board and then expect promising recruits to pop up out of nowhere! You need a plan in place to locate these individuals, and defining expectations is only your first step.
To create a highly impactful team, you should know what characteristics to scope out before you start promoting the opportunity. Build the ideal persona you’d like to bring onto your team. Characteristics that any organization should keep an eye peeled for include:
- Sector knowledge. Experience is ideal but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. After all, many young professionals join boards to gain that experience. Instead, look out for anyone who has prior knowledge of your organization and the population you serve. At the very least, they should be willing to put in the time to learn about your organization’s unique purpose, structure, and needs!
- Leadership experience. Look for individuals who will be comfortable taking on a leadership role in your organization, prior experience is a bonus. This could include anyone who’s been a part of a student government organization, participated in a junior advocacy group, or held some other leadership position.
- Marketing and networking skills. Remember, your young professionals will be ambassadors for your brand. Make sure they can represent the organization well and are willing to put the time into promoting your organization through their networks.
- Enthusiasm. Above all, a genuine passion for the cause is a nonnegotiable characteristic! This enthusiasm will shine through as they market your organization and strive to learn more about your work.
Once you’ve identified characteristics that will help to launch your organization toward its goals, start reaching out to candidates. Connect with potential applicants by turning to your network and promoting the opportunity online. Keep this persona front of mind as you filter through applications and hold interviews. In no time, you’ll locate the right individuals for the role.
Bear in mind that the overall success of your young professionals board lies in the hands of those you recruit, so don’t accept the first people who apply just because you’re excited to have new people join the team.
3. Welcome the new members of your young professionals board
At this point, you’ve narrowed down your candidates and invited them to join your young professionals board, but you’re not quite done yet!
Just like you do with your board of directors, make sure to onboard your young professionals. Think about it: you wouldn’t hire a new staff member and automatically expect them to know what to do.
As people who are considering building a career in your sector, they should want to learn all they can about your organization and who it serves. Encourage them to take the time to learn how your organization works, looking into your governance structure, daily operations, and stakeholders. This will expedite the learning process and get them to a point where they can really dive into your work with confidence.
To quicken their research process, build out your training opportunities and provide the board with everything they need to know to complete their work efficiently. Consider the following ideas:
- Provide a welcome packet that covers the history of your organization, the mission you’re pursuing, the duties you’ve assigned the board, and everyone’s contact information.
- Add them to your board management platform, giving them access to all the tools they need to plan meetings, communicate on a regular basis, and keep track of their duties.
- Continue to educate them throughout their terms by adding an educational piece to every meeting, such as inviting guest speakers like one of your directors.
The last thing you want to do after spending all this time building your young professionals board is for your new team to fall short of expectations because no one knows how to achieve the goals you’ve laid out. The ideas we provided above are a great starting point to provide initial and ongoing support to the up and coming leaders of your organization.
When structured effectively, a young professionals board can be a powerful resource for your organization. Not only can this group solidify connections with younger generations of support, but your board of young professionals can be fertile ground for developing dedicated candidates for your governing board of directors.
Still not quite sure how to get the ball rolling? We’d love to help. Reach out to Phil to learn more about enhancing your organization’s leadership structure. Together, we can welcome a new generation of leadership to your organization.