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3 Things to Consider Before Starting a Junior Board

Whether you refer to them as Young Leaders, Young Professionals or Junior Boards, engaging emerging professionals in your nonprofit’s mission can be a great way to generate new ideas and reach new donors. In most cases, junior boards (as we'll reference them here) are now comprised of millenials who have a passion for social change and can impact your mission and bottom line. If you are thinking of starting one for your organization, here are 3 things to ask yourself before deciding to put one into place.

  • Do you have the staff capacity to run it?
    • Seemingly, a junior board can run itself and take work off the plate of development directors who are likely over extended already. However, the junior board will only be as effective as the organization is at leading it. A few things you’ll need to consider as you prepare to launch: 1) Which staff member is going to actively find members for your junior board? You’ll want the junior board, particularly in the inaugural year, to include passionate and committed members. As a result, you may want to meet with each potential member first in order to make sure they are a good fit to represent your organization. Is there time in this staff member’s schedule to seek out potential members? 2) Who will be in charge of planning the meeting times and creating tasks for the junior board? 3) Does your staff member have the capacity to be responsive to junior board members as they have questions or needs that arise? While these boards can take some things off a staff member’s already full plate, particularly in the beginning there will be a lot of coordinating involved. 
  • Do you have a clear plan of action for the committee members?
    • Millenials- more than any other generation- value the time they give to an organization just as much as they value the money the donate. Deciding on a plan of action upfront will help you set expectations for the members. Some questions to ask yourself are: What is your long-term goal for the committee (donor acquisition, events, advocacy)? How often will they meet? How many events would you like them to help you plan? Will you ask them to donate, and how much? Knowing what you want out of the group before your launch will help guide the direction of the junior board. Be upfront with them about time and financial requirements.
  • Are you okay with the committee shaking things up?
    • One sure way to make a junior board feel underutilized is to not give them enough creativity to try something new. Most likely, they have ideas that will resonate with the larger community and can help the development directors dream up innovative plans for your cause. As a result, are you (and your board) ready to say yes to their ideas? Obviously with budget and time constrictions, you can’t say yes to everything, but make sure they have some leeway to experiment. It’s likely that they’ll come up with an idea for their event that you’ll want to integrate into your flagship fundraising event. 

Junior boards are great and can be a big help to your organization, but make sure the time involved is worthwhile for both the members and your organization. Too often nonprofits don’t utilize the junior board as much as they could. If millenials feel that their time is not valued, they most likely will not return. Yes, they can run events, but they can also work for you in different ways. When you first meet with these members, ask them what THEY hope to gain out of this experience. Perhaps they are joining to learn more about the cause, maybe they want to dip their toe in the nonprofit world to see if that might be a career path for them, or they want to network with other young professionals as well as with your board members. Whatever is most important to the members should be the focus for the nonprofit. For example: if a junior board member is really passionate about the cause, invite them to lobby days with you, or to visit families you serve, even outside of the board meeting hours. If the member really wants to network, invite them (when appropriate) to sit in on a board meeting with you, or make sure to introduce them to key players who attend your events.

The most engaged junior boards will be the most effective for your organization down the road. Treat them as more than an event committee and they’ll likely develop into valuable long-term donors and advocates for your organization. 

Read here about how a junior board made a HUGE impact on their nonprofit by trying new technology.

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