Is your non-profit board old? Paging all Millennials and GenXers?

young peopleRecently, I’ve heard at least three or four of my non-profit friends lament that their board lacks diversity in the area of age. It seems as if their boards of directors are primarily packed with Baby Boomer generation volunteers in their 50s and 60s.

At first, my response to each of my friends was:


Isn’t it obvious that young people between 20- and 40-years-old are climbing life’s challenging career path trails? Not only are these individuals focused on career, but they are having children and raising families. In my opinion, these ingredients are a cocktail of NO TIME + NO MONEY.

So, I wasn’t surprised to learn the following facts in an article published in The Guardian titled “How can charities attract young trustees to their boards?“:

  • The mean age of a non-profit board member in the UK is 57.
  • Only 0.5% of board volunteers are between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • One-fifth of board volunteers surveyed said they lack age diversity on their non-profit board.

I am a fan of diversity and believe it is important, but I am not a fan of tokenism. You do yourself and your non-profit organization a great disservice when you recruit people to fill gaps just for the sake of filling gaps.

When your organization decides it is time to add more young people to its board of directors, your board development committee has its work cut out for itself because the prospects you identify, evaluate and cultivate must be able to hold their weight with other more experienced and better resourced board volunteers.

Young board members must be able to:

  • make a personal financial contribution;
  • be willing to attend board meetings, committee meetings and events;
  • have the ability and willingness to solicit their personal and professional network to support the organization.

In all honesty, I am a really big fan of getting young volunteers involved in special event planning, standing committees and task forces, and young professional groups first before asking them to join the board. However, if you’re determined to diversify your non-profit board of directors, your board development committee must have the following in place first:

  • comprehensive new board member orientation,
  • board volunteer training opportunities, and
  • new board member mentoring program.

Has your organization brought Millennial and GenX aged volunteers onto your non-profit board? How has it worked out for you? What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on March 26, 2013, in Board development, leadership, nonprofit, organizational development, volunteers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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