In the last several years, nonprofits began establishing junior boards, a group of young professionals – typically, Millennials – whose responsibilities involved fundraising, networking, and volunteering. Junior boards soon became a trend, but ultimately, they have become an essential part of operating a nonprofit organization.
While the purpose of a junior board is generally viewed as a way to invigorate a nonprofit with fresh, creative ideas and youthful enthusiasm, this generality ignores their more complex role within an organization. Junior boards are part of a nonprofit’s broader strategic plan, boosting its fundraising potential, connecting it to untapped markets, and keeping its message relevant.
The role and size of a junior board will vary depending on the nonprofit, but when managed effectively, a junior board can benefit a nonprofit in five important ways.
Boost Fundraising Potential
Millennials are a highly motivated force of young professionals, more focused on making philanthropy a part of their professional work than previous generations. Their connections to other young professionals, combined with their tech-savvy skills make them an excellent group of volunteers to have working on a nonprofit’s behalf. In his article “A Trending Fundraising Tool: A Junior Board,” Associate Director of OAI CJ Orr writes that nonprofits benefit from their junior board members’ enthusiasm and connections; the young professionals raise significant funds that the organizations would not have otherwise seen.
Connect to Diverse Interest Groups
Having a junior board means that nonprofits can mobilize a group of young professionals to connect to potential donors on its behalf. Millennials’ connections to their alma maters and corporate employers might lead to mutually beneficial partnerships, which a nonprofit would likely not have forged on its own. Furthermore, diversifying a nonprofit’s leadership with young professionals, whose skills and backgrounds differ from those of its governing board, strengthens the nonprofit’s ability to connect with community leaders, potential donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and untapped markets.
Keep the Nonprofit’s Message Relevant
A junior board is essential if the nonprofit wants to continue resonating with its target audience and attract new audiences each year. The hard truth is, the same message and marketing strategy that worked two years ago won’t reap the same rewards this year. A junior board can provide useful guidance and strategy in this department. Young professionals with marketing experience, technical skills, and business savvy can help develop images, language, and marketing campaigns that will keep a nonprofit’s message fresh.
Organize Events (for practically nothing!)
If there’s one thing Millennials know how to do, it’s throw a party. Nonprofits might like to know that they can do it for practically no cost. In her article “6 Reasons Why Your Nonprofit Absolutely Needs a Junior board,” Executive Director of BoardAssist Cynthia Remec remarks that Millennials are “terrific at networking and team-building” when it comes to fundraisers. She further notes that they are excellent at keeping costs for events low by doing such things as: getting event space for free; tapping their contacts to get resources donated or at a fraction of the cost; utilizing free electronic invitation and marketing methods; and creating a buzz about events through social media. Such strategies have proven highly successful in keeping event costs low for nonprofits, and raising significant funds for their cause.
Build a Bridge to the Next Generation
Millennials often join a junior board because it offers them leadership experience as well as the opportunity to serve a worthy cause. The opportunity to work alongside likeminded young professionals is attractive, but this group also values the mentoring opportunities afforded by interaction with governing board members. The governing board can use such interactions to mentor and train the junior board, who might later be the leaders of the organization. With this in mind, establishing a junior board is a strategic move to secure the future of the organization.
Establishing a junior board takes time and effort. While Millennials distinguish themselves by being remarkably driven, they are still young and learning; governing board members or other senior staff will need to devote time to mentor, train, and discuss strategy with them.
Although this extra staff time might seem too taxing in the beginning, it will pay off in the long-run. After all, in fewer than 15 years, Millennials will surpass Baby Boomers by 22 million people. So, it stands to reason: spending the extra staff time mentoring a junior board now is actually a smart investment in the near-future’s leaders – and donors.
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