The most important position for a nonprofit, with the exception of the founder and the fundraiser, is the board. The board sets the agenda and culture of the nonprofit. However, the role varies depending on the size of your nonprofit.
If you’re a small nonprofit, you need a functioning board that shares your mission and hopefully, each board member has different functions, while bigger nonprofits can rely on their networks to bring resources (specifically money) to help the nonprofit.
The key to the last paragraph I mention is networks. If you want to be a board member, you need to have two ingredients: you must the skills and you have a network that is willing to donate. The skills part is actually the easy part to find, it is the network part that is tricky.
There has been rumblings from young professionals for the past few years that nonprofit boards are not selecting Gen X or Gen Y. According to the 2012 BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index, only 2 percent of nonprofits have board members who are less than 30 years old. Some (or most, depending on your point of view) think that people dismissing Gen X and Y because is it really necessary to have them on the board. For that, you have to look at what stage your board is at.
If it’s a small nonprofit, you need able bodies to be on the board. Small nonprofit boards are usually functioning boards. This is where young board members should fit in perfectly as they will work with the nonprofit, as well as collaborate with the board on how to grow the nonprofit.
If it’s a big nonprofit, you have the support, but you need the wealth to support the nonprofit. In this case, young professionals have a slim chance to get in the board with the exception that they hit the jackpot on their working career at a young age. The best case to get into a big nonprofit board is patience by volunteering and/or join an advisory board.
Basically here are three things nonprofit are looking at for boards:
- You have a big network.
- You have a big network who has deep pockets.
- You have a big network who has deep pockets and is willing to give.
Almost every young professional has the first item. It is items 2 and 3 boards are questioning. Donations are not the problem since people can sold of donating small amounts of money. It is partnerships with companies and others is a concern. Big companies have tons of cash and put some on the side for charity because it gets their name out there. This is why young professionals are left out because they’re changing jobs every 2-5 years because when the person leaves their company, you lost the partner unless they have good standing (which for the sake of the discussion, they are). Nonprofits are looking for stability and growth and any change means they have to shift gears, for better or worse.
It great to have new avenues and large networks for the board, but if the board has a network that doesn’t have a pool of money, is it worth it to continue? This is why it is important to ask your friends and closest networks to check out the nonprofits and you hope for one of the networks is with a big company or is lucky to have a big pockets to donate themselves. While nonprofits themselves are looking for bodies to help them function, boards are looking for resources to grow the nonprofit. It doesn’t matter if you’re young old old, it is your influence that will determine if you’re a board member.