Five Steps to Securing a Millennial Nonprofit Board Member

On the topic of millennial nonprofit board members, organizations are all talk no action.

Boards toss around questions: How do we engage millennials? At what price point will our event seem attractive enough for millennials to come? Where are all the young people?

The millennial generation is innovative, creative, saddled with debt, and has experienced social and political turmoil since birth. 80 million strong in the United States, millennials have changed the way business is done and life is lived. They tend not to have children until their thirties (if at all) and marriage is secondary to financial security.

After watching their parents lose retirement funds and their homes during the recession, millennials exercise caution in their approach to commitment. They are less trusting of older generations but seek their guidance. Millennials lead the market place with innovative approaches to products and services, disrupting traditional industries.

The “rule book” does not apply to this generation. Millennials are loyal once a company has earned their trust, sensitive to advertising, and can detect marketing smack from a mile away. They’re techno-savvy social creatures who care about the environment, the rights of all, equality, justice, and wish for a world that is “good.”

How does this apply to nonprofit boards looking to engage them? First piece of advice, do not take the “check the box” approach. They will sense that immediately and deem you and your organization untrustworthy.

Look at their behavior and values. Sitting is the new smoking; standing desks are gaining popularity. Think BPA-free. Recycling is part of daily life. Planned Parenthood’s mission is meaningful to both women and men. They give donations to the ACLU knowing that the organization plays an important role ensuring justice for all. Millennials want to help create a better world.

They also understand fundraising. And it so happens that the number one issue with nonprofit boards is their inability to fundraise. 

In short, they are primed to be nonprofit board members.

Five steps to securing a millennial board member.

1. Identify: Identifying potential candidates is a simple process. Leverage your network, leverage your organization’s current donor and/or membership base. A board position is essentially a job, so approach it as you would if you were filling any other position.

2. Qualify: The identification process will yield candidates who might be a potential fit. Research them, look at their social media posts, discover who they are related to, where they work, what interests they have, organizations they belong to and donate to. Determine if they are able to contribute a financial gift. If not, move on to the next candidate. The board is a group of people that acts as the cornerstone of an organization and it is their fiduciary responsibility to ensure the vitality of the organization.

3. Engage: Determine the best person to make the connection and schedule a meeting. At this point, the person making the connection should be clear about the meeting’s intent. For example, “Jason, as you know I serve on the Board of XYZ nonprofit. They are making a significant impact in {insert geolocation} helping low-income folks get access to free health care services. The organization is looking for new board members willing to serve and support our community. You came to mind as someone who has demonstrated his love of community. Would you be interested in meeting with {insert nominating committee chair} to discuss this opportunity?”

4. Solicit: During this step, the board chair should be looped in to provide feedback. Following that step, board members should be notified by the nominating committee chair that a potential candidate is in the pipeline. A short description of the individual, how they were identified, and a LinkedIn profile should be circulated. A meeting with the potential candidate and the nominating committee chair should commence. Topics to be discussed include an organization overview, strategic goals, strengths and challenges, the minimum expected board gift, and a candidate’s interest level.

5. Secure: Lastly, if the candidate’s interest and financial standing are aligned with the organization then they should be formally asked to join the board – their position pending a vote by the board.

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