Aging boards – how to ditch the “kids’ table”

publication date: Mar 28, 2013

The Boomer generation “has grown up with and held on to [their] parents’ notion of an ‘adult’s table’ and a ‘kid’s table.’” And that, says Third Sector Company head Jeffrey Wilcox, leads nonprofit boards to ignore the two generations after the Boomers. Worse, the failure to engage younger people in charity boards is paralyzing individual organizations and stunting the growth of the sector.

Wilcox weighed in during a recent LinkedIn discussion of the question, “What value does a young [very green] first- time-ever board member have to us? Wouldn’t we do better with a board filled solely with seasoned, well connected, high placed mid-career to end-of-career people?”

Responses strongly favoured the active recruitment of younger people, citing everything from entrepreneurial skills to new ideas, broader networks, and succession planning. But it was clear that while many wanted to tap the well of energy and enthusiasm that younger directors might bring, far fewer had concrete ideas for engaging Millennials and Generation X and creating rewarding experiences for them.

Here are a few of the tactics that emerged.

Recruit, engage, retain

  • Set up a “young leadership board” focused on developing board skills and experience, and offering meaningful work. (Laura Stokes-Gray)
  • Move candidates in groups from the young leadership board to the governing board for “safety in numbers.” (Rick Lund)
  • Identify, screen and recruit a handful of the best and brightest to enjoyable (operative word) committees or program-specific development groups with achievable goals. (Ina Frank)
  • Define “young director.” Set a minimum requirement of real-world experience. (Rona Carr)
  • Seek younger members through the corporate foundations that support your organization. (K. Donnelly Goehring)
  • Consider how the age group relates to either the organization’s mission or the organization’s communications. (Caroline Scullin)

See the full discussion here

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