As young professionals who have served both as members and staff managers of these groups, Sarah Willey and Corinne Austin will lead you through the research on Next Gen supporters, challenges to anticipate, and steps your organization can take to start a new young friends board from scratch OR to maximize the potential of your existing group.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Okay. Sarah, Corinne, I got 2:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Sarah: Go for it.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning, I guess, I should say if you’re on the West Coast. And if you’re watching the recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are. We are here to talk about young professionals and junior boards, and specifically how to move beyond, you know, just having a little kid’s table to having some meaningful engagement with that group. This is going to be the millennial power hour. I’m so excited. So thank you for being here. Thanks for taking time out of your day. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, real quick, before we get going here. Just want to let you all know that we are recording the session, and we’ll be sending out the recording, as well as the slides, later on, today. So if you have to leave early or maybe you get interrupted, don’t worry. We will get all that good stuff in your hands. You should actually already have the slides, but if I missed you, don’t worry. We’ll get those in your hands later today with the recording. But most importantly, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments along the way. You know, we’d love for these sessions to be interactive. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A just as much as we can. So use the chat box. Use the Q&A box. If you use the Q&A box, you might see those things a little bit easier, just a little inside tip for you. But we’d love to hear from you, introduce yourself now, if you haven’t already, but don’t sit on your hands. You can even send us a tweet. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed as well. But we would love to hear from you over the next hour or so.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars every single Thursday. We love doing these webinars. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang and you’re wondering, you know, what the heck is Bloomerang, we’re actually a provider of donor management software. So check us out if you’re interested in that, if maybe you’re shopping or just curious, you know, there’s tons of good stuff on our website that you can learn more about the software. But don’t do that right now because, wow, I’ve been looking forward to this session for a while. If you’ve been on the last maybe two or three webinars, you know I’ve been talking up this one, because I’m in this demographic, and I cannot wait to hear what Sarah and Corinne have to say. Sarah, Corinne, you all doing okay? Thanks for being here. How’s it going?

Corinne: Good. Thank you so much for having us.

Steven: Yeah. This is such a treat. Sarah is someone that I’ve been getting to know over the past couple of years, and actually, she was on a great panel of ours a few weeks ago, talking about maybe what to do if you find yourself getting laid off from your nonprofit job. So check that out. But she’s awesome. She’s got a master’s in nonprofit management. She’s currently serving as a temporary ED right now for an organization near and dear to her heart when she’s not doing consulting as well. Super awesome person, a great Twitter follower, or follow, for sure, if you’re a Twitter-type person. And then Corinne, who I’ve been getting to know since we started planning this webinar, she is a development manager over at Pedal the Cause, great nonprofit in the St. Louis area. Well, I should say both of these fine folks are from St. Louis. So give them a shout-out if you are too. And they’ve done this presentation for a bunch of places, and I was like, “We got to have it for Bloomerang.” So I’m going to pipe down. I’ve already taken up too much time. I’m going to stop sharing my slides here. And, Corinne, I think you’re going to drive, so go ahead. Yeah, the floor is yours, my friend. Take it away.

Corinne: Thank you.

Sarah: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be speaking with Bloomerang again. I often attend Bloomerang webinars, and so I feel like I’m just, like, talking to my people today. So excited to be with you all. And this is a topic that Corinne and I just really love to talk about, and we’re so excited to be here. Throughout the session, feel free to use the Q&A feature if you have a question you’re wanting to make sure that we get to. It might be something that we cover during the session. It might be something we cover at the end during Q&A. But use the chat to connect with one another and just, you know, really engage in and be social while we’re here. And sometimes we’re able to learn things from you all at the same time. We’re not the only people, sort of, in this virtual space today who have something to share. So we really encourage that.

Just a little bit about who we are, I am the founder and principal of Sarah Willey, LLC, and as Steven alluded to, I’m also the interim co-executive director at the moment of Missouri Health Care for All. I’ve got my email address and my Twitter and LinkedIn information on the slide. You’ll also get a copy of these afterwards. I’d be thrilled to connect to anyone and talk more about this stuff afterwards. Corinne.

Corinne: Hello. Thank you so much, Sarah. My name is Corinne. I am the development manager at Pedal the Cause, and I am also a millennial myself. And I started a young professionals board, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Metro St. Louis, a volunteer-led organization that I was on the board for, and I now manage the Friends of Pedal, which is a similar group as Pedal the Cause. And my contact information is there as well. I’d love to . . . I’d be happy for folks to reach out if you have questions afterwards. I’m excited about all the chatter we have going on in the chat. I’m glad to see everyone is so engaged.

Sarah: Absolutely. So just about our goals . . . oh, did you have something else, Corinne?

Corinne: I was just going to say sorry, Sarah. Sarah, I saw something in the chat about some background noise. Sarah is in a semi-public place, because she’s at a hotel for a conference. So she’s in their business there. So if there’s a little bit of background noise, it’s hers. So when she’s talking, you might hear a little bit of chatter. And she’ll mute herself when I’m talking. But, sorry.

Sarah: Yes, I will do that. I apologize.

Corinne: Not too bad, but there is a little bit.

Sarah: Good. It is lunchtime right outside this room that I’m sitting in, and it just is what it is. We scheduled this months before I even had the job I have now, and it just so happened that this was the week we had to take our first in-person trip. So I’m coming to you from Columbia, Missouri, where I am speaking with a lot of leaders from across the state that work in conjunction with my organization.

So our goals today are to, first of all, just define what we mean when we say young professionals, junior board, or other terms. Some of you have already started to list in the chat other terms that you all use for your organization. So that is, you know, kind of one of the things we want to start with, make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. We’ll also talk about what are the benefits of having a young professionals board from the perspective of your organization. We’ll want to recognize some things that can get in the way of success, because if we don’t know what the obstacles might be, then we can’t plan to get around them. We’ll also outline steps both for starting a new young professionals board from scratch if you don’t currently have one, as well as talk through some steps for how do you revitalize one that you’ve inherited or that has existed for a while. And what a great time to talk about revitalization right now as we’re coming out of a pandemic and really rethinking a lot of things. So it’s such a wonderful time to get to have that conversation.

Corinne: So I’m going to define, as Sarah said, what we’re talking about today. I’ve seen in the chat, you’ll notice a lot of people have different names for these groups, young professionals boards, junior board, associate board, young adult board, all of those terms, committee, or advisory committee. But whatever you call it, the thing that we’re talking about today are leadership committees focused on providing opportunities for young people, and that’s a part of the definition that might change. What means young for you might be different than what means young for me and my organization. That’s okay. We’ll talk about that a little bit more and who’s included in that, but that could be a little broad. Inviting those people and giving them opportunities to engage with your organization and helping to further your mission. And let me turn it back to Sarah for a little icebreaker, with that in mind.

Sarah: Yeah, definitely. So what we’d like to ask of you is just use the chat, and you all are already great at that, share some words that come to mind for you when you think about engaging younger people with your nonprofit organization. Awesome. You guys are so quick at this. I already see stuff rolling in. So I saw social media. I see engagement. I see fun. I think I saw challenging.

Corinne: Fun a couple of times.

Sarah: Yeah.

Corinne: Opportunity. Next generation. Families, that’s a good point.

Sarah: Oh, my gosh, these are so great.

Corinne: The folks we’re talking about are going to have young families.

Sarah: Leadership. Power. Pipeline. Succession planning. Oh, my gosh, you’re speaking to my heart.

Corinne: Mentor and leadership.

Sarah: I’ve seen challenging a couple of times. So, like, that’s why you’re here, right, is it’s a challenging thing to do. Most things are worthwhile or a little challenging. This is awesome. So you guys are hitting, like, everything that I think I would have thrown out. Diversity, yes.

Corinne: Passion.

Sarah: [inaudible 00:09:11]. Innovation. Fantastic. Keep throwing them out there. These are fantastic. And we’ll go ahead and talk a little bit more as you keep throwing your favorite words out. Oh now the GIF works.

Corinne: Now, the GIF works. We love this GIF. It makes us giggle every time we open up this PowerPoint. To refresh it for another presentation just gives us a good giggle. These guys just can’t figure it out.

Sarah: This has not gotten old. It’s been years.

Corinne: Hopefully, we will not feel like those guys. Hopefully, like, we could . . . we were going to help each other get out of the ice. So I said, we’re going to talk a little bit about these different groups of young people. There’s a couple of different generations now that we’re talking about. And even since Sarah and I started this presentation a couple of years ago, this has changed as the younger generations, we all are aging up, and the next generations are starting to enter the workforce more, and millennials are taking over more leadership roles. So sort of define these generations.

So the first group that we’re going to talk about and that you’re probably primarily focused on with these young professionals boards are millennials. Sarah and I are millennials. Steven’s a millennial. I’m sure you’ve got millennials on the call. Millennials are now about 25 to 39 years old and were born between 1981 and 1995. So these are folks who are really making up the majority of the workforce now.

Sarah: Fun fact, all millennials are older than Google.

Corinne: Oh, I had to process that. Okay. I’m going to need to deal with the emotions that come with that later. I feel so old. Okay. So some of the key characteristics of millennials, of this generation, and this comes from the Case Foundation, which is an organization that studies millennials in philanthropy, are that millennials see all assets as equal. So that’s going to be really important with how they engage with your nonprofit, your organization, because they’re going to see, essentially, a cash donation and an equivalent number of hours donated as being equally important to them and to you. And so they want that to be honored and reciprocated. Peer influence is key. So that means that millennials are likely to join groups that their friends are involved with. They’re likely to, and this is common in all philanthropy, right, you’re more likely to give your time or money if you’re asked by a peer. That is very much true of millennials. And they’re motivated by the cause, not an institution, which means they may not have a really strong, like, brand attachment to your organization’s name. They care about the underlying mission.

And so that leads into my next slide here, which is a quote from Derrick Feldmann, who’s the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, which is an organization that studies millennials in philanthropy as well. And Derrick said, “Millennials are working to fix the problems they see in society using non-traditional methods without waiting around for anyone else’s approval or participation. Right now, millennials believe in organizations and in other ways to effect change. Together, millennials and nonprofits can create solutions. But, if we as nonprofit entities won’t adjust to their needs, millennials — our new and future constituents — will move on without us.” So that goes really strongly to this last point. They’re motivated by a cause more than your institution. So if your organization doesn’t adjust to their needs, doesn’t listen to your millennial constituents, they will start their own organization. They will find another way to solve the problem that they care about. They’re very solution-oriented more than organization-oriented.

Sarah: So what do millennials . . . what makes them get involved? Because we have to be thinking about that the same way when we think about donations. We have to think about our donor’s motivations. We need to be thinking about the motivations of the volunteers we want to engage. And so millennials are looking for three primary things. They are looking for expressing their passion, meeting new people, and building expertise. Those are the top three motivations that millennials bring to their involvement with our nonprofits. So it’s important for us, as the staff at nonprofits or the volunteer leaders within nonprofits, to make sure that we’re designing opportunities that are going to provide networking, opportunities to gain professional expertise to run a project or put something on a resume, and that we’re making sure that all of it, as it always should, ties back to the mission and helps people feel connected to exactly what they came here for and be really aware of whatever tasks they’re doing within their work as a young professionals board are really going to feed into making a difference and moving a mission forward. And 72% of millennials are interested in being involved in a young professionals group. So there’s a lot of people out there who could potentially be involved in yours if you build one that’s going to meet these needs for them.

And the how millennials want to help. Millennials want to give their time, and they want to give their money, and many of them want to give their time and their money. So about 16% want to just kind of, like, give money and not so much time, about 47% actually would prefer to give time more than money, so those are the folks who really want to join that young professionals board or involve themselves as a volunteer in a different way, and 37% actually really do want to do both, and so that is phenomenal. That means we have this huge population out there that really want us to engage them in both ways.

And now, it’s important to understand how they want to be involved. Sixty-six percent want to be involved in advocating in some way for your cause, 61% want to help with things like organizing educational events. And as you can already tell since both of those add up to over 100, these are kind of select multiple options thing, so many people want to do more than one of these things. About 54% are interested in volunteering in some way. Surprisingly and excitingly, 47% want to help fundraise. So there are people out there in this age demographic who actually really do want to get involved in your fundraising efforts, and how great for us if we can leverage them as volunteers in our fundraising efforts.

And only 31% want to serve as social media ambassadors, and yet that’s probably the thing we get asked to do the most, at least it certainly has been in my experience as a volunteer. The immediate thing that people go to, they see me as young enough to know social media and assume that that’s how I should help their organization. I happen to be a certified social media strategist, so it makes a little bit more sense for me maybe, but when they’re making that assumption based on my age without knowing that about me, it doesn’t hit quite right. And as we can see, the majority of millennials, that’s not how they want to help. Just because they might be using social media in their personal life or maybe even in their work life, that’s not the best ask to automatically make before you get to know a millennial.

Corinne: So the next generation that you’re going to be likely addressing if you’re trying to engage younger people with your mission is going to be gen Z. And so these are the slightly younger generation born in 1995 and later, so they’re around 24, 25 years old now. So they are going to be just entering the workforce, maybe they’ve been in the workforce for a handful of years, some younger professionals. And Z for zoomer. I like that. So our gen Z are . . . the main characteristics of them are that they are globally minded and socially conscious, so they’re very aware of social causes and passionate about social causes, they’re dedicated problem solvers, they’re very creative, and they are career-driven, which makes sense if you’re thinking about people who are early in their career, they’re looking ahead and thinking, “How can I become more successful?” So they’re looking for mentors, and for guidance, and for professional skills and expertise, which Sarah mentioned earlier of millennials as well.

So the best ways to engage gen Z are to give them a voice, we’ll talk more about that, but making sure that they have opportunities to, you know, give their own ideas and speak their voice. They like to be challenged and appreciated. They don’t want to be just given any easy kid’s task. They want to be challenged, but then they want to be appreciated for it. Actually, they’re digital-native, so they’re on TikTok, they are really used to, you know, FaceTime, and they’re being on their phones all the time, which actually means that they crave and appreciate face-to-face communication, which some people think it’s the opposite. A lot of times, I know a lot of millennials and gen Z don’t like being on the phone, I know I’ve gotten over it, but it’s not my favorite, but love face-to-face, because they don’t get it a lot. And so that’s something they really enjoy. And they enjoy mentorship, which makes sense, again, with being career-driven. So those are all things to keep in mind when you’re engaging with this even younger generation. So a lot of overlap with millennials but a few distinctions there.

Sarah: So you all pretty much laid out everything on the slide in the chat earlier, but to review, as an organization, engaging millennials and gen Z with our organizations means that we bring in new diverse perspectives that may not have been present in our planning and decision making without building these opportunities to engage these generations. And it can mean increased donations both right now, today, because as we saw, almost half of millennials want to help us fundraise, and then also long term, because if we’re thinking about where we want our organization to be in 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, 50 years, millennials are going to be around to continue to make those donations. So building that pipeline now of millennials and of gen Z donors means that, as their wealth and capacity grows over time, if we have built that loyalty with them young, our organizations are going to be able to continue to receive donations from them far into the future.

Another benefit is improved visibility in the community. Even if we have millennials and gen Z who don’t want to run our social media for us, because maybe we should actually pay a professional who’s a specialist in that to do that important work, they’re still likely going to share what they’re doing with their friends and with their family, and they’re going to be in both physical and digital spaces that our staff might not be and that our other volunteers might not be. So it’s going to make a big difference for us reaching a broader swath of the community to talk about our work if we have more diverse people including younger generations involved in our organizations.

We’re also likely to get higher online engagement, whether it’s because we’re an advocacy organization who’s looking for people to sign petitions or that kind of thing, or whether it’s just getting more peer-to-peer fundraising going, whatever we’re doing online, it’s really helpful to have even more of the younger generation involved in that.

And fresh event ideas. I think that probably over the last year and a half, organizations that already had millennials and gen Z involved in both volunteer and staff leadership with their organizations and were able to turn to that expertise probably had a little easier time pivoting existing events to digital, and you know, whether it’s virtual events or in-person events, young professionals often come up with ideas that are different than what others would have come up with that appeal to an audience that wasn’t attending whatever events existed before. So it can be really helpful to draw folks in and get those new ideas, but we’re going to have to make sure we empower them to actually use those ideas. So that’s something that we’ll talk about soon.

And how to get folks involved. So this graphic was designed for millennials, but we kind of modified it to say, “Yeah, we’re talking about gen Z as well.” We don’t want to forget you all. We see you here on the call, with your birthdays coming up and all of that. So you can follow this sort of volunteer continuum where we support activism, we have a young nonprofit professionals group, and we have ongoing leadership opportunities. And it’s important to not think of this as a simple step-by-step, like you do the first thing, and then you do the second thing, and then you do the third thing. What you want is to make sure you have all of the options available, because every volunteer is unique and where they want to plug in first is going to be unique. And some of them might skip around through those, and we want to make sure we’re leaving space for that as well.

Corinne: Sorry, I don’t know what just happened. I had some technical difficulty.

Sarah: It happens.

Corinne: You’re . . . now, I think. Okay.

Sarah: Yep, now we’re back.

Corinne: Okay.

Sarah: And some key challenges that we can face as organizations when working with a young professionals group, first, is just the staff and funding, the resources that we have to provide it. If we’re asking our young professionals to run some sort of event, as we often are, we have to make sure we have the resources behind it so that they can actually pay for things, like reserving a room or adopting a newer technology for a virtual event, and that we have staff time ready to work with the group because, you know, we pay our employees, hopefully, we pay them very fairly and very well. And if they’re going to spend time working with our young nonprofit professionals group, we’re going to need to make sure that we have, you know, enough staff and the capacity to let them put their time into that even though they may have other things to do with their time as well.

And an important thing for me is really to avoid this feeling of the kid’s table. You don’t want to invite people in and let them feel like they are just stuck over here, doing this less meaningful work, you know, “You guys get to just play with your crayons while, you know, the big kids and the adults do the real work.” That’s actually why I personally have never been a member of a young professionals group, because I always fear the kid’s table feeling, and so I have always come in and said, “No, put me on a real committee or put me on the board, because I don’t want to risk that.” And so, if we can make sure that that’s not what it looks like for our organization, then we’re going to be able to attract folks who want real opportunities to engage.

And another challenge can be building some intergenerational relationships, so thinking about how do you take the folks who are on your young professionals board and have them and your board of directors or some of your other key volunteers and committees, or even some of your other staff members, coming together and working together on projects, and getting to know each other and in a way where you’re not building a lot of friction, and having people really sort of, like, greet each other with the assumptions that we all tend to make about people of other generations.

Corinne: All right. Hopefully, my technical difficulties are over. I have no idea. It’s just very sudden. So if I drop, Sarah’s in charge. So I’m going to talk . . . the second half of this presentation is going to be split in two parts, so I’m going to talk to those of you who want to start a brand new young professionals or junior board. So you’re at an organization, you’ve been talking about this, like, what do I do now? You’ve been convinced, what now? Then I’m going to turn it back to Sarah, and she’ll talk about her experience rejuvenating a young professionals board that existed when she started there but needed some help growing and improving. So just, if this next part is not as applicable to you, know that we’re getting to you in the next part.

So I’m going to talk about the steps to start a young professionals board. This is from my experience working with a young professionals board, being a millennial and serving on them, as well as, especially, I founded a young professionals board for the National Women’s Political Caucus of Metro St. Louis. That was an organization that had a much older membership base and did not have very many young active members at all, and we were able to change that somewhat through this board. So the main steps that I’m going to go over are how you recruit your leadership, how you build the framework for this board together, and then how you start kind of getting on to the community. And so this may seem a little backward. Sometimes people want to figure out the framework and then fill in people into those positions. And we’ll talk about some of the challenges for that and the reason that we have it this way.

So the first step is to recruit some leadership, and this is primarily because you want to make sure that you’re getting buy-in from the membership in terms of what this board is accomplishing prior to forming it. So especially if you do not have millennial staff leading this, but even if you do, different millennials have different ideas on things, you want to make sure that you’re not asking this committee to do something that doesn’t overlap with their interest. So you got to find the Venn diagram between what your organization needs and what they’re interested in doing, and if you’re just asking for what you need but not listening to what they’re doing, you’re not going to get anywhere. So start with who you already know.

I saw one of the organizations, one of the questions in the Q&A was from someone who has an organization that’s been around for a really long time. I’m not sure, Donna, but I assume maybe that the assumption there is that most of your members are older as well from its founding perhaps. You know, even if that’s the case, and that was the case with the caucus, there are probably still a couple of young people, even if it’s like three, and the first step is to identify those.

That’s what I did. I identified, literally, I think three other young people who I’d, like, seen at meetings before or were in the progressive women’s movement, in general, maybe they worked at Planned Parenthood, but I knew they might be kind of interested. And I had meetings with them, and I asked them to leverage their peer influence. So I just asked all of them to invite a friend, and it could be someone who didn’t really know about the caucus, but their mission is to recruit, train, and elect pro-choice women. So I was like, “If you know a pro-choice woman who cares about electing women, invite them to a meeting we’re going to have.” And that was very successful.

We also . . . and then, you know, keep your member’s motivations in mind. So as I had those meetings with a couple of people that we knew that were younger, I asked them what they were interested in, “What would interest you in joining a professionals board?” And for them, it was meeting other young women, young progressive women, and just building community, and having a sense of other young women that are early in their careers and trying to figure it out together, and bringing that together. And just like anything in fundraising, you want to focus on building relationships. So you want to treat these like you would your donors. You’d listen to what they are interested in, what they need, and bring them along with you.

Then once you kind of get this core group together of, you know, maybe 5 to 10 people, you know, and it depends on your organization, how many young people you can kind of scrap together, in the beginning, you want to go through this process with them. Instead of having this be staff-led, you want to, with them, create a mission statement. This will, of course, be related to your overall mission statement, but it’ll be somewhat different. How is it that this young professionals board is going to help pursue your mission, your overall mission of your organization? What makes them special and different from your big board or your other committees?

Then you’ll want to determine and assign leadership roles within that group? So do we need a chair? Do we need a secretary? Do we need a treasurer? Maybe you don’t. It’ll depend on how separate your finances are. Just determine those roles with them and then assign them out. Make sure you’re doing that hand in hand. Focus on impact. This is something that our younger generation is really interested in. They want to really feel like they’re making a difference, everyone does in philanthropy, but of course, we saw earlier that this is particularly important to millennials to feel like they’re making a difference in the mission, not just getting involved with an institution with the name that they recognize.

Create meaningful opportunities that goes along with that to make sure they feel like they’re making a difference. And the key thing is that the staff are providing guidance and setting boundaries around what this group can do to make sure that it’s along with your mission but really delegating a lot of the day-to-day to those members.

Alexa asked who should assign the roles. This is a really good question. It’ll depend a little bit on your situation. You’ll have to kind of read the room. Because I have two groups that did it differently. So in our young professionals board, the main board had a recruitment committee, a nominating committee, and that nominating committee, I always had someone from this group on it, and so that basically, because that role was the person who was nominated to be the chair of the young professionals who’s on the big board, the big board sort of got to pick the person, and then they were elected by the membership and the way that the bigger board was.

But at Pedal the Cause, because it’s a small organization, a small group of people, and we didn’t really want it to be a popularity contest, we kind of put it . . . the staff put it out to the members, and we picked them. It ended up being that only one person, each one at each dog. So there wasn’t . . . so we were like, “Okay, well, you want to be in charge, so you can be in charge.” We kind of just gave them the roles they asked for. But if there had been conflict, we may have run an election. It’s just, you know, with 10 people, an election can be . . . it’s a good idea if you could do. It just depends on your group. So I don’t know if Sarah wants to interject with an answer to that as well.

Sarah: No, I think that sounds really great.

Corinne: And then, once you’ve got this group, this core group, you’ve got your mission statement, and you’ve got a little bit of a leadership structure, this is when you want to open it up and make some space for them to bring you some creative ideas about how to get out into the community and have, maybe it’s a fundraiser, maybe it’s just a fundraiser, whatever makes sense with their mission and what they wanted to accomplish as a young professionals board.

For example, in the National Women’s Political Caucus, this group hosted something like phone banks for candidates that we had endorsed. But in Pedal the Cause, we host a fundraiser every year. They mainly do fundraising. So again, it depends a little bit on what the group wants to achieve within the mission of your organization. But the goal is to let them take the lead in defining what that looks like. Again, the staff are setting boundaries, making sure it aligns with the mission, but letting them kind of take responsibility for getting things done to achieve the goal that they want to achieve.

So I already kind of went over this, but basically, this is how we did it with the women’s caucus. You know, I went through the membership list and identified a handful of people, I asked them to make introductions, we put out flyers at all of our events about it to do a little broader recruitment, and then and we did emails to all of the younger members, etc., to kind of recruit our group. And then this group, I really had to practice listening to what it was that they wanted, because I had an idea about what it would be to make them successful, which was they had to have these specific roles, a president, a secretary, and a treasurer, and a vice president, and all these committees, and we had to do it this way, and what they really wanted was a much more social relaxed environment.

You can see, I added some photos here from our meetings. You can see, one’s at a coffee shop, one’s in someone’s living room, and the other one is a pool party. So it’s a very, very relaxed group, but they get a lot done, and they have a lot of fun doing it. And the challenge for me was letting that be. It didn’t have to be what I thought it should be, it needed to be what made sense for the members, and it’s really flourished since I did that.

So I’m going to turn it over to Sarah for her part of the presentation here.

Sarah: So I was in the position of starting a new role as the director of development community outreach with a smaller nonprofit that had a young professionals board that they had started before I got there, and it was really clear very early to me in joining this organization that in my role as the sort of staff lead overseeing this group that we needed to step back and really take a look at how we were structured, and how we were formed, and whether we were actually doing that Venn diagram thing that Corinne talked about. Because it really felt like everything about the young professionals board that existed at that organization was really designed around what the organization staff had wanted to get out of it and wasn’t necessarily actually vibing with what the members were hoping to get out of it and that we needed to find that alignment.

And there’s a couple of quick questions I want to address from the Q&A that folks have sent over as I’m doing this. So one of them is someone asked about engaging young people that are not yet young professionals, so like if you’re working with high school students or college students. And I think Corinne and I use the term young professionals board because it’s used so commonly and because that’s what each of our own organizations happened to title the group, but I think that what we’re talking about can apply no matter what name you use.

So you could call it a young friends group, you could call it a junior board, or a junior advisory committee, or anything that you wanted. And so it doesn’t necessarily have to be that you’re working with a group of people who would identify as professionals. And yes, I would say, even with high school and college students, you might have people who want to identify that way. So it’s really just a matter of what you call it for your group. So I hope that helps that person with that question.

And I also, as I’m going through this, want to crowdsource someone’s question. We had an anonymous attendee write to ask about the struggles they’re having with a single member who seems to, sort of, take over their young professionals board meetings, and new members aren’t really able to speak or share their ideas. So this attendee is looking for tips on how to stop that behavior and interrupt it. They tried sitting down with the person, and they haven’t gotten change yet. So there are over 250 people watching this live right now, and I hope a few of you can use the chat to just share any experiences you’ve had that might help that attendee with that question, because I bet a lot of you have great ideas. So I’m going to go ahead and go through the steps that I followed with Great Rivers to strengthen the young professionals board.

The first thing was to collect feedback individually. The second thing was to then take that individual feedback and hold a group conversation with everyone. And then to actually initiate changes around what we heard. So we advance slides. Great Rivers, the organization I worked for, this was their motivation for a young professionals board. They were a small organization with a small and aging donor base, and they recognized that if the organization was going to exist in even five years, they were going to have to diversify who was giving and expand that base, because it just wasn’t sustainable to continue the way that they were.

They also recognized that the events and the people who attended the events that they held were very stagnant. They’d been doing the same event the same way for 10 years, and the same people kept coming and giving the same amount while they were there, and nothing new or different was happening. And so it wasn’t providing a lot of value.

Also, it was a statewide organization with all of the staff centered in one city, and it was a very small staff, and so capacity to do things, like hold fundraising events, especially in cities outside of the main city where the office was located, as well as to make it to events for things like Earth Day, this was an environmental organization and multiple cities around the state would all have festivals the same weekend for Earth Day, and we just couldn’t have all of our staff in all of those places. And so we were hoping to see a young professionals board help provide some of that capacity on a volunteer basis to really be out and talking to the public with everyone.

And so the first thing I did when I came in was I ended up having one-on-one conversations with every member. Now, our young professionals board had about 12 people, so it was very easy for me as a single staff person to schedule 12 meetings for coffee. You could also, of course, do this virtually via Zoom.

And if you have a huge group and you can’t actually meet every single person one-on-one, I would pick some key leaders to meet with one-on-one and then also conduct a survey. And that survey is going to do two things. It’s going to let you reach a broader audience than you can with one-on-one meetings if you have a large enough group that it’s not, like, attainable to do one-on-ones. It’s also going to give them a chance to give anonymous feedback, which might be very helpful, especially if you are in a situation where you’re not brand new coming in, like I am. Folks were very open talking to me because I was the same age demographic and I was new to the organization, so they knew that I didn’t have an investment in whatever systems were already in place that weren’t ideal for them. But if you happen to be somebody who’s maybe been at your organization working with your young professionals board for a few years, it might work a little bit better for you to do an anonymous survey so that people don’t have to worry about hurting your feelings if they want to share their really true and honest feedback about their experience.

However you’re interacting, you want to make sure that the focus is really on just building relationships in community. Again, back to our fundraising basics, right? Like, we are here to build relationships with humans. And listening with an open mind. It’s not always going to be easy to hear the feedback you get. I had one young professionals member who just said, “You know what, Sarah, I really am tired of this organization treating me like a cash cow. That’s how I feel.” And that’s painful to hear, but I had to hear that so that we could make adjustments so that that member wouldn’t feel that way.

And then the next thing we do is hold a group conversation. And so, now, we kind of have a sense of where people are at individually, and we can actually sit down and review the mission statement that we have, not the organization’s mission statement but the young professionals mission statement, or if there isn’t one, this is an opportunity to really write one and say, “If the organization is trying to do this in the world, where’s our piece of that? And how does this group do that?”

Setting goals around membership and fundraising. It can be super motivating to have some data-driven goals and be able to say, “This is how many members you want to have at the end of the year. This is how much we want to raise.”

And it’s an opportunity to assess leadership roles. Maybe the titles that exist right now aren’t the right titles. Maybe the mechanism for electing or choosing officers isn’t the right mechanism. And so it might be an opportunity to either reassign who sits where or what the scope of the title of those roles are.

And then it’s important to create a recruitment strategy, because people are eventually going to come off, so you want to have that succession plan in place of how you’re going to recruit new members and how you’re going to recruit new leadership. And it’s important to remember that, as staff, the role is to really provide guidance and boundaries but not to take over. And for me, that’s always very challenging, but this is a place where we have to lead into really delegating, and we’re really hoping to help folks grow as leaders themselves in these roles. So it’s important for us to make sure we’re leaving enough space for them to do that.

And then the next step is just to initiate those changes. So out of steps one and two, pick a couple of things, and create a work plan, and make them happen, again, allowing the young professionals to lead, making space for their creative ideas. I had, and I think this relates to one of the questions I saw in the Q&A, I had, while I was there, the person who was the executive director at the time, tended to immediately just start to go, “Well, we can’t do that because of this,” every time somebody started to speak. And she didn’t leave enough space for the individuals on the young professionals board to reach that conclusion themselves, as they often would have, or to take that initial idea that would have work as it was first stated and let that spark the next idea, and the next idea, and the next idea to get them to something interesting and exciting that would work.

So I actually had to ask her to just stop coming. I said, “I need you to not come to the next meeting. We’re going to have a conversation just among us.” And that let them brainstorm. And then what I said was, “Yes, now that we have some ideas, we’re going to invite you back in. We’re going to have all the staff come back in, and we’re going to share out what they’ve come up with.” But I needed to make some space for them to get to have that creativity without it being cycled before they’ve had a chance to finish a product and come up with an idea.

And yet, of course, our executive director had to be able to evaluate the final plan and make sure that what the young professionals wanted to do was in line with our mission and policies, and there was no, you know, legal concerns or anything with . . . we were in advocacy organization, so we had to think very carefully about the rules about what a C3 can do in an advocacy space. But it was important to let them go through that creative process uninhibited. And then just really, again, helping to delegate that responsibility out.

Corinne: There is another question in the chat that was similar to that, kind of, this one you’re addressing, about how to properly delegate while remaining on task and ensuring the board doesn’t go rogue. That’s kind of the other side of that. So you do have veto power. I mean, you should be at their meetings, and you should say no to things that don’t make sense. It’s just a matter of when you do it and how you do it.

Sarah: Right. The difference between brainstorming and yes.

Corinne: The fine line. Not all ideas, just because they want to do it doesn’t mean they should do it.

Sarah: Right, exactly. So for Great Rivers, the impact that this young professionals board had while I worked there. In 2018, this group of young people raised about $5,000 directly, and the organization’s budget, for some context, was $350,000. So that was a pretty decent amount of the budget for this group of, sort of, 12 young individuals just starting out to raise for the organization. They were also responsible for about 200 event attendees at the in-person events that were held that year, and they helped us add over 350 names to our email and mailing list, because they were helping us be at more outreach events than we would have been able to on our own. They were also really able to advocate for some positive changes. The organization’s website when I joined the organization was very outdated, and the social media presence was pretty lacking.

And yet, to the last point on the slide, as a younger staff member, it was hard for me sometimes to get everyone else in the organization’s leadership to acknowledge that we needed to put some money into fixing some of those things. And so, rather than it being just me as one staff person going to them and saying, “Well, yeah, actually, you know, since you made that website originally when you founded the organization, there’s been some changes to what’s best practice and what’s going to help us have an effective presence,” being able to have the young professionals all back that up and say the same things gave the credibility that was needed for me as a staff member to be able to get the buy-in I needed to get the resources I needed to do the things that would make a difference. And so we were able to completely revamp the website and create some new policies around how we worked our social media. And I don’t know that I would have been able to make that happen, certainly not within the time frame that happened, if I hadn’t had this extra group of people who could kind of see and say the same things.

And these are just a couple of photos for you. On the left is myself with a couple of our young professionals members at a tabling event for Earth Day, and on the right is . . . many of our meetings, we would just find a local restaurant or brewery to go to and hold our meeting there, and so this was us meeting for one of our monthly young professionals board meetings.

Corinne: Sorry, I’ve been answering something in the chat. I didn’t realize it’s my turn. After Sarah and I did this presentation once and went through this whole thing, I started at Pedal the Cause and started working with our Friends of Pedal, which is our young professionals board. And I had been a member of the Friends of Pedal committee before I worked there, and then I took it over. And it was interesting going from being a member of it to kind of being in charge of it, being the staff liaison for it, and I kind of realized that I had been a little dissatisfied as a member. I just wasn’t quite . . . I mean I stayed on it because I love the organization, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but it was fine. It’s like, “I’m doing it.” And then I started working there, and I realized it wasn’t really working for the staff either. The staff was, like, peeved that the group wasn’t doing what they wanted them to do. And it was kind of like, I was like, “No one’s happy. Like, we’re just all doing this thing that they think we should be doing it. It’s not working.” And so, you know, it wasn’t, like, terrible, but just no one was super excited about it.

So I went through this process that Sarah just outlined, you know, and I’ve talked to the members like, “Why did you join this committee? What did you hope to get out of it? What do you actually get out of it? What annoys you about it? What makes you proud about it?” Like, just getting to know their thoughts on it and it’s so interesting because the feedback I got was the opposite of what I got in the women’s caucus. Like, these are all people of the same age. Very different missions, very different organizational structures, but still, they’re from the same generation of folks, and this group wanted the opposite of what the other one did. They wanted more accountability and more structure. They felt like it was unclear who was supposed to do what, and they felt like they didn’t know, you know, like some people weren’t being accountable, like somebody . . . I heard some things in the chat, and we’ve heard this before, about some folks that sign up to do something and just don’t do it, and that’s not okay either, right?

And so they wanted some more accountability for themselves, for each other, and we established that, and it has, you know, made overall the satisfaction a lot higher. People are, you know . . . I worked with them to set the goals of the group every year and make sure that those goals align with what our organization needs, that we’re all, you know, happy with them. And there’s clearly outlined expectations. We came up with expectations for the committee members. I saw in the chat a couple of people said like, “Establish rules, basically, of conduct,” and that’s kind of what we did. We said, you know, “If you’re going to be on this group, you have to come to 80% of the meetings. You have to be on a committee. You have to do these things. And so if you don’t want to do that, you can leave. If you don’t do that, you’ll be asked to leave. And if you want to do that, then stick around and we’ll do some great stuff together.” And it has, overall, been positive, you know. I haven’t had to kick anyone out yet. So it’s worked out really well, and it’s just interesting how different it could be, you know, from group to group, which is why there’s not one way to do this.

And then I think those are photos from that group hosted event called Pedal for Pedal every year that raises a lot of money, I think $10,000 roughly for our organization. And it’s going to be a little different this year, but it’s very, very fun and very successful. So I’m going to pause and . . .

Sarah: Yeah, I see one question I want to go ahead and respond to while you’re looking through the rest. And so first of all, just in case we didn’t make this clear, I hope I did, having a phenomenal young professionals board is fantastic, but it should never be the only option for people that you are defining as young to engage with your organization. So if you have a board of directors, you shouldn’t have a rule that, even if it’s an unspoken, unwritten rule that, if you’re this old, you can just join the board, but if you’re between that, you know, under that age, then, you know, you go to the young professionals for a while first, and then maybe you go to the board. Always have all of the options open to folks of whatever ages make sense. I know sometimes there’s a legal requirement for people to be a certain age before they can take on, for example, board duties, depending on your state’s laws where you’ve incorporated, but definitely be thinking about making sure that, if their stuff is automatic, like, “Oh, you look like you’re about this age, so this is the place for you,” you want to let people have the choice if they want to engage this way or somewhere else.

And I want to speak to . . . looks like Maya had a question in the chat about the data collection process, because I gave some really quantitative suggestions of the impact that the young professionals board at Great Rivers had. I used, in terms of tracking donations, I used the Soft Credit function in our database and allowed that to keep track of a gift that came in from someone that was influenced by one of the young professionals board members. So then I could run a very easy report in that database to see which gifts were influenced by them. Mostly, that was things like them running a Facebook fundraiser for their birthday or getting a friend to buy a ticket to an event.

And I mean, we were small, and I was the one person doing it all, so it was very easy for me to just either know who knew who, because we had such a small universe, or the young professionals were also encouraged to each send me a report at the end of the month and just, you know, shoot me an email, right. Like, I had people with these names who I thought gave gifts this month or that kind of thing so that I could make sure it was marked in our database to get that data. And as far as the events go, similar thing with ticket purchases. And then it was really easy for me to keep track of who volunteered at what and when new names were added to our database or maybe a list that was sitting out for people to sign up at a table to figure out where that came from.

So that’s where the data came from. And I know that depending on what database you’re working with and who else is involved in the process, and if the people running young professionals are actually doing the data entry and what you have, like, that could look very different. But for me, it was really valuable to collect that data, because I needed to justify to our board that this was worth my time to continue to work on building up this group, and I really needed to justify to myself that this was worth my time to make that part of the work of my role at that organization. Corinne, what other questions have you pulled out of the Q&A that you . . .

Corinne: I was typing an answer to one. So let me see. So one of them was, and this is kind of just one I’ve heard a lot, so I think it’s important, what is the best way to get a young professionals board member more engaged when they’re signed up but are currently doing the bare minimum to nothing? For example, to encourage them to host an event or take more initiative on behalf of the foundation. So you know, this was actually on, and you know, maybe we’ve already addressed it, but I want to address it kind of clearly, which is, in those cases, there’s kind of two possible answers. One is that you may need to reevaluate what you’re asking your committee to do.

So in general, your committee members are not meeting your expectations, you may need to reevaluate your expectations with them. It may be that your expectations are not matching up. Now, if you’ve already outlined your expectations clearly and they have agreed to them upon joining, so you know, when our members join, we ask them. So for Friends of Pedal, we ask them to agree to a list of expectations. If they say they do but then they don’t meet those, then you need to actually hold people accountable. That may mean that this volunteer opportunity is not a good fit for them. It may mean that you need to find a different opportunity for them.

If you are going to have strict accountability on your young professionals board and someone’s not meeting it, then the young professionals board isn’t a good fit for them. Maybe there’s a different volunteer role with less leadership that maybe they can be a member of the board but not have to, you know, some groups have membership where you can, like, pay to be a member. You can just come to events. You don’t have to actually do anything. You know, it just might not be a good fit for them. And if it’s a broader issue, then it may be that you need to sit down and say, “Okay, you guys agreed to these expectations. We’re not meeting them. So what should the expectations actually be? What is more realistic?”

Sarah: A question from Amanda in the chat about age ranges. My personal preference is typically to do something where you say, “If you consider yourself young, this is the place for you,” and really let people self-identify if being tagged young is appealing or if interacting with others who tag themselves as young is appealing. That usually works out pretty well, and people tend to just, yeah, self-select really well. There are times where folks might want to set age ranges around it. And so I think that, you know, it really doesn’t matter what you set that range at. It’s really just a matter of what makes sense for your organization and the group that you’re working with.

Great question, Beth, about setting minimums or maximums. I think that the most equitable thing you can do is avoid having any kind of even giving requirement, and specifically one with a minimum or maximum amount. That said, it is a really common practice, and if you’re going to, you know, if the point for your organization really is to make this a fundraising venue and vehicle, then maybe thinking about structuring it as a give/get. So maybe there’s an expectation that everyone on the young professionals board, you know, bring in $500 over the course of the year. For some of them, that might actually be just buying their own tickets to the events and sending in a check or making their monthly gift. For some of them, that might mean literally getting $500 worth of donations from friends and family and not actually giving anything from their personal budget. And of course, something in between for many of them. And I think that it’s important if you already have a group or if you’re starting to recruit a group to really let them help co-create that expectation so that it’s something that’s going to work for the culture of the folks coming in, and they’re able to really decide what feels realistic for them.

Corinne: Heather had a good question about moving current students and alumni, she works at a college ministry, on to their bigger board. Their “big board” is older and they want to have some younger folks involved in the board. Excuse me. Sorry, I’m recovering from cold. The young professionals board or associate board can be a good way to do that. One way that really helps, that’s been helpful for us, is, for Friends of Pedal, we established that at least the current president was elected. The current president of our Friends of Pedal was elected as a member to our board of directors. We don’t have it as a standing role yet, because the organization, the group is still a little new, and we want to make sure of that. But the idea is that whoever is next in that role will be a member of the board as well. And for the National Women’s Political Caucus, it was the same. The chair of the young professionals board was automatically, and that group was written into the bylaws. They were a member of the board. So there is that link which is really helpful. Now, that’s just one person.

Another thing that we talked about doing is allowing a couple of leadership people in leadership positions to audit board meetings, so they’re not board members, but that allows, you know, maybe the people in key leadership positions on the board to come to board meetings or to join board committees to start to learn how that work is done, and then just to bring some of those practices back to the junior board, and that helps them start to prepare to go into those positions.

For us, one of our big goals for Friends of Pedal is actually to build a pipeline of leadership so that as these folks age and gain more experience and more interest, and getting involved at a higher level, they’re prepared to join our board, because we do have pretty high expectations of our board members. So we’re kind of preparing them for that through these roles.

Sarah: I see a few different questions about recruitment, and I know that we’re running up on time. I feel like we could do an entire webinar just on the topic of recruitment to a young professionals board, but I love that folks are really being intentional about thinking about how they can diversify the board and that if you just have current members reaching out to their friends and networks, well, their friends and networks might just look a lot like them, and so you might just keep getting the same type of folks. And you know, we see this with our boards of directors as well. So this isn’t unique to young professionals boards.

I suspect that Steven probably has some existing recorded webinars on board recruitment and diversifying that, and there may even be some blog posts already available on Bloomerang’s blog to get us all started. But I think that, you know, it’s just really important to think about who is it that’s not currently represented that you want to attract, because what would add diversity that’s meaningful to me and my organization might look really different from what would be adding a relevant metric of diversity to yours. And then to just think about, like, “Where are those people? Where are you going to find them? Where are you going to speak to them? How do you start showing up in those spaces and building authentic relationships so that they will want to come to you?” I’d start there.

Corinne: Absolutely. I would say the same. The best practices for recruiting for a young professionals board are going to be similar to your “big board” in terms of diversity, and this is something I’ll admit, one of the reasons I don’t speak to it more directly is that it’s something we’ve struggled with. We’re definitely not, you know . . . we’re all learning together here, and that is something that, you know, Sarah and I are both white women and, like, naturally, when we invite a lot of our friends to stuff, they end up looking like us, as Sarah said, and so that’s something we’ve, frankly, struggled with in both of my young groups that I have managed and with varying success. And so, yes, it’s definitely an important topic to explore that we will not be able to answer in a minute or two. So I encourage you to seek out some resources from Bloomerang on board diversity and apply that to the framework that we’ve provided here.

All right, Steven, well, it’s 2 my time, you’re all in different time zones, but we’re at about an hour. Do you have any closing remarks or comments?

Steven: Just a thank you. Dang, that was so fun to listen to you two. And I’ve been on young professional boards, and you articulated the things that I have not been able to articulate but felt that were weird, and good, and bad. And so that was just awesome. It was really eye-opening to me. And thank you to the attendees for being so engaged. It was awesome to see you all talking to each other, talking to Sarah and Corinne. And I’m just so happy that you all took the time to do this. So thank you. Thank you. It was a lot of fun.

Sarah: Yeah, I’m going to save the chat so I can read through all your comments later to process them all. But I love it when you all are so engaged when we’re speaking. It really helps me feel like I’m actually with people instead of just, like, sitting in this awkward room by myself.

Steven: I told you it’s a good crew, the Bloomerang crew. So thank you all. Like I said, we’re going to get the slides and the recording to you all later today. I’ll get you the email before dinnertime, I promise. And hopefully, we can see you on another webinar. We got a great one coming up next week. Our buddy Robin, good buddy of mine, is going to talk about data hygiene in your database, database agnostic. If you’re not a Bloomerang customer, don’t worry. This is not a trick or anything like that. If you’re using Raiser’s Edge, Neon, Network for Good, come on over. That’s cool with me. You’ll get some good stuff out of it no matter what product you’re using. She’s one of our favorites for data hygiene. So at 1 p.m. next Thursday. And if you’re not free or you’re feeling pretty good about your database, that’s cool. We got some other webinars on our schedule that, hopefully, you can register for. Every Thursday, we’ll be here.

So we’ll call it a day there. Corinne, Sarah, thanks again. And thanks to all of you for hanging out for the last hour or so. Have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay cool, stay safe out there, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.