Is a Junior Board Right for Your Nonprofit?

Caitlin Gassert, Senior Director of Client Marketing, Boston, First Republic Bank
May 31, 2021

If you’re a nonprofit professional, you’ve likely heard the suggestion — from board members, donors, corporate supporters or friends — that your organization needs a junior board. It’s also likely to be low on your list of priorities and may even be the first thing you push to the “maybe next year” folder, as more pressing projects crowd your to-do list.

This is because junior boards require time and planning to get started, dedicated resources to build momentum and ongoing support to yield effective results. Remember, these supporters are relatively early in their careers, they may be new to your cause and you’re probably months or years away from turning them into major donors.

However, it’s important to note that Millennials — those who are filling junior board positions —represent the most socially conscious generation, with 84% giving to charitable organizations, compared to 72% of Baby Boomers and only 59% of Generation X1. And that’s on top of rising home prices, increased student loan debt, and stagnant wages.

All this is to say that, without a junior board, your organization may be missing the opportunity to cultivate relationships with an incredibly philanthropic generation, and consequently, the time, talent and support they can bring to the table.

Here are three questions to consider to ensure a junior board is right for your organization, right now.

1. How is this this group of supporters going to help further your mission?

There are many benefits of starting a junior board, but it’s an investment that’s worth evaluating against your organization’s short- and long-term priorities. Think about what your organization is trying to accomplish in the next year. Now, how about five years, or even 10. Can a new group of young professionals help make that happen?

Before you begin recruiting for your board, get specific about how members are going to help the organization reach its goals. Will they raise awareness of your organization, or a specific project, through their social media channels? Raise general operating funds through new fundraising channels? Provide skilled volunteerism in an area of expertise your team lacks? Understanding what role members will play in supporting your mission will be critical in gaining support both within your organization and as you identify board members.

If there are short-term goals that are going to require the bulk of your team’s attention for the next 6-12 months (say, a capital campaign or executive search), it’s best to start slow or plan to build your board at a later time.

2. Outside of your organization, do you have champions who can help develop and lead your junior board?

In order to successfully start a junior board, you need to recruit a 2-3 leaders who are willing to invest their time and talent to getting your junior board off the ground. These champions will help lay the groundwork for the board, set expectations for membership and leverage their networks to build out the rest of the group. Ideally, these champions are already passionate about your cause and understand what sets your mission, or model, apart from other organizations.

If you don’t have any young supporters in mind, consider tapping into the network you already have to identify your champions. Start having conversations with your board members and major donors who may have children or relatives who share the same values and support similar causes. Your corporate partners could also lead you to passionate champions — while today Millennials make up nearly half of the workforce, by 2030 they’ll comprise 75%2.

3. Within your organization, do you have sufficient resources to support a junior board?

Your junior board is going to require time, effort and potentially funding to build and maintain. Keep in mind that the junior board will only be as strong as its connection to your mission, and it’s the organization’s responsibility to cultivate that bond.

When you envision what activities this group will partake in, be mindful of the type of support that’s necessary for success. This can include everything from marketing materials to a dedicated liaison to an events budget. It’s critical to be realistic about what your team can take on.

Regardless of whether a junior board is right for your nonprofit today or in the future, make sure that your stakeholders —board members, executive leadership, and support teams — all understand the why, how and when behind your decision.

If your organization has the capacity to invest in building relationships with young professionals now — and steward them well — you’ll create a strong pipeline of donors to support your organization in the future.

Determining if your organization is well positioned to begin a junior board is a task that requires thought, intention and collaboration. Share these questions with your colleagues to explore how this new group will further your mission, who is in your network that you can leverage and what resources your team realistically can tap into. Like all decisions around your invaluable supporters, having intent and being proactive are the keys to success.


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