Wanted: Millennials on Nonprofit Boards

By Josephine Victoria Yam, 2017 June 13

Do you have a Millennial on your nonprofit board?

This is one of the first questions we ask the nonprofit boards we work with for board matching and recruitment at B3 Canada. And most often, the answer we receive is a sheepish no.

“Well, we always talk about how urgent it is to engage Millennials by recruiting them as board directors”, explained one grey-haired 63-year old board chair of a large charity, “but none of us in the board is a Millennial so we don’t know how to best reach out to them.”

Indeed the lack of Millennials on nonprofit boards is pretty stark. Only 16% of nonprofit board directors are under the age of 40, according to Boardsource’s Leading with Intent 2015: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. Juxtapose this with the overwhelming 68% of board directors who are between 40 to 68 years old.

Who exactly comprise the Millennial generation?

According to Environics Analytics, Millennials are individuals born between 1981 to 2000. Today, they would be around 17 to 36 years old. There are about 9.5 million Millennials in Canada comprising 27% of the population. They comprise the largest labour cohort in Canada (37%) as compared to Generation X (31%), Boomers (30%) and Pre-Boomers (1%).

Explained the Environics Institute’s 2017 Final Report:

“Millennials make up more than a quarter of the Canadian population…[This] cohort of Canadians …is one of the largest in the country’s history, and is literally the country’s future: who they are today and what they become will shape Canada for the next half-century and beyond.”

Here are three reasons why Millennials should serve on your nonprofit board:

 
Age diversity strengthens board leadership

Nonprofit boards should reflect the society that their nonprofits serve. By recruiting millennials to serve on your board, your nonprofit can greatly benefit from the millennials’ unique perspectives and experiences that consequently enrich your board’s strategic decisions in achieving your nonprofit’s mission. For example, they can provide invaluably fresh insight on their generation’s mindset. They can provide wide connections and new networks with their powerful up-and-coming cohort of next generation leaders.

As Boardsource explained, Millennials “can bring new perspectives to governance: the importance of connectedness, purpose, and recognition… and shifting attitudes on workplace flexibility”.

Indeed, the participation of Millennials on your nonprofit board strengthens your board’s governance that is more relevant, connected and responsive to this diverse, complex world.
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Age diversity fosters strategic risk management

The relentless changes in digital technology and social media are swiftly transforming the world as we know it. Thus, millennials can share with your board their skills and experience on how Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and artificial intelligence, for instance, are reshaping the way people communicate with each other and express themselves. As Environics Institute keenly observed: “Digital technology may be for Millennials what TV was for their Boomer parents and radio and movies for their Elder grandparents.”

Millennials are deemed the most educated and culturally diverse generation of Canadians ever. This millennial intelligence resident within your board’s brain trust will reduce the risk that your board makes decisions that are irrelevant, dated or outright wrong.
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Age diversity harnesses their motivation for leadership development

Millennials are passionately driven to volunteer for causes that connect them to a larger purpose. They love giving back to the community to make a difference in the world. According to a Harvard Business Review report, Millennials are recognized as the most socially aware generation since the 1960s.

Notably, this passion to give back is coupled with professional ambition. They volunteer to pursue fulfillment and meaning - but also to build more experience and skills to increase their social networks and bolster their chances for climbing up the corporate ladder.

Thus, corporate HR managers that plan to groom Millennials as next-generation leaders in their organizations can provide them with nonprofit board opportunities. After all, nonprofit board service is an enriching, “on-the-job” leadership development opportunity that can provide Millennials with varied leadership experiences on collaboration, risk management, conflict resolution and effective communication. It’s leadership development through community building.
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These three reasons make a strong business case for recruiting Millennials on your board. The Harvard Business Review advises that:

“[Millennials]… set high standards for themselves…They’re used to overachieving academically and to making strong personal commitments to community service. Keep them engaged, and they will be happy to overachieve for you.”

The lack of age diversity on nonprofit boards can no longer be ignored. Because the Millennials are coming. And they are coming fast.

If your nonprofit board fails to recruit Millennials to harness their power to do well and do good, then your board does so at its peril.

Related Blog Posts

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and B3 Canada invite you to an accredited Continuing Professional Development (CPD) webinar entitled:

Lawyers On Board: What You Need To Know Before Serving on a Non-Profit Board

Save the date!
Wednesday, 26 April 2017
12:00pm (Eastern) / 9:00 (Pacific)

Serving on a nonprofit board is not only a meaningful way to give back to the community, it is also a powerful way to build valuable leadership experience.

While enhancing their Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand strategies, many large corporations and law firms consider our programs as solidly supporting their HR talent strategy to develop their high-potential …

According to a 2014 Government of Canada report, women: comprise 47% of the Canadian workforce; earn more than 50% of all Canadian university degrees; represented 47% of students in business and management programs at the master’s level in 2010; and received 34.5% of the Masters of Business Administration (MBAs) given in 2011.

So let’s raise our glasses twice or even thrice, right? No, not just yet.

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  • As we celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada with the 150Alliance, we are proud to contribute to a national narrative that weaves inspiring stories of how businesses and nonprofits are working side by side through our B3 Board Matching & Training Programs.

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  • For 20 years, CharityVillage has been the HR partner for recruitment in the Canadian nonprofit sector. Through their eLearning courses, volunteer and event listings, webinars, newsletters, articles, tools and resources, they help nonprofit staff and volunteers do their best work every day.

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  • The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is the provincial network for the approximately 55,000 nonprofit organizations across Ontario. As a 7,000-strong provincial network, with a volunteer base of 300 sector leaders, ONN brings the diverse voices of the sector to government, funders and business to create and influence systemic change.

  • The Sustainability Network is a national organization that works with environmental nonprofits to make them more effective and efficient. Their mission is to enrich environmental leaders and nonprofit organizations so that they can help us all achieve sustainability.

  • Founded in 1943, Vantage Point delivers learning opportunities focused on governance, leadership, planning and people engagement for new and seasoned sector leaders, board directors and managers, aimed at advancing not-for-profit leadership.

  • Women Get On Board is a leading member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. They do this through an engaged community of women and men in Canada committed to advancing gender diversity in the boardroom.

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