To take your philanthropy to the next level, consider joining a junior board.
Philanthropy is about more than just donating money to deserving causes. Sometimes the most impactful gift you can give a nonprofit is your time and talents. One common yet powerful way to do so is by joining a nonprofit’s junior board.
Whether your goal is to one day join the board of directors or simply take your volunteer work to the next level, I have witnessed firsthand how joining an active and engaged junior board can benefit you as an individual and the nonprofit institution alike.
More organizations are looking to court the next generation of donors and tap into the time, talent, fresh perspectives and networks of younger people.
A junior board is a body of young people, typically under 35 years old, that supports a nonprofit’s leadership. Serving on a junior board gives you a front row seat to the highest level of operations, providing you with exposure to everything from board governance to project management, budgeting and fundraising.
You’ll find countless opportunities for hands-on leadership that can benefit you in your professional and personal life. This can also be a strategic way to grow your network—you can meet mentors or advisors, and build relationships with fellow junior board members who share your passion for the cause.
As a junior board member, your responsibilities might include recruiting and engaging young donors and volunteers, providing a fresh perspective to the board or even managing internal projects or campaigns. You could also be tasked with planning and organizing events or acting as an ambassador for the organization. Some turn to younger members for help with social media and digital campaigns. You may also develop and manage mentoring programs.
These jobs may be different than ones taken on by the paid staff or board of directors. The executive director is part of the paid staff and executes on the policies and initiatives set by the board of directors. He or she manages the staff and oversees day-to-day operations in addition to working with the board on strategic and fundraising plans.
The board of directors is usually responsible for the organization’s legal, financial and management oversight. In contrast, the junior board has no fiduciary responsibility or official governing power. It exists to provide suggestions and advice to the board and may support the executive director on projects.
I have a few tips to help you make the most of a junior board experience:
- Stay local. Time is probably your most constrained resource, so volunteering somewhere far away might compromise your ability to attend activities in person consistently.
- Know what you want to learn. Serving on a junior board allows you to lend your talents and develop new capabilities. Are you a finance expert? A talented marketer? Think about how you can best contribute to an organization and look for opportunities to hone the skills you’d most like to develop.
- Reach out. If you have a roster of organizations you’d like to work with, contact them directly. Try volunteering, introducing yourself to the executive staff and voicing your interest just in case they’re looking to expand their junior board ranks. Also consider reaching out to your network to tell people that you’re looking for a junior board seat.
- Understand the requirements. How much time is needed? In addition to meetings, are you expected to show up to other events or volunteer at fundraisers? Are you expected to donate a certain amount of your own money? Will you need to fundraise a certain minimum amount? If you’re looking to gain skills rather than primarily serve as a fundraiser, try to get specific examples of projects that other junior board members have worked on.
- Learn about the relationship with the broader organization. You might want to inquire about whether the main board hosts a representative of the junior board at their meetings or vice versa. Does the junior board socialize with the main board of directors every so often?
In addition to assisting an organization, serving on a junior board is a great opportunity for you to become a more effective philanthropist as well. You’ll gain unparalleled insight into the day-to-day management of a charitable organization. You may be able to apply this knowledge to your other philanthropic endeavors to become a more informed patron and donor.