Why You Need Gen X & Yers on the Board

In a board meeting yesterday, fellow officers and I spent at least 30 mins discussing ways our nonprofit could increase the number of people served.

We chewed over whether a series of 'outreach fairs' held in concert with existing events would be an ideal way to reach new audiences.

When the issue of marketing these fairs directly to prospective patients arose (we're working with a negative marketing budget), I suggested a quick series of posts on Craigslist.

Out of six members, only the board chair (who has two children in their 20s) knew what I was talking about.

How many of you know about Craigslist.org (I hope the answer is near 100%)? How many of you are using this site's online classified section to recruit?

Posts in many geographic areas are free, although some (NY and DC) charge a small fee per posting ($25 per DC job listing).

You can select from 'medical/health,' 'nonprofit,' 'admin/office,' and a host of other categories.

The Craigslist mention is a trite example of why recruiting younger directors is beneficial: Most bring an ingrained web-centric knowledge base to the boardroom, along with an infusion of energy and passion for continued industry improvement.

Despite a deficit of industry experience relative to other directors, younger board members bring a wealth of Web 2.0 knowledge to the table. They also provide much-needed insight into how to design internal succession planning and leadership development programs successful with the 35 and under set.

Of course, the most important factor in BOD composition (and thus recruitment) is still balance - you don't want a board overrun with newbies or one that lacks gender/cultural diversity.

You may need to push slightly outside of your comfort zone to source/recruit younger board members, but this effort may not be as onerous as you think.

Chances are promising candidates are already in your employ, or have been awarded scholarships by your hospital to attend nursing school, etc.

You can also look for board members among the ranks of active volunteer organizations, such as Rotaract, or on the pages of professional-social hybrid networking sites, such as the Young and Successful Network (ysn.com, and yes, I'm listed here).

In addition, you can post a 'wanted' ad on BoardNetUSA - it's free and easy and boasts some nice stats - over 85% of users seeking candidates found directors they wouldn't have sourced otherwise.

The good news? Promising candidates are out there.

The bad news? Many have not been given exposure to Boards, and may not have a good grasp on roles and responsibilities. You shouldn't expect them to spring into immediate action as confident, involved directors.

Most will have no prior BOD experience, and will need training on the basics of trustee duties. Younger candidates may need encouragement that their ideas are valued prior to offering contributions, but they may also lack restraint typical of more experienced directors.

But taking the time to recruit and train younger board members places your organization at the forefront of succession planning. And after juicy salaries and nice benefits packages, what's one of the most important criteria Gen X and Yers use to select a workplace and prioritize demands on time? Development opportunities.

A good blog to read if you're interested in developing the younger set is Employee Evolution.

Develop your talent set by expanding your board demographics...and you might have a fighting chance of designing and implementing constructive change.

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