It's time to make room for at the grown up table | npENGAGE

It’s Time to Make Room at the Table

By on Jul 16, 2013


your next generation of donors

What is the average age of the members of your nonprofit board of directors?  As nonprofits prepare for a generational transfer of wealth, we better start paying attention to the men and women who are leading our nonprofit board of directors and begin inviting the younger generation to sit at the table.

In this report by some folks across the pond, it stated that early influencers can positively affect their child’s willingness to part with their hard earned cash after they leave the nest.

However, the 2010 BoardSource NonProfit Governance report tells us that the number of nonprofit board members under the age of 30 has not changed in more than eight years.  More than 71% of nonprofit board members are over 50 years old.

It is time to break the paradigm.  Throw open the boardroom doors and let the young people in.  But how?

Create a “Youth Board”

There has always been a preference for “C-Suite” professionals on boards of directors.   So why not start a separate board with more of a social connection agenda.  These folks can learn to fundraise in new and innovative ways, they can lead your social media campaign and – in the meantime – learn the meaning and gratification that comes from serving their community.  There may be some legal implications you may have to navigate, but if you keep your eye on the mission of your organization, then the youthful enterprise should be successful.

Offer Board Internships

Afraid of any of those aforementioned legal wows?  Then be creative.  Start a board internship program.  Invite local up and comers to join committees.  Make it a formal program.  Get them involved and excited.

Go and get them

Make recruiting a key part of your strategic planning.  Just like you cultivate that business CEO, find those young folks who have passion and want to serve.  Yes, they are raising families and have soccer and baseball, etc.  But as my Daddy was fond of saying, you have time for anything you think is important.  Make it important, and make the board service worth their time.

There are a lot more great  ideas out there.  While we are heeding the warnings of the “great wealth” transfer, I warn you that unless you believe in cryogenics, you better start transferring some brain trust or we will be in a lot of trouble very soon.

As we prepare for the generational transfer of wealth, we should actively engage the next generation of donors.  Although personal relationships are critical, this younger generation seeks higher personal involvement through volunteerism, peer networking, and strategy development.  Nonprofits need to plan now to create opportunities to meet the needs of these donors through multi-channel communication, increased volunteer opportunities, and encouraging dialogue about innovations and social change.


Debbi Stanley is manager of the Blackbaud client success team. As certified fundraising executive, Debbi has raised more than $15 million for nonprofit agencies and is a recognized expert in strategic, succession and resource development planning. During her nonprofit career, she served in many positions including development director for health and human services agencies and she was a successful consultant teaching nonprofits approaches to organizational development that properly leverage resources for project sustainability. Her expertise in situational leadership and her knowledge of funding strategies has helped hundreds of nonprofits do more for their communities. An avid fan, Debbi is blessed to have two sons who are great athletes at both forms of football – the American and the International version.

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