Nonprofit Board Recruitment & The Millennials – Challenges Coming?

Nonprofit Board Recruitment & The Millennials – Challenges Coming?

By: Eugene Fram

The millennial generation, those born between roughly 1980 and the early 2000s, is now entering its third decade. As such, they are becoming prime candidates for nonprofit board positions. Most nonprofits would love to have millennial personalities, like Mark Zuckerberg, on their board!! But their behaviors and values are distinctly different from current nonprofit board cohorts, and these differences will certainly impact how they can be recruited for board positions.

Behaviors & Values
The literature on the generation is substantial. Following are some generalized highlights:
• As children and teenagers they take place in activities where simple participation is a reward. They have been constantly told they are doing a “good job,” even if the project results are mediocre, poor or unacceptable.
• They tend to have short attention spans, have too great an expectation from the workplace, need consistent positive reinforcement on the job, and expect to be promoted quickly. As a result, they change jobs quickly, some retuning home to parents if they don’t find a suitable new job quickly.
• Millennials can produce wonders with new communications venues, media and digital technology.
• Some observations indicates that the traits described above are more common for Caucasian millennials from affluent homes and less present in divergent societies where parents have less to give them time wise, financially and culturally.

Impacts Already Being Noted
An observation, by Brent Mitchell, appearing in a current blog:
Speaking from recent experiences with three (millennial) individuals, the (board) tenure we achieved was two years. … Millennials prefer to DO rather than strategize. (However,) it takes time to understand the value/role of governance in the process of creating and having an effective (nonprofit) sector and (understanding) how that governance is key to achieving transformational mission outcomes.

Caroline Preston, writing in The Chronicle of Philanthropy (1-25-2013), indicates:
Affluent young donors say they are more focused than their parent’s and grandparents on producing a measurable impact – What’s more, some of them say they care more about advancing a cause than helping an institution, the reverse of how they see the philanthropy of their elders. … Younger donors want to conduct research on charities so they can find groups that meet their strategic goals …

Millennials as Nonprofit Board Directors
Based on substantial evidence about the behaviors/values of the millennials and scant evidence related to current board activities, the following hypotheses have been developed:
• Nonprofit board turnover will increase substantially, as the group assumes more board positions. They can easily become bored with routine.
• Nonprofit chief executives will need to work more closely with millennials than other cohorts on their boards to have an effective and efficient board.
• Nonprofit board recruitment processes will need to become more sophisticated. It is possible that special brochures will need to be developed focusing on recruitment to entice the group. The cohort is not known for making commitments easily.
• Keeping millennial directors focused on strategy development will be quite a challenge, as they are used to school “semester timed” evaluations and results.
• Communications among directors will become more routine and become less dependent on the chief executive. They are already masters of Facebook, Twitter, et al.
• It is now difficult to determine how millennial behaviors and values may change as they enter their next decades.

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2 comments

  1. This is not a problem for the future. Whether a small non-profit or Enron, Board mismanagement is a gigantic problem. Most boards take whatever the CEO or ED says as the gospel truth and fail to do their due diligence by doing an annual 360 evaluation to learn about how the organization really works. They are therefore ill-prepared to deal with real crises including CEO/ED turnover. My recent experience having my 17 year career at a non-profit ended by an inept ED hired by a non-profit board which had no clue as to what the agency needed because it failed to ever evaluate the otherwise effective 31 year ED is a case in point.

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  2. This is a real concern, not only for board members but for not-for-profit workers as well. The workplace is made up of many generations now more than ever. Helping each generation to understand the other will be a management challenge.

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