If you are thinking about adding to your board, there are things to consider before electing a young board member. The first step is to figure out which type of person you would like to choose. You want to consider their experience, qualifications, skills, and commitment, but what about age?
If you are thinking about electing a younger board member here are a few cautionary points to take into account:
- Inexperience Handling Dilemmas – When an organization encounters a new dramatic problem, such as a new law, conflict with management, or some type of fraud or public relations issue develops. Younger board members do not generally have past experience to fall back on to draw ideas on how to solve the problem. Prior experience may not always be the answer to the problem faced; however, a more seasoned board member may know someone or an organization that has faced similar adversity. That board member might be better suited to provide help on the dilemma faced.
- An Unproven Commodity – Electing a more experienced person has some type of security because you can always get a reference from a company they have worked at in the past or participated on their board for. If you go with an inexperienced board member there is no guarantee that they are reliable or will provide any useful knowledge.
Not everything about hiring a youthful person is negative though. Young board members can bring different elements that your stereotypical board member does not bring to the table. Some of these elements are:
- Technologically Savvy – One stereotype of a more youthful generation is that they are more technologically savvy than their more “seasoned” counterparts. This generation has been raised with technology that other board members just started to get exposed to. A younger board member can provide fresh new ideas on how to bring the organization “up to date” on new technology.
- Networking – A youthful board member brings a network much different than the typical board member. Their network can be extremely diverse as a result of college friends that went their separate ways in different industries and career paths. The youthful board member could offer deep rooted connections with these friends and provide a much broader spectrum than a standard board member. This could be a positive for increasing your market along with creating additional volunteer opportunities.
- Different Perspective – The way a younger person processes information and the way a “standard” board member thinks is not usually the same. That’s not saying either way in which they think is correct. Generational differences in thought process can bring out different ways to solve problems, different ways to raise money, different ways to bring in business. The simple input of fresh ideas can help energize an organization.
Establishing a healthy mix of experienced and inexperienced board members creates opportunities for a more dynamic board. Electing a new board member is an important task in setting a direction for the organization being run. Even if you do not choose a younger person, it is truly vital to assess what the future board member can bring to the table. It’s important not to rule out candidates simply because of their youth, but to recognize that there are positives and negatives to making that choice.
Olsen Thielen’s staff has a proven expertise in the not-for-profit area. Contact Principal Daniel Owens, CPA, for more information on the services we provide to our not-for-profit clients.