How to Recruit and Retain Young Board Members

Not-for-profit organizations are constantly trying to recruit and retain quality members for their board of directors (board).  This is especially true for not-for-profit organizations, who for the most part, do not compensate their boards.  An ingredient for a quality board is diversity in ideology and thought process.  One easy way to create a diverse culture within a board is to recruit and retain young professionals.

The first step to create this type of culture is finding the right young professional.  This can be done as easily as looking around your current workplace, speaking with mutual acquaintances about their interest in the organization, or asking past participants in the organization’s programs to join the cause. Let me tell you my successful board member recruitment story in the current year.

To give you a little background on myself: I am Michael Prall, CPA, a career-driven young professional and am presently an Audit Senior at Olsen Thielen, with three years of experience.

In July, I was approached to become the treasurer of a youth sports association in the town I grew up in.  The Chairman of the Board’s son and I attended high school and played sports together.  One day he simply asked my brother how I was doing.  That got the two of them talking and the wheels churning on a potential candidacy of myself becoming a board member. All it takes sometimes is a simple conversation!

The Chairman of the Board reached out to me electronically before setting up a face-to-face meeting.  He described the board’s desire to fulfill their role for a new treasurer.  He set aside four tasks that were described as the treasurer’s role within the organization.  The first task was to pay our vendors in a timely manner, the second was to maintain adequate records of all receipts and disbursements, the third was to file tax returns, and the fourth task was to prepare monthly financial statements.  Having these tasks outlined to me in advance helped me make an informed decision whether I wanted to join the board or not.

Once a potential board member is identified you have to be able to reach the young professional and make the position appealing to them.  Based on my experience, these three factors would be enticing for the recruitment of a young professional board member:

  1. You will gain valuable business experience outside of your full-time job.  As a young professional this was a major draw to becoming the treasurer of the organization.  As a board member, you are given the opportunity to have a voice in organization decisions and you are assigned tasks that you learn on the fly. As a new treasurer who has not been a private accountant before, I had not done the day-to-day tasks in QuickBooks.  My work experience enabled me to understand how everything should be recorded, but not how to use the software. Now that I do the day-to-day accounting for the organization, I can better relate to my clients.
  1. You will give back to the community and a cause you care about.  Before I signed up to become a board member, I was asked to become a board member of a different organization simply because of the reputation of my current occupation.  I eventually declined because I knew I was not passionate about the mission of that organization.  This in turn led me to have the ability to say “yes” to my current board position, which as a community member, I can see the positive impact of the organization.  Finding a young board member that knows the organiza-tion and cares about the cause and community will help you recruit the board member.
  1. You will have a defined role within the board of directors. As I was recruited to become a board member I was told I was going to have four main functions for my new role. This definition lets the recruited board member know what to expect for their new position.

After you have recruited a new board member there are multiple ways to keep your younger board members engaged. Based on my experience, these three factors would be enticing for the retention of a young professional board member:

  1. Give the individual an opportunity to make a difference in the organization.  This can range from as simple of an act as listening to an idea the member has for the organization to letting the individual run a project that helps the organization.  When an individual knows they are making an impact, it helps them feel motivated.
  1. Keep the workload at a respectable level.  If you are new to a board and are being tasked with so much work and it seems like you have two full-time jobs, it is likely you are either going to stop being a board member or do a below-average job.  As a board, the last thing you want to do is have to recruit a replacement for the person you just invested all that time and effort into.
  1. Help grow the individual’s skill set. As this is a way you recruited your individual, it is proper to assume they still care about growing their skills as an individual.  There are             numerous tasks that boards assign that can help a young professional cultivate their abilities.  Determine which objectives the member would like to grow and help them attain those goals.

In summary, young professionals becoming involved in a not-for-profit’s board can be mutually beneficial to both the organization and the new board member if the right steps are taken.  With the steps outlined above, it should be much easier to recruit and retain highly spirited members.


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DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant. Presentation of the information in this article does not create nor constitute an accountant-client relationship. While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, the evolving landscape surrounding these topics is supported by regulations or guidance that are subject to change.

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