July 6, 2015
This post is part two of a series on young professionals. Read part one here.
Associations spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how to engage the next generation member. And rightly so, as capturing them as members is critical to your organization’s future. If you want to know what young professionals in your industry want, you need to have them represented in your leadership. If your organization genuinely does want to be of value to young professionals, they need to give them a seat at the table.
Here are some ways to get young professionals involved in your organization’s leadership:
- Get buy-in from your Board. Many Board members might say they want to engage the next generation, but when the status quo is actually threatened, they aren’t interested in making real changes. You might hear things like, “Our core members don’t want that,” or “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Those are signals that the Board might not be ready for the types of changes that are needed. Young professionals might try to suggest new ideas, but if your Board is just going to shoot them down, your young member will become frustrated and disengage.
- Create a culture that is welcoming to young professionals. Encourage all of your members to get involved, especially younger members. In your volunteer recruitment campaigns, consider messaging around career and leadership development, which is appealing to members who are just starting their careers. Be welcoming and clear about the ways that members can get involved.
- Seek out leaders that have a record of involvement. When you’re identifying new leaders, make sure they have proved themselves as responsible and accountable, either by being involved in your own organization, or others. If they were in leadership positions while they were a student, it shows that they can be trusted with responsibility.
- Develop a training ground. Many organizations establish a “junior board” to introduce younger membership to leadership, which can be a great way to teach young members. You may also consider committee involvement as training; the chair of a young professionals committee can hone their skills and prove they’re ready for a Board position.
- Clearly define expectations. Most young professionals have never served on a Board before, so they need to learn their responsibilities. The orientation process must be effective so they know what is expected of them.
- Designate a mentor who checks in regularly. Young professionals will probably need some guidance as they get their feet wet. Your President or another seasoned Board member should regularly reach out to the young member to ensure they feel comfortable and have the resources they need to contribute to the Board. You might also consider setting up the young member with a co-chair who is older, so they can work together and the younger member can learn from the seasoned volunteer.
How do you foster leaders for your organization? How have you gotten young professionals involved with your Boards?