Today’s emerging workforce is the largest and most diverse in American history. According to The Millennial Impact Project, it numbers nearly 80 million strong, and will account for 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, less than four years from now. Despite their position as an emerging economic and social force, young professionals are not proportionally represented on organizational boards. The 2014 Boards Practices Report, found that more than half of surveyed organizations reported that their youngest director was older than 50 years of age, and only 15 percent reported appointing younger board members.
While the director-level is generally thought of as the exclusive domain of established professionals, excluding younger directors is a missed opportunity. Boards with generational diversity can benefit greatly from the unique perspective that young professionals are able to provide, including strategies for better engaging the new workforce and younger generations; new trends and best practices in public relations, communications, and social media; and how to promote the mission and goals of an organization using platforms and mechanisms that traverse generational gaps.
In addition, young professionals, with their innate understanding of grassroots communications and fundraising, are able to develop comprehensive strategies to bring each facet of an organization together to build greater community buy-in and awareness. Young professionals also understand the changing workforce and its shift in loyalty toward mission over brand and benefits over salary. It becomes more and more important that organizations and municipalities understand the social environment and connectivity necessary to retain top-notch talent, and young professional board members allow for that kind of shift in thinking.
If these “softer” reasons aren’t enough to convince nonprofit boards to include young professionals, the financial argument should cement their place at every table. While today’s young professionals are not yet able to give in significant amounts, their willingness to volunteer at a high level allows an organization to engage and steward the next generation of major gift prospects. Furthermore, not only is their future giving potential high, they are connected to, and willing to connect the organization to, other young volunteers and young donors. The challenge for an organization is understanding how young professionals give and how this differs from previous generations. A focus and priority on solutions have led to a decrease in large reliable annual contributions to one organization and an increase in smaller monthly donations to a several organizations. A failure to understand these trends will leave an organization in the financial lurch in years to come. Boards, literally, cannot afford to exclude this demographic.
In Arizona, our state must maintain its economic and social competitiveness, and so it is essential that we begin to cultivate the leaders of today on more than just the staff level. We must build organizations that are aware of the changing needs of the economy, the emerging workforce and the political sector. This awareness can be built only by actually having young professionals in the boardroom, learning with older professionals and actively creating the future we want.