Ok, not really. You can’t get the board of your dreams by pushing a button. You’ve got to work it! But we’ve created a better way: the Board Member Accelerator Series, a one-of-a-kind system created to engage and train young professionals to serve your entire community.

And, really, isn’t that even better?

Read on for more information from our very own Heather Gallant, creator of the series. This post was originally featured by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

25 Energetic Young Professionals Eager to Become Nonprofit Board Members

By Heather Gallant, Advisor, Aly Sterling Philanthropy

EPIC Toledo Board Member Accelerator Series

Our region is working to grow business, improve communities and attract and keep bright young people. So, it’s important we recognize the key components of a fertile environment: good jobs, arts and entertainment, affordable housing, great schools and, of course, a strong sense of community.

In the Toledo area, our thriving nonprofit sector provides the roots that underpin our greatest attributes and strongest attractions. World-class culture? Check. Award-winning schools? Check. Beautiful parks and accessible social services? Check and check.

From this perspective it’s easy to see why the strength of our nonprofit community has a direct impact on the vigor of our region. And the best way to cultivate both is by engaging our young people on volunteer boards – and preparing them to lead when the current generation retires.

In the fall of 2015, the leaders of the Chamber’s EPIC Advisory Council approached Aly Sterling Philanthropy with a challenge: how can we assist more young professionals become leaders on nonprofit boards?

EPIC Toledo and Aly Sterling Philanthropy

We were thrilled with this question. Over the past several years, we’ve noticed several compelling, converging trends in Toledo:

  1. There is a limited pool of highly-skilled, engaged board members.
  2. Nonprofit leaders aren’t quite sure how to attract qualified, committed early-career professionals to board service.
  3. Many young professionals are eager to serve but feel unprepared for board service or unqualified to lead. They aren’t even sure how to approach a board and offer their service.

These trends aren’t unique to the Toledo area: according to BoardSource’s report Leading with Intent 2015, only 16 percent of board members nationwide were under the age of 40 last year, while 68 percent were between the ages of 40-64.

It’s also important to have board leaders who reflect society. One in three Americans is a millennial.

Last summer, they surpassed the number of baby boomers in the workforce. Nonprofit boards will operate optimally in strategy, skill and creativity when they are representative of multi-generational leaders. Having a multi-generational team is important to understanding the needs of an organization’s constituents, establishing credibility and cultivating connections with donors and supporters.

More than any other living generation, the millennial generation is focused on making a difference, being hands-on and pursuing what it loves. They are natural board leaders…when given the chance.

Our solution was to create a training series aimed at preparing next generation leaders to serve the missions of Toledo’s nonprofit organizations: The Board Member Accelerator.

The Board Member Accelerator delivers a real-life, hands-on education that empowers EPIC members to successfully govern nonprofit organizations. This series is the first of its kind in Toledo and, to our knowledge, nationally. It includes topics such as:

  • The board member’s purpose, roles and responsibilities, including the fiduciary and legal responsibilities
  • An exploration of participants’ personal values and skills, and how to research and identify nonprofits whose missions light them on fire
  • Signs of a healthy board and organization, and ideas for how to handle some common challenges that could arise
  • Basic training on best practices in nonprofit fundraising, marketing, leadership, succession planning, strategic planning, conflict resolution, finances and being an ambassador for an organization

We also coach participants on how to approach an organization about board service and provide related tools and templates they can customize and use right away. Through case studies and group discussions, participants even have a chance to practice dealing with real-life nonprofit challenges.

Within a year of completing the training series, participants are expected to reach out to a board, clarify expectations of board service with that organization and begin serving on a board that aligns with their passions.

The potential for engaging young people through the Board Member Accelerator Series is great. In this inaugural year of the program we’re preparing 25 energetic, qualified young professionals to serve… If we replicate this each year, can you envision the impact on our society?

Can you imagine how our community will be different?

How it will be better?

We can.

Heather Gallant

Heather Gallant

Heather Gallant is a successful nonprofit leader with expertise in founder-leader transitions, strategic problem-solving during times of uncertainty and organizational change processes More about Heather
Heather Gallant
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