Boards of directors are key participants in every nonprofit and are very often vetted through a rigorous selection process before being invited to join the organization. Most potential board members are ideally considered based upon strategic criteria including: professional experience and expertise, community ties, a personal connection to those the agency serves, and factors relating to diversity such as gender or ethnicity. As nonprofits continue to become more modern and technologically savvy, the meaning of diversity also must evolve to keep boards relevant and ready to take on the future. Age diversity is fast becoming an essential part of every effective nonprofit board.
According to the 2014 Governance Index from BoardSource, “Leading with Intent,” board diversity has grown a mere four percent since 2010 while 90 percent of board chairmen, 80 percent of board positions and 89 percent of all CEO’s are white. Additionally, only 16 percent of board members are under 40 years of age. However, little is being done to bring these statistics more in-line with today’s modern era.
Age diversity matters for several fundamental reasons. Technology has become irreversibly embedded in virtually every aspect of our lives and especially in how we conduct business. Boards are long overdue for seeking members who bring a deep understanding of modern technology and social media to the table. Young, digital gurus who have grown up in the computer era can bring a level of technological understanding and innovative insight that others cannot. Further, historic ways of thinking about and approaching the challenges of running a nonprofit organization are, by their very nature, not designed to attack modern operational dilemmas.
Younger board members also are likely to be more energetic and willing to devote additional time to a cause they are passionate about. Especially for nonprofits that serve a younger client base, these board members are likely better able to relate to the issues facing a younger demographic. Younger members also bring with them their own, unique sphere of influence that will expand the reach and promotion of the nonprofit through the community at large.
Actively engaging young, energetic, technologically sophisticated board members provides a competitive advantage for nonprofits, while not including several of these individuals on the board will put a nonprofit at an undeniable disadvantage that can have long-term effects on its mission fulfillment.