Engaging Emerging Leaders as Board Members

Engaging emerging leaders as board members takes knowledge of three general subject areas:

  1. Board Engagement – What does board engagement mean? What does it look like? And how does it feel?
  2. Generational traits, values, motivators and how these were framed by the global and local experiences that shape us during our coming of age. Turns out, generations are actually different cultures.
  3. Nonprofit transformation – predicting what the sector will look like in the future using external trends and information.

Pulling these pieces together, you can begin to see where you nonprofit is going, how emerging leaders on board can help you transition, and how you engage your entire board’s particular “human or intellectual capital” to get there.

Below you will find resources on each of these topics.

A. Board Engagement – is many things. It is not merely attendance. Showing up and not contributing thoughtfully is disengaging to individual board members – but also ineffective board governance. We want you to make the most of your board.

Growing Board Engagement is a three-part series by Terrie Temkin, a consultant on governance, posted on Philanthropy Journal. Terrie details specific targeted methods for engaging board members in three areas:

  • The impact of Bylaws
  • The format and content of Meetings
  • How Decisions are made

BoardSource’s Give New Board Member’s the Training You Wish You’d Had as a Newcomer (available from Bridgestar) outlines the variety of information and coaching a new board member needs to be successful.

The Individual Board Plan is a tool available in Kayte Connelly’s book, “Engaging Your Board: It’s raining yen,” that can help your board member’s assess their understanding of their role, the training and information they need, and their overall confidence in such organization barometers as,

  • We are engaged in the community as a whole
  • We are respected in our field

B. Generational Research is available in a number of formats, from many sources. Here are a few:

The Pew Research Center’s ongoing study of Millenials defines notable differences on topics of interest in this generation from those that came before. Additionally, Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.  reports on their overall findings as of February 2010.

Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofits by Frances Kunreuther, Helen Kim, and Robby Rodriguez

presents ideas and gives practical advice on how to approach generational changes in leadership so that the contributions of long-time leaders are valued, new and younger leaders’ talent is recognized, and groups are better prepared to work across generational divides.”

– from the Working Across Generations Website

  • Leadership Top 5 is a one page PDF with the top five suggestions from the authors for working with Gen X and Gen Y leaders.

Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit by Peter C. Brinkerhoff (also available as a book on cd) thoroughly covers the generational spectrum as it relates to nonprofits.

What’s the big deal?

The big deal is this: our different generations are really different cultures, so different that we see life at its most basic levels differently, we attack problems differently, we seek solutions differently, we manage differently, we look at work and the rest of our lives differently. …

If we want to attract donations, volunteers, board member from younger generations, we have to understand what motivates them and to do that we need their perspective; we have to embrace age diversity…..”

– from Brinckerhoff’s Mission-Based Management Website

  • One key suggestion from Brinkerhoff details what board level mentorship looks like – see page 92 for details.

The BoardSource publication, New Voices at the Table: Welcoming the Next Generation of Board Leaders culls a variety of tools to address the topic directly. The publication is available as a downloadable PDF – view the table of contents here.

C. The Future of the Sector is difficult to predict, though many factors can be taken in to account to suggest areas for nonprofit boards to focus. A handful of books that can help your board vision how current trends predict future nonprofit transitions are:

20Under40: Re-inventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century, edited by Edward C. Clapp

The 21st Century Nonprofit: Managing in the Age of Governance by Paul B. Firstenberg, a Foundation Center Nonprofit Management Series book:

In the nonprofit sector, there is increasing emphasis on governance reform. Three concepts – accountability, transparency, and responsibility – are the heart of effective governance.”

The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine – also available as an ebook.

The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age by David J. Neff and Randall C. Moss – also available as an ebook.

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