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The Value of Recruiting Younger Nonprofit Board Members: Expert Q&A with Robert Wolfe

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Published January 29, 2024 Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the dynamic landscape of nonprofit fundraising, marked by ever-evolving technologies and changing societal values, the need for a board with diverse perspectives and skill sets has never been clearer.

In August 2023, Classy hosted its first-ever Tech Talk with powerhouse guests from Salesforce and Zeck on the intersection of technology and community within nonprofit fundraising. The conversation expanded to address the composition of nonprofit boards and the nuance of coordinating effective, impactful board meetings with the right technology.

In this Q&A blog, Zeck co-founder Robert Wolfe continues the board meeting conversation by highlighting the value of recruiting younger committee members and how their insights can uplevel nonprofits’ visibility, interconnectedness, and influence in the sector.

Let’s dive in.

How Young Minds Can Help Navigate the New Era of Giving

As philanthropy continues to evolve, so must its systems and practices. Traditional approaches still hold meaningful value in shaping fundamental fundraising strategies and philosophies, but standing firm in those beliefs without the willingness to evolve can damage an organization’s long-term health.

However, fresh perspectives from young minds present a transformative opportunity for nonprofits. Their energy, innovation, and tech-savviness can breathe new life into these organizations, fostering a dynamic environment better equipped to navigate the complexities of the rapidly changing world.

Additionally, next-generation donors’ motivations for giving are different from the generations before them. For example, Gen Z highly values relationships built on trust. For a generation that has spent most of its adolescence and adult life exposed to constant news cycles and social media, engaging these individuals requires an intentional approach to incorporate the top values they hold close to their hearts.

Who better to connect and convert young people to donate to your cause than fellow young people already involved in your efforts? The mutual trust and understanding between this cohort is a powerful tool to acquire new supporters and mobilize them to do more for your cause.

Recruiting next-gen board members is a great place to start.

Q&A: How to Unleash Impact Potential with Next-Gen Board Members

Meet Robert

Robert co-founded Zeck to revolutionize the board meeting experience. Zeck introduces a simple, interactive digital workspace that saves time, boosts efficiency, and emphasizes the qualitative aspects of genuine board engagement, appreciation for the process, and improved decision-making.

With his deep knowledge of nonprofit fundraising, earned from his time as CEO of CrowdRise (acquired by GoFundMe in 2017), Robert’s insights on the state of nonprofit boards and their potential for change were articulate, inspiring, and compelling. Explore our conversation in more detail below.

Q: In a rapidly evolving nonprofit landscape, why is there an increasing emphasis on diverse perspectives and skill sets within nonprofit boards?

A: Generally, nonprofits and for-profits have relied on the same system around their boards. And unfortunately, the system is broken. It’s incredibly valuable to have direct access to big donors and investors passionate about your work. Still, it’s equally important to have individuals on boards who bring personal insights and diverse skill sets to contribute to the strategic decision-making process.

Nonprofits must think about what they need to thrive. For me, the answer is finding the people already most engaged with your community and leveraging their influence and involvement to source feedback, engage with fellow supporters in personal, meaningful conversations, and act as a powerful motivator for adoption and retention.

Q: According to Classy data, 69% of next-gen donors prefer to hear from organizations on social media. Can you elaborate on why younger board members are best positioned to leverage this channel?

A: Well, the question is no longer if you’re fundraising on social media but how. Compelling content must be in the interest of the donor or fundraiser, not just the organization. And no one better understands what people look for on social media than those spending the most time there: younger generations.

Some organizations still view social media as a check-the-box item, so they’re doing it, but the content doesn’t inspire action. Identifying what stories will compel someone to care is where younger board members can shine. The content you share will vary from organization to organization, but making it tangible must remain the focus.

Q: Similarly, the peer-to-peer potential of younger board members is huge. Can you explain how these individuals help connect with prospects and mobilize support through relatable messaging and outreach?

A: The effectiveness of a peer-to-peer campaign relies on the fundraisers’ engagement level with the community and the trust established between them and the supporters. The more people they know, the more appeals they can make. And by extension, the deeper those relationships are, the more likely those appeals translate to conversions.

Peer-to-peer fundraisers are the best at raising money for a cause, arguably even better than the organization. They have the connections, motivation, and contagious enthusiasm to get their networks involved. When done right, peer-to-peer fundraisers can carry nonprofits to a place of reliable, sustainable funding.

One idea I’d strongly advocate is for nonprofits requiring board members to dedicate their birthdays to the cause by hosting a DIY peer-to-peer campaign. That way, there’s an expectation and understanding that your board will actively participate in reaching your fundraising goals.

Plus, inspiring younger board members to participate in your peer-to-peer efforts helps organically expand your reach and sets the tone for participation across your organization. If donors see your board members doing this work and achieving success, they may feel inspired to do the same.

Q: Apart from contributing to fundraising efforts, how can these younger board members ensure the organization remains relevant and experiences sustained growth?

A: This is all about finding the right levers to pull. Nonprofit boards must understand what compels people to donate and how their organizations can continue offering those experiences to ensure repeat giving behavior.

Younger generations have the unique ability to source these answers firsthand, whether engaging online or in face-to-face interactions at the office, attending social events, spending time with friends, or visiting with family. Their deep involvement in different groups provides ample opportunity for education, awareness, and relationship-building. And most importantly, it comes from someone these new and existing donors can trust.

Plus, supporting an organization should be a pleasurable experience. It’s not about guilting someone into giving but curating an experience that makes the donor feel important, fulfilled, and appreciated. So, how do you pull those levers and make the experience more fulfilling?

Connecting with young people who support particular causes as a form of activism and self-expression is a great strategy. These supporters are ready and willing to donate and advocate on your behalf once aligned with the right cause through the right on-ramps. Getting input from your younger board members can be incredibly valuable in helping shape how you go about this.

Propel Your Mission Forward with Fresh Fundraising Perspectives

Nonprofit boards can unlock transformative potential by welcoming the diverse perspectives of younger generations and harnessing the technological savviness prevalent among them. Embracing these contributions enhances fundraising potential and positions organizations for long-term relevance and growth.

It’s a strategic move that reflects a commitment to inclusivity and taps into the innovative spirit and fresh insights that young people bring. In this collaborative and dynamic approach, nonprofits can navigate the evolving landscape, ensuring their continued impact in the ever-changing world of philanthropy.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

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