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10 Things I Learned While Serving on a Young Professionals Board

Are you a busy millennial who don’t think you have time to serve on a nonprofit junior board? Anshita Khandewal and Sarah Eades, from BoardAssist’s Young Professionals Board, disagree – and in this week’s guest post they have done a great job explaining why junior board service can be very meaningful and educational. The nonprofit community needs you. Please consider making time for service with a terrific young professionals boards of your choice. BoardAssist would be please to help you find the perfect one! 

10 Things I Learned While Serving on a Young Professionals Board

 

Many young professionals these days struggle to find time in their demanding work schedules to eat, sleep, and exercise, much less find the time for leisure or extracurricular activities. The prospect of dedicating a portion of the minimal free time leftover to charity work can sometimes be a challenging commitment to make. Nevertheless, we at BoardAssist have found that many young people do in fact want to make this commitment, often as a way to give back for the fortunate lifestyle they are able to lead. We’ve found that young professionals in New York City are generally willing to donate their time and money to various worthy causes as the need arises, but many have not been able to dedicate these resources to a single cause that they feel passionate about and where they can have a real, lasting impact. That’s where we at BoardAssist come in!

Joining the young professionals board (a YPB) of a nonprofit can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a young person’s life, and also the most impactful. To illustrate this, we collected testimonials from YPB or junior board members across the City to share their experiences in order to encourage others considering giving back to take the plunge and get involved!  The below is a sample of some of the great feedback we received.

Everyone Has Something to Offer on a Board

Regardless of what someone’s background is, I’ve learned that anyone with professional experience has what it takes to meaningfully contribute to a nonprofit. Whether it’s tapping into your network, exercising professional skills, researching new strategies, or coordinating fundraising initiatives, anyone can make a material impact if they invest the time. There is no single background that nonprofit boards need, and it is the diversity of skills and experience across our YPB that has been the greatest asset to the effectiveness of the group! For example, one of our members, conducted an Excel workshop with the whole staff. We learned tips and tricks to keep track of our data in a much more efficient (and professional) way.

Identify New Opportunities to Support Nonprofits

I used to think that the only way to support a nonprofit was through traditional volunteer service opportunities. But after serving on a YPB and having closer contact with nonprofit leaders and operators, I’ve learned there are many more opportunities to get involved, especially in the areas of fundraising, marketing, and technology enablement. Since nonprofits are incredibly lean, they frequently don’t have the bandwidth to learn new technologies or experiment with new tactics. This creates an opportunity for board members to act as an extension of the nonprofit team and experiment without costing the nonprofit any resources. I’ve found that in my case, the contributions I’ve been able to make through marketing support significantly outweigh the impact I could have had through a traditional volunteering experience.

Growing Pains & Management Skills

When our YPB got started, there were just two of us, so staying organized was easy. Now there are over 20 members, which required us to specialize into different committees and install new processes to keep projects moving. Working through new growing pains as we’ve grown has been difficult but has also taught me lessons that are directly transferable to my professional life. The challenge is getting to know everyone’s skills, expertise, and interest on an individual basis to see how we can work together in service of our mission. That’s professional management 101!

Wear Different Hats at Once

In the chairperson seat on our YPB, I was tasked with planning both financial goals and volunteer goals for our portion of the organization. It has been an incredibly valuable experience in just the first few months of running our meetings, working with the full board, the organization, and outside consultants to learn how a successful nonprofit works. A YPB is a great opportunity to showcase one’s abilities to a broad audience and is also a great way to develop new skills you might not otherwise get to try out.

Operations at Nonprofits

As someone considering future involvement in the nonprofit/social entrepreneurship/B corp space, serving on a nonprofit board provides visibility into how nonprofits work. Gaining a better understanding of the governance structures, the operations, the pro bono services available, and the management of volunteers all offers unique insight that will inform how to best get involved with the nonprofit community in the future.

Incredible Networking Opportunity

While striving to build a partnership between my organization and my employer, I had the opportunity to pitch our organization to my firm’s Head of Corporate Responsibility and learn about her personal goals and values. It was helpful to learn about how senior people at a large institution perceive new social responsibility initiatives and help their employees add value to their communities. It has also been a great networking tool and has helped me develop strong relationships with other senior folks within my firm and people outside the firm as well. Every member of our YPB has brought something to my personal and professional life. I have connected with such a broad variety of people, whether they have a similar career trajectory in the financial industry or are entrepreneurs starting their own companies or are part of the organization itself with careers in the nonprofit world. Not only do I feel lucky on a personal level to hang out with this fun, smart, diverse group of people each month, our organization has benefited immensely.

Communicate Effectively

As the Head of Strategic Partnerships for our YPB, I have been heavily involved with developing an effective outreach strategy for universities and companies in the NYC area. Understanding our mission and being able to communicate our mission has been an interesting opportunity to learn more about selling a brand and building relationships with leads across the business world. This is definitely a skill that I will continue to value.

Meaningful & Direct Impact to a Cause

Having the opportunity to interact with individuals who have benefited from my organization has been an invaluable experience. It is very rewarding to see the tangible impacts our work has on individuals in my community. Make sure you’re motivated by the mission! Find something that means a lot to you and you feel actually makes a difference. If you’re going to spend so much of your time with one organization, you have to believe in it, the staff, and the participants.

Team & Leadership Skills

Coordination is difficult; everyone on a YPB is busy, and getting all the parties together to make things happen can be a challenge. We have learned to communicate a lot over phone and email in an effort to not let our schedules interfere too much with our ability to be effective.

The Experience is What You Make of it

It is up to the individual to be proactive and shape his or her experience on a YPB. I learned to create opportunities for myself and found that getting a “yes” is easier than you might think, once you put in the effort! No matter how you choose to be involved in a YPB it will be a rewarding experience. But in any event, you can make that experience very much tailored to your interests and goals and enhance your own personal and professional development along the way.

 

Sarah Eades is a Williams College graduate currently working as a board & CEO advisory specialist at Russell Reynolds.  Anshita Khandewal is also a Williams College graduate – she works at JP Morgan as an investment banking analyst.  Both are active leaders on the BoardAssist Young Professionals Board.