Millennials on Board(s)
Posted by Allison Fine on June 17, 2008
There is a growing trend of having Millennials on nonprofit boards. In response to our Social Citizens paper, the Salvation Army has created a board seat specifically for a young person. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that business schools, like the one at Columbia University, are placing their students as nonvoting board members at nonprofits. The win/win is that students get to see how boards and decision making works (or doesn’t work!) and boards get the input and advice of young, tech savvy budding entrepreneurs.
But, at the risk of being heretical (which I freely and willingly gravitate towards!) I’ve been wondering if nonprofit boards (I won’t address corporate boards although I’m guessing this line of argument also holds true) aren’t an anachronism of 19th century bureaucratic thinking. Poke into any nonprofit scandal over the past fifteen years and you’ll find a board that wasn’t asking the right questions of the staff (or worse where the board and senior staff were one and the same thereby nullifying the whole questioning thing!) From my experience as a board member, it is very difficult to hop in and out of the operations of an organization and have a real feel for what’s going on — and what’s in organizations that are very open and transparent and well run — imagine what it would be like trying to figure out what’s going on within an organization that is trying to hide something!
I love the idea of Millennials on nonprofit boards to liven things up — but I’d much prefer that they reinvented the whole governance system instead!
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