Lately, I’ve noticed more nonprofit organizations desire to start their own “young professionals” group. In a post I wrote for Millennial Chat, I discussed why a Millennial might decide to join one of these groups. But as an organization, you might be wondering if you should start one. These groups can take a variety of forms- from boards to groups focused on social fundraisers to service groups. How do you know if starting a YP group is right for your nonprofit? What should you offer Millennials in return for their service? If you’re trying to recruit us, here’s why we might not join.
You don’t know why you need young professionals.
Since I’m a Millennial, I’ll be the first to tell you that we’re engaged with causes, we’re generous donors, and we enjoy networking with others. We have skills we can offer your organization, especially related to technology. However, other generations and groups of people can offer skills, money, or volunteer time. So why young professionals? Your organization needs to answer this question. Are you starting a YP group because it’s the hip trend? Do you have a specific purpose for wanting to engage this target audience? Determine why your organization wants to focus on young professionals. You might discover another group could fulfill your needs.
You don’t know why you need help.
Whether you’re starting a YP group, an auxiliary, or just a “friends of” group, it’s important to know what your organization needs. You wouldn’t send a mailing to a segment of donors without knowing why you’re looking for their support. Don’t ask young professionals to participate unless you know why you need them. It’s not always a good idea to let the YP group decide why they are there. (Millennials are known for being idea people. We have a lot of ideas. Maybe more than you need.) You work for your organization everyday, while we’re coming from lots of outside industries to help you. Try to figure out at least three specific ways that a group of dedicated volunteers could help you. Do you need help planning a fundraiser? Do you want to engage more volunteers? Are you trying to implement something new in your organization like social media? This is crucial to the success of the group. Defining the needs of your organization will allow the group to focus their goals. It also gives prospective members a chance to decide if the group interests them.
You don’t have the organizational capacity to manage the group.
The organization I work for has an auxiliary. They are completely self-sustaining, plan their own service projects and fundraisers, and generate significant financial and in-kind contributions for us. Our auxiliary is also 80 years old. Since any young professionals group typically will not be self-sustaining within just a few months or even years, your organization needs to consider:
-Who will be the staff liaison(s)?
-Do you have buy-in from leadership?
-Who will keep records?
-What financial resources do we need to support the group?
-How will we determine if the group is meeting our needs?
If it’s clear that an organization is adding a YP group as an afterthought or that it isn’t supported by organizational leadership, young professionals may decline to participate.
You don’t understand recruitment, retention, and recognition.
An important part of organizational capacity is volunteer management. Members of any board or group are usually volunteers. While they may be a special leadership kind of volunteer, remember that they are donating their resources to your organization. They will join, leave, or increase their involvement based on the same motivations as other volunteers. Someone from your staff who understands how to manage volunteers should be involved with the group. YP group members must feel they have a purpose (formal or informal role in the group), feel their contributions are valuable to the organization, and feel that their personal motivations for joining are being met.
There’s nothing in it for me.
How do you make sure young professionals are meeting their personal motivations for joining the group? Ask upfront! Young professionals join because they want to meet new people, either for networking or social purposes. They join because they want to make a real impact for a cause. Sometimes, they join because they want to gain professional leadership experience before joining a real board. Make sure you are stewarding your young professionals, just like you steward your donors. Offer opportunities that will allow them to fulfill their personal motivations, and you will retain more young professionals. Recognize and appreciate their contributions, and strive to develop personal, one-on-one connections to those who are regularly contributing.
Have you ever been asked to join a young professionals group? What can organizations do to encourage you to join?