Not Yet: Engaging the Next Generation

I can count on my hands the number of friends of mine who serve on a board of a nonprofit or foundation. As a 33-year-old, I don’t think that this fact is all that unusual, nor does it reveal that my friends are apathetic. It's just there aren't that many people from my age group doing much in that particular world--not yet. Today I went to a Council of Foundations session that promoted a new wave of philanthropists. Called “Challenging the Status Quo: Next Gen Civic Engagement Through Philanthropy,” and moderated by my friend and colleague Marcus Littles, the session featured three panelists: Daniel Kaufman of the One Percent Foundation, Elizabeth Snowdon of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, and Derrick Johnson, who talked primarily about his roles as board member of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and state president of the Mississippi NAACP. All three individuals made the case for engaging the next generation, with compelling personal examples of how to recruit, train, and inspire young leaders.

The session helped debunk three myths about age and board service:

1. You need a lot of money to be a donor or Board member.

2. You need decades of experience to do what Board members do.

3. The older generation of Board members does not need or want younger leaders to serve.

To quote Trista Harris in an earlier post, “We are here!” Let’s spread the word so that for the first time, more 20-somethings and 30-somethings can imagine themselves as social change leaders.

Brian Baughan is Director of Communications at Frontline Solutions ( a social change organization that invests in the pipeline of social change leaders; provides consulting services to institutions in the nonprofit, government, and philanthropic sectors; and engages in field-building in three areas of expertise: Education, Social Innovation, and Males of Color.