A New Generation Take Their Place on the Board
12 December 2016 at 9:59 am
Romy Grace is one of 10 young professionals to recently complete Jewish Care Victoria’s inaugural Board Foundations program, Yesod. In this article, she talks about what she learned about the responsibilities of not-for-profit board directors and why boards need to look to the next generation.
Increasingly, for-purpose organisations are vying for relevance, sustainability and engagement with millennials.
With so many compelling causes and organisations to support, and a desire for greater impact than traditional philanthropy, millennials are seeking a new way of giving to, and connecting with organisations and causes.
In 2016 Jewish Care Victoria launched an exciting initiative aimed at engaging a younger generation of advocates and supporters, and, in doing so, are aiming to attract and involve a more diverse range of community members in the organisation’s leadership.
Yesod (Hebrew for “foundations”) is a 10-month program, during which participants aged 27 to 40 gained a solid understanding of the professional duties and responsibilities of not-for-profit board directors.
Jewish Care partnered with the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) to run the initiative, which included interactive workshops, governance training, mentoring and keynote speakers such as distinguished female board directors, Nora Scheinkestel and Carol Schwartz.
Central to this program was the board “observership”, with each participant attending board subcommittee meetings, accessing board materials and participating in one board meeting during the year.
Jewish Care CEO Bill Appleby said: “When young people’s opinions are sought and valued in decision making, it’s not just the organisation that benefits. These experiences have the potential to positively impact on the entire community, creating a strong, cohesive and connected community.”
As an engagement and education tool, the Yesod program has been invaluable, inspiring and encouraging for participants most of whom intend to pursue board roles in for-purpose organisations.
Millennials, if given the opportunity, can gain invaluable insights and understanding regarding the complex issues facing for-purpose organisations, and experience firsthand the challenging and rewarding nature of governance and leadership.
Organisations that can successfully engage a diverse and oftentimes younger network are more likely to remain relevant and sustainable going forward.
Innovative programs, fundraising campaigns and powerful storytelling can improve engagement by millennials with community organisations. Another powerful tool is to review the organisation’s board composition and diversity.
In Australia, board diversity is a key issue facing both the corporate and not-for-profit / for-purpose sectors and in this respect, the for-purpose sector can take a leading role in addressing both gender and age imbalance in their governance.
A progressive approach including multi-generational and gender inclusive board composition can only serve to enhance the impact of any for-purpose organisation.
In doing so, and by prioritising diversity, their governance and leadership structures, organisations are more likely to achieve longevity and sustainability in the face of a younger generation.
Board diversity can deliver lasting positive impacts for any organisation, but particularly in the for-purpose sector which relies on engaged, passionate and active members and supporters.
About the author: Romy Grace graduated with a BA/LLB from Monash University and is currently Legal Counsel at the Impact Investment Group (IIG), a privately owned impact funds management business, which invests for social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. Prior to joining IIG in 2013, Grace worked at Arnold Bloch Leibler as a solicitor in the commercial dispute resolution team. She has worked in human rights law for Indigenous communities both in Victoria and the Northern Territory. She has held a range of roles in not-for-profit organisations in Melbourne, and is currently on the board of the Young Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the advisory board of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University. Grace completed the inaugural Jewish Care Victoria Yesod Program in 2016.