Association Boards must be constantly evolving and advancing to stay relevant in their respective industries. This article explains why the youth takeover should now be embraced and appreciated by association Boards and their long-time leaders, and how engaging the youth can only improve an association’s future. 

Youth are often overlooked in the world of leadership because some may think they lack the experience and “seasoned-ness” of the industry and are unaware of the true reality of the world. As a millennial myself, that could not be further from the truth and is a mentality that can negatively impact the ability of an association to grow. The younger generations have passion, drive, creativity, and innovation; all qualities an association should be looking for in a leader. The most basic ways for an association to succeed are through continuous improvement, and by accepting and welcoming change. 

It so happens that your biggest champions of change, improvement, and growth are often youth looking to step into bigger shoes. If there is young blood keen on volunteering as a director, then embrace the opportunity with the goal of getting a fresh and innovative new take on the association. Youth approaching the Board are ones who grew up in the industry and know a lot more than they may be given credit for. They’re possibly the kids who helped their dad set up the trade show after school. They’re the kids whose family invented the systems, and these are the kids you want on your association Board to help infuse it with new ideas and technologies!  

I’m not saying that these people are easy to come by and that every association can take their pick of the litter. Board recruitment, especially after the pandemic, is tougher than ever. Learn more on that topic in my colleague’s article. Asking volunteers to commit time to their association isn’t a small ask, but those darn kids may turn your association around if you can get them on board (pun absolutely intended). Read more about catering to volunteer directors in this article and about educating them in this article. 

The ideal association board is a diverse mix of young and senior blood with varying areas of experience coming from a diverse demographic/background, with the overall objective of growing and improving the association. When an association can cohesively mix the eagerness and innovation radiating from youth and the experience and insight oozing from the seasoned directors, you will make association magic.  

The only hurdle that needs to be overcome is accepting and realizing the potential of younger directors. There will be directors who are against change, and who don’t care for the opinion of those considered less experienced; but they’ll come around in the end. Once a Board agrees to bring in a younger, less-experienced director, whether through personal recruitment or accepting director applications, the association’s momentum is only just the beginning.  

Their youthful energy may shake things up at first due to a flurry of new ideas and insight. But they will also start to learn from those who have been around for a while. You will see lightbulbs start to go off, action being taken, even challenging conversations being had. And the momentum only continues. It will encourage innovation, thought, and change for the better and your association will certainly benefit from it in the long run. Keep this in mind next time your Board has an open spot!