In recognition of the tremendous philanthropic impact young professionals are making in support of nonprofits, IVY gathered leaders in seven U.S. cities to share insights on how to launch, run and grow successful nonprofit associate boards. More than 30 speakers and 80 nonprofit representatives in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Miami gathered to encourage IVY Members to seek or create opportunities to deepen their positive social impact. Also known as junior boards, emerging leaders councils, young professional boards, advisory boards, under-40 boards, or NextGen groups, these non-governing boards comprised of motivated leaders have the potential to generate significant funds and exist to cultivate the next generation of donors for the organization.
Associate boards can serve nonprofits of various sizes and at different stages of development. Larger nonprofits are sometimes able to designate a full-time staff position to serve as a liaison and manager of the associate board.
One pioneer in the space is Casey Rotter, founder of UNICEF NextGen. In addition to advocacy and education, since its inception in 2009, UNICEF NextGen has generated millions of dollars in capital for the humanitarian organization.
In an exclusive interview with IVY Magazine, Rotter shares her story: how from a young age, her family fostered her desire to serve others, and her experience starting and growing UNICEF NextGen to where it is today. She also offers valuable advice for those who may be seeking to join a nonprofit associate board, including the requirements to join, roles of committee members and the level of time and financial commitment involved.
Could you tell us about how you started supporting UNICEF when you were young?
When I was little, it was my mother who brought UNICEF into my life. She took me Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF, so when I was going door to door collecting candy, I would also be collecting coins that could help other kids around the world. Learning that 10 cents could vaccinate a child and save his or her life stayed with me forever. I was so proud to go door to door with that orange box. UNICEF recognized early on that it is empowering for kids to help other kids.
How did you start UNICEF NextGen?
At the time, I was interning at UNICEF USA and studying for my Masters at NYU. I noticed that while UNICEF USA was growing its opportunities for young children through college age students, there was a gap in its pipeline — my generation was missing. I used UNICEF data and found that the median donor age for UNICEF was 63 years old. While not uncommon for a nonprofit to have an aging donor base, I knew that my generation was filled with leaders, innovators, and experts in their field who were longing to align themselves with a cause and give of their time, resources, and connections. I wrote my thesis on how nonprofits can engage the next generation of supporters and used UNICEF USA as a case study. The organization allowed me to connect with young influencers and supporters who were already involved in UNICEF’s work in some way. That’s how I met Jenna Bush Hager, who told me that if I launched this program, she wanted to do it with me. When I was done with my thesis, I shared it with UNICEF USA’s President & CEO, Caryl Stern. She had me write up a job description, and luckily, I got the role! Jenna Bush Hager and I launched UNICEF NextGen in 2009.
How has your experience been developing UNICEF NextGen?
I would say my experience developing NextGen has been beyond an honor — so fun and inspirational. It might sound cliché, but I mean it. How many people get to work with young professionals who — despite demanding jobs, being in the spotlight, starting a family, and the host of other things that are thrown at you in your 20s and 30s — actively seek out a way to make children’s lives better? Also, I am working for the organization that has saved and improved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. It doesn’t really get better than that. I feel incredibly lucky that young business owners, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and influencers love the NextGen program enough to commit so much time and energy in support of UNICEF’s mission to save and improve children’s lives. And we all have so much fun doing it!
What was your favorite experience associated with this role?
The first thing that comes to mind is our Global NextGen Leadership Summit. This had been a dream of mine for some time, and it finally came true last year, when 40 NextGen leaders gathered in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Attendees had the opportunity to see UNICEF programs in the field firsthand, learn from UNICEF experts in the country, and collaborate/information share with leaders of various NextGen communities across the globe – from France, the UK, and various cities in the U.S. Young leaders around the world, coming together to support the world’s children, it was a dream come true.
Why do you think people should join a young professional board?
I don’t necessarily think that just anyone should join a board. You have to be passionate about the cause — and be there for more than just a resume builder. You should also be realistic with yourself as to what you can offer and have time for.
If you decide you are ready to join a board, you should, because you’ll actually have some stock in working towards positive change for something you believe in.
If you aren’t ready for a leadership role, there is still so much you can offer a nonprofit. Find a cause you are passionate about, and then find an organization that does good work towards that cause, and help them do it even better. Give of your time, skills, networks and resources — all are important.
I hear a lot of people say, “I don’t want to just give money, I want to do more.” There is so much more you can offer, but it is important to recognize that donations are important too. Don’t join a board if you aren’t ready to support it financially. You aren’t going to be a good fundraiser for an organization if you aren’t supporting it yourself. It is important to put your money where your mouth is.
What is the structure of the NextGen Steering Committee, and what roles do committee members have?
The NextGen Steering Committee is chosen through an application process that is led by the NextGen volunteer Governance Subcommittee. The NextGen Steering Committee is comprised of 20 core members per city in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. We also plan to launch a NextGen Steering Committee in the Bay Area this year!
Steering Committee members lead NextGen’s nationwide efforts and are the key link between UNICEF USA’s grassroots fundraising and large-scale efforts. They carefully curate peer engagement opportunities to educate and cultivate strong, lasting relationships with UNICEF USA’s emerging donors, volunteers, advocates, and future board members. Each person’s role will vary based on their strengths, interests and availability, but most Steering Committee members sit on a sub-committee. Our sub-committees are: The Governance Committee, Program Committee, Content Committee, and Events Committee.
What are the requirements to join?
The requirements for our Steering Committees include a giving requirement, fundraising goal, time commitment, the willingness to introduce the organization to your network, commitment to advocating on behalf of children’s rights, and a number of other items. It is important to note that our program is personalized; we work with our members to meet them where they are, and customize the experience based on their interests and skill set. Members are expected to serve a full 2 year term, attend all Steering Committee meetings, attend 6-10 NextGen events in their cities, host their own activity (educational or fundraiser), and become educated on the plight of the world’s children.
What are the membership dues?
Steering Committee members are required to personally donate a minimum of $1,000 and secure an additional $5,000 “give or get” throughout UNICEF USA’s fiscal year for a total annual minimum donation/fundraising goal of $6,000. We find that our members, on average, give closer to $20,000 per year for UNICEF. General NextGen membership is a monthly pledge of $20 (Hero level) or $50 (Superhero level) per month: www.unicefusa.org/joinnextgen.
How much was raised in 2017 and/or 2018?
Last year, we hit our highest amount raised since NextGen’s inception in 2009. This totaled $2.7 million dollars. It’s unsurprising, given what our members are capable of, but still a bit of an amazing shock nonetheless! Our goal for this year is $3.2 million.
Are you looking for new members?
We are always looking for people to join our NextGen family! If you’re interested, please do not hesitate to JOIN US, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. At the very least, check out a public NextGen event in your city and start meeting some local NextGeners to see what our community is all about!