Allow youth participation in non-profit boards | Notice
Studies by the Corporation for National and Community Service consistently show that only 19% of New York residents volunteer in a year, which puts us among the least engaged in the whole country.
Think about it. Less than one in five New Yorkers gives up.
To improve this number and, more importantly, the human condition and the quality of life of those served by volunteers, we must change our culture of participation.
For that, you have to start young.
God knows we are trying. Most of the government courses in high schools require some kind of volunteering (which is oxymoron). It shows in the participation rates. Twenty percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 16 and 19 volunteer. Compare that to those before them: only 14% of college-aged adults volunteer and 15% of those in the 25-34 age bracket.
So we force the kids to volunteer, some of them dig and stick to it, but a lot of them disappear and stay away. We need to reverse this trend and find a way to keep these people – our future – engaged in their communities when they step in the door.
To do this, we must treat them as adults and enable them to understand and participate in the high-level operations of the organizations they work with. If we could get them to sit on the board, we would give them the chance to learn about the operational, financial, marketing and recruiting aspects of the association they have chosen. In doing so, this council could capitalize on the bright and new ideas and youthful energy of the miner, which could help bring in more new blood to achieve the stated goals of the charity.
Unfortunately, New York State law does not give most of these minors and councils the ability to do so.
Under the Law on Non-Profit Companies – Article 701 of the NPC – the participation of young people in the board of directors is extended to minors up to the age of 16 only for organizations that educate young people or offer them recreation. A quick call would show nonprofits like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Charter Schools, and your local Little League.
Although this may concern a number of organizations, it only affects non-profit organizations that provide direct services to this young person and her peers. It does not allow minors to sit on the boards of directors of groups through which minors would provide services to others such as the United Way, Meals on Wheels, fire departments or a number of foundations and charities. .
This approach to board membership does not promote volunteering at best. Instead of asking the teenager to approach his role as director with “what can I do and this organization for the community?” He is encouraged to be a selfish board member who sees his role as “what can this organization do for me and my friends?” “
We need to change this way of thinking by changing the laws of New York. We must allow minors to sit on the boards of all non-profit organizations within our borders. While we’re at it, we also need to lower the age, from 16 to 14, to recruit college kids who can make their efforts contagious in high school.
Now is the perfect time to do it. The pandemic has emptied many nonprofits while laying bare our society, exposing and increasing the need for charitable action. Everything is on the bridge. All. Young and old.
Never neglect what young people are capable of. During my decades of volunteering with the Boy Scouts, I have met many teens who are wise beyond their age and brighter and more caring than many adults I know. We as a society (and as adults who run nonprofits) need to capitalize on it. A simple solution to state law could really change the business model of our institutions and promote a life of service at a time when it is really needed.
Bob Confer of Gasport is the Vice President of Confer Plastics Inc. Email him at [email protected]