This post is part of NACHC’s Innovation Blog Series. This series is hosted monthly by the Center for Community Health Innovation.
It’s early December 2022 and the smell of pepperoni wafts through the air at Eisner Health. A small but mighty group organizes and sorts 1,500 free toys. In a few days the health center will celebrate with its patients at the annual Winter Festival featuring toys, music, and more. The pizza-fueled preparation is thanks to Eisner Health’s “Junior Board.”
The “Junior Board” are young people, ages 16 to 25, who want to be involved with the health center. Unlike the governing board, a group like this one, often known as an advisory group or associate board, does not have formal governance responsibilities.
With clear objectives and the support of an internal champion, a youth advisory group can build engagement and a potential pipeline of volunteer leaders connected to the health center mission.
Engaging the Next Generation and Building Future Volunteers
Youth advisory groups help engage younger volunteers in the health center mission and can help create interest in future service on governing boards and other volunteer opportunities. In general, there is a need to increase age diversity on nonprofit boards. BoardSource, a national nonprofit to support boards, found in their Leading with Intent 2021 survey that just 9% of board members are under age 35.
Volunteers also supply a source of advocates and donors to the health center. For example, 39% of donors supported a nonprofit by volunteering before they donated.
Setting Out with a Clear Purpose
To start this type of group, ensure that it has a clear goal(s). The Eisner Health “Junior Board” started for three reasons:
1. Inform and show the next generation the importance of community health centers and the work that we do.
2. Create deeper connections to the organization including encouraging and involving the family and friends of current volunteers, including from the Health Center Governing Board and Foundation Board.
3. Support patient and donor events, both with on-the-ground volunteering day of, as well as supporting the sponsorship and fundraising goals of the events.
An Internal Champion Brings the Group to Fruition
It takes effort to begin and maintain volunteers and advisory groups. For Eisner Health, an internal champion on the existing foundation board helped bring the group to fruition. Leigh Stenberg, Vice President of Development and External Affairs at Eisner Health, says, “We had a foundation board member whose own son was interested in participating. She helped with reaching out to other parents and groups that her son was involved in, which became the first iteration of our Junior Board.”
Additional Resource – Advisory Councils: Nine Keys to Success
Upfront Effort Produces Longer-term Impact (Plus it’s the Right Thing to Do)
For Eisner Health the additional effort to run a “Junior Board” has paid off:
- Participants hear more about health center programs.
- The health center has deeper and broader connections in the community.
- The “Junior Board” volunteered at the Annual Gala and raised an additional $10,000 in sponsorships.
A youth advisory group may not be the right fit, but for this health center it works. Some impacts are already being seen. Other impacts may take years (or decades) to be realized. It is worth consideration to potentially influence young people during a formative time in life toward the mission of community health centers.
NACHC has provided additional resources on engaging young people in their care and as future leaders for the health care system, please learn more about these offerings below:
Center for Community Health innovation
- Cultivating the Health Center “Workforce of the Future” Through Youth Engagement
- Health Center Innovation: Building Workforce Pipelines with Youth Engagement
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