Developing a youth board member role

This blog considers why Volunteering New Zealand sought youth participation on its Board and how it has evolved its youth board member role.

Targeted engagement of young people into board roles has been growing over the last decade. Volunteering Marlborough delivered a youth on boards programme in 2018.

“One simple trick to achieve the ‘youth engagement’ so many organisations strive for? Actually offering young people a seat at the table.”

Examining the Youth Ladder of participation is a great task for organisations to assess where they are at in terms of their youth engagement. The ideal is for young people to be participating at the decision making table.

This is an aspiration that Volunteering New Zealand has worked on over the last few years. Volunteering New Zealand  appointed its first elected Youth Board member in 2022. 

In the lead up to launching this role, Volunteering New Zealand’s board did a lot of work to introduce and implement a role that greater enabled a youth voice at board level. 

In 2020, Volunteering New Zealand specifically co-opted its first youth board member Ryan Hooper Smith. Ryan, the wider board and a Youth Working Group collectively worked to deliver and design a targeted Youth Board Member role for Volunteering New Zealand.

At our 2021 Annual General Meeting, Volunteering New Zealand board proposed a change to our constitution to include a mandated Youth Board Member role. This was affective from our 2022 AGM. In the interim, Volunteering New Zealand then co-opted an additional youth member, Matthew Goldsworthy until our first formally elected youth member was elected.

If you’re a leader, an executive, a board member – anyone who has any form of responsibility – I encourage you to invite young people into your conversations. Whether it’s in governance or in operations, ask their opinions and listen with an open mind. Embrace the curiosity and creativity that comes from working with youth.Goldsworthy.

In 2022, we had our first Youth Board Member formally nominated onto our board. Donald McIntosh. Donald is a strong proponent for having more young people in the board room.

“It’s generally accepted that a diverse board, bringing together a range background and skills, does better governance. However, so far at least, young people have been largely left out of the picture.” McIntosh

How does our Youth Board Member role actually work?

Currently, our Youth Board Member is elected for a two-year term, with the ability to be re-elected for another two-year term. There is no minimum or maximum age for this position, however there is the expectation that this person is young and has experience as a young volunteer. 

Experience working on a board or in governance is not necessary – we care more about your willingness to learn about governance. And the role of the Youth Board Member has identical voting rights and responsibilities as other Board Members at Volunteering New Zealand.

Our board members can expect to give approximately  10-20 hours per month of volunteer time, but this can vary depending on workload.

Our quarterly board meetings are usually face-to-face, so some travel is required. Although this is a voluntary position, your travel expenses will be covered by Volunteering New Zealand.

An election process in accordance with our constitution will be conducted before our AGM in November. Our new youth board member role is for up to two two-year terms.