BY CHRISTY KESWICK, GOOD SPORTS COO

Good Sports launched its first Young Professional Board in Boston in 2011 in an effort to get the next generation more involved in our mission to provide all kids the opportunity to play youth sports. In the last six years, we’ve expanded into New York and Chicago, and currently have 50 members. Based on our experience with these passionate, engaged young professionals, the future looks bright.

It’s clear why young people get involved with Good Sports.  First, most of them grew up playing youth sports and are acutely aware of the impact those experiences have on their lives now. Second, they reference a feeling of “something missing” and the desire to incorporate giving back into their lives. Whereas earlier generations typically dove into community involvement later in their lives and careers, millennials feel this need very early on.

The question is, how do we keep them engaged?  If we don’t keep it interesting, they will find other opportunities.  Here are a few ways we keep young professionals playing for our team.

Provide autonomy and leadership opportunities

Good Sports provides some set-up guidance and helps identify a chairperson, but leaves the remaining structure and leadership positions to each Young Professional Board, or YPB.  This allows them the autonomy to create the most effective structure to achieve their goals.  Additionally, their approach to fundraising, an important part of each board, has grown in very different ways.  Considering their personal interests and the culture of the city is key to their success and we enable them to make those decisions.  “Forming committees for the four main functions (Strategy, Budget, Marketing, Partnerships) of the board and appointing a vice chair, treasurer and secretary were two actions that right away provided clarity and focused avenues of contribution for all board member, says Santo Dettore, Chair of the Boston Young Professional Board of Good Sports “It also gave board members the ability to contribute in a way that was more meaningful to them and, in turn, more impactful toward our efforts.”

Bring Value

Early on, we found providing access to our global networks was incredibly valuable to the YPB’s. By creating a quarterly Leadership series in each city, we offer them access to a Good Sports executive or a Board/Advisory Board member.  This opportunity to learn more about the organization or learn more about the sports or business world has been well received by the group as shown by their strong attendance to such events.  In Boston, we offer an early morning breakfast series, while in Chicago we created unique experiences including a recent tour of the Google offices with an Advisory Board member. “The opportunity to learn about Google from an insider and see firsthand how one of the world’s technology leaders operates was an invaluable experience for the YPB – not just because Google’s work space is extremely “cool” and inviting, but because the experience provided our team of young professionals with some new perspectives, says Jamil Soriano, recent Chair of the Chicago Young Professionals Board. “I firmly believe an increase in perspective leads to better decision-making, not just in a young person’s job or career path, but throughout a lifetime.  The Leadership Series has been a great way for our team to get some exposure to this.”

Leverage their competencies

It’s no surprise that young professionals have tremendous networks due to their vast integration with social media.  Their ability to spread messaging—whether an invite to an event or a video post—is tremendous. We are now creating content specifically with influencers in mind, and no doubt our young professionals are influencers.

Additionally, this group has access to leadership that can impact other areas of the business where they have specific connections.  This year, a Boston YPB member secured Good Sports as a “WBZ Cares” charity in Boston, providing huge PR value to the organization.  We have had YPB members in New York and Chicago make introductions that led to sports equipment donations.  If the YPB members have relevant connections, it’s important to encourage them to use them!

Let them get their hands dirty

We offer multiple opportunities for exposure to mission-driven experiences, like picking and packing equipment in our warehouse, attending a donation event, or volunteering at our annual galas. Recently, we invited our Chicago YPB to attend a donation event with Women’s National Team Soccer star, Christen Press, and Chicago Public Schools. These kinds of experiences help make our mission more tangible and it doesn’t hurt when there’s a star athlete attached!

We will continue to work with our young professionals to build an experience for them that helps to build engagement.  There are some slots opening up on all three Young Professional Boards in Boston, New York and Chicago, and we encourage interested young professionals to join us in 2018. Applications are reviewed in October; decisions made in November and new members officially join the board in January.  The process consists of an online application and a phone interview with the Board chairs.  If you or someone you know is interested, please visit http://www.goodsports.org/young-professionals-board/.