David Newton and I are teaching a course in the Spring aimed at encouraging and training young people to join boards of not for profit organizations. I was talking to one young man named Bob who was interested in the course but not sure if he had the time right now in his life to join a board. He was just starting a family and said he thought life would be less hectic in a few years when the kids were older and he could probably find time to volunteer as a board member then.
That got me thinking about when might be the best time in a life cycle to become a volunteer. When young professionals are just out of school they are very involved in the social scene and don't think much about the not for profit world. As they begin to settle down like Bob and have children they think that is the hardest part and soon they will have time. When the babies go to school and get involved in activities and sports, parents become drivers and logistics experts. Next the career takes off and everyone is working long and hard hours.
The classic time for involvement for many professionals is close to the end of the career when the kids are through college and financial security seems possible. They want to "give back" at that time and start by getting on a board and contributing money.
I wonder if that is truly the best time? Would it be better to join a board when you are young and idealistic and believe you can change the world? Or in the middle rather than the end of your career when you have some wisdom to share and enough energy to truly provide leadership to a board?