A few reasons why we created Launch St. Louis posted 05/29/14

By Kevin Haar, Jr.
Chairperson and Founding Board Member

Since coming back to St. Louis in 2006, after graduating without honors from the University of Vermont, I’ve been involved in a number of young professional organizations.

I started at United Way’s GenNext as a volunteer and was asked to be on the steering committee. It was a great experience but I kept looking for more involvement and engagement.

I then was asked by a nonprofit to help build their young professional organization and failed miserably. It too was a good learning opportunity but I didn’t have the resources nor did the nonprofit.

After looking around, I realized most nonprofits fell in the same boat as they all have limited resources. By design, they are this way. When talking to friends about their community involvement, they too were also having difficult experiences engaging and volunteering as they were looking for more.

A group of us came together discussing the issues and potential impact if young professionals did not have a way to get involved in the community. Our answers could be devastating to any community. To name a few of those answers…

1. The underperforming young friends groups

There is nothing worse.

These groups drive a fissure between the nonprofit and the young professionals. Inevitably, the nonprofit believes they are too young and need more time, and the young leaders feel undervalued with a terrible taste in their mouth for the nonprofit and volunteering as a whole.

This does not end well.

2. There’s the aging board of director issue

If an Executive Director looks inside their organization, can they identify two or three people who may serve as governing leaders ten years from now? Who is supposed to lead this thing going forward? What does the future look like? What’s next?

These are big issues. And a lot of nonprofits are facing them, including those in St. Louis.

3. From a community perspective, what dollar value do young professionals bring to a community?

Whether it is spending at local shops or restaurants or their entrepreneurial endeavors like what we are seeing in downtown St. Louis, how do we make sure young, talented leaders are finding proper inroads to the community so they want to stay here? How do we keep great talent in St. Louis? We have some of the finest Universities in the country, attracting extraordinary talent to the area – how do we keep that talent here?

To me, getting that talent involved in the community seems like a great first step.

The list could go on and on…

The list above certainly isn’t comprehensive, as it could go on and on and on. The bottom line? We, as a community, need to become better at engaging young leaders, and as young leaders, we need to be better at being patient and working together with nonprofits.

To be a thriving, energetic community, we need to work together.

At Launch St. Louis, we do not have all the answers but we have the experience building these young friends groups. We know how time and effort go into forming a young friends group. And let me tell you, it’s worth every bit of it.

Start building your young friends board today

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