Why I Joined Great Rivers Environmental Law Center’s Young Professionals Board and Why You Should, Too

Last year, I joined the Young Professionals Board of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. As a former intern, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-connect. After all, President Kathleen Henry took me to a robot convention on the last day of my internship!


I don’t remember how I learned about the Young Professionals Board. But I remember thinking the fact that Great Rivers even has a Young Professionals Board is a testament to its unyielding commitment to promote, preserve, and protect the environment. Because in order to do that for generations to come, an organization has to integrate future generations.

Sadly, according to the 2017 BoardSource Nonprofit Board Practices, less than 17% of nonprofit board members are under 40 years old and most nonprofits do not have a young professionals board.

But Great Rivers is different.

Not only does it have a committed Board of Directors, but it also has a selfless and committed staff who have welcomed the young professionals with open arms. Director of Development, Sarah Willey, works alongside our young professionals daily, and attorneys Kathleen, Bruce, Henry, and Bob regularly appear at events in support of the young professionals.

Their commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed. Recently, the Young Nonprofit Professionals St. Louis Chapter announced Great Rivers as a finalist for the Outstanding Nonprofit Organization Award.

Why Should You Get Involved?

1. It’s fun.

As a member of the Young Professionals Board, you provide integral support to the organization’s mission and programs.

But we do this while having a lot of fun.

Our meetings are effective and organized but relaxed and enjoyable. At every meeting, the staff members share key updates on the cases they’re working on and the issues they’re researching. They then look to us for input on strategies and suggestions.

We laugh. We talk about our lives. We drink beer.


2. You get to build your professional network.

When you join our team, you’re joining a group of fun people with a diverse array of professional backgrounds: from marketing and data management to asbestos remediation and legal work. You’ll get the opportunity to meet new people and interact with individuals who likely aren’t in your current professional network. By expanding your network in this way, you’ll discover new mentors and professional opportunities you might not otherwise discover.


3. You get to develop new skills.

You already have a background and skillset that would be a tremendous asset to Great Rivers. When you join our team, you’ll be able to enhance that skillset or carve out opportunities to explore new skills. There are always opportunities to help with membership development, fundraising, event planning, and project management. But you can also identify specific projects that you want to handle in order to bolster your long-term professional goals.

For example, a young professional looking to build experiences in the nonprofit sector could initiate a new donor campaign or undertake to write a specific grant application. A young legal professional looking to build board governance experience could volunteer to review and revise the By-Laws. A young marketing professional could write SEO-optimized copy for the Great Rivers website.

Whatever your interests, there are opportunities to learn new skills and try new things.

4. What You’re Doing Matters

When you join the young professionals board, you’re supporting Missouri’s first and only public interest law firm focused on the environment and public health. Think of it this way: there aren’t many law firms that are 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and even less that are devoted to environmental issues.

While other organizations may use educational campaigns and lobbying efforts to protect the environment, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has the unique ability to use the justice system—working through municipal, trial, and appellate courts and administrative agencies—to enforce and enhance environmental laws and protections.

The team at Great Rivers has been doing exactly that for the last 16 years, setting unprecedented court and community victories, like our recent climate change victory in the Missouri Supreme Court or our Sugar Creek rezoning victory in the Kirkwood City Council.

How to Get Involved

Joining our team is easy.

To start, fill out an application. Someone from our team (maybe even me!) will be in touch to set up a time to grab coffee (on us!). The coffee chat is your opportunity to ask us questions and make sure this commitment is something that you want to do. We’ll also chat through what comes next in terms of joining, upcoming events you may be interested in, and your long-term professional goals.

If you ever have any questions, we’re only an email away.

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