Updated Aug. 23, 2018
Community organization boards are generally stocked with seasoned executives, but there is a way for those earlier in their career to get involved and be heard — junior boards and young professional groups.
Brian Shields, co-founder of Coder Inc., says it best: “I’d recommend joining one of these junior boards to any young professional in Chicago. They’re a great way to get involved early with philanthropy in the city and build a network of like-minded friends passionate about supporting causes that you believe in. Joining a nonprofit board can help develop your professional skill set, expand your social circle, and give back to the community. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience and a lot of fun!”
We’ve identified our favorite young professional groups in Chicago. Each of our featured organizations generally expects meeting attendance, committee involvement and some level of fundraising; these responsibilities tend to be coupled with inclusion in fun and relevant social events. Read on to discover how you can get involved now.
American Cancer Society Associate Board of Ambassadors
Age range: no limit
This is a community of young professionals committed to philanthropic efforts in support of the Society’s mission to eliminate cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service. Members join to save lives, network, grow their skills, and have fun at events like the Skyline Soiree and the Discovery Ball. They’ve raised more than $1 million for their cause in the past 10 years. Those interested in joining the ABOA can fill out an application online.
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Affiliated Board — The Junior Council
Age range: 21-35
In the past 30 years, this group has raised more than $2 million to benefit Lurie Children’s Pediatric & Adolescent HIV/AIDS Program. The money raised helps ensure that children with HIV/AIDS, regardless of their ability to pay, have access to high-quality healthcare. In more recent years, Junior Council has also established a mentorship program to assist the program’s patients as they transition into adulthood and a scholarship for patients looking to further their education after high school.
“Each year we raise a significant amount of money at our annual black-tie gala, Snowball, which includes live music, restaurant tastings, and a silent auction for 2,000 guests,” says President Mackenzie Roach. “Besides raising money, we also participate in intramural sports and host social events for members to get to know each other.”
Auxiliary Board of Shedd Aquarium
“Being a part of the Auxiliary Board has been incredibly fulfilling, and is one of the best ways I can imagine to support the amazing city of Chicago,” Chairman Julie Canna says. “The Shedd Aquarium is a storied and important cultural institution that I want to help thrive. I love working with and learning from the Shedd’s impressive staff, and I love letting others know about the work that Shedd does outside the Aquarium’s walls, which is such an important part of Shedd’s story and mission.”
The board is comprised of young professionals whose goal is to raise awareness about the aquarium to those in Chicago, as well as outside the state. The board’s signature fundraising event is BLU, known to be one of the city’s most attended philanthropic events for young professionals. The theme for this summer’s BLU centers around sustainability and conservation, a topic that is of utmost importance to the future of Shedd. In 2016, the Auxiliary Board raised more than $580,000 for Shedd Aquarium through fundraising events including BLU, donations by the members of the Board, and a focused effort on increasing donations from those outside the board.
—Written by Jenny Muslin
Catholic Charities Junior Board
Age range: 21-45
With their motto of “Looking Forward, Giving Back,” this faith-based junior board is comprised of members with a desire to enact community action, serve as volunteers, and engage in social fundraising as well as theological exploration. Carolyn Mulaney, chairman of the Junior Board, says, “Every 30 seconds someone turns to Catholic Charities for help. That’s about 1 million people in Cook and Lake counties who need our vital support. The Junior Board raises funds, advocates and volunteers at the agency’s many programs. It’s a great way to meet other people with similar values who want to improve our communities and support the most vulnerable.”
Evening Associates of the Art Institute of Chicago
Age range: 21-40
The Evening Associates are a group of young professionals who love art and want to engage more of the art admirers and aspiring collectors in the Chicago community around the broad collection of works the Art Institute has to offer, as well as the amazing artistic energy throughout the city. “We are especially focused on supporting exhibitions at the museum by contemporary, emerging artists from around the world — and we love finding ways for young people to experience art around their city,” says Chair Agatha Kubalski. Members enjoy exclusive tours, early access to late night events like After Dark, and invites to artful opportunities around the city.
Joffrey Auxiliary Board
Age range: under 40
This group seeks to bring young Chicagoans to the ballet, as well as to promote and support The Joffrey Ballet company. Their signature Generation J event provides performance tickets paired with cocktails hosted with company members three times per season. Emily Strobel Amiet, co-chair of the Joffrey Auxiliary Board, says, “As a member of the Joffrey Auxiliary Board, you build a connection with the company and the community that supports it. Our mission is to expand that community by bringing new young audience members to performances and events.” Additionally, members host happy hours, volunteer events, and attend behind-the-scenes salons with dancers and choreographers.
Junior League of Chicago
This organization of women is committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community. Members donate more than 60,000 volunteer hours each year to build better, healthier communities in Chicagoland around their signature issues: education, healthy lifestyles and human trafficking. (More than 15,000 women and children are served in Chicago each year.) The Junior League of Chicago’s former President Ruth Gallagher Nelson says, “Our role is to do actual, committed, relationship-based service. We change our members’ lives. I cannot tell you the number of women who tell me, ‘If not for the Junior League’ stories. The end results range from being inspired to start an agency or a business to getting a promotion to meeting their best friend. This is what has kept me involved for 27 years.”
Lyric Young Professionals
Age range: 21-45
A project of the Renée Fleming Initiative Lyric Young Professionals (LYP) is a group of opera-curious young professionals dedicated to building the next generation of supporters for Lyric Opera of Chicago. Members have an active, year-round calendar of performances, educational social events, collaborations with other Chicago YP groups, volunteer opportunities, and fundraising. Current Lyric Young Professionals President Justin Breitfelder says, “We fundraise through two main events, our epic Halloween Masquerade — a party with a purpose — and our pub-style trivia night. Our fundraising directly benefits The Patrick G. and Shirley Ryan Opera Center, Lyric’s opera training program.”
The Overture Council of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association
Age range: 21-45
Number of members: 160+
This group of classical music fans enjoy member social events with CSO musicians, happy hours, and a pre-concert series on the inner-workings of music. Dan Luby, a previous president of the Overture Council, says, “What I love[d] about being on the Executive Board of the Overture Council is the opportunity to build leadership skills that translate into the daily business world. It’s also exciting to shape how the next generation of CSO patrons engage with the orchestra.” Now in its 10th season, the Overture Council has quickly carved its place amongst young professional groups in Chicago and offers support of the programs of the Negaunee Music Institute, which engages young musicians and other community members with the music of the CSO.
PAWS Chicago Professional Board
Age range: no age restrictions
The PAWS Chicago Professional Board is a group of young professionals who are passionate about saving homeless pets through their social and professional networks. As advocates committed to PAWS Chicago’s No Kill mission, the Professional Board helps homeless animals through fundraising, volunteering, fostering, planning fundraising events, and engaging others to support PAWS Chicago. In the 2017-2018 season, the Board raised over $400,000 through fundraising and events such as Animal Magnetism, the Professional Board’s Signature Event.
Age range: 22-40
With an eye toward inspiring Chicago teens to become lifelong fans of theater, the Steppenwolf Associates describe themselves as “a collective of the curious, the creative, and the compassionate.” Members plan events, mentor high school students, network, and enjoy world-class plays. “The Associates are united around a love for the theater and a commitment to supporting arts education,” says Co-President Jonathan Blanc. “We are an organization that brings members together to connect over world class theater and to use that passion to have a direct impact on the Chicago community. Every season our members come together in a variety of ways to raise crucial funds that give thousands of young people the chance to feel connected to the arts by having a voice within the theater.”
Young Professionals Network of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Age range: 21-40
This is the premier place to connect with other globally-minded and civically-engaged young leaders in Chicago. The Council allows young professionals to engage and interact with the world’s most influential thinkers and doers; connect with Chicago’s prominent business and civic leaders; and gain insights needed to compete in a fast-changing global economy. “As YP Ambassador for the Council, I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my global issue knowledge base. The quality speakers and connections are unmatched anywhere else. There are not many places where you find young adults discussing real issues, sharing opinions, and doing so with ease,” says Vice President of Vendor Management at J.P. Morgan Private Bank Amera McCoy.
Others young professional groups to consider:
- Lincoln Park Zoo Auxiliary Board
- Shedd Aquarium Auxiliary Council
- Ravinia Festival Associates Board
- Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section
- Field Museum’s Field Associates
- Associate Board of the Rehab Institute
- Jewish United Fund (JUF), multiple groups for young professionals
- UNICEF Next Generation
- The Chicago Community Trust Young Leaders Fund
- Navy Pier Associate Board