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March 26, 2018; WAMU-FM

Student activists led the way this past weekend in pulling off one of the most highly attended protest marches—not only in Washington, DC, but also in simultaneously held sibling marches around the nation and around the world. With just five weeks of planning, following the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, student leaders amassed a star-studded celebrity A-list of donors and supporters, raising millions to coordinate the March 24th “March for Our Lives” events.

Organizers of the “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington put the early cost estimate for the event at $5 million, and said they have “several million dollars” left to continue to push for stricter gun laws and fight gun violence.

The students report that a portion of funds raised will be used to “support the families of victims and the injured” as well as to engage in advocacy around gun violence prevention: “The funds will also be used to fight for comprehensive gun safety legislation at the local, state, and federal level, and will also include voter education, ballot initiatives, and lobbying state legislatures and Congress to protect America’s kids.”

The student activists are committed to holding their power in this movement for the long haul.

The young activists have emphasized that this is still their movement — despite newfound fame and big money contributions. Stoneman Douglas students Cameron Kasky and Jaclyn Corin made that point in a Today Show interview last week.

“We don’t accept influence…the second we let corruption, greed and money get involved with this in the wrong sense, we lose track of where we’re going,” Kasky said.

One area where the students need a little help from adults is in the governance of the March for our Lives board of directors. Industry leader BoardSource advises nonprofits to check statutes on whether there is a minimum age to serve on a nonprofit board in their state.

The answer is “it depends.” But when it is possible, the rewards usually outweigh most of the concerns. A few states do not allow young people to serve on boards, and many states have laws prohibiting minors to sign binding contracts.”

BoardSource is also quick to point out there are many additional ways young perspectives can be brought to bear in an organization: serving on committees, coordinating events, and general outreach.

One thing seems clear from the past week’s whirlwind of media attention on the Parkland students’ persistent efforts—they’re not going away and they will continue to control their message. Seasoned nonprofit leaders will be well advised to make room at the table for them.—Jeannie Fox