Minding Millenials

By: David Shufflebarger


I have the impression that a lot of folks over 35 are dismissive of millennials, putting them out of their mind because of some preconceived notions such as ‘entitled, unreliable, or glued to their screens.’

Thus I was struck by this confluence of headlines over a couple of weeks in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the BoardSource newsletter:

We tell ourselves that we call what we do ‘development’ because we are developing mutually beneficial long-term relationships between our institutions and our constituents. Well, where better to start than with this rising generation where there is every indication that there is great promise for philanthropy?  And I think they will teach us a few things along the way.

  • Despite the frequency with which the word ‘transparency’ is used, I all too regularly see examples of a lack of transparency. Sometimes it’s simply that no one thought about it, but in some cases it is intentional, e.g., hiding a poor practice rather than fixing it.
  • We shouldn’t need to be reminded of the power of storytelling, but I am glad that millennials are reinforcing its importance.
  • We have to find ways to deal with student debt so that we don’t lose all that millennials can bring to the not-for-profit and public service arenas.
  • How ironic that millennial women are the more generous force compared to older generations and yet are dubious about the impact of their giving. If ever there were an essential issue to address, it is this one.
  • Innovation should be the order of the day, and the University of Virginia’s pooled approach to impact giving through the University Trust is a splendid example.

Instead of being discouraged about the future, as old folks often are when pondering the younger generation, I found myself coming away inspired by all that I see and read.