by Ebonie Johnson Cooper
Dear Gen X & Baby Boomers,
I know some of you think my millennial friends and I are still a bunch of kids. Truth is, we’re not kids anymore; at least the eldest of us anyway. We have real responsibilities and promising incomes. We are excelling in our careers. We’re married [+kids] (some of us). We even have mortgages. If that’s not the beginning of real adulthood, I don’t know what is. As we continue to become part of society in a more tangible way, we have to begin to understand one another. You can’t ignore us and think we’ll just go away. Our generation is laying a foundation that will change this world. We aren’t going anywhere.
I understand it may be hard for some of you to trust us. Just a mere five years ago we were going against the grain to ‘find ourselves.’ I, for sure, was labeled flighty, stubborn and lacking career direction. Now that my risk-taking behavior is starting to make sense, I’m “bold”, “forward-thinking”, and my favorite, “impressive.” We are beginning to be seen in a different perspective. The value we bring to the table is being recognized; without us many companies will not survive.
Businesses are realizing in five, ten, even fifteen years time, we will be leading society. The smart institutions are beginning to learn the ‘rules of millennials’; how we think, how we behave, how we make our own rules and how we require a sense of respect for what we bring to the table. The not so smart organizations are huffing and puffing about how terrible we are as employees. Which boat is your organization in? Are you forging relationships with us so we stay around? Are you hiring our small business to help sustain your big picture vision?
While rough at times, we go after our dreams. Even when we aren’t sure, we take risks to start businesses. And no matter who is telling us no, we say yes. This is my generation and they make me proud; especially when there were 15 categories of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List and I know one of them! Go Amanda Ebokosia! Or how about we’re freakin’ marine biologists!
While we are making strides and shaking up the professional world, a strong leadership presence is being made in the world of giving as well. The proof is in articles like the one I found this week on HuffPost Impact. The face of philanthropy is changing and it’s looking a lot like mine, your mentees, your children- and for some of you, your grandchildren.
The rules that apply for corporations to play smart and learn about us, go for non-profits too. Who will be your donors in ten years? Surely not the major gifts donors writing you checks now. Who will be your volunteers? Not the stay at home mom who comes in weekly now to help out. Right. It’s time you learn how to engage with millennials- the right way.
Ask yourself, ‘where will my institution be if we don’t cultivate relationships with millennials?’ As shameless as all shameless plugs go, I invite you to join me for my workshop on January 30 on millennial engagement geared toward non-profit sustainability: Meet The Millennials: The Next Generation of Sustainable Donors.
Three years ago when I had the idea to start this blog, I just wanted to tell my real life friends about giving back. I had no clue there was a generational thread that connects my desire to give with others. I also didn’t know when left my job for the first time in 2008 in search for career and passion fulfillment, I was doing something that was indicative of my generation. Now as I prepare to enter into a new decade of my life- yes, 30- I realize how much I am a product of my generation and how much my generation is changing this world. It’s quite the story to watch.
I hope you’re watching and engaging with us too. We’re doing great things in the world and as long as we understand one another we’ll all go farther- together.