In my conversation with my peers around the country, it seems like one of the biggest hurdles in developing the now generation of nonprofit leaders is the mindset of current leaders.
That’s right, I said it.
It’s not the economy or the lack of funding available for leadership development. It’s the fact that many older nonprofit professionals don’t see younger generations as viable candidates for leadership.
Look, I’ll prove it to you. A recent BoardSource report highlighted several disincentives for nonprofit boards to actively seek out younger members, including skepticism about the need to have younger generations on boards.
Why the skepticism? One reason may be because there are a bunch of myths out there that need to be debunked about what young people can and cannot contribute. Those myths are especially strong when it comes to Generation Y. Let’s pull back the curtain on some of the other myths that limit the possibilities for future leaders.
1. Generation Y doesn’t have any experience.
This myth is pretty ridiculous when you look at the numbers. Generation Y refers to young people born between 1980 and 2000, which means that the oldest Generation Y-er is already 30 years old. This also means that the oldest Generation Y nonprofit leader has about 12 years of work experience.
2. All Generation Y does is tweet and Facebook all day.
Yes, Generation Y is overwhelmingly more comfortable and proficient with technology as a generation, just because we grew up with it more than other generations did. But here’s a news flash: Many young people are not even familiar with Twitter or Facebook. According to Pingdom, 64 percent of Twitter users and 61 percent of Facebook users are 35 or older. What bothers many young leaders about this technology myth is that their youth is only valued when social media comes up and the CEO wants to know how to use Twitter. For everything else, younger leaders are relegated to supportive roles.
3. Generation Y just wants to come in, take over, and change everything.
Not at all. Unfortunately, most Generation Y nonprofit leaders are not even thinking about changing anything in your organization. My generation is pretty much still emulating the older generations, afraid to fail, and trying not to rock the boat for fear we won’t ever get a chance to sit at the big kid’s table. We’re out here trying to get the right education so we can learn how to do all the right things at the right time so we can get the right jobs so we can move up into the right positions so someone can bestow upon us the right kind of power that will allow us to finally make a difference and make things right in the world. For the most part, Generation Y just wants to learn from older leaders and get the opportunity to contribute something to your organization. So you can chill out and stop worrying about The Big Takeover. Because as much as I’d like to say otherwise, it ain’t happening.