As we all watch the unfolding COVID-19 situation, I am struck by the fact that it will undoubtedly be a significant period effect, especially for Generation Z (b. 1996-2012). Period effects are events or circumstances that significantly influence aging cohorts at a point in time. I have been considering how we, as leaders, mentors, teachers, and parents can seize some of the opportunities that it presents for equipping and encouraging the young people in our lives to thrive even amid difficulty.
While there are very real threats and cause for concern with this global pandemic, I am convinced that there are also opportunities that come with adversity and uncertainty. As we consider what they might look like for those of us who engage Gen Z students and young adults, I think there are several important skills that we can focus on modeling and instilling in the young people around us in the days ahead:
Coping with stress, fear, and anxiety
Often we do not fully experience the stress our kids feel, for example, with cyberbullying or the pressure to score well on tests. The COVID-19 situation, however, is one that we are all facing together. It provides a unique opportunity for us to walk alongside the young people in our lives through an uncertain time and model healthy coping strategies and behaviors. Here are a few ways we can do that:
o Talk about what we are feeling and do some fact-based research together to understand what is happening. Discuss how our faith and values help us navigate situations like these.
o Identify productive projects we can focus on if we have unexpected downtime, for example, learning a new skill (ie. playing an instrument, sewing, drawing, cooking), completing an unfinished project, cleaning, organizing, painting, or writing!
o Find ways to enjoy nature and get exercise. This might be discovering a new workout routine, going on a nature walk, riding a bike, or visiting a state park.
o Invest in important relationships and meaningful interactions. Call grandma, video chat with a sibling, or chat with your neighbor.
Guarding what we listen to, watch, and read
There is increasing research that correlates depression and mental distress with social media use. That was before the world found itself battling a pandemic. Scrolling social media and news feeds right now does provide some helpful information and connection, but it can also contribute to anxiety, fear, and frustration. This does not help our emotional and mental health during a crisis. As a result, it can be helpful to set healthy limits. For example, I am limiting my own checking of social media and news to once or twice a day right now. This allows me to catch up on important updates and messages from friends. I am prioritizing other things to read and listen to...my kids, podcasts, and books that have been on my list for a while. These give me valuable information and are feeding my heart and mind with creative ideas and hope. By modeling this, I can also help my kids create healthy guidelines for what to read, watch, and listen to in their extra downtime.
Caring for others
It is easy amid a crisis to get consumed with our own well-being. I don’t know what my children may face in their lifetime, but I want them to be thoughtful, compassionate, and generous regardless of the circumstances. The COVID-19 situation provides many opportunities for us to model and teach these characteristics through our own responses and behaviors.
With the young people in our lives, we can find ways to consider what others need in this difficult time. For example, making cards and gifts for friends in a senior care facility, doing yard work for neighbor, or taking a meal to a shut in. There are many people working hard right now to serve their communities. Find ways to express appreciation; maybe that is simply smiling at the store associate who is working on their day off to stock shelves.
Amid difficult circumstances, it is usually normal people doing selfless and generous acts that helps everyone navigate the adversity. May we equip the young people around us to make that kind of contribution!
Most of us are interested in ways to decrease stress, improve sleep, and stimulate brain growth and memory. And yet, research shows that silence does all of this and more. In a world where we carry our favorite music in our back pocket; engage in long-distance conversations anywhere, anytime; and listen to podcasts, audio books or funny Youtube videos on demand, silence is often elusive.
A recent study indicates that not only is silence difficult to find, but we actively avoid it. In an experiment where individuals were given the choice of sitting in silence with their thoughts, or inflicting an electrical shock upon themselves, the results were surprising. Even though participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked, 67% of the men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than sit quietly and think for 15 minutes.
While it can be difficult to carve out or choose time for silence, solitude and reflection, there are a few key reasons for us as leaders to do so:
1. Healthy Relationships
Relationships are critical to our health and wellbeing. In today’s busy, digitally-driven world, our longing for deep relationships is greater than ever. Often we substitute noise and a sense of connectedness for true relationships. Writer Johnathan Franzen describes that “our infatuation with technology provides an easy alternative to love.” Ironically, it is often silence and solitude that allow us the understanding and peace to engage in deep, caring, healthy relationships more regularly. Thomas Merton, in No Man Is an Island, explains: “The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places, and he alone truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God.”
2. Effective Leadership
Leaders today are confronting increasingly complex problems in ever-changing environments. More than ever, we need time and space to clear the clutter from our minds and focus on the challenges we confront. Author and speaker, Sarah Ban Breathnach, explains, “Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what's working and what's not, so that we can make changes for the better.” Kate Murphy, in her article, No Time to Think says, “You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them. It’s an imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head.” I would add that sometimes the answers are whispered in our heart. When we fail to listen, in silence and solitude, we may miss the best answers to issues we are facing.
3. Identity and Purpose
In a study by anthropologist Emily Martin, an eleven-year-old girl from a broken home, who bounces between three households, explains that in each of these households the rules are different and so is she. Her identity, like that of many of us today, is defined by an external context. This translates easily into the virtual world, where our identities can be fluid and adaptable. Unfortunately, this also makes us vulnerable to confusion, depression, and a lack of confidence. Silence and reflection is the space where we can listen to our own heart and identify our identity and purpose. Carl Sandburg describes this beautifully when he says the following: “A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . It is necessary now and then to go away and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?' If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's time—the stuff of life.”
As leaders, may we prioritize silence and reflection, benefiting from the rest and understanding that come from these disciplines. More importantly, may we model these critical practices for those younger than us who are in danger of living lives full of noise and distraction, without understanding the beauty and healing of silence and solitude.
For the next generation,
This past month, I had the opportunity to do several parent seminars on one of my favorite topics, tech-smart parenting. Social media is always a critical part of those discussions. Whether you love it or hate it, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are a part of relationships in our society today. The impact of social media is significant not only for youth, but adults as well. I am a writer and researcher, and part of my job is considering the implications of these forms of communication on how we think and interact. However, that does not mean I am exempt from their effects. Recently, I have found myself reflecting on how my social media use influences my thoughts, perspectives, and emotions…and, I must admit, I don’t always like my realizations.
While I enjoy social media for its ability to keep me connected to friends and family around the world, inform me of the joys and sorrows of those I love, and provide perspectives from real people, I find myself struggling against some of its influences. It is often difficult to avoid comparing my life to others, being frustrated or disappointed in some posts that I see, being distracted checking updates, and thinking of activities around me for their “postable” value, rather than just completely enjoying moments and interactions. I must admit, there are days that social media takes more from my relationships than it gives.
One of the weaknesses of social media is its ability to distance us from real people and their emotions and needs. In a face-to-face conversation, a pregnant friend would be cautious to narrate her pregnancy experiences to a friend who was struggling with infertility or who had recently experienced a miscarriage. We would not celebrate our child’s academic success to a loved one whose child was experiencing severe learning disabilities. Likewise, we wouldn’t brag about new purchases or expensive vacations to a neighbor who had just lost his or her job, or our weight loss and workout routine to a friend who was struggling with health issues. Such behavior is self-centered, insensitive and hurtful. Nonetheless, innocent posts on social media can have the same effect. Of course, the broad audience we interact with via social media makes it hard to always consider individual perspectives and needs, but I think most of us can admit we need to consider others more when we share information.
Too often, I post something because it is a point I want to make, something I want to celebrate, or a moment I want to share. While that is not necessarily bad, if my considerations when posting are primarily about me…what I want or how I feel…then perhaps my motives need to be reexamined. Consistently putting my desires or needs first is destructive in any relational interaction, including those on social media. I must ask myself, am I choosing to consider the needs, perspectives and feelings of others? When I share something on social media, what are my goals and who am I thinking of first?
While social media is truly a wonderful tool, like any tool, it has to be used well or it can become destructive. We need to be thoughtful regarding the effect social media is having on us and relationships in our lives. Sometimes changes in our habits or perspectives are needed, for ourselves, as well as those young people who are watching us as they learn to navigate healthy relationships and communication with technology.
The following guest article was written by Josiah Cassellius, a Millennial manager and co-host of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast.
If you have ever looked into retirement investing you have likely come across a term called compounding interest. The earlier you put money into investments, the more you will have over the course of time as the interest compounds and grows your initial investment. If you keep putting money into a good fund, check in on it from time to time to make sure everything is still on course, compounding interest will be a significant reason you have a comfortable retirement.
Unfortunately, many people continually put off beginning those investments, believing they can better utilize the money themselves, and they miss out on those long-term gains. In much the same way, leaders feel the same pressure to simply plug holes today and kick the can of future gains down the road. They see a project that needs to be done quickly and, instead of teaching someone how to do the job, they simply do it themselves, or delegate to an experienced worker. When the same type of problem arises again, and it always does, it requires attention, and the leader again needs to take care of it themselves, taking up their valuable time. If they had followed the early investment strategy, they would have taken short-term losses, but the long-term gains would have increased.
There are promising young people entering organizations every day, talented individuals who simply need a guiding hand to show them the ropes and give them a chance. Unfortunately for many of these young people, there are not enough experienced leaders who are able or willing to sacrifice time in the present to teach them.
When I got my first full-time job, I had the good fortune of finding favor with my manager, and he took time to train me on a handful of tasks, and then he left me to accomplish them. When he returned I had done the work, and had some follow-up questions. This happened over and over until I had a good grasp of most of my area. After that, my manager simply needed to ask me to do something, and a task was accomplished without him needing to be involved, because he had invested in the short-term, he was able to see gains in the long-term.
As leaders we sometimes struggle to believe that someone will be able to learn what we already know, or we believe that we can do it better or faster ourselves, and that it’s not worth the effort to train someone else. When we go this route, we miss something very important: compounding interest. A good leader, like a good investor, will put in some work, and then allow the investment to grow.
While it is important to not interfere with an investments’ growth, it is critical to check in on it from time to time to make sure it is still working as efficiently as possible. Good leaders employ this approach with their followers: they invest in good people and allow them to work unimpeded. They check in with them from time to time and offer appropriate direction and affirmation, make sure they are still on track to meet the stated goals, and encourage them to pass on their knowledge to even newer workers. Using this approach, a good leader can multiply themselves, and find they are doing less work, while getting more results. Their employees or volunteers will be happy because the organization is operating smoothly, and everyone is growing and expanding their skillsets. The earlier the investment into younger leaders begins, the more time they will have to grow, and the greater the return on investment will be.
In his short story, A Christmas Tree, Charles Dickens writes: “I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas tree.” He describes the wonder of the children as they looked at the ornaments. “This motley collection of odd objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit—some of the diamond eyes admiring it were hardly on level with the table, and a few were languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses—made a lively realization of the fancies of childhood.”
Our children today do not have the same experiences as the children Dickens describes. Lights on a tree hardly hold the same wonder when they compete with high definition screens. Imaginations are not ignited with wonder, sitting and staring at twinkling ornaments, when they are stimulated instead by continuous noise from handheld devices. Furthermore, innocent ponderings are interrupted by mature content, flowing into our homes and lives via technology.
Tim Elmore, in his book, Marching Off the Map, describes, “We have now begun to experience a strange paradox in our young: The extinction of childlikeness; the extension of childishness.” He explains that the “infectious flow of information” is exposing our kids to adult topics. As a result, they can “lose (1) their sense of innocence, (2) their sense of wonder and (3) their sense of trust.”
Not only are we losing our child-like wonder today, but also our ability to connect with our environment, the way people used to engage the beauty of simple things like Christmas decorations. Kirsten Weir wrote a fascinating article, “Never a Dull Moment.” She explains how in today's technological world, it's unusual to be stuck with absolutely nothing to do. “Most of us are bombarded by near-constant stimuli such as tweets, texts and a seemingly limitless supply of cat videos right at our fingertips. But all those diversions don't seem to have alleviated society's collective boredom.” She cites Psychologist John Eastman who says the reverse may be true. "These might distract you in the short run, but I think it makes you more susceptible to boredom in the long run, and less able to find ways to engage yourself," he says.
Weir reports that several researchers concluded boredom is best described in terms of attention. “A bored person doesn't just have nothing to do. He or she wants to be stimulated, but is unable, for whatever reason, to connect with his or her environment.” Connecting, and helping others connect, with the environment around us is critical as we seek to develop meaningful moments and lasting memories this Christmas. Most of us are used to our environment stimulating us, and if we are bored, we reach for a device. We have lost some of our ability to connect with each other. When we get together for holiday parties, and family gatherings, we often struggle to stay engaged with the people or activities around us and can be tempted to seek stimulation in our social media feed, text messages, or email notifications.
Creating meaningful memories may require some discipline and planning. We can start by being aware of when we are tempted to pull out our device, instead of engaging with someone who is in the room with us. We have to be intentional in creating focused time for interaction. For example, designing a fun box for phones and encouraging people to drop theirs in during family dinner. Planning some interactive activities (games, discussion questions, collaborative project) can give people tools to engage with each other rather than turning on video games or a movie. We must practice good emotional intelligence by asking questions, engaging others in conversation, and modeling for kids how to build relationships.
In her article, Weir cites researcher Van Tilburg. "We saw that boredom actually increased people's tendency to recall these very nostalgic memories and actually made them feel that life in general was more meaningful." Some boredom is essential to the wonder that Dickens described! It creates room for the most nostalgic and memorable moments to occur and be remembered. So, this Christmas, don’t just hand the kids a device, rather sit down with them to play a board game, decorate cookies, or share stories by the fire. When they complain about being bored, just smile!
A couple of years ago, Millennials (b. 1980-1995) officially surpassed Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) as the largest component of the workforce in America. As Generation Z (b. 1996-2012) now starts to graduate from college, Millennials are taking more leadership roles, and Boomers are continuing to retire. The influence of younger generations working in our companies, organizations, and churches continues to grow. While young leaders bring many beneficial perspectives and needed skills to the workplace, they sometimes lack other essential leadership skills that are becoming less common in our culture today.
One of my favorite movies is The Intern, a film starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. It beautifully depicts the value and necessity of inter-generational relationships, and why we desperately need older leaders and mentors who refuse to fully retire. Hathaway plays the role of a young, highly successful Millennial entrepreneur who struggles to find balance between her demanding, evolving role and her young family. De Niro, a widower, is a retired professional whose old job in printing is all but obsolete. As a retiree, he does it all...learns Mandarin, tries yoga, and travels extensively. He becomes dissatisfied, however, with this lifestyle and applies for an internship at Hathaway’s company.
As an older intern, working for a Millennial entrepreneur, De Niro’s character represents what mature,
wise, and sacrificial leaders have to offer to the younger generations. First, he was present. Ignored by
his Millennial boss at first, he spent his days sitting in front of a computer with nothing to do. So, he
engaged with the young interns to his right and left. He got to know the employees. He helped with
various tasks and was just there: available and consistent. He wore a suit and carried his old-school
briefcase. His calm and thoughtful presence became a gift to young, frazzled professionals around him.
Second, he was observant. Years as a professional had taught him to notice and appreciate skills and
dynamics often lost on younger people. As a result, he was able to ask questions, provide assistance, or
give counsel and affirmation that others overlooked. His input changed the lives of those he interacted
Third, he was patient. The young people around him often failed to acknowledge his contribution and
wisdom. He remained constant, patiently doing his work and just being himself. Eventually, he found
his boss asking him for help and advice, fellow employees recognizing and celebrating his significant
contributions that changed the organizational culture, and his fellow interns wearing suits and buying
briefcases. He had earned the right to be heard, followed, and imitated. His example and presence
proved influential to young professionals who were learning and forming habits that would follow them
for the rest of their careers.
Mentoring young leaders is not a task for the faint of heart. It requires personal sacrifice and humility.
Often, experienced leaders find it easier to just withdraw or surround themselves with those in a similar
stage of life. Sadly, this often results in the wisdom and experience they possess failing to become a
legacy that will follow them for generations to come.
So, I propose that the talented, wise, and mature leaders in our midst shouldn’t retire, at least not
entirely. They may at some point retire from formal leadership roles or positions. In some cases, they
may allow others to take more prominent roles to gain experience and have influence. Nonetheless, we
desperately need them to stay engaged in the lives of those young leaders around them—in their families, churches, communities, and organizations—to never retire from the work of mentoring and
encouraging those who will lead us tomorrow.
“Why are we learning this? If I ever need to know it, I can just Google or YouTube it.” A common question for Generation Z learners, it often makes a lot of sense. Gone are the days of needing to memorize long lists of facts, dates, and processes to have them available for quick recall. While memorization still has a role in learning, it has changed dramatically with the presence of instant answers at our fingertips.
The prevalence of technology impacts education and learning in a variety of ways. No longer do students need teachers to access information. In many cases, my students are now sharing new information with me! What they do need help with is assessing, processing, interpreting, and applying the information they access. As many proponents of the “flipped learning” model explain, we need to move from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.”
Another effect of technology is that our attention spans have shortened. Many say the average American now has an attention span of eight seconds, less than that of a goldfish! As a result, sitting and listening to a lecture or lengthy presentation is extremely taxing to young learners. They did not grow up watching the cartoon at the date and time the network chose to air it. Rather, they have been choosing, interacting, posting, and sharing according to their preference via screens since early in their learning. They need to engage with content in order to relate to and learn it.
One of the best paradigms I have encountered for helping me design better learning for Gen Z is the EPIC model. This concept was initially introduced by Leonard Sweet, and is further discussed by Tim Elmore in his book, Marching Off the Map. EPIC teaching is a great approach to connecting with today’s students. It stands for experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connected. Here are a few questions to help us think about what this might mean for our teaching.
Does your lesson or presentation allow for students to experience the content? Can they see it, touch it, smell it, feel it? Could you incorporate a simulation, role playing exercise, or experiment? Perhaps a field trip, out-of-class assignment, or even an internship could help students engage the content in an active way.
Are students able to participate in this lesson? Do they have some choice in how they interact with the content? Can they insert their questions, opinions, and ideas about the information into a conversation, chat, or presentation? Discussion, group projects, assignment choices, and online tools are great ways to get students participating with a lesson.
Recently, I sat on an airport shuttle and observed the high school student in front of me communicating with several friends via Snapchat. With great speed and accuracy, she opened each chat, viewed the picture, then took a quick selfie with an individualized expression in response to that specific chat message and sent it in reply. In under a minute, she had read (or viewed) 4-5 messages and responded with pictures she took right then. I was impressed. Gen Z often communicates in images. The more we can incorporate pictures (perhaps even having them take the pictures!), illustrations, videos, or examples into our lessons, the more effectively they will be able to engage the information.
It has been noted that Gen Z often connects in isolation. This is true. They can sit in their bedrooms, and connect with friends, ideas, and information from around the world. They are used to connecting and learning through engaging with others. As a result, we need to ensure that learning incorporates connecting with others, hearing different ideas, and getting input. For some younger students, connecting in person can be difficult. We may need to provide some direction, structure, and coaching for this to occur effectively. As we do so, we are not only teaching the lesson objectives, but also important social and emotional skills that are sometimes getting lost in today’s technologically connected world.
When I am preparing to present to audiences where there are Millennials or Gen Zers present, I assess my lesson through the EPIC grid to ensure I have experiential, participator, image-rich, and connected elements. I want to ensure that younger learners can engage with the material, visualize it, and process it in order to understand, engage, and retain it!
More and more Millennials are stepping into leadership and management positions. In many cases, they are overseeing various generations. Their teams can include Generation Z, now entering the workforce as college graduates, to Boomers, who are sometimes the age of their parents or even grandparents. This age diversity produces challenges for even experienced managers. For Millennial managers, often navigating their first supervisory role, it can produce stress and uncertainty. Here are a few reminders for Millennial managers as you learn and grow as a leader:
Professor and generational researcher, Jean Twenge released her book, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Packed with powerful research and statistics, it presents a profound glimpse of the challenges and opportunities facing iGen, or Generation Z, those born 1995-2012. Here are some of the findings of Twenge’s research:
The oldest members of iGen were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and high school students when the iPad entered the scene in 2010. This makes them the first generation to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands.
In Twenge’s research, people answering the questions were representative of the US population in terms of gender, race, location and socioeconomic status. With only a few exceptions, the generational trends appear across all of these demographic groups. This points to the power of technology to transmit culture and norms. iGen includes 74 million Americans, about 24% of the population.
Despite feeling pressured and busy, iGen teens are spending less time on homework, paid work, volunteering, and extracurriculars combined than older generations did at their age, not more. iGen teens are less likely to go out without their parents, date, have sex, drive, work or drink alcohol. The number of teens who get together with their friends every day has been cut in half in just fifteen years. This is due in large part to concerns about safety and young people being able to connect via devices and not needing to go out to talk with friends.
However, research shows that teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy….all screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Depression has skyrocketed in just a few years, a trend that appears among blacks, whites and Hispanics, in all regions of the United States, across socioeconomic classes, and in small towns, suburbs, and big cities. In 2016, for the first time, the majority of entering college students described their mental health as below average.
With iGen’ers less likely to work, manage their own money, and drive in high school, perhaps they are not developing the resilience that may come from doing things on your own.
So, what do we do to help Gen Z maximize the opportunities around them and minimize behaviors that can be detrimental to their mental and emotional health?
Generation Z is a cohort with amazing information and tools at their disposal. As mentors, leaders, parents, and teachers, we have a responsibility to help them access that information and leverage those tools in ways that can help them be successful and healthy.
Take advantage of opportunities this summer to help Gen Z with these Twelve Ideas for Student Activities This Summer.
Many churches, non-profit organizations, and missionaries are experiencing an aging donor base and significant financial challenges as a result. When long-time, committed donors retire, younger donors are often failing to fill their role as a new generation of sustaining supporters. John Dickerson, in his book, The Great Evangelical Recession, reports that “each subsequent generation is giving less than the previous generation, even as they mature.” Responsible leaders today must consider alternate ways of funding their ministries and services as we look to the future. In the meantime, we must consider how to engage a new type of donor. Many Millennials are incredibly generous. They are, however, a different type of donor and require a different style of engagement. Here are some tips for fundraising with younger generations:
1.Tell the stories (vs. the stats)
Older generations usually want to know where their money is going and what it is accomplishing…in measurable terms. As a result, many organizations emphasize numbers in their fundraising efforts. This is not bad, but most Millennials are much more concerned with the individuals impacted than they are with measurable outcomes. Stories matter significantly to them. A powerful story of a specific person or group your ministry or agency is serving, along with some great pictures or video that bring the story to life, will go much further than a graph indicating the numbers achieved. I am hearing more and more of individuals and organizations producing two reports or newsletters to meet the needs of diverse donors.
2.Provide short-term giving opportunities
Many non-profit organizations rely on sustaining donors, those who commit to give regularly for an extended period. Unfortunately, some Millennials are not able to be this type of donor. Saddled with student debt or struggling to find a good job, they are focused on their own financial stress. Even those with jobs are often uncertain how long they will stay in that position (most young adults are changing jobs every couple of years). They are, therefore, uncomfortable making indefinite financial commitments. Find ways to provide one-time or short-term commitments (special projects, six-month commitments, etc.). Use social media, your website, and other forms of communication to keep your needs before them (remember, tell the story and use pictures to make the impact of their gifts personal and real!). Make it easy for them to give online (preferably from their smartphones) when they have the resources to do so.
3.Request funds for people (vs. programs)
Millennials have lost faith in many institutions. They have seen the effects of corruption, bureaucracy, and mismanagement in a variety of programs and organizations. While older generations often believe in programs to accomplish great things, Millennials tend to believe in people to accomplish important things. As a result, they follow, prioritize and support people over programs and institutions. They are more likely to give to an individual or need they know about directly or read about on a crowdfunding site (where they can use their credit card to donate in that moment) than they are to contribute to a capital campaign for an established organization.
Tim Elmore, in his book Generation iY, explains that many young people “really do desire to change the world; they just don’t have what it takes…when the work becomes difficult, they change their minds and move on to something else.” He describes their involvement in important causes as “limited to buying a ‘Live Strong’ wristband or signing a petition on a Web site.” While this is certainly not true of all young people, it unfortunately does represent the unwillingness of some to sacrifice or contribute in traditional ways. It is important to understand, as we seek to develop new financial partners, that there may be fewer who are willing to contribute the way previous generations have. Even as we work to engage a new type of donor, we need to be creative as we think of new funding models and opportunities to sustain our work into the future.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!