Bridging the Generation Gap

On Dec. 16 at the second annual Nonprofit Day at Wharton, Wharton MBA students and staff members joined with representatives of local nonprofits and other Philadelphia-area universities to discuss the importance of intergenerational dialogue in the nonprofit sector and how to enhance it.

The conference evaluated the difference among baby boomers, Generation Xers and millennials and their work in the nonprofit sector. The 130+ participants at Nonprofit Day also recognized the following recent trends that are arising out of intergenerational issues:

1. An increased willingness to employ modern technologies such as social media and therefore a willingness to hire millennials based on an assumption of skills due to their age.

2. A focus on loyal donors in older generations instead of laying the groundwork for fundraising among the younger generations.

3. A growing number of youths eager to contribute to an organization that once helped them, and a growing number willing to volunteer due to the high unemployment rate.

4. A lack of succession planning in the sector, coupled with the increasing number of baby boomers who are retiring later than they planned.

5. A greater need to change the way services are delivered, due to the expectations and technologies utilized by the millennials.

6. A growing tension between founders of nonprofit organizations and staff members who seek to find new ways to deliver services.

The above trends are applicable not only to the nonprofit sector, but also the business world. As millennials enter the workforce and become the primary consumers of products, businesses and nonprofits must adjust. Increased intergenerational dialogue, through conferences such as this, will help to bridge the divide.

The focus was spurred by feedback at the inaugural Nonprofit Day one year ago. This year’s event, sponsored by the Wharton Leadership Program, the Alliance for Non-Profit Management, the Citi Foundation at Citibank and the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University’s School of Business, included workshops and performances, all aimed at the conference’s three goals: (1) strengthening the nonprofit network in Philadelphia, (2) increasing sector-level dialogue about inter-generational challenges and (3) building the skills of its attendees.

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