Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Nutty week

I've been traveling--all good stuff. But as always it gives me time to think and reflect. And, on this trip, I had a bunch of one-on-one time with two of my three kids. All of which leads me to a couple of nonprofit relevant observations.

First, Caitlin and I went to Purdue to look at their Hospitality and Tourism Management department. A good visit, but unconvincing as a slam-dunk for her as a top choice. We returned home and she started in on her applications. Of the 6-7 schools she's applying to, just one uses the so called "common application" which is designed to reduce student workload. So not much of a benefit for her. But it reminded me again of how great it would be if nonprofit funders could agree on basic common information (perhaps coordinated with the 990?) How much money would that save nationally?

Next, I came out to Seattle, where I am writing this. I spent a full two days with my son Ben, who is 23 and works for Microsoft. We talked at length about Ben's and his friends' habits and preferences in volunteering, donating, and being involved in general with nonprofits. I learned a lot and it confirmed some things I have already observed. But here are two nuggets for you to chew on if you are interested in attracting 20-something volunteers.

1. The people in this age group PARTICULARLY if they attended high-end universities, are trained to (and a bit obsessed by) "making our time productive", in Ben's words. This confirms a lot of what I've read. These kids have been so scheduled, have taken on so much to compete to get into college and then to succeed in tough universities, that they squeeze every minute of every day. Lesson for us: Don't waste their time. If you have a volunteer event scheduled from 10-4, make sure it starts promptly at ten, and that you have enough to do to keep people gainfully employed until 4. If they get done early, let them go. Ben talked about two volunteer events, one where he and a bunch of other Microsoft employees moved mattresses for a few hours (very rewarding--he knew that the regular staff couldn't do this well), but then sat around for the last hour doing nothing (drove everyone in the group a bit crazy). So, keep your word.

2. This generation is SOCIAL. They live, work, email, chat, and network in groups like no generation before them. They WANT to be with others of their age, and will volunteer in groups IF YOU FACILITATE IT. Lesson for us: Thing socially in volunteer development: design events for groups (at least for this age group), and ask people in this age group to invite their friends and/or peers.

There were a number of other things that impressed me, but I'll blog about those tomorrow or the next day. I want to mull them over first.

Good stuff, if you are interested in this age group.

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