Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bright eyes - Urbana edition

Busy week. Chris officially retired and cleaned out her classroom, then she and I dove into preparing for a big garage sale, and worked on getting our house ready to put on the market next week. Lots, and lots, and lots of work. But I', beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks a lot like a sunset on Smith Mountain Lake (where we're moving in August).

But Friday night, we got a delightful break. I had been invited to speak at the welcome dinner of the University of Illinois's Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute, I suspect because they are using my book of the same name as their core text. The SESI students were a mixed group, some undergraduate, some local nonprofit staff.

Chris and I had dinner with three delightful undergraduate students before my talk. The audience was very attentive, and wonderfully responsive. Regular readers know my love of"bright eyes", and they were there in abundance. Thanks to all in attendance.

What intrigued me, and the reason for this post, was the differentiation generationally between the responses I got for two of my "stock" stories. I am so used to speaking to adult audiences, or grad students, that I tend to overlook the experience differences when I get the chance (too rarely) to interact with undergrads.

One of the stories is about poor stewardship in agencies that do the same unsuccessful fundraiser year after year. For people who have heard me speak, this is the "Chicken Dinner" story....and everyone over 30 in the room got it, nodded, or laughed (sometimes with some guilt). The undergrads? They were polite, but you could see them looking at the "old" people wondering what was so funny. No fundraising scars on them....yet.

I thought about that on the way home....and it gave me hope. Many of these young people are going to embark on careers in nonprofits, and perhaps NOT have to learn by experience some of the same mistakes we've made in our generation. Hopefully, the broad array of available educational opportunities in nonprofit management and leadership, that were NOT around when we Boomers came into the field, will help smooth the ride for the next generation.

I know, I know, some stuff you just have to mess up in person to really "get". But if the amount of error is reduced say, 40%? How great would that be?

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