Changing Gen Y’s Perception of Nonprofits, pt. 1
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in TEDx Claremont Colleges. For those unfamiliar with the TED movement, it is a global set of conclaves intended to put ideas on the table for discussion. The TED Global conference is run by the TED organization (originally standing for Technology, Entertainment, and Design but now encompassing any area of inquiry).
TEDx denotes additional programs set up by local organizers. They follow the general TED format of informal 18 minute talks, varying in subject for each event.
It was my pleasure to meet and interact with the other talented and innovative presenters. I highly recommend reading more on at least one of these presenters:
- Gordon Zacks, past presidential advisor
- Karl Haushalter, professor at Harvey Mudd College, working to end HIV/AIDS
- Mateo Messina, Grammy-winning composer
- Paul Zak, founder of NeuroEconomics
- Jesse DuBois, CEO of an urban farming company
The audience was primarily students at the fairly elite Claremont Colleges in Los Angeles. My speaking subject focused on how our society thinks about nonprofits in a perverse and counterproductive way.
Too many students and executives think that nonprofits are not where the best and the brightest should go, but rather where one goes when one can’t get a for-profit job. Or they misread shabby, under-financed offices as indicative of weak management. Or they interpret the need to ask for donations as indicative of an inability to live within one’s means. There is a great deal of cultural misunderstanding that I wanted to counter for this younger crowd.
What society wants is to know that important services they care about can be provided reliably. Those services are community needs that the for-profit sector can’t make money on. Yes, these services are very important to society and a well-managed program will and must lose money!!! These services are what I all the Key Mission.
So how should a successful nonprofit operate? That is the million-dollar question, indeed. And one which I will attempt to answer in my short series of blog posts. Stay tuned!