When I speak to people involved in philanthropy, I often hear that it was something that they “fell into.” For some it was a career they found after facing feelings of dissatisfaction in the corporate world. Today, gears have shifted, and many young adults are choosing philanthropy as their primary career goal. Ask any major in the department of Political Science at the University of Washington. If a student isn’t interested in public policy or government, chances are that nonprofit work and campaigns are his or her main priority.
As I’ve gone through my own personal career search, I’ve noticed applications were more competitive in the nonprofit sector. I remember applying to a few entry level positions only to be told that I was one of 200 applicants. When applying for a for-profit position, I was often one of 10.
I believe this trending shift in student career choice can be attributed to a couple of factors. It is important to note that these aren’t the only reasons, but some of those that I have identified through my own involvement as a young philanthropist:
1) Idealist attitude inspired by the “Change” generation: When I entered college, the United States was entering a recession the likes of which many of my generation has never seen. We were used to a strong national economy and led to believe that we were all special and could change the world. So with Obama’s 2008 election platform, “Change,” many of us set out to fix what was broken by dedicating our lives to philanthropic initiatives.
2) Increase of student involvement in philanthropy at universities: Student fundraisers have been around for decades in the form of student calling fundraisers and senior class gifts. Recently, there has been the development of student philanthropy councils that work in partnership with their respective university foundations. For example, the University of Washington runs a program called SPEP (Student Philanthropy Education Program). These programs educate students on the importance of donations to higher education with a goal that they as alumni will be more receptive to giving in the future. Because these programs have enhanced youth exposure to the field of development, more youth are looking at philanthropy as a career option.
If you’re not convinced already that youth interest in philanthropy has soared, I urge you to walk around any university and look at its campus organizations. Every cause imaginable is represented, and more often than not, each of them is fundraising in some fashion. What does this mean for the future of philanthropy? On one hand, greater youth interest means a better selection pool for open positions. On the other hand, the many rejection notices to aspiring young professionals can often dishearten and drive youth away from an organization. We are the generation of feeling “special,” and getting a rejection is hard for us to understand. When looking over applicants, take care in how you address recent graduates. They applied to your organization because they believe in your mission. While they may not have been a good fit as a paid staffer, including other opportunities for involvement in your organization may bring you some of your best volunteers.
Today I’m happy to be working in Collins Group as its new Administrative Coordinator. I set out with a goal like many of my fellow youth to impact the world through working with nonprofits. Today that dream has become a reality. Through my future blogs I will continue the discussion on youth philanthropic involvement, and I look forward to bringing all generations of philanthropists together in discussion.
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About the Author
Matt combines his talent for logistics and passion for philanthropy in his work at Collins, where he keeps the office, his clients, and his coworkers running smoothly and meeting deadlines.