“Harnessing the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people.” This is the challenge of the 2018 Hult Prize. Whether teams are seeking to provide adequate protein sources to urban slums or working to bring educational opportunities to children all over the world, competitors work closely with The Hult Prize Foundation, which embodies a range of characteristics similar to those of the millennial generation. Hult Prize is global in nature, promotes connectivity and networking, and exemplifies the intersectionality between social change and startup culture.
These attributes seem to be integral aspects of the millennial mindset, and of the ways in which millennials run businesses, nonprofits and startups. From my seat as chair of the Hult Prize Council, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to witness what is becoming one of the most powerful generations of our time, as it bridges the gaps across generational boundaries and adds new dimensions to the work of the nonprofit sector.
Millennials Have An Innovative Mindset
Why have millennials been able to accomplish what other generations could not? Cited as the first generation to be less well-off than their parents and facing obstacles such as limited job opportunities, soaring costs of living and student debt, millennials seem to have the odds stacked against them.
Yet, somehow, they have created a global community, like that of the Hult Prize, that promotes the freedom to explore ideas, take initiative, experiment and fail. I have seen this generation build upon experience and find the motivation to get back up, improve, try another way and work towards successfully solving the world’s problems.
Through crowdfunding, Facebook fundraisers or other online giving sites, millennials are able to be philanthropic with the interest to make change happen for less. Nonprofits should turn their marketing efforts toward these young philanthropists and also leverage this generation’s skills within the sector to create a greater and more effective reach.
By bringing in their friends and contacts to help support a cause, a giving community can develop, which can result in funding projects. As a visible demonstration of reaching a goal to create change, millennials can be fulfilled by their ability to make a difference, regardless of gift size.
Millennials recognize the need to empower each other with this innovative mindset. From my perspective, they have been able to put this into action through increased connectivity, due to technological advancements and their generation’s shift toward a global mindset, as they create solutions to improve the state of the global society.
Millennials Are Connective By Nature
In some ways, there is a disparity between the technology savviness of Genration X, Generation Y and baby boomers, but technology is the glue that connects millennials and the generations before them. This kind of advancement is natural and expected, creating a movement.
Millennials recognize the value of connection, boldly pushing the boundaries of existing tech and creating opportunity where tech falls short. The technological capability of this generation combined with their entrepreneurial spirit enables greater access to global issues. With this increased global exposure, I have seen millennials adopt a sense of being part of an international community. They engage prior generations’ wisdom, experience and shared vision for positive social and economic change.
Nonprofits are in a unique position to take advantage of the tech-savvy skills and connectivity of millennials by making these skills integral to their operations. Technological capabilities improve the understanding of the grant-acquisition process for their innovative ideas while building global communities of members and donors who support their efforts.
The connected nature of the millennial generation gears these young professionals toward successful careers in nonprofit work. Nonprofits can put these skills to practice and use them to make social change. Further, connectivity is important for the donor community that supports these nonprofits. The impact is measurable via technology and through platforms that demonstrate impact.
Millennials Are Entrepreneurial
This entrepreneurial spirit is prominent on an international level. I have seen an abundance of startups that target niche markets and possible social improvements spring up all over the world. And universities now offer entrepreneurship courses and degrees as part of their curriculum. Risk is an accepted challenge, and business is seen as both a means to profit and as a tool for creating social change.
As I look at our ever-changing world, there is a notion that business isn’t only a source of income and employment. Millennials, in partnerships with the generations before them, have reimagined business enterprises as a means of improving lives and making the world a better place.
Impact investing is a trending form of support for nonprofits, in which the risk involved is understood while doing good for the world. By offering philanthropists an alternative beyond traditional grantmaking and giving them an opportunity to create change, I have seen impact investing attract younger philanthropists who may be slightly more open to risk. And the impact can be measured, which is extremely important to the savvy donors of today.
Millennials are often deeply invested in the organizations with which they work and the causes that they give to. This social-change mindset can be leveraged by inviting millennials into the nonprofit sector. Employing entrepreneurial millennials with this mindset will drive business solutions for nonprofits because of their personal investments in the successes of these organizations.
A movement is happening, whether we are conscious of it or not. We have an opportunity to work with a generation that has a robust understanding of the success-and-failure process that comes with creating social change. Looking forward, we have a real opportunity before us. Millennials are with us to work toward what older generations wanted to achieve — and to do it for people in every corner of our rapidly changing world.
By Sheryl Chamberlain
Forbes Nonprofit Council