The Founders Generation: Who They Are and How Nonprofits Can Engage Them

Move over, Millennials. There’s a new generation in town and they are eager to innovate in our communities. Generation Z was recently named the Founders generation by MTV. No matter whether you refer to them as Gen Z, iGen, Post-Millennials or Founders, they’re moving into the workplace and will be a valuable asset to nonprofits.

The key is for nonprofits to identify the Founders’ unique traits and engage them in ways that tap into their individual work ethics.

What Makes the Founders Unique?

This generation is often confused with the Millennial generation, due to their closeness in age and the ways they were raised.

A majority of Generation Y, which typically consists of people born between 1977 and 1994 (although this often varies), have been surrounded by technological advances and rising diversity. The same can be said of Generation Z, which is anyone born after 1995.

The 90s is the decade that truly blurs the line that separates these two generations, but there are characteristics that can help an organization identify which generation they are working with.

For starters, the Founders are connected across many more screens than Millennials. While Millennials communicate mostly via phone and computer, the Founders prefer to multitask across 5 screens: TV, phone, laptop, desktop and any portable music player.

Don’t be surprised to find them using YouTube or other social media for content and research. This is certainly an asset for nonprofits whose social media communications may be a little outdated.

And unlike Millennials, who merely grew up with the World Wide Web, the Founders have never had to live without computers or the internet, making them that much more savvy with these tools.

Nonprofits should avoid assuming that this generation has loose spending habits. In fact, because they witnessed the Millennials struggle through the Great Recession, the Founders are more financially conservative. Growing up in an uncertain time period post-9/11 and the recession, and this generation likes to be acknowledged for being fiscally mature and resourceful.

Additionally, they are not all that interested in working for corporate America. Nonprofits organizations can really reap benefits from the unique workplace cultures that they offer.

It’s also important for organizations to consider the personalities and work ethic of this generation. Founders have a deep entrepreneurial spirit, even more so than their predecessors.

While Millennials like to share things, Founders are more industrious and prefer to create things. They are also more motivated by opportunities for advancement than they are by money, making them ideal young candidates for the nonprofit sector.

They are very forward-thinking and have a head-start on thinking about job and volunteer opportunities that may advance them in their future careers. That’s where your nonprofit comes in.

How to Engage Them in Your Cause

When Beth Kanter was on the blog, she made several great points on how nonprofits can adopt the Founders generation’s mentality, including tapping into its members’ entrepreneurial spirit and communicating with them in visual “snackable” content.

Nonprofits can reap the benefits of this innovative spirit by assigning Founders projects that require creativity and allow for autonomy. Members of this generation will be more willing to provide their services to a cause if they feel like they are improving the cause, not just merely upholding it.

Additionally, Generation Z enjoys using those five screens previously mentioned as much as possible, so any efforts to communicate with them should be done visually and interactively. Nonprofits, make sure your emails and websites are mobile-friendly.

However, once you have them interested in your cause or organization, do not make the mistake of avoiding traditional forms of engagement. When it comes to speaking with management or authority, the Founders prefer face-to-face communication (51 percent) as opposed to e-mail (16 percent) or instant messaging (11 percent).

Last, but not least, this is an increasingly diverse and and aware generation. They have grown up around changing norms, including increased racial diversity and shifts in gender roles. So rather than feeding them information about these causes that they already know, acknowledge their diversity and invite them to use their knowledge for social good.

The oldest bunch of this generation is barely out of high school, yet it’s definitely not too early to start planning for the future as they take over the workplace and the community as volunteers and social entrepreneurs.

Tell us—how is your organization planning to engage the Founders?



Angela Cuadros

December 9, 2015

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