I was browsing through CharityVillage.com (a leading resource for Canadian charities and nonprofits) recently and came across an article that resonated with me. The article essentially addresses the declining role of youth in the non-profit community, and as a 22-year old entrepreneur there was a lot to relate with. Two points highlight the changing nature of the nonprofit world:
 
1. A rapidly aging Canadian workforce will create challenges for employers in all sectors, nonprofits being no exception
2. A 2009 Ipsos Reid study found only 2% of Canadians age 16-27 saw the nonprofit sector as desirable.
 
Drawing the points to their conclusion isn’t difficult and in many ways this is old news (no pun intended) since for a long time we’ve recognized the approaching knowledge gap between retiring baby boomers and Generation-Y. An aging population means an increased need to engage youth in nonprofits. At the same time, only 2% of youth see the non-profit sector as desirable, indicating a problem in how the key segment of youth are being engaged. It’s a daunting problem, one the article attributes to “a shortage of both online and print information about nonprofits targeted at youth”. It goes on to suggest that “nonprofits must work both on how they market and appeal to young people… [and] should seek to emulate some of the resourcefulness and creativity of the youth they seek to attract”.
 
I couldn’t agree more. Generation-Y is absolutely a “technology-fed cohort” and there are tremendous opportunities for charities to connect with youth through the Internet (including the work that ConnectAd does). The challenge is being able to leverage these tools, and through working with charities over the past year, I understand how difficult that can be. Charities do so much but have so little time and resources to do them in that exploring new channels is almost a luxury. Moreover, finding or developing the expertise to achieve success online takes a lot of work, made especially hard by the ever pressing need to find sufficient funding to continue the work.
 
However, understanding the dual-pressure of an aging population and the declining role of Generation-Y in charities should make clear that a strong online strategy is necessary for long-term survival. Sure it’s hard and a lot of work, but at some point you need to commit. The earlier you do it, the more benefit you’ll reap from the investment.
 
For charities and nonprofits, one main theme I’ll be focusing on is how you can leverage the Internet successfully, so stay tuned for future posts. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how your charity or nonprofit is creating awareness online and/or connecting with youth.

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