Why Being Next Gen is a Good Thing

This is a guest post by Jillian Vukusich, Director of Community Investments, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties.  Follow Jillian on Twitter:  @JCVukusich

by:  Jillian Vukusich

I’ve recently returned from a two-day session with the Council on Foundation’s Next Generation Task Force. Largely a time to brainstorm about strategies for inclusion of the next generation within the Council and the philanthropic field in general, the conversation often turned to a deeper, thoughtful conversation about why.

Why should it matter? Why should boards and staff be multigenerational? Why is it important to the field? Why is it important to be thoughtful about our role in giving? And how can we help?

These questions I hold deeply. We all giggle about our anecdotes of the “hey kiddos” and “you look so young” and “how old are you?” and “don’t you want to have more kids?” We all know that the quips are well-meaning and well-intentioned so we do our best to overlook them. However, our sector has another problem. We have to look deeper and we have to look further. We have to plan and we have to be strategic. All of those things that we ask of our grantees. What’s OUR sustainability plan for our sector? What will the world of community foundations look like for the bicentennial? What will the field of philanthropy look like?

We are a field built to last. We all know the community foundation mantra: For Good. Forever. Thing is…I really believe in that statement. I believe in the model. I believe in the power of endowment. And I deeply believe that it is my humble privilege to serve a community of individuals who are willing to work together to create incredible impact in our communities.

So the thing is: Yes, we get criticized for asking for too much. Leadership. Technology. Access. A seat at the table. But there are SO many benefits and opportunities for our generation.

  • Sometimes I think our biggest opportunity was the crash of the economy. Yep…it helped us. As a generation. I know it helped me ask questions about investment strategies, spending policies, business models, board oversight, philanthropic services. The list goes on. Questions I didn’t think of when the grantmaking budget was handed to me all crisp and clean with a full spending policy magically in place. I hope that this experience will be an incredible learning point for our generation to come. When to take risk and when not to. We won’t always be right but we’ll be informed.
  • The current leadership. The abundant body of knowledge and experience within this field are incredible. To learn from those who came before. I can’t even begin to imagine the possibilities of the knowledge we will be able to share with those coming after.
  • The network. How fortunate are we to be able to connect virtually and regularly? To sit at a table with young (yep, we’re young) leaders, engaged in dialogue that transcends process and policy, is…well, energizing. I am so hopeful for our future. I’m so hopeful for the opportunity we have to build on such an incredible foundation in this sector. And the true privilege is knowing that these colleagues share the same passion for this work as I do. The greatest benefit of being Next Gen? I almost can’t believe how fortunate I am to count such incredible leaders as friends and colleagues.

And it isn’t just those at the table. Who else is out there? Part of our job as the Next Generation Task Force is to help identify other emerging leaders in philanthropy. Where are you? Stand up. Be heard. Be strategic. Get involved. Please, I urge you, fill out the Next Generation profile.

So, all-in-all, being Next Gen isn’t so bad. And, hey, call me kiddo if you want…I won’t be 31 forever so I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.

I can’t finish this post with saying thank you to the leadership at the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties for encouraging my participation and growth.  And thank you to my Next Gen Task Force colleagues for your laughter, your inspiration, your knowledge and your leadership.