Nonprofits from the Perspective of the iGeneration
Kolton Whitmire, Summer 2017 OKCNP Advocacy and Public Policy Intern
Who is the iGeneration?
The iGeneration (also referred to as “Generation Z,” “Post-Millennials,” or “The Homeland Generation”), the first generation to never experience a world without modern technology such as mass-distributed computers, cell phones, and social media. (“The Homeland Generation” is referred to as such because of an observed rise in nationalist sentiment and drastic increases in homeland defense, and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in a post 9/11 world, though this term is disputed as it seems to be a partisan difference rather than a generational one.) Millennials typically are considered as those who experienced the paradigm shift and witnessed technology rise and plant itself firmly at the forefront of the American cultural experience, whereas the iGeneration was raised alongside it. Many millennials are already in the workforce, but the iGeneration is just dipping its toes in the labor market, so how are their attitudes distinguished from previous generations?
What generally influences their worldview?
Altitude, a product design and innovation firm conducted a small case study on the attitudes that define the new generation, which was published by Fast Company. The iGeneration…
“…makes up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers. Understanding them will be critical to companies wanting to succeed in the next decade and beyond.”
The small case study cited that the iGeneration has been known for their dismissal of corporate career paths and have opted for small startups instead. Altitude argues that this is out of pragmatism, in an economy with less upward mobility than in the past, rather than a product of idealism. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the iGeneration, at least for now, is searching for little more than financial stability. The generation that has grown up knowing nothing more than a post-9/11 landscape with a bleak economic outlook, many of them reaching young adulthood in the middle on a global recession, will be looking for little more than a steady income.
What is that “little more”? With the iGeneration literally deriving its name from the first mass-marketed smartphone, many of them having an iPhone as their first phone as earlier than 5th grade, and having the ability to view the problems of the world, or the inability to ignore them, on their screen in their pocket at any time has driven them to seek meaning in their work. This may also be another reason they opt to work for themselves rather than work their way up the corporate ladder as generations past have done. That, and the lack of upward mobility that the generation faces in the workplace.
What are their views on nonprofits?
This is a particularly hard question to answer given that the oldest amongst this generation are just getting entry level jobs and many are still in Universities or lower educational institutions. However, there are some extraneous factors that can be used to determine the future relationship of iGens to the non-profit sector.
Firstly, iGens like their parents are experiencing alarming decreases in the average amount of time spent at one firm.
In January 2016 the average time spent at one job, was 4.2 years
Previous generations had been enjoying averages of up to 2 decades. Being the fiscally responsible (often money hording, courtesy of an upbringing during a market collapse) citizens that they are, if an iGen can find meaningful work with a non-profit that provides flexible career paths and goals and is willing to provide them a future lasting more than the length of their college careers, the research suggests they would jump at the opportunity.
Secondly, as the aforementioned article cites, iGens are steeped from a young age in image tailoring through their social media. This generation has (often since early middle school) been branding themselves constantly and tailoring their image for maximum consumer interaction. Image management skills have their place in many job fields, but the nonprofit sector, which can heavily rely on branding and image tailoring for their roles in fundraising and community visibility, the conditions which have led to the creation of iGens may foster a very fruitful future relationship between nonprofits and iGens.
The Future of the iGeneration-Nonprofit Relationship
Summarizing an entire generation in 1,000 words will always fall short of a full picture, but there are certain unifying experiences that have heavily influenced all generations. Understanding the cultural experience surrounding a generation just entering the workforce can help nonprofits tailor the way they market themselves and their entry level positions to ensure that iGens are aware of the opportunities nonprofits have to offer.
I would not speak on behalf of all my generation, but I can speak to some of the more general experiences that unify us. Many of us have great apprehension surrounding the economic environment in which we are beginning to venture. Many among us are skeptical of consumerism and the risk such a lifestyle could imply during another market bubble or collapse. Consumerism is also less viable for those among us who have racked up student loans, explaining why the average age of children leaving their parents’ homes in 2015 was…27. A study conducted by Pew Research and NPR found that…
…more 18-34 years olds were living with their parents than living with a partner for the first time in over a century.
Homeownership?…good one. While we are not of age to be owning property yet, even Millennials had been dubbed “Generation Rent” for observable and drastic drops in the percent of them who owned property compared to generations prior. We will likely not have it any better. We have been called entitled, but the job sector previous generations enjoyed was life on “Beginner” mode. We have never known anything other than a stagnant economy. We certainly have more luxuries because of technology, but fiscal independence is much further away for us than it was for our parents and grandparents.
My short experience in the nonprofit sector has shown me that the nonprofit is a great fit for my career aspirations; attaining financial stability while serving a purpose for which I can be proud. I think fellow iGens with similar experiences to my own will find nonprofits to be a great place to start a career as well to better our communities.