Today is December 15, 2019 -

Conference Highlights–Who are these millennials?

I remember my father’s usual answer to most of my questions throughout high school, “go look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls.” For those of you who do not understand the reference, Google it.

Today’s high schoolers aren’t even asking their parents the questions. Why should they? Google, Siri, and Alexa are all smarter than we are. The world is literally at their fingertips and their ease and comfort in accessing it are extraordinary.

These are our millennials. Many people are working diligently on trying to figure them out. Books and articles abound. A section of the recent Jewish Federations of North America board meeting was dedicated to understanding them as donors and lay leaders. Two sections of my recent conference were dedicated to them, one as donors/leaders, and the other as employees.

Here’s what we know: Statistically and anecdotally, they are unique. They want to make a difference; they work well in teams; they are highly motivated; they do not like to waste their time; they value work/family balance; they are ready to participate at the highest level and do not accept the concept of “paying their dues” first; they are burdened with student loans. If they believe in a cause and feel that they can make a contribution, they will roll up their sleeves and give it their all. However, if they don’t care about the cause or are not respected for what they can offer, we can kiss them goodbye.

So, where does that leave us?

Find the millennials. See what interests them and create programming around their interests. Give them ownership. Let them plan and execute their events. Slowly teach them who we are and what we do. If they appreciate our cause, they will join us, but then we have to give them the leadership opportunities. We cannot expect that they will sit quietly on a committee for 10 years before taking a leadership role. They will not. Their time is precious to them, and they want to make an impact today. Don’t expect a lot of money from them today; they don’t have any. But, if they don’t find us worthy today, they will not support us when they do.

My big takeaway from the conference for us boomers and x-gens: the millennials are a long-term investment, but one that is critical to our own future.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rob Kovach

Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York

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