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What to Expect When the New Nonprofit CEO is a Millenial

by Eugene Fram

Imagine: The nonprofit's CEO, a baby boomer or genXer, is about to retire or leave for another position. The board has engaged a new CEO a millennial person born after 1980. His/her age is probably late 30s or possibly early 40s. What changes can the board expect from this new professional?

Following are my estimates based on some suggestions from psychologist, Dr. Jon Warner, plus my 10 years experience collegiate teaching millennials.

Relationship with the Organization:

Works at home/works anywhere - Don't expect the CEO to be continually in the office, as much as his/her predecessor. With the Internet and other electronic aids, the CEO can work in a variety of locations and times.
Outcomes - He/s will expect the board to define the outcomes and impacts the CEO and organization should achieve. Hopefully, they will be established in a collaborative fashion with the board. In addition to the financial and other similar outcomes, She/h will want to help define and be judged on qualitative outcomes, such as community commitment, successful advocacy, or any of the other honorable, but inherently vague mission based goals that nonprofits frequently adopt.
Praise - Millennials have been raised on praise since infancy, and this need will probably linger into adulthood. Consequently board evaluations of his/her performance may have to take place more than once a year, especially during the early years. 

Communication Approaches

Communications channels - Information sharing will become more important with the decline of hierarchy-structured organizations. Records and operations will become more transparent, and there will be fewer department and functional boundaries. Older board members may find this atmosphere troubling.

Approach to Teamwork

Roles - They will be flexible and changing. The CEO will expect staff to step in and help occasionally with tasks that may be outside the staff's comfort zones. Social workers, for example, may be asked to take on some marketing functions temporarily, etc.
Collaboration - Team leadership will change frequently. Conditioned by fast-changing school semesters and frequent evaluations, doing the same task regularly is seen by millennials as "boring." Some board members may be uncomfortable with the constantly shifting staff scene and see it as being dysfunctional. Its effectiveness will have to be evaluated on the bases of outcomes and impacts.

Skills and knowledge set

Results - Based on the outcomes designated by the board and CEO, results will become more important than the processes for accomplishment, as long as the outcomes are achieved ethically.
Client focused - The millennial generation, being bottoms-up driven, will place more emphasis on client satisfaction, understanding that in the nonprofit arena, the client receiving the service may be different from the client financially supporting the service.
Training and development - Much less formal training will be delivered, just in time, as needed. This will be helpful to nonprofits where board-supported training development resources are meager.

Use of technology

The Gap - There will probably be a substantial budget gap between what the CEO wants to spend on new technology, and the board's focus on allocating budget dollars to benefit clients. How this will be resolved is difficult to estimate at this time. 

As more millennials achieve nonprofit CEO status, their values and outlooks may be uncomfortable to some older board members. Although their working habits and values will initially puzzle the older cohorts, the millenials' dedication to the mission will outstanding. They and their millennial staffs can do a great deal to improve service to clients, in ways quite different than in the past.

* Baby Boomer: Born between 1945-1965; GenXer: Born between 1966-1979

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post Business and is republished  herewith the author's permission.

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