By Erika Orsulak
Sustainable Path Foundation
Next generation leadership was the focus at a recent Northwest Environmental Grantmakers meeting in Seattle. Sustainable Path Foundation as well as Philanthropy Northwest members Social Justice Fund Northwest, The Bullitt Foundation and The Russell Family Foundation heard about exciting and effective ways local environmental organizations engage and encourage young leaders.
Resource Media, a nonprofit communications organization, shared a project proposal called A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Harnessing the Power of Visuals for Effective Advocacy, in which they included data that people between the ages of 18 and 32 are typically drawn and responsive to visuals and video more than any other generation. Washington Bus, focusing on civic engagement among 16- to 44-year-olds, actively taps their audience members for skills and expertise. They recommend that messages be tailored to youth—be it including more photos or videos, or having young people make campaign calls—to be more successful in advancing an organization’s work.
Oregon Environmental Council’s approach is to recruit and actively support a young adult board, working parallel to and in tandem with the organization’s board of directors. Hanford Challenge, working on the Hanford nuclear site in Washington, recognizes that their work will be inherited by generations to come. They recently launched Inheriting Hanford, a project focused on the participation of young adults through a mentoring program, which will develop inter-generational relationships in order to transfer knowledge and gain an understanding of Hanford Challenge’s work.
Each organization shared important lessons. Whatever their focus, funders should ask applicants and grantees how they are engaging young people in their work. Be in conversation with nonprofits about strategies to increase meaningful participation by and the leadership development of this burgeoning population. After all, young people will soon be stepping up and stepping into important leadership roles.