We’re Tired of Hearing About Millennials!
It’s Time to Hear From Them

As a card-carrying Baby Boomer, for years I happily swallowed the media caricature of Millennials — the lazy, spoiled, narcissistic, entitled “Me” generation born between the 1980s and 2000. Raised within a culture that awarded trophies just for showing up, Millennials have the highest likelihood of having unmet life expectations than any generation before them; as young adults they continue to live with their parents and are late to get married, resulting, according to Time magazine, in severe cases of “arrested development.” Sound like anyone you know? Probably not your kids, but perhaps a couple of their friends? Or maybe a few of the young people on your team at work?

Marta and Enid, two generations of philanthropists!

From the start, we were intentional about making The Philanthropy Connection (TPC) accessible to Millennial women. We had a hunch the media’s generalizations were wrong, and we wanted to meet the non-lazy, unspoiled, altruistic women who worked hard for their trophies. We didn’t care if they were married or with whom they lived. We provided Fellowships, and encouraged Boomers to sponsor their daughters, younger colleagues, and friends.

Our first year (2012), TPC had five members under the age of 35. Last year, when we had over 30 (about 12% of membership), I noticed that a fundamental shift had occurred in the relationship between TPC’s leadership and our Millennial members: We started listening to what they were saying. What did our “young philanthropists” tell us they wanted?

  • Unique programs, just for young members
  • More ways to connect with “seasoned” members
  • A philanthropy conference open to all young women in Boston
Conference planning committee with speaker Dr. McCreary (center)

On April 2, TPC held The 2016 Young Philanthropist Conference: Building the Next Generation of Women Philanthropists. The conference was created by and for young women. Sitting in one of the last planning meetings, watching TPC’s Millennials in action, the word kvell came to mind. Like many Yiddish words, there’s no single English word that fully expresses its meaning. The closest English gets is to be delighted, to gush, or to swell. Think of how a grandparent feels watching her granddaughter appear in her first school play, or graduating from high school, and you’ll get close to the full meaning. TPC’s Young Philanthropists made me kvell at their meeting, and that was just the beginning.

The conference sold out. As it turns out, there was no dearth of Boston-area Millennial women eager to spend a Saturday listening to speakers and participating in discussions on topics like:

  • What’s Driving Innovation in Philanthropy?
  • Women in Philanthropy
  • Philanthropy Disrupted: A New Generation Wants a Seat at the Table
  • Conversations with Nonprofit CEOs
Keynote Ayanna Pressley

Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley kicked off the conference with stories of her efforts to improve the lives of women and girls in Boston, to build healthy communities, and to break debilitating cycles of poverty and trauma. The first woman of color to be elected to the Council, in 2009, Ayanna urged us to be intentional about building community, forming relationships, affirming each other, and continuing to Give. Receive. Learn.  Looking out onto the sea of young faces, focused raptly on Ayanna’s words, I thought, “This is what philanthropists look like. This is our future.”

TPC Fellows Jesse (left) and Jihye

It is the Millennials who are changing the face of philanthropy in Boston. What they’re doing is nothing short of creating a movement, one that’s been a long time coming. It’s a movement this ‘ole “seasoned” Baby Boomer can get behind.

A huge thank you to all of TPC’s young members for your vision.

You have certainly earned that trophy.

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