Guest Post: Nonprofits + Funders Should Choose Co-Mentoring + Sharing Over "Solo Heroic Martyrdom"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

SusanClarkDonnelleyforDF Shifting demographics is one of the trends David La Piana highlighted at the recent Donors Forum Annual Luncheon. Baby boomers are retiring, Generation X is moving into leadership positions, and the eldest of Generation Y turn 30 this year and are well into their careers.

These shifts will challenge the current leadership model in place at most organizations, what La Piana, a boomer himself, referred to as “solo heroic martyrdom.” While we appreciate the great strides and sacrifices made by our predecessors in the field, the younger generation has no interest in pursuing that model, preferring shared leadership and partnerships to create better work/life balance.

One of the ways this is already manifesting is how technology and digital communications break down the barriers of organizational bureaucracy. La Piana introduced the concept of “co-mentoring” as a way for current leaders to learn from younger generations while also sharing knowledge with them. For example, a young staffer may introduce his or her manager to email on a smart phone or how to use Twitter to create buzz about a project, while the manager can share lessons learned from a past project or how best to interact with a certain board member.

As I was listening, I saw my father in the audience a few tables away. Because he founded a nonprofit 21 years ago, I thought perhaps he’d have an opinion. “Do you feel like a heroic martyr?” I texted him. A few seconds later, he pulled out his Blackberry, read the screen and laughed. “There have been moments, but not as much recently. It’s a great team,” he wrote back.

And I think that sums up how organizations can remain viable and relevant as these trends emerge: keep an open mind, share knowledge, approach technology in manageable steps, and surround yourself with a strong team of staff, board, and partners.

~ Susan Clark, Grants Manager, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

Note from the Editor: Attendees at Donors Forum's Annual Luncheon in 2010 were invited to comment on the keynote by David La Piana. We are grateful to Susan Clark of the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, a Donors Forum Member, for her post.  Find other posts related to this topic here. We invite comments and guests posts from other Members, Associate Members, Forum Partners, and friends of Donors Forum.