From Darwin to dial-up and digital natives

I was really pumped to attend the annual Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State last week. Honestly I am still processing some of the things I heard. There was so much to get excited about!  

NCCF board leaders James Narron, Stuart Dorsett and Kel Landis were there too, part of a standing-room-only audience of more than 1,200.  We heard challenging and thought-provoking speakers who also engaged us in a dialogue about engaging up-and-coming Generation Z.  

Generation Z includes today’s 9 to 21 year-olds. In the year 2022 these young people will be 18 to 30 year-olds and the emerging core of our state’s workforce. That is if we are lucky enough to keep them in North Carolina. This is not a done deal in some of our rural counties, where a mass exodus of young talent is an ongoing challenge.

This generation works and thinks differently than past generations.  This is the most ethnically diverse and tech-savvy group in our state’s history.  Their hopes and dreams are different too.  I live with this generation, so I get it. I still want to tell the story of when I got my first computer (after college!) or the party-line we had when I was growing up — but I do get it.

So what does this mean for NCCF — a community foundation that plans to be around in perpetuity?  This is what Bob Safian, editor and managing director of Fast Company said: “More than 150 years ago, Charles Darwin foreshadowed this era in his description of natural selection: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” 

Foundations are often accused of not changing or not changing fast enough. I beg to differ. We embrace change here — and take risks — and challenge the status quo.  We value employees who ask questions and have good ideas. We like to get feedback — good and not-so-good — from our donors and fund-holders.

We also value and rely on the vision of our founders and volunteer leaders, on our statewide board and throughout our affiliate network.  We value our deep, rich history and our strong foundation — and want to make sure we are not changing only for the sake of change.  It is a balance.  Our chairman, James Narron, has convened a working group to look at some new ideas and to reflect on which ones will help us improve, while keeping the very best of who we are.

We are ready for Gen Z.  We want them to stay and share their talents with us all. We want them to work at NCCF, establish funds with us and put their own stamp on the power of philanthropy in North Carolina.