Collaboration: On the Rise with a New Generation?

“Younger people in philanthropy seem to be more interested in collaborating,” one program director notes — an observation that evidence suggests may be more than just a gut feeling. Today, a new generation is bringing a set of beliefs, practices, and values into the marketplace, forcing many organizations, including philanthropy, to rethink how they operate. Some call them “millennials” (roughly defined as people born after 1980); others characterize them as the “net generation” (people between the ages of 11 and 30).

One of the most fundamental differences between baby boomers and the NetGen is the latter’s embrace of collaborative and consensus-driven approaches in nearly everything they do.

This preference, some say, is due to NetGeners’ growing up in a technology-driven world that gives a wider swath of people the chance to connect with others and work in groups to solve problems faster. it also reflects this generation’s disillusionment with traditional, top-down leadership models, bureaucracy, hierarchy, and skepticism of closed-door processes. As business strategist Don Tapscott has noted, “this is the relationship generation" — one that leverages the power of technology to collaborate — efficiently and effectively. . . . it’s part of their digital upbringing.”

NetGeners are also one of the most socially conscious generations in history, volunteering in record numbers and using the internet — and the social connectedness and collaboration that go with it — to make a difference. those trends will most likely have implications for philanthropy, said one former foundation president, and the ways in which this generation will practice it as they get older. A fund director agreed: “I’m seeing a lot more young funders who are interested in collaboration — especially high-end giving circles and venture funds — and who are happy to do things through the process of consensus building and group processing because that’s more natural for them in the way they work and operate in the field. And they don’t feel necessarily that they have to be secretive or private about their grantmaking.”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Funder Collaboratives.