What to Expect When The New Nonprofit CEO Is A Millennial!

What to Expect When The New Nonprofit CEO Is A Millennial!

By: Eugene Fram

The nonprofit’s CEO, a baby boomer or genXer, is about to retire or leave for another position. The board has engaged a new CEO a millennial person born after 1980. * His/h age is probably late 30s or possibly early 40s. What changes can the board expect from this new professional?

Following are my estimates based on some suggestions from psychologist, Dr. Jon Warner, http://bit.ly/1IFXK7u plus my 10 years experience collegiate teaching millennials.

Relationship with the Organization:
Works at home/works anywhere – Don’t expect the CEO to be continually in the office, as much as his/h predecessor. With the Internet and other electronic aids, the CEO can work in a variety of locations and times.
Outcomes – He/s will expect the board to define the outcomes and impacts the CEO and organization should achieve. Hopefully, they will be established in a collaborative fashion with the board. In addition to the financial and other similar outcomes, She/h will want to help define and be judged on qualitative outcomes, such as community commitment, successful advocacy, or any of the other honorable, but inherently vague mission based goals that nonprofits frequently adopt. http://bit.ly/OvF4ri
Praise – Millennials have been raised on praise since infancy, and this need will probably linger into adulthood. Consequently board evaluations of his/h performance may have to take place more than once a year, especially during the early years. An executive friend reported that one of her team members complained that she had not praised the team member for six weeks, after a well eared annual review.

Communication Approaches
Communications channels – Information sharing will become more important with the decline of hierarchy-structured organizations that have been used in the past. Records and operations will become more transparent, and there will be fewer department and functional boundaries. Older board members may find this atmosphere troubling.

Approach to Teamwork
Roles – They will be flexible and changing. The CEO will expect staff to step in and help occasionally with tasks that may be outside the staff’s comfort zones. Social workers, for example, may be asked to take on some marketing functions temporarily, etc.
Collaboration – Team leadership will change frequently. Conditioned by fast changing school semesters and frequent evaluations, doing the same task regularly is seen by millennials as being “boring.” Some board members may be uncomfortable with the constantly shifting staff scene and see it as being dysfunctional. Its effectiveness will have to be evaluated on the bases of outcomes and impacts.

Skills and knowledge set
Results – Based on the outcomes designated by the board and CEO (see above), results will become more important than the processes for accomplishment, as long as the outcomes are achieved ethically.
Client focused – The millennial generation, being bottoms-up driven, will place more emphasis on client satisfaction, understanding that in the nonprofit arena, the client receiving the service may be different from the client financially supporting the service.
Training and development – Much less formal training will delivered just in time as needed. This will be helpful to nonprofits where board supported training development resources are meager.

Use of technology
The Gap – There will probably be a substantial budget gap between what the CEO wants to spend on new technology, and the board’s focus on allocating budget dollars to benefit clients. How this will be resolved is difficult to estimate at this time. No doubt, as management and staff, with an increasing number of millennials, view the CEO with the latest technology, will also want to have the same resources.

As more millennials achieve nonprofit CEO status, their values and outlooks may disturb some of the older board members. Although their working habits and values, at first, will initially puzzle the older cohorts, their dedication to the mission will outstanding. They and their millennial staffs can do a great deal to improve service to clients, in ways quite different than in the past.

* Baby Boomer: Born between 1945-1965; GenXer: Born between 1966-1979


  1. Interesting article …. We were all young at one time and needless to say ,the techno world we live in today has much more demanding requisites then we realize…. A youthful C.E.O. who adheres to protocol and accomplishes feats that benefit the charity as well as the recipients would prove to be an asset providing the accomplishments were a result of a ethical nature and supported by a character that knows the difference from right and wrong and chooses to do what is right …. With youth comes ambition a talented individual is expected to be up wardly mobile and to aspire to the highest level of success.. The Job of a mindful board of directors would be to be able to replace an individual of similar stature..


  2. Thanks so much Dr. Fram. This is extremely useful to me. As the relatively new President of a 501C3 Board, with two Millenial Staff, it could not have come at a better time. I will buy your book and recommend it to my Executive Committee.


    1. Thanks for noting my article. It has obtained significant viewer interest. May do several presentations for a national nonprofit on the topic.


  3. You are very right as a CEO of a Network of nonprofits in Nigeria (www.nnngo.org) clocking 40 next year, this totally captures how I operate, I could have said you were shadowing me to write this article. You are very much spot on, I respect your insight and intelligence on this!!!!


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