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If It's Not About Marketing or Fundraising, Then It's About Leadership

While at Blackbaud's Conference for Nonprofits this past week, I met CEO Mark Chardon. I thanked him for highlighting during his keynote address the need for the nonprofit sector to engage Generation Y.

We had an informal chat about Gen Y and his belief that it's important to communicate with them, but the financial returns on social networks are not yet proven.

I'll give him that. Sure, the Causes application raised $2.5 million in its first year on Facebook and MySpace. While admirable, this is only $0.21 since per user. And that figure is hardly coveted by large, national nonprofits that are used to getting six- and seven-figure checks at a time.

I still believe there is a fundraising link between nonprofits and Gen Y using social media, albeit one that has a much longer cultivation period. But, I'll put that aside for the time being because there's an even bigger reason to engage Gen Y right now if you're a nonprofit.

No, it's not about getting someone to run your marketing initiatives. It's about getting someone to run anything at all.

This Business Journal article points out that since the nonprofit sector is growing at 6% annually (how about a bailout for the nonprofit industry?), the need to find experienced managers will be a major challenge for nonprofits.

The article references a report by the Bridgespan Group, which has been out for a while (download the PDF here). The numbers are staggering. Nonprofits shouldn't worry about the size of the task, however. They need to figure out how exactly they're going to pull off advertising open positions, finding the right person for the job and using the next generation to change the world.

Thankfully, more and more colleges and universities are offering courses in nonprofit management. While this will result in less on-the-job training that needs to be done, it still doesn't make the difficult task of finding quality future leaders any easier.

Which is why nonprofits needs to capitalize on the potential of online communications and social media. A 20-something who is your fan on Facebook today (who can't so much as donate $5 right now) may well be your program manager in two years. And anyone in your Twitter legion could be directing communications for you full-time very soon.

Nonprofits who are best using social media will have a clear advantage when it comes to finding the next great nonprofit leaders.

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