This fall your teen may be heading off to college for the first time, perhaps with only the vaguest idea about a career.  As he or she backs down the driveway, you have one last chance to influence their future.  My suggestion:  wave them down, lean through the window and, in your gravest James Earl Jones voice, intone:

“My child, the ambitious among us want a rewarding career.  The thoughtful among us want to build a better world.  Those who are ambitious and thoughtful go to work for nonprofit organizations.”

Ignore the quizzical look that has become so familiar during your child’s endearing teen years.  Forge quickly ahead, saying:

“Nonprofits today employ nearly 12 million Americans.  The sector has grown into the nation’s third largest employment category, just behind retail (16 million) and manufacturing (12 million).”

They will nod thoughtfully, as they always do when you impart parental wisdom and statistics.  You have them hooked.  Bring it home with:

“Whether their mission is education or healthcare, safe neighborhoods or food security, ethical government or a healthy earth – nonprofit workers make irreplaceable contributions to our quality of life.  And you can too.”

Misty-eyed, they may ask the reason for this touching driveway revelation.  Answer with:

“Because, while these roles become popular career choices, few youngsters actually prepare for them.  The result is a serious leadership gap in the sector.  One of those unfilled, rewarding jobs could one day be yours – stimulating your mind, stirring your passions, and reducing the chance you’ll move back into our basement four years from now.”

Do not be distracted by the sun breaking from behind the clouds; ignore that distantly heard heavenly chorus. Just look into the inspired eyes of your offspring and know that you have, once again, helped to make our world (and your rec room) a better place…

On Philanthropy appears monthly in the Milwaukee Business Journal for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter.  This month’s column is contributed by Doug Diefenbach.

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