Ford’s Thirty Under 30 Connects Millennials with Nonprofits

Ford’s Thirty Under 30 Connects Millennials with Nonprofits to Pioneer Community Service for Future Generations

  • Innovative Ford leadership course connects younger employees with non-profits to build future generations of community-minded workers
  • Thirty Under 30 fellows will work with non-profits to help them connect with the younger generations that represent their future donor and volunteer base
  • Surveys report Millennials prefer volunteering when they can use their skills

DETROIT, April 14, 2016 – Ford Motor Company’s Thirty Under 30, an innovative corporate leadership course that empowers younger employees to work with and learn about philanthropic organizations, is now underway.

The Thirty Under 30 fellows are in the early stages of a yearlong course in which they will take time away from their jobs as Ford engineers, financial, marketing and IT professionals to not only learn what it takes to run a charity, but also develop strategies for nonprofits to connect with the younger generations that represent their future donor and volunteer base.

Ford’s Thirty Under 30, which is run by the Ford Motor Company Fund, was announced last year by Executive Chairman Bill Ford as part of the company’s ongoing initiatives to develop young employee leaders while also serving the communities where it operates.

“We only are as good as the people in our organization and in our community,” Bill Ford told the group at a recent gathering. “Millennials are the future. To spearhead change, we must help younger generations thrive, which includes cultivating their growing comprehension that it is not about what you get for yourself, but what you do for other people.”

The Thirty Under 30 fellows, who were selected from more than 300 competitive applications across the U.S., represent a range of backgrounds, having grown up everywhere from Kansas to Cameroon. Representatives from three Detroit-area nonprofits — the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) and The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division — recently met with the 30 and outlined their challenges.

Stephen Nacarato, director of corporate development at United Way of Southeastern Michigan, reminded the 30 that Ford Motor Company pioneered the idea of a charitable payroll deduction. But what worked for past generations is not likely to work for raising funds from today’s digitally connected, fast-moving youth.

“What’s the next payroll deduction?” Nacarato asked. “How do we sustain it? How do we maintain it? How do we launch it?”

DRMM President and CEO Chad Audi said millennials tend to be passionate volunteers but not reoccurring and committed donors.

Studies agree. Unlike charitable givers older than 45, millennials are more likely to volunteer than write a check. The Corporation for National & Community Service reports more than 82 percent of Millennials engage in informal volunteering (helping individuals in need) and at least 21.7 percent donate more than 1.6 billion hours of service. According to a 2015 Achieve study, 70 percent of Millennials spent at least an hour volunteering for causes they cared about last year, one third volunteered at least 11 hours, 16 percent took unpaid time off to volunteer and 45 percent participated in corporate-wide volunteer days.

“How do we harness innovation and passion?” Audi asked.

For their part, the 30 are looking toward their own expertise. Recently, Dina Tayim, a mechanical engineering major from Ohio State University who works in product development, said, “The group that I resonate with the most would be United Way. The challenges they listed, specifically working with the design team to prototype transportation options would be a good fit for my mechanical design engineering background, involvement in environmental impact and hands on learning/prototyping experience.”

Fellow Fatima Kebe, an industrial engineer from Ohio State working in Ford’s transmission manufacturing operations, said Thirty Under 30 will allow her to combine her interests in humanitarianism and engineering. “Listening to the nonprofits, I think we’ll have an opportunity to use our technical skills to gain more skills that make a real difference in the world,” she said.

The 30 are being introduced to “design thinking” by the Henry Ford Learning Institute. Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that builds skills to think creatively, work collaboratively, and implement innovations and being reminded of the need for empathy.

“This is a unique opportunity to work with not-for-profits in a way I never have before,” said fellow PJ Wascher, a Syracuse University graduate who works in IT. “The idea of design thinking is going to allow us to think outside of the box, to come up with a model for how we’re going to come up with innovative ideas for these charities. The empathy topic is huge. It not only applies here; but the more we can empathize, the better we can be in life and on our jobs.”

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