Taproot and Jovid Executive Directors Recommend Millennials for Nonprofit Social Innovation

Bob Wittig, Executive Director of Jovid and Joel Bashevkin, Executive Director of Taproot

Millennials are uniquely suited for working with nonprofits for better social innovation, according to executive directors Joel Bashevkin, of Taproot, and Bob Wittig, of Jovid Foundation. This particular demographic tends to be collaborative, highly opinionated, tech savvy and extremely cause oriented. The two spoke with Professor Natasha Munshi’s class during a lecture covering how to lead for social innovation through nonprofit board engagement.

The two also talked about the main trends being seen today in the nonprofit sector. First, professionalism in leadership has increased as a route to getting hired. Technology has become not only a support system but a method of program delivery. Business and workforces have been hybridized, and, due to the constant lack of funding, nonprofits are pairing up. Nonprofits are also working harder on attracting board members. Collaboration between nonprofits due to lack of funding has increased, leading to more meaningful partnerships.

The directors spoke about typical collaborations that occur between nonprofits organizations, using an example of employment placement for former prisoners which required the participation of multiple non-profits, and additional examples in the domestic violence and human trafficking arenas. Surprisingly, the majority of nonprofit groups still don’t have a formal database system, using only paper to do internal tracking. Smaller nonprofits have the most difficulty existing due to the hardships they face seeking even the most rudimentary funding. Nonprofits in general battle with for profit firms for talent. In order to compete, the best bet is to maximize short term results, for example, a 2-year project. Nonprofits are also the last to recover from recession.

In order to attract talent for nonprofit boards, Wittig and Bashevkin suggested nonprofits seek out people passionate about their mission, ideally those who have vision and are willing to govern, then seek ways of measuring success so that they can hold executive directors accountable. In addition, the recommendation was to seek out the help of other nonprofits. If members of a nonprofit board are finding they aren’t heard, an option is to attract other like-minded board members.

Bashevkin has spent his entire career in nonprofits, which he believes are the driving force in addressing social issues. “In my work across different types of organizations, I've seen the limits organizations face when they cannot afford to put in place needed infrastructure.” Bashevkin, the Executive Director of Taproot Foundation, Bay Area for six years now does consulting to organizations undergoing tremendous growth and organizational development.

Since 2002, Bob Wittig has been the Executive Director of Jovid Foundation, which funds neighborhood-based efforts that provide programs and services to low-income DC adults, in order to help them obtain and retain employment. With nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience, he has worked for both national and grassroots organizations.