PLP, an organization that aims to engage and empower the next generation of Jewish leaders, has touched and potentially changed the lives of close to 1,000 young Jewish professionals. Yet it was funded by fewer than half a dozen foundations headed by individuals often three times those young participants’ age. In other words, whereas one would think that the customers were the young adults, the paying customers were the older individuals funding the project out of a belief in its mission. The young people were practically, to use a term from economics, free riders.
If those thousand PLP graduates want PLP to survive, they might each donate money or time to ensure its success. But the paradigm under which young adult initiatives operate often does not recognize the economic and volunteer potential of this audience.
Recognizing that we have been perpetuating a mismatched model is a good thing, and we may never have truly learned this lesson without the help of the current state of the economy. Over these next few challenging years, a lot of good people and good visions will be brutally shaken and forced to rethink the way they do (nonprofit) business.
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