Youth In The Non-Profit Sector: Contribution To The Philanthropist Special Edition

It was my pleasure to contribute an article to The Philanthropist special edition on youth in the non-profit sector. The introduction to this edition states in part “In discussions with adults and youth knowledgeable about the not-for-profit sector, it became evident that conventional ways of thinking about philanthropy and civic engagement may not work for many young people in the contemporary context.”

I fully agree and I hope that my contribution will be of help in some small way to compel a shift in non-profit practices. These are challenging times, and we desperately need bright young minds to join us. While they will always have other choices in life, non-profit organizations have it in their control to make many relatively simple changes that will at the very least eliminate impediments to youth engagement.

I welcome your comments on the article.

Social Change and a Welcoming Environment for Youth in the Nonprofit Community

Wellar, K. (2013). Social Change and a Welcoming Environment for Youth in the Nonprofit Community. The Philanthropist, 25(2). Retrieved from


About Keenan Wellar

Keenan is a citizen of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) and co-leader of a social change and community benefit organization,, a registered charity which helps the community welcome and include people with intellectual disabilities, autistic persons, and individuals with a dual diagnosis to live, work, and play as valued citizens. LiveWorkPlay was named Ottawa's Best Non-Profit of 2019 by the Ottawa Board of Trade and Ottawa Business Journal "Best Ottawa Business Awards " With Julie Kingstone, Keenan is co-owner of Wellstone Leadership Services, dedicated to supporting a culture of excellence for non-profit, private sector, government organizations, collaborations, and partnerships. Keenan is a founding member of the leadership group for the From Presence To Citizenship collaborative. Keenan is a regular guest (monthly) of the News 1310 Power Lunch radio show, and he writes the monthly NPQ North column for Nonprofit Quarterly. When not working and supporting various social causes, Keenan loves kayaking and wildlife photography, cheering for the Ottawa RedBlacks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and causing a disturbance on social media.
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3 Responses to Youth In The Non-Profit Sector: Contribution To The Philanthropist Special Edition

  1. thisleerose says:


    I really enjoyed reading your article in the special edition of the Philanthropist. You share some great insights and advice. As someone who has been dubbed by some as an “emerging leader” (oh how I loathe the term – makes me think that I’m still covered in fetal vernix), I think that it’s important for us to consider and recognize our own biases (both those in the “established” and “emerging” crowds) as well.

    I remember a time when I was setting up my laptop for a workshop session that I was facilitating when the conference hostess started panicking a few minutes before the start time and asked me If I knew where the speaker, Rose Lee, was. She had assumed that I was the IT guy setting up the computer for her. When I flipped my lanyard over and she realized that I was Lee Rose, she was quite surprised, first that I was “so young,” and second, that I obviously wasn’t a woman.

    I’ve also been guilty of these kinds of assumptions. I once was too quick to assume that someone who has been in her job since 1978 (that’s longer than I’ve been alive!) wouldn’t “get” what I was talking about – that she was too set in her ways, that there was no point in trying to explain something to her. Only she wasn’t. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by her openness and acceptance of me and my ideas, “emerging” or otherwise, and her willingness to help me make connections to others in the sector – leveraging relationships built over those 32 years – that have proven to be invaluable to me on my own career journey.


    • At age 44, I am at an interesting in-between stage, where in some quarters I continue to be touted as “the young guy” with the “fresh ideas” while on the other end of things I am now enjoying similar types of situations as in your story Lee – young people assuming someone else must be the presenter who is talking about social media or youth engagement.

      As you point out this is definitely not an issue of age itself. Just because younger people were born into the digital age doesn’t mean they were born with other skills essential to leadership, whether in the non-profit or other sectors. And it doesn’t mean that lots of veterans in the field were not engaged in a social change approach long before the first email was sent. They’ve merely incorporated modern possibilities into their thinking and continued to shine.

      But sad to say I have run across quite a large number of executive directors in established organizations that are unapologetic in their resistance to making any changes that would result in a more welcoming and productive environment for younger workers and volunteers. Fortunately it’s a big world out there and it’s easy to find like-minded individuals and organizations that not only share a social change perspective, but have come up with many superior practices that have challenge my own status quo. I’ve learned to seek those people out.


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