A passion for change: why some millennials choose to work at nonprofits

By Cecilia Seiter

Food trucks. 

Craft beer.


A knack for computer science and a compulsion for buying overpriced iced lattes at upscale, whitewashed coffee shops. 

These are the kinds of things that come to mind when you hear the word “millennials.” But nonprofits? Those don’t usually get thrown in the mix of things millennials are associated with.  

In the last few months, Central Coast Salmon Enhancement welcomed new staff members Shane Bennett, CJ Chew, and Cecilia Seiter to the team. They’re all working diligently to keep CCSE running smoothly -- and yes, they’re all part of the so-called “Generation Y.”

Shane, a recent Cal Poly grad, works as an assistant hydrologist to enhance Steelhead trout habitat through data management and low flow monitoring in creeks.

CJ, a hydrology intern and fourth-year Cal Poly student, also assists with low flow monitoring and is helping develop California’s first Crowd Hydrology Project

Cecilia, also a Cal Poly fourth-year, is a communications intern, curating and creating content for CCSE’s communication channels. 

If it strikes you as odd that three young millennials are working at a nonprofit organization, you’re probably not alone. It’s commonly thought that millennials would rather work at a startup or a billion-dollar corporation. But the 2013 Millennial Impact Research Report indicates that 72 percent of millennials would like to join a nonprofit organization, while just over 50 percent say they would like to give to a charitable organization every month.

Why? It’s simple: they want to make a genuine difference in the world.

Here’s why our new hires are working in the hydrology and nonprofit field:


 I have always felt working in the environment field was the right place to focus my efforts, given all of the environmental issues in our world today. That, combined with a great interest in water, pointed me directly towards working in hydrology. I felt that I could make a big impact, this early in my life, if I started working on improving our "relationship" with our water resources.


Water is so fundamental yet so complex at the same time. It supports all kinds of life and affects every dimension of our planet. My love for water and how it interacts with and shapes the earth in so many different ways are why I’m in this field of work. 


Going into public relations, I have two options: work for big corporations and PR firms, or represent smaller clients, like local businesses and NGOs. I want to work for organizations that make a difference in the world, which is why I’m taking the opportunity to work with CCSE. Sure, every company needs a communications team, but the Earth needs people to speak for it, too!