Posts Tagged ‘Cause for Change’

[Podcast] Get ready to update your assumptions about millennials

While the topic of engaging millennials as donors and volunteers seems to constantly bubble to the surface, unfortunately, the frequency of these conversations doesn’t equate to having all the answers.

We decided it was time to have another chat with Kari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann about Cause for Change, a book they published in 2013. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on what’s evolved since then and equally important, what remains relevant. Join us for some interesting responses to our questions below:

One of the things that stuck with me when I first read Cause for Change is that Kari and Derrick wanted to help nonprofits think differently to attract a generation who wants to give it their all, but also has a lot of competing pressure on their time and dollars.

CausePlanet: Could we begin by sharing what surprised you most in the results from the Millennial Impact Report and what’s evolved since then?

A new mentality and donor assets redefined (6:16)

CausePlanet: The Millennial Engagement Platform (BUILD) is a central framework you highlight throughout Cause for Change. Could you revisit that framework with us?

Determine your success with the BUILD framework (6:41)

CausePlanet: What is the most important takeaway you want readers to remember today in light of what’s transpired since you published Cause for Change?

Don’t jump to tech only – make value-based, in-person connections (3:27)

Figure out how to involve people in making change (3:26)

Read more on this topic:

Fundraising and the Next Generation

Working Across Generations

Social Change Anytime Everywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money and Engage Your Community

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia – Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things

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On the cusp of major change for nonprofits


Special thanks to Thomas A. McLaughlin for this article. McLaughlin is the founder of the nonprofit-oriented consulting firm McLaughlin & Associates. He is the author of Streetsmart Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, 4th Edition (Wiley).  His email address is This article first appeared in The Nonprofit Times.

Lately when we have been facilitating a group at a conference we have made a point of asking the following two seemingly unrelated questions:

How old are you?

At what age do you expect to retire?

Before we move on, answer the two questions above for yourself (in an actual session, responders are asked not to print their names).  Think about the answers your parents’ and your grandparents’ generations would have given to the questions.  If we were able to go back in time it would be a virtual certainty that your answers would look very different from those of your parents and grandparents had they grown up in the United States.

While we do not yet have enough responses to claim a statistically valid group, the outcomes to date are worth examining.  Here are the averages of the responses we’ve received:

How old are you? 56

At what age do you expect to retire? 70

If these results remain consistent, it confirms that we are nearing the cusp of a major change in nonprofit organizations (not to mention the rest of the economy).   playbuzzIt won’t be business as usual as we near 2030, which seems to be the projected ‘average’ retirement year of our current 56 year olds.

Because the numbers of Baby Boomers born each year began to drop significantly in the early 60’s, the Gen X and Millennial generations will not come close to the Baby Boomers’ higher birth rates.  Kelly White Donofrio LLP writed in her blog that, we are already hearing about an unusual level of shortages of management candidates, not to mention a shortage of qualified Gen Xer CEOs.  Even entry-level candidates seem scarcer now than ever before.

Nonprofit employee trends aren’t the only ones due for some changes. Nonprofit entities themselves are another area where long-time patterns seem to be changing.  The number of active nonprofit public charities steadily grew from the 80s until 2010, when the upward trajectory abruptly decreased to about 2003 levels.

The pattern is probably not arbitrary.  In all likelihood, the recession that began in 2008 right after the Wall Street crash of 2007 had a tempering effect on the numbers of new nonprofits each year.  Organization creators that had already finished the application process and turned in their request for IRS approval may well have lengthened their intense startup phase, while other potential post-recession applicants for nonprofit status may have deliberately slowed their process in order to begin providing services once the economic conditions improved.  The recession may also have caused some to give up altogether.  Fortunately the upward trend appears to have resumed, although perhaps with less velocity.

Putting the Baby Boom into context reveals some hard-to-see advantages.  The biggest one is that the Boomers were the healthiest generation to reach retirement age.  Most of the Boomers reached full employment age at just about the time that hard physical labor began to decline as a major part of most jobs.  As a result, the Baby Boomers were the first
generation that didn’t have to work largely in the factories.   By the time that the first Boomers were ready to find permanent work, the factories had already begun migrating overseas.

As a result, the Boomers were the first generation in history to be able to work in non-physically stressful environments.   Improvements in health care, communications, education, and widespread motorized travel all contributed to far less physical decline than at any time in the previous two hundred years.

Overall Impactresearchimpactnetwork

Nothing brings as much pressure on a nonprofit organization as the lack of staff.   At the moment we infer from economic reports – and the firsthand observations of CEO’s and others – that the Boomers’ exits are already being felt on both ends of the generational spectrum.   Naturally the first shortage is likely to be felt in the executive ranks as those individuals either reach their preferred retirement age, or move on, but there are also staff shortages in direct care.

Fortunately there are a few sources of labor (and optimism), many of which relate to immigration.  For example, the Pew Charitable Trusts report that the foreign-born U.S. population grew 109% between 1990 and 2012 (the overall impact of immigration varies significantly in different parts of the United States).   Moreover, the Pew Charitable Trusts quote Census Bureau projections that net international immigration will be the major driver behind US population growth between 2027 and 2038.

What Can be Done

If the shortage of available employees follows the predicted trend lines above, it could affect virtually all nonprofits in the country.  A major part of the pressure will come from the fact that the birthrates of bothdhmh-maryland-gov the latter part of the Gen Xers’ generation and all of the Millennials’ generation are half that of the Boomers’, so today’s status quo will eventually feel more like the status squeezed.

If we are right about our analysis, this situation will evolve relatively slowly over a period of time, which should make it easier to accommodate but harder to recognize.  Start your strategy planning now so that it fits the circumstances before you feel the squeeze.  Here are some suggestions:

Re-Work Your Staffing Patterns slantimage

If you are feeling the pressure at the bottom of your workforce as well as at the top, it’s time to re-think your staffing patterns.  While we have no way of proving this, it would not be a surprise if your underlying assumptions about direct care workers are still embedded in the 1980 to 2000 era.   And while you’re doing this, be sure to apply the same scrutiny to your assumptions about your senior-most executives.  Do you really need a CIO and his full staff now that you have that 24-hour technology company on call?

Re-Think Your Service Models seedshakers

If you don’t already know the year your nonprofit was founded, pull out your most recent IRS Form 990 and look exactly three inches below the word ‘income’ as in ‘Return of Organization Exempt  From Income Tax’.  You’ll find a box labeled ‘L’ and the words Year of Formation followed by the four digit year of your corporation’s founding.  If your organization was founded in the two or so decades since 1970 there is a chance that the organization is still at least partially grounded in that era.  That could mean that some of your service models are similarly aged.    

Consider a Merger

One way to accommodate the realities of the 21st century is to grow your scale.  The combination of declining birth rates (labor) and steady needs for service (aging clients with longer lifespans) will put pressure on many nonprofits.   Lately we have detected less instinctive opposition to mergers than had been true in the past, suggesting that this opposition might lessen.  The advantage of larger scale operations run correctly is that the resulting efficiencies – one ‘back room’, one Human Resources department, etc. – can strengthen the entire organization.

Today’s U.S. economy has never had aging baby boomers like we see today, nor a 50% drop in birthrates.   Navigating the next two or three decades will force many nonprofits to change their models and to try different approaches.   Being wanted will be just part of the terrain.

See book summaries related to this topic:

Nonprofit Mergers and Alliances by Thomas McLaughlin

Fundraising and the Next Generation: Tools for Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists

Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership

Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement

Image credits: researchimpactnetwork,, slantimage, seedshakers, and playbuzz

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Millennials: Free agents of fundraising and advocacy

“There is a disconnect between the way [Millennials] give and the way they are being cultivated as donors,” say Saratovsky and Feldmann, authors of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement. The authors further explain that, “Even though Millennials are the next generation of donors and constituents, leaders spend far more resources focused on maintaining their existing supporters rather than trying to cultivate new ones…”

The authors suggest three areas on which to focus with Millennial giving:

impulsive giving habits (keep it simple and compelling since so many causes are competing for their attention)

innovative uses of mobile technology (Millennials connect with organizations through their mobiles and sign up for events but they may not necessarily give.)

strong preference for event- and peer-based giving (e.g., spreading the word about a walk-a-thon, giving platforms like Razoo, charity: water’s birthday program where you can donate money instead of spend it on a birthday gift, crowd funding where large groups pool their resources together.)

Due to social media and Millennials’ focus on these connections listed above, we are seeing several shifts in peer influence in the nonprofit world according to Saratovsky and Feldmann:

1)   Donors and supporters are increasingly relying on referrals and guidance from friends, family and coworkers to make decisions, while Millennials are relying even more on their networks and sometimes the opinions of strangers.

2)   Individuals are organizing as “free agents,” or on their own outside of the organization.

3)   Direct communications from nonprofits are less impactful than in years past.

4)   Nonprofits are finding new ways to tap the most vocal supporters outside their core networks to become active supporters of their causes. These supporters, or peer influencers, may even be more important than your brand. To engage them, you must talk to them in relation to their stories and passions, not yours. Then, allow them to relate your message authentically in their own terms to engage with an audience your organization has not or cannot reach.

Nonprofits need to embrace these free agents despite their possible lack of expertise because Millennials will listen to them. Peer influencers establish trust, exchange ideas and information to help people (reciprocity), and demonstrate relevance. You can embrace peer influencers and make them work for you with the following hints the authors suggest:

1)   Make your website and landing pages easy to read and access or the influence will not work.

2)   Give permission for your community to report back to you.

3)   Bring the influencers into your work so you can work together and you know the message they are sending.

4)   Create opportunities for influencers to be creative and recognize their efforts.

5)   Help the influencers grab and use information from your website.

6)   Monitor how your influence tools are used (retweets, etc.).

7)   Help your staff understand and leverage the power of influencers.

Spreading ideas among peers

Saratovsky and Feldmann present many examples of peer influencers using social media tools to spread ideas more quickly and efficiently. One in particular is the 2012 movement against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Internet Privacy Act. Through petitions (4.5 million signatures), two million tweets and eight million people looking up their representatives to voice their concerns, the bills were defeated. The influencers worked with and around Wikipedia, Google and Reddit to discuss and protest the cause.

Leveraging fundraising among peers

Another example the coauthors explore is how Millennials use their influence to leverage collective fundraising among their peers. In 2007, two passionate young men looked at their annual giving and realized they could have more impact if they gathered friends and encouraged everyone to start with just one percent. And so, together with 30 friends, they launched the One Percent Giving Circle. Today, the One Percent Giving Circle has grown to become the largest online giving circle in the U.S.

When peer influence and free agents are at work among Millennials, it appears there’s not much they can’t accomplish. Millennials’ unique approach to advocacy and fundraising demand nonprofits accommodate these preferences if they want to nurture more of this behavior. A one-size-fits-all approach to constituency engagement is no longer appropriate for nonprofit leaders in light of Millennials’ unprecedented perspective. Early results in next gen advocacy and fundraising demonstrate that Millennials will change the world around them using new methods, collective behavior and the power of the free agent.

See also:

Multi-Gen Series–Volume One: Working Across Generations, From Woodstock to Wikipedia, Fundraising with the Next Generation and Engaging Millennials

Working Across Generations

Fundraising and the Next Generation

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Toss your crusty plan and embrace a fresh approach

If you’re like some Boomers and Traditionalists, you may be asking “What’s all the fuss about Millennials?” If you’re a Gen X-er, you may be tired of hearing all the fuss since you’re sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials—both very large and vocal. No matter when you were born, if it was prior to 1979, you have to put away your crusty plan because the “next greatest generation” is here.

We’ve recently featured Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement by Kari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann in our summary library of recommended reading. Cause for Change is a compelling read about reasons for including Millennials in your strategic planning. It not only reinforces what we’ve read in Fundraising and the Next Generation, it provides a framework we introduced in my last post.

When I asked Saratovsky and Feldmann about some of these crusty attitudes and the rationale for engaging Millennials rather than asking them to adapt, Dunn-Saratovsky answered in the following way:

CausePlanet: If older generations (Boomers and Traditionalists) ask why they should accommodate Millennials’ workplace preferences versus asking Millennials to adapt to current organizational culture, what is the rationale you would recommend our readers share?

Dunn-Saratovsky: The Millennial Generation is now the largest age group, outnumbering even our Baby Boomer parents. The majority of Millennials came of age during the first decade of the 21st Century and it was at this same time that rapid advancements in technology were also taking place.

But beyond just a comfort and familiarity with technology, Millennials are bringing a different set of values and characteristics into the workplace and creating a change in how work gets done. Millennials tend to work more effectively in teams and oppose hierarchical structures; they crave transparency and feedback, good or bad; and want to challenge the status quo and exercise their entrepreneurial spirit. These changes in the workplace if embraced by organizational leadership can help all generations come together, ultimately leading to stronger organizations and better performance in the community.

Millennials’ social mindset is also a significant factor. A report released last year by Net Impact showed most Millennials said having a job that makes a social impact on the world is an important life goal. In fact, students said it was more important than having children, a prestigious career, being wealthy, or being a community leader —ranking only below financial security and marriage. This mindset is something that is important for organizations to recognize as Millennials are taking jobs that may pay less but have a greater social return.

Do you discuss how to engage Millennials in your strategic plan? If not yet, why? If so, tell us about it.

Save the date for our live interview with coauthor Kara Saratovsky on September 12 at 11 a.m. CST when we discuss how to cultivate and communication with the “next greatest generation.”

CausePlanet members: Register now for our next author interview with branding expert and author, Jocelyne Daw, on Wednesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. CST. We’ll discuss her book Cause Marketing: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits.

Not a member yet? Get smarter faster and learn more about access to our summary library and author interviews or try us out and download a free sample or purchase single titles that interest you at our store.

See also:

Fundraising and the Next Generation

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia

Image credit: Oh Geez Design

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Engage the “next greatest generation”

“Even though Millennials are the next generation of donors and constituents, leaders spend far more resources focused on maintaining their existing supporters rather than trying to cultivate new ones—so much so, that they cannot see beyond their current donor strategies and systems to a future where those supporters are no longer around,” assert the Cause for Change coauthors, Karatovsky and Feldmann.

There is a reason the authors call Millennials the “next greatest generation.” They stand to inherit the largest transfer of wealth; they are larger in size than the Boomer generation; they were raised on community service; and they put their money where their mouths are—with speed and efficiency online, no less.

Nonprofit leaders cannot afford to put next generation engagement on the back burner. Millennials stand to positively affect the world around them, so much so that organizations that waffle will be left behind. We asked Karatovsky and Feldmann a question about their engagement platform and about managing expectations in our interview. Feldmann answered these two particular questions.

CausePlanet: Your Millennial Engagement Platform is a central framework you touch on throughout the book. Will you explain why this framework is important for your readers to apply and its relationship to culture?

Feldmann: It was important for us to provide readers with actionable steps to be Millennial-ready. Regardless of size or resources, every organization can adopt certain strategies to take the first step in connecting with Millennials. After this initial connection, the organization can develop deeper and more meaningful engagement that ultimately builds toward culture change within institutions. We structured the Millennial Engagement Platform on a set of principles we call BUILD. An organization must: 1) Be unified as an organization in working with this generation. 2) Understand the complexities of this generation’s environment. 3) Identify those seeking to make a difference. 4) Lead through engagement rather than participation. 5) Determine what Millennial success looks like to your organization.

CausePlanet: What are the best ways to manage (board and executive) expectations when it comes to Millennial engagement and/or fundraising campaigns?

Feldman: Boards should look at Millennial engagement from a lens of participation and action rather than dollars. I know this is not the answer most boards want to hear. Before estimating potential dollars raised, we should focus on how many will like or retweet campaign messaging, share it with their peers and ultimately give. We know Millennials are giving in small amounts to roughly five organizations every year. Therefore, the goal should be for organizations to take a constituent engagement approach with giving as a pinnacle action of such engagement. This means that our expectations of Millennials being “givers” in the immediate is unlikely but will happen over time.

Join us next week when I ask the authors about the single most important takeaway they hope readers consider when engaging Millennials.

Save the date for our live interview with coauthor Kara Saratovsky on September 12 at 11 a.m. CST when we discuss how to cultivate and communication with the “next greatest generation.”

CausePlanet members: Register now for our next author interview with branding expert and author, Jocelyne Daw, on Wednesday, July 31 at 11 a.m. CST. We’ll discuss her book Cause Marketing: Partner for Purpose, Passion and Profits.

Not a member yet? Get smarter faster and learn more about access to our summary library and author interviews or try us out and download a free sample or purchase single titles that interest you at our store.

See also:

Fundraising and the Next Generation by Emily Davis

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia by Brad Szollose

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