Posts Tagged ‘Millennials’

[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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Create a nonprofit culture of shared leadership in your organization

Many of us who grew up with the Internet simply have a different way of looking at the world compared to previous generations.

Take access to information: the Internet has democratized access to and dissemination of information in some very dramatic ways since the early 1990s. These different views spill over into the workplace, especially in terms of expectations around access to information, transparency, communication and decision-making. Within many nonprofits, leadership structures are lagging behind these shifts through the continued embrace of hierarchy, creating challenges for established leaders, younger employees and everyone else in between.

Less hierarchy equals better impact

This continued reliance on hierarchical structures has been repeatedly cited by young nonprofit leaders as one of the key barriers to leadership development in the sector. Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out, a nationwide report published in 2008, states that organizations that maintain traditional hierarchical structures “risk perpetuating power structures that alienate emerging leadership talent in their organizations.” The report continues, “Executives who adapt their organizational cultures for less traditional hierarchy, while holding everyone accountable for meaningful mission impact, are in the best position to attract and retain the next generation of leadership.”

Opportunities versus challenges

Even though these generational differences often play out as challenges, many opportunities come along with adopting flatter structures and shared leadership models. Organizations that diffuse decision-making and communications are often more adaptable, which can lead to greater sustainability. Also, organizational cultures that integrate shared leadership practices often better demonstrate the values that many nonprofits exist to uphold. On a practical level, shared leadership models can also create a higher level of engagement and buy-in among staff and can promote the leadership development and retention of employees.

Shared leadership can be defined in many different ways, and practices fall along a continuum. The chart below summarizes some of the key practices that often differentiate leadership models within a nonprofit environment:

Area Hierarchical structure Shared leadership model
Decision-making Top management. Important decisions communicated down without input. Collaborative decision-making. Input from appropriate staff members is regularly sought and considered in any important decision.
Communications Top-down, one-way, infrequent.  Increased transparency, staff members have a say in all important decisions.
Structure Hierarchy Flattened hierarchy, networked, matrix, or collaborative
Planning Board and ED develop, staff implements. Partners in determining the organization’s future, all staff play some role.
Processes Directive Collective
Culture Resistant to change Encourages new ideas and innovation from all staff
Definition of “leader” Executive director and possibly select senior managers The organization cultivates leaders at all levels.
Ideas that some organizations are testing out Co-directors (separate internal and external focus) 

Management teams that report to the board, with the executive director serving as an equal member of the group

Strategic plans are developed with equal input and decision-making between board members and staff

If your organization has a traditional structure, testing out new approaches in areas like decision-making and leadership can be a good place to start to integrate some of these practices within your organization.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Use staff meetings to discuss critical issues and gather input, rather than reporting. Select an issue that is affecting your organization’s work and facilitate a conversation to get staff member input on addressing that issue, both short- and long-term. After some discussion, identify ways your team as a whole can work to address the issue, and then follow-through.

Include staff as partners in strategic planning. This can include something as simple as gathering staff input through an anonymous survey, to hosting multiple staff work sessions as part of the planning process, to fully integrating the staff, board, and your organization’s constituents into a partnership to create a plan for your organization’s future.

Gather staff input on a regular basis through anonymous staff satisfaction surveys and on important decisions affecting the organization. For staff surveys, openly share results and commit to addressing at least two or three things as a team.

Empower staff members at all levels to participate in setting goals in their functional areas and for their own performance, rather than prescribing deliverables and expectations.

Increase access to information and cultivate a culture of transparency. Additional transparency can include sharing board packets, financial information and program evaluation information, along with things like inviting staff members to observe or report at board meetings.

With younger leaders assuming leadership positions, formal and informal, within the sector on an increasingly frequent basis, shared leadership models are likely to become more and more prevalent. Help ensure that your organization can both attract this talent and maintain its relevancy by starting to integrate some of these practices in your organization. In addition to possibly strengthening your own organization, you can contribute to the retention and development of the next generation of sector leaders today.

This chart is adapted from “Shared Leadership: Why it Matters and How to Help Nonprofits Get There.” Alliance for Nonprofit Management Conference 2010, Judy Freiwirth, Psy D., Dahnesh Medora, and Deborah Meehan.

See also:

The Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide: Revealing the Hidden Truths that Impact Performance

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

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

Image credits:,

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Checking in on 10-year predictions for the New Year

Kicking off a New Year seems like a perfect time to recommend our upcoming addition to the CausePlanet summary library. Frankly, any time is the ideal time to pick up this book. Peter Brinckerhoff has written not one, not two, but three editions of Mission-Based Management, which should give you a sense of its value to nonprofit readers.

Author, writer and consultant Peter Brinckerhoff claims it’s an exciting time to be in the nonprofit world. He asserts, “There are more challenges, more opportunities and more ways to respond to the increasing needs in a community.”

The third edition of Mission-Based Management bestows on the reader a comprehensive look at what today’s nonprofit managers should prioritize in order to model the best high-impact nonprofits.

The premise?

The book is based on three philosophies that have informed Brinckerhoff’s entire career of 30 plus years:

  1. “Nonprofits are businesses.”
  2. “No one gives you a dime.”
  3. “Nonprofit does not mean no profit.”

He convincingly demonstrates the truth in each of these points throughout the book and in each of the management competencies he explores—from leadership, governance and finances to marketing, mission, ethics and more.

We invited Raylene Decatur of Decatur & Company to participate in our guest interview about the book. Since 2004, her firm has provided strategy and leadership transition services for nonprofit organizations ranging from start-ups to complex, mature organizations.

CausePlanet: What do you think about Brinckerhoff’s ten-year predictions? Are there any you would modify, emphasize or add?

Raylene Decatur: Brinckerhoff was brave to present his ten-year predictions and prescient regarding the future. From our vantage point in 2015, I would emphasize the following of his predictions:

Role of Government: Brinckerhoff was very accurate in his assessment of the diminished resources that local, state and federal governments would be investing in programs implemented by the nonprofit sector. For many nonprofits, especially in the health and human services sector, diversification of funding streams and reinvention of their business models will continue as trends for the foreseeable future. (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of Super Boards: How Inspired Governance Will Transform Your Organization)

The Impact of Generational Change: The baby boomers continue to age and have maintained greater longevity on boards and as organizational leaders than might have been anticipated five years ago. The generational change is much more complex and multifaceted than the compelling math of aging and its impact on the transfer of power. The values of a new generation of leaders and funders are raising questions regarding all aspects of nonprofit sector operations and outcomes. The recession stimulated change, and the generational transfer impact will create new and perhaps more challenging dynamics for the examination of sector practices. (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement)

Cost of Services: Brinckerhoff notes the increased cost of providing services to a population of clients who have greater and more complex needs. More competition from both nonprofit and for-profit companies in an environment where it is more expensive to serve will accelerate as a challenge for the sector over the next decade.

Impact of Technology: As Brinckerhoff observes, the nonprofit sector must make the investments necessary to fully utilize technology to accelerate progress on mission. The transformation of client, donor and stakeholder expectations has evolved even more quickly than could be anticipated five years ago. Today, many nonprofits are facing almost insurmountable challenges related to reporting outcomes and results because their investments in systems and technology have failed to keep pace with these new norms. (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission)

CausePlanet: If you could consult on a fourth edition of this book, what topics(s) might you envision adding?

Raylene Decatur: Talent is one of the greatest challenges facing the nonprofit sector today and in the foreseeable future. How will the sector transform its capacity to attract, retain, train and reward the people who are essential to achieving mission outcomes? This is not a new topic, but there is urgency in reimagining our assumptions regarding both paid and unpaid staff.  (Read more in our Page to Practice™ summary of The Abundant Not-for-Profit: How Talent (Not Money) Will Transform Your Organization)

In the spirit of Raylene’s final answer about resources—specifically talent—I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotations from Brinckerhoff: “A charity views its resources as a combination of four things: people, money, buildings, and equipment. … A mission-based business also has the same combination of four resources: people, money, buildings, and equipment. But it looks beyond just those four and also considers business tools in performing mission.”

See also:

12: The Elements of Great Managing

Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

Image credits:,, Peter Brinckerhoff,







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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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Conference generates great “next gen” ideas

What do you get when you combine standing-room-only attendance, one enthusiastic author and the topic of generational fundraising? You have the makings of a terrific exchange of ideas. I had the pleasure of conducting a CausePlanet interview with Emily Davis at the United Way Worldwide Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana this week. Davis’ book, Fundraising and the Next Generation: Tools for Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists, was the basis of our discussion.

As some of you know, the CausePlanet author interview is an interactive format where attendees are encouraged to join in by submitting questions and comments for the author along with me. This particular group had some great input that enhanced our discussion about integrating Gen X and Y into your strategic resource planning. A variety of strategies were discussed during the interview and I wanted to pass along two in particular.

Consider these strategies:

Look at your Traditionalists (born 1900-1945) and Boomers (born 1946-1964) and research their family members: Who among these generations is supporting your organization? Do they have children you can involve on a volunteer basis so when they reach their giving years, they’re ready to give? You can’t afford to dismiss the younger philanthropists because their gifts may be smaller. In reality, Davis’ research demonstrates how the younger generation is giving amounts relatively equal to generations that have preceded them. Furthermore, around 63 percent of Davis’ respondents report their financial contributions are affected by where they volunteer.

Consider forming a parent/child program: Another interview attendee explained how he had formed a program that involves fathers and sons working together on behalf of the cause. More than 70 million people are under the age of 30, rivaling Boomers in purchasing and voting power. Generation X and Millennials were raised on community service so they’re going to be receptive to an opportunity to volunteer especially when it involves the added value of family time. While mothers and fathers are more accustomed to traditional forms of giving, their children may have the financial means to deliver a large check or raise larger numbers of smaller donations from their peers, friends, and family through the simple click of a button. Together, these family teams can be an incredible resource.

In light of the fact that Millennials outpace Boomers in size and anticipated wealth, what are you doing to prepare and engage Generation X and Millennials now?

Follow this discussion online, read Davis’ blog or purchase her book at

Or, you can purchase a Page to Practice summary of Davis’ book or numerous other titles in our CausePlanet store or subscribe for complete access to our summary library.

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Millennials give more through circles, tiers and partners

According to Fundraising and the Next Generation author, Emily Davis, nonprofits should be cultivating Millennials and Gen X because of their sheer size and long-term potential for philanthropy.

Wealthy Gen X donors give more and are increasingly more aware of charitable causes than earlier generations when they were the same age. Also worth noting, these two generations are more educated than prior generations, and there is a direct correlation between education and level of philanthropy.

A study at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reports a college degree increases annual giving by an average of $1,900. Additionally, younger donors tend to be driven more by the cause than by the notion of philanthropy itself.

Circles: Giving circles are a strategy Davis mentions to cultivate the next generation of donors. Giving circles are comprised of people who pool their donations and decide collaboratively how to impact an agreed-upon social cause. By leveraging your volunteer or board development strategies with fundraising know-how, Davis claims you can create giving circles within your own organization.

Tiers: Another strategy Davis mentions in her book is creating donor tiers that are sensitive to each age group’s ability to give. For example, Women Give San Diego uses this strategy for its annual giving campaigns. Members under the age of 40 are asked to give a minimum gift of $250 versus the Founding Members who are asked to give between $1,000 and $10,000 per year.

Partners: Yet another strategy for engaging and cultivating younger donors is partnering with a young professionals group (like or organization that naturally draws a younger demographic.

What are you doing to engage the next generation of philanthropists? Asking the Gen X and Y staff members in your organization is a great place to start.

CausePlanet subscribers: Don’t forget to register for our interview with Davis on Thurs, June 14 at Noon MST.

See also:
Fundraising and the Next Generation
Liquid Leadership

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Join us for a “next gen” interview with Emily Davis

CausePlanet subscribers: Join us for our CausePlanet author interview series with Emily Davis on June 14 at 1 p.m. CST.  “Fundraising and the Next Generation: Tools for Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists” is Davis’ new book that will have you re-examining your prospect profiles.

Generation Y (a.k.a. Millennials) represent the largest population since Boomers. Cultivating these young prospects now and long term as they mature and have more to give is a revenue game changer for fundraisers. What are you doing to address this burgeoning donor constituency? Bring your questions for Davis to the interview or submit them when you register.

We look forward to touching on the book’s highlights through your questions:

• Explore how your organization can better use the next generation of volunteers to support your mission.
• Gain insight into the motivations and opinions of “next-gen” donors to help expand your fundraising focus.
• Ask hard questions and integrate strategies that better serve your organization’s mission for long-term sustainability.
• Find out how to engage your staff and volunteers in conversations about fundraising across generations.

How do CausePlanet subscribers register? Log in at the CausePlanet home page and click on the red link in the subscriber announcements page. If you have a question for Davis, don’t forget to submit one in the registration form. Subscribers can also download our new Page to Practice summary of her book beforehand. Posting soon!

Emily Davis has been working in the nonprofit sector as an executive director, staff member, consultant, founder, board member, and volunteer for over 15 years. She currently serves as the President of EDA Consulting in addition to many board and advisory roles in Colorado as well as nationally. She trains and consults on a number of different areas including board development, online communications, multigenerational philanthropy, and fundraising. Her passion for effective leadership has garnered numerous awards and nominations. Emily received her master’s degree in nonprofit management from Regis University.

Here’s what a recent author interview attendee had to say:

“Another outstanding presentation! CausePlanet has done an excellent job bringing together the experts and the audience for a genuinely interactive event packed with useful information. The opportunity to present questions beforehand and also to pose them live during the webinar is a unique feature that would enliven any topic. Absolutely recommended.

Matt Mullenix, Vice President of Public Relations, LANO

See also:

Liquid Leadership

Working Across Generations

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