Blog Archives

The Millennials are coming: Non-profits will either evolve or die!

adaptWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Survival Is Not Mandatory,” John talks about our always changing world and workplaces and how we need to evolve in order to remain viable and relevant. His conclusions are simple: 1) Evolve or die and 2) Survival is not mandatory.

Sometimes timing is everything. When I read this blog post, I was on the treadmill with my new iPad with Morning Joe on the television in the background. The television talking heads were droning on about marijuana legalization and they flashed the following graphic on the screen:

marijuana legalization

My first reaction was “Huh, it’s interesting that the opinion lines recently crisscrossed.” My second reaction was “Hmmmm, where have I seen another graphic like that?” And within moments, I remembered that the other similar graphic was this one about same-sex marriage:

gay marriage

These two thoughts were colliding in my mind as my feet trudged along on the treadmill, and then my eyes went back to my iPad and John’s blog post about change. My first thought was “What is driving all of this immediate change so quickly?” And my second thought was “I wonder what implications these trends may have for non-profit organizations, fundraising, resource development and philanthropy?”  Almost immediately, I remembered seeing the following chart in a Giving USA Spotlight newsletter:

generations age ranges

It was at this point I realized the meteor has hit our planet, the weather patterns are changing, and change is starting to happen rapidly. The change we’re experiencing in our society is exponential.

If you are scratching your head and find yourself saying “HUH,” then I encourage you to look more carefully at the previous graphic. The oldest members of the Millennial generation are already in their 30s. Combine this with the fact that the Millennial generation is almost as large as the Baby Boomer generation (e.g. 79 million Boomers vs. 75 million Millennials) and then factor in the 51 million GenXers, and you have the recipe for rapid change.

Still not convinced? The consider the fact that every day for the next 19 years it is estimated that 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire EVERY DAY. In 2014, Millennials will make up 26% of the workplace and this number will soar to 36% by 2020.

Let’s face the grim realities here:

  • Every single day there are a number of Silent/Greatest generation and Baby Boomer generation individuals who are dying and retiring.
  • Every single day there are a number of Millennials who reach voting age and enter the workforce.

LOL . . . I am reminded of that famous quotation by Ross Perot speaking to that “giant sucking sound”. In this instance, I don’t think we’re talking about NAFTA. In this example, that giant sucking sound is the vacuum being filled by Millennials.

So, what is the end result? What does all of this mean for non-profit organizations? Fundraising? Philanthropy?

Well, I am not a fortune-teller, but the following thoughts have crossed my mind:

  • The workplace characteristics for non-profit organizations will change quickly.
  • The donor profile will change quickly.
  • The client profile will also change quickly.

I suspect most “best practices” won’t change (e.g. face-to-face solicitation is the most effective way to secure donations), but I can imagine that strategies and tactics need to adapt and evolve. For example . . .

  • We know that once a donor retires their charitable giving habits seem to change. With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, I suspect resource development plans need to evolve because at this point in time Boomers make up the bulk of most agencies donor databases. (Did you know that 69% of Boomers donate to charity compared to 33% of Millennials? Source: Center on Philanthropy Panel Study)
  • We know that direct mail is effective with Baby Boomers much more so than it is with Millennials.
  • I suspect that fewer Millennials physically own checkbooks than their Baby Boomer counterparts.
     (I wonder how eBanking impacts traditional charitable giving systems?)
  • We know that Millennials volunteer at higher rates than any other generation.

John ends his post by simply stating “But survival is not mandatory.” This revelation is striking because it causes me to wonder: Which non-profits are going to adapt? Which agencies are going to die? How will those who survive evolve and adapt? When will that process start? When will resource development plans start to reflect these changes? Who will step up and lead on these issues?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, I can appreciate that, but paralysis is the enemy of evolution and adapting.

My best suggestion to those of you who don’t know what to do or how to proceed is commit yourself to learning more. Click here to read a great publication titled “Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation” from the Giving USA Foundation at The Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University. There are a lot of great “AH-HA” moments in this publication. Hopefully, it will get you and your organization pointed in the right direction.

As many of you know, I am a GenXer. As I finish this blog post, I suddenly have a song running through my head and I can’t get it to stop. Upon a little reflection, I now realize that this song is my generation’s anthem and characterizes our lifelong struggle with Baby Boomers and Millennials. Click here if you want to get inside my head and enjoy what I am sure will become my generation’s rally cry.  😉

Please scroll down to the comment box and weigh-in with any thoughts you may have about the questions I posed a few paragraphs ago. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Marketing your organization’s volunteer program

This morning I woke up to a very nice email in my inbox from Helene Schmidt. She had read the three-part blog series on non-profit degrees and certifications, liked what she read, asked me to read an article that recent published titled “12 Reasons Community Service Should Be Required in Schools” and share it with the DonorDreams online community.

So, I did read the article and can honestly say it is very good. As you can see, I’ve already shared the link in the first paragraph and you should totally go read it.

I didn’t decided to share this post on “why volunteerism should be required in school” because I agree with the policy position. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not for it. I’m not against it. However, I do think that making volunteerism “required” feels antithetical to the entire idea of volunteerism.

The reason I am sharing this article is because after reading it I thought, “Wow! These are all great selling points for any non-profit organization’s volunteer program.”

You might want to incorporate some of the “12 reasons” offered in the  article in your volunteer marketing materials.

Speaking of volunteer program marketing materials . . . you do have marketing materials for your volunteer program, right?

Uh-oh. Well, if you are like many of the organizations with whom I’ve worked, then you have volunteer opportunities and not-so-actively “hope” volunteers walk through your doors. Many of the programs I’ve seen lack structure such as:

  • volunteer coordinator
  • written volunteer plan
  • written volunteer job descriptions
  • orientation and training opportunities
  • evaluation opportunities

I just haven’t seen many agencies actively marketing their volunteer program. Perhaps, your agency is different; however, have you looked closely at who and who you are marketing your volunteer opportunities?

I’ve read a lot recently about how the retiring Baby Boom generation is looking for volunteer opportunities. I’ve also read a lot about how the Millennial generation is really into volunteerism.

It doesn’t take a marketing professional to conclude that what motivates a 20-something-year-old to volunteer is probably very different from what motivates a Baby Boomer. So, targeting your marketing message might increase your effectiveness and bring many more volunteers through your agency’s front doors.

If the recent economy has your non-profit organization turning to volunteers to fill gaps and get things done, then you will need to do more than cross your fingers and hope volunteers find you. You need to invest in a volunteer program.

One such investment will be in how you market your volunteer opportunities. The article that I shared at the beginning of this post provides 12 great selling points that you might want to share with young people. Click here if you want to read more about how to more effectively market your volunteer opportunities to Baby Boomers.

Does your agency have a volunteer program? If so, what investments have you recently made and have they paid off? How do you market these opportunities and recruit volunteer? Please use the comment box to share your experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Who’s on first?

Since I quit my job and started work on opening a consulting practice, I decided to take some time-off this summer to work on “me” which included getting involved in a few volunteer opportunities and miscellaneous projects. I am so glad I decided to do this because it has served as a gentle reminder that well-run meetings and a sense of organization is critical for any non-profit organization to engage and inspire volunteers.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the middle of meeting thinking that you are in the middle of this very famous Abbott & Costello sketch titled “Who’s On First“?

Well, I have felt this way on a few very recent occasions and it can be very frustrating, which is why I thought I’d share some thoughts today on how to stop chasing your volunteers from the room. Here are just a few simple ideas:

  • Develop an agenda — this way people know what is being discussed and decided.
  • Send the agenda out in advance of the meeting — this way participants can formulate and focus their thoughts and not just organically babble.
  • Recruit a volunteer leader who can stick to the agenda — this minimizes time “down the rabbit hole” and keeps people’s time from being wasted.
  • Take meeting notes — meeting notes with a section focused solely on “action items” will remind participants who agreed to do what and by when. It will also ensure we didn’t just meet for no reason and keep us focused on actionable tasks. Send the meeting notes out immediately after the meeting as a reminder rather than handing them out at the beginning of the next meeting.
  • Honest recruiting — be clear in writing with a volunteer job description during the recruitment process. There is nothing worse than showing up to a meeting and finding out it is something very different (and more involved) than what you thought you had agreed to do.
  • Find painless ways to coordinate schedules and schedule future meetings — Try setting a future meeting date/time while you have everyone in the room. If that isn’t possible, use easy and free technology tools like Doodle or Tungle.  Stop the endless and confusing email threads.

As the Baby Boom generation retires (e.g. potential volunteers) and the volunteer-minded Millennial generation comes of age, non-profit organizations need to get better at volunteer management. Those who fail to do so will fall short in the following areas: board development, program/operations, and fundraising & resource development (e.g. annual campaigns, special events, etc).

Here is one interesting handbook resource I ran across online from the University of Texas at Austin titled “An Executive Director’s Guide to Maximizing Volunteer Engagement“. I thought I’d point those of you toward this manual just in case someone you know wants to stem the tide of volunteers who have been seen running and screaming after meetings.

The ideas in today’s post are only the tip of the iceberg. Please use the comment box to share how you have dealt with a frustrating volunteer opportunity. If you are a non-profit professional, please weigh-in with additional engagement strategies or things to avoid. We can learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Millennial generation puzzle

I recently received an email from a special event manager in Milwaukee, Wisconisn who recently read conflicting advice about the Millennial generation and whether or not it is worth resource development professionals spending the time and money to engage them. Here is how those two camps break-out:

  • School-of-thought #1: The Millennial generation is big (almost as big as the Baby Boomers) and they are streaming into the workplace and philanthropic marketplace at a very fast pace. These newcomers to the economy have the capacity to make charitable contributions and will one day replace their Baby Boomer parents as a driving force in philanthropy. A proactive thinking non-profit organization should invest the time and money to acquire these donors at a young age (regardless of how small their charitable giving actual is at this stage in their lives), steward them and earn their trust, and retain them well into their prime giving years.
  • School-of-thought #2: The Millennial generation might be big, but they don’t possess the same long-term giving potential as the Baby Boom generation. This generation will have a lower standard of living and wage scale than previous generations. They will be saddled with paying off government debts racked up by Baby Boomers. They also won’t have entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare to count on in their retirement years; therefore, they will have to personally save more and donate less. Long-term retention of donors can be an expensive proposition, and it might be cheaper to wait until this generation reaches the height of its economic potential (in 10 or 20 years?!?!). Non-profits have limited resources and should prioritize time and money towards acquisition and retention of Baby Boomers until there is little to no return on investment left in doing so.

For me, I like to straddle the fence between these two points of view. I believe that non-profit organizations need to concern themselves with acquiring and retaining as many Baby Boomer donors as possible. Additionally, resource development professionals need to work with Baby Boomers on funding the needs of today as well as engaging in planned giving/estate planning discussions to fund the needs of tomorrow and leave a legacy.

I also believe the Baby Boomer’s time in the philanthropic spotlight is waning and might only significantly last another 10 years. So, acquiring and retaining new, younger donors is important for the sustainability of any non-profit organization. Good non-profits will figure out how to balance these two competing camps.

Of course, there are far too many non-profit organizations that are not capable of doing both things because they are resource strapped and stretched too thin for comfort. These resource-challenged non-profits will most likely fall squarely into the second school of thought. However, I hope that as those staff and volunteers journey down this path, they fully understanding they’re “kicking the can down the road” and will have to “pay the piper” someday. They are possibly running the risk that Millennial generation donors (who might not have the resources their parents had at their disposal) are in love with other non-profit organization who courted and wooed them 10 years earlier.

If your organization has just a little time and/or money to invest in acquiring Millennials, I urge you to do so. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment. Here are just a few examples:

  • Invest the time and money in maintaining a website that is transparent and shows the whole world how charitable contributions make a difference in your organization, with your clients, and in our community. Go so far as to routinely upload audits, annual reports, monthly financials, programmatic outcomes data, strategic planning scorecards, etc.
  • Work on creating your organization’s space on the social media frontier. Engage Millennials to help you evolve it and maintain it.
  • Create and maintain a volunteer management program focused on engaging Millennials.  If you have the resources, get very serious and create a staff position to recruit, management, and steward these volunteers. Remember, Millennials are volunteer-oriented and the fundraising axiom that “money follows involvement” applies to all generations.
  • Create a young professionals group like a “guild society” to help young professionals network while getting more acquainted with your organization’s mission. This also could be a training ground for Millennials to experience philanthropy and learn more about the art of fundraising.

All of these ideas will cost you a fair amount of time (and even some money), but none of them are prohibitive in-and-of-themselves even for the smallest non-profit organization. However, this balancing act will NOT be easy for many reasons including limited resources and what appears to be increasing tensions between America’s generations. If you don’t buy into the fact that there are increasing tensions, check out some of these YouTube video clips as proof (including a dissection of a 60 Minutes segment on Millennials):

Resource development professionals best get started soon because the road ahead promises to be bumpy. How is your organization trying to acquire Millennial donors? Is there a difference in strategies and tactics between attracting, soliciting, and stewarding Boomers versus Millennials? Which school-of-thought does your non-profit fall into and why? Please use the comment box of this blog to weigh-in with your thoughts and best-practices. We can learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653

Generational transition and philanthropy

Jessica Journey’s blog post about the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit  is in my head and I cannot stop thinking about Baby Boomers, Generation X and The Millennials.

While on the track this morning at my local gym, I was thinking about what happens when one generation passes the torch to the next generation. My thoughts immediately wandered back to the 1960s when Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” passed the torch to the Baby Boomers. While there were fun cultural changes like the introduction of  rock-n-roll music, there was also tumultuous and violent changes like the Vietnam War protests and The Civil Rights movement.

Statistically speaking there is a similar passing of the torch happening today. Don’t believe me? Just go add up the numbers of the Baby Boomers and their parents’ generation and compare it to the combined numbers of Generation X and The Millennials. Still don’t believe me? Just open up a newspaper or tune your television to one of the countless news stations. There is all sorts of conflict over gay marriage, the future of Social Security & Medicare, and America’s role in the world.

I personally believe that these generational conflicts during times of transition are the result of two different sets of generational values systems clashing. It can be like tectonic plates sliding against each other producing cultural earthquakes.

So, what does this have to do with non-profits and philanthropy? I am afraid the answer is — EVERYTHING!

  • How do you think Gen X and Millennial donors will react to Catholic Charities in Illinois when they find out they have discontinued their adoption program in order to avoid compliance with the newly passed Civil Unions legislation (something these two generations value and respect)?
  • How do you think Gen Xers and Millennials will see the Boy Scouts of America as they learn about their restrictive membership policies pertaining to atheists, gays, and girls?
  • How will charities recalibrate their relationships with Baby Boomers (who have been the mainstay of most resource develop programs for a few decades) now that they are starting to retire and live on fixed incomes?
  • What will Boomers do with all this time on their hands after retirement? Could this be the start of the golden age of volunteerism? Or could part-time careers in non-profit work become a second career for Boomers looking to supplement retirement income?
  • How will the cynicism that is pervasive throughout the Gen X community impact non-profit organization’s ability to satisfactorily demonstrate “return on investment” and “return on investment” to Gen X donors?
  • How will Millennials’ technology preferences impact cultivation, solicitation and stewardship efforts?
  • As Boomers, Xers, and Millennials all start sharing space in the workplace, how will their different value systems interact and clash? How will non-profit managers balance these competing workplace approaches?

Rather than engaging in conflict and fighting, wouldn’t it be great if non-profit thought-leaders like the United Way took the lead during this transition? They could bring different groups together and engage us in a shared values discussion. They could also help local non-profits see the future and build organizational capacity to meet those challenges. Perhaps, our hope also rests with conferences such as the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit!?!?

How is your organization being proactive in preparing for this demographic earthquake? Please weigh-in and share.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653
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