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

2012 Non-Profit Trends and Predictions: Volunteerism

This week I’m looking back upon 2011 for major trends, and then looking forward to 2012 with an eye towards making a few predictions. Today, we are looking at non-profit volunteer recruitment, retention and management.

Throughout the course of 2011, I had the opportunity to write about non-profit organizations and volunteerism. I’ve kept my eyes open for signs of what non-profits are doing with volunteers, and I see indicators everywhere pointing to:

2012 continuing non-profit agencies’ focus on volunteerism.

Here is what I’ve seen that leads me to this conclusion:

  • My fellow Generation Xers continue to increase the amount of time they spend volunteering. (I personally suspect this has less to do with their charitable outlook on life and a lot more to do with the fact that they’re in the heart of their child rearing years)
  • I see my parents’ Baby Boom Generation starting to retire, and they just don’t know what to do with themselves when they wake up in the morning. They are volunteering because they don’t see themselves as being old and they want to keep busy.
  • I see my Millennial generation friends standing in the unemployment line, and then turning around in search of volunteer opportunities that they hope might just turn into a job opportunity (or at the very least turn into a great reference or a referral).
  • I see my former employer — Boys & Girls Clubs of America — partnering with one of their major corporate supporters to fund a volunteer management pilot project in an effort to develop a program to teach their local affiliates to become better with volunteer recruitment, retention and management.
  • I see corporations demanding volunteer opportunities and projects from their philanthropic partners in an effort to drive down their employee turnover rates and grab onto what marketing professionals call “the halo effect”.
  • Let’s not forget about the research out there on the Millennial generation that shows this emerging generation is very much into volunteerism unlike any other recent generation.
  • According to a recent Guidestar survey, many non-profit agencies are trimming staff or putting a cap on hiring plans in 2012. Not surprisingly, the same survey showed that 65-percent of all non-profit respondents are looking for volunteers for program work and 54-percent are looking for volunteers for administrative work.

The reality is literally this simple . . . donors are saying they want to see non-profits do more with less . . . volunteer recruitment and management helps accomplish exactly this . . . and in the final analysis volunteers turn into new donors a lot easier than cultivating new prospects from scratch.

Investing in volunteerism could just turn out to be the non-profit sector’s version of an economic stimulus plan that pulls agencies out of their economic doldrums.

Volunteer recruitment, retention and management isn’t as easy as just putting out a call for volunteers. As with everything in life, it is science that requires planning and careful management.

Since the economic collapse four years ago, this trend has been taking form and the non-profits who are leading the way have been experimenting with such things as: volunteer databases, volunteer coordinators, various recruitment strategies, strategic alliances with agencies that specialize in volunteerism, recognition programs, orientation and training programs, placing value volunteer hours, and much much more.

As budgets get even tighter in 2012, the flood of non-profits who commit themselves to figuring all of this out will continue to propel this long-term trend.

Is your agency recruiting more volunteers? How has it gone about doing so? What challenges have you experienced along the way? How important is it to have a volunteer coordinator on your payroll to orchestrate recruitment, orientation, training, volunteer opportunity assignment, evaluation, retention, etc? How successful have you been at turning volunteers into new donors?

Please scroll down and use the comment box to weigh-in with your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Deja vu and ePhilanthropy

An old friend of mine, Autumn Porter, sent me a Facebook message last week asking for help reconciling two very different ideas — face-to-face solicitations versus online videos & electronic pledge forms. As I stewed on how to respond to her, it dawned on me that resource development professionals, who have come before me, must have had a similar “moment”. I suspect that this deja vu moment probably occurred at the advent of the direct mail era.

First let me frame Autumn’s dilemma. On one hand, she was told that she needs to get out there, roll up her sleeves, infiltrate professional networks, schedule in-person workplace solicitation meetings, and ask … ask … ask. On the other hand, she has been told by a local employer that they are an “electronic workplace” and really think it would be better to ask their employees to view an online video over the company’s internal network and be given the opportunity to complete an electronic pledge form. Here is Autumn’s question:

“How do I begin to merge these two tangents into some sort of donor-centric approach?  Are there examples of using social media to tie us directly to their heartstrings?  Can we create a lasting connection of the human experience without being in the same square-footage?  If people give to people, how do we continue to reach the people with the capacity to give?”

As I said earlier, “deja vu” all over again! With that being said, I suspect that those fundraising professionals who addressed similar questions during the rise of direct mail would probably stand here today with the same advice … “Know Thy Donor” and solicit them in the manner that they would like to be solicited. I also firmly believe that resource development professionals know that face-to-face solicitation is the most effective, efficient and respectful way to solicit. As such, good RD professionals know that there is a threshold when direct mail, email, social media and telephone calls are not respectful and in those circumstances they reach into their solicitation toolkit and use the most appropriate tool.

So, my best advice to Autumn can be summed up by this YouTube video highlighting a psychic, cosmic conversation between Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi.

All kidding aside, I plan on using the remainder of this week’s blog posts to talk about ePhilanthropy and social media. In the meantime, I am interested in how you would answer Autumn’s questions. Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your best world-class advice.

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