Millennials, Labor Unions, and Nonprofits

It’s no secret: millennials are earning less than their parents.

Some analyses put the decline in earnings around 20 percent. This is particularly debilitating for a generation that also possesses more student debt than its predecessors.

The reasons for the millennial wage slump are complicated. Older US citizens are working beyond retirement. Automation and cheap labor markets overseas have contributed to a (likely permanent) decline in US manufacturing. Highly profitable tech companies often make it big with small staffs.

There is also, of course, the “precariat”: the rise of non-salaried workers. This informal gig economy – embodied by the likes of Uber and Lyft – makes use of irregular employees to generate big profits. These explosive profits are incredibly stratified, with contractors at the bottom receiving no benefits and unpredictable compensation while those on top reap immense rewards.

While some pundits may contend that the gig economy is not meant to provide long-term employment, but rather serve as a stop-gap measure, the fact remains that economic opportunity is more diminished than any other point in modern history. People are landing in the gig economy and getting stuck in it.

This situation may be one of the reasons behind the surge in popularity of unions.

As of August, 61 percent of US citizens support labor unions, the highest rate in nearly 15 years.  Millennials no doubt play a huge role in this trend. Bernie Sanders, the most popular 2016  presidential candidate among millennials, was staunchly pro-union, and nearly 50 percent of Republican millennials support unions. That is an astonishing development showing a bipartisan trend in favor of labor organizing.

Unions are trying to take advantage of the change in public opinion, introducing social activism into their activities in order to attract millennials who value social justice. This was on display in January, 2017 when the New York Taxi Workers Alliance helped blockade access to JFK International Airport in response to Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslims.

While companies in the sharing economy should take heed, so too should another part of the economy that has a fraught track record with unions: the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofits have struggled with unions and labor laws in recent years. Recall that large nonprofits such as U.S. PIRG opposed Obama’s overtime measure that would have guaranteed fair compensation for workers putting in more than 40 hours a week (note: a federal judge eventually blocked the rule, and the Department of Justice under Trump has since dropped the measure).

While U.S. PIRG was among many nonprofits that opposed the rule change, the organization has a particularly unfortunate history of anti-labor practices. For instance, a canvassing office in Los Angeles linked to the organization was abruptly shuttered and its employees let go after its staff decided to unionize. In 2012, yet another U.S. PIRG-affiliated office located in Portland fired employees who tried to organize with Communications Workers of America, resulting in a lawsuit that appeared before National Labor Relations Board.

Nonprofits are mission-based, the reasoning goes, so their employees should be mission-driven as opposed to profit-driven. Even if this approach lowers overhead and frees up resources for programmatic activities, does it truly fulfill a nonprofit’s general commitment to promoting social welfare?

In the next two posts on Nonprofit Pro Media, we will take a look at the intersection of millennials, nonprofits, and labor unions. Check in next week for a breakdown on labor abuses in the nonprofit sector.

The Johnson Amendment Survives Trump’s Executive Order

During the National Prayer Breakfast in early February, Donald Trump promised his religious allies that he would “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

The Johnson Amendment – which was sponsored by Senator Lyndon Johnson and passed in 1954 – circumscribes the political speech available to religious entities registered as nonprofits. It ranks among the clearest legal lines separating organized religion and elected office, preventing religious charities from endorsing (or campaigning against) candidates while empowering the IRS to strip offending nonprofits of their tax-exempt status.

Earlier this month, Trump announced that he would soon sign an executive order designed to “vigorously promote religious liberty,” making good on his earlier promises to scuttle the law. What he actually signed, however, was a little less than what his religious supporters hoped for. This line from the order sums up its weakness:

All executive departments and agencies shall, to the greatest extent practicable and to the extent permitted by law, respect and protect the freedom of persons and organizations to engage in religious and political speech.

Effectively, the Johnson Amendment remains on the books. The ACLU, which was preparing to challenge the executive order should it greatly empower religious organizations to discriminate, released an official statement that deemed the document an “elaborate photo op with no discernible policy outcome.” As for now, the organization is not pursuing action in court.

Perhaps – as some pundits have pointed out – this is merely a rhetorical ploy intended to create the impression among Trump’s evangelical supporters that he’s expanding their political power. It could, of course, also be step one of a larger plan to dismantle the legal framework that enshrines the United States’ founding principle that church and state remain separate.

If the Trump Administration did eliminate the Johnson Amendment at some juncture, it would enable religious nonprofits – which already receive less IRS and government scrutiny than their secular counterparts – to deploy untaxed resources on behalf of candidates. This would be an unfair advantage, and would turn religious charities into processing plants for anonymous political funding.

Campaign financing is already shadowy, complex, and in dire need of reform. Striking down the Johnson Amendment is not going to better enable organizations to pursue their missions, but it will create a deep fissure of trust between organizations and the constituents they are supposed to serve.

How Nonprofits Can (And Why They Should) Prepare For Hacking

Hacking is real and nonprofits are not immune.

Consider this increasingly common scenario: a hacker illegally accesses an organization’s emails, looks for incriminating information, informs the organization that she/he/they possess this information, and threatens to leak it unless the organization pays up. Most nonprofit budgets do not have a line item labeled, “hush money,” so managing this type of crisis is – naturally – quite difficult from a moral, ethical, and financial standpoint.

Nonprofit leaders need to understand the negative impacts of being hacked. Does their organization have a policy or incident response plan? It may seem like a task for an intern, or a non-pressing issue that can be added to next fiscal year’s to-do-list.

Increasingly, however, an institution being hacked is not a question of “if” but of “when.” That means preparations should start now.

There are different types of hacking. Depending on the type, different players need to be involved.

1. If your organization is part of a larger breach and is notified by an outside public agency, involve the organization’s legal officer or representative.

2. If your organization’s trade secrets are stolen, the executive board should meet immediately.

3. If your organization’s private customer information is compromised, the compliance team – which most likely consists of the audit committee, CEO, CIO and HR manager – should all be included on the first call.

After determining the type of hack, an organization should be prepared to execute a seven step plan to navigate the incident.

1. Determine the type of hack and assemble key players to manage the incident.

2. Discover the breadth and depth of the hack. This step involves a response team, which should be established ahead of time. Think of these individuals as emergency response personnel or first responders. This team communicates directly and frequently with the key players during the immediate aftermath of a hack.

3. Execute an incident response procedure. This involves: 

 i. Communications – Each of an organization’s constituent groups should be addressed with unique messaging that is disseminated in a timely manner.

ii. Tech – Determine level of damage, continued threats, and next steps to clean up systems.

iii.Normalization – Be prepared to restore systems and files, as well as to replace machines, and adjust firewalls.

4. Investigate, analyze and remediate. This is the deep-dive stage which may require an expert third-party vendor stepping in to assist in order to make sure that the hacker has no residual access to organizational systems and the network’s environment is clean.

5. Prioritize work responsibilities. The organization should communicate to staff members that hack-related duties temporarily take precedence over on-going projects.

6. Internal communications plan. Provide transparent, accurate information to the board of directors to ensure that the organizational message is clear. This will ensure that they understand how to answer any questions directed to them by the media, public, or constituents.

 7. Post-mortem. Immediately following the clean-up of the incident, meet with staff, board members, and all of the vendors involved for a post-mortem discussion about what worked, what didn’t work, and ways to improve the process in case of future hacks.

Be aware of the dangers and threats that could harm your organization and take action early. Preparation will ensure a well-executed plan to combat unexpected attacks.

 

Turning 25: It’s a Big Deal for Nonprofits

The twenty-fifth year may not seem like an essential milestone for nonprofits, but it is a critical juncture at which many organizations either begin a slow march toward decline or pivot toward new, more effective ways of doing business.

To survive (and thrive) during this transitional point, organizations should look at these three things:

I. Leadership

II. Branding

III. Delivery

I. Leadership.

Who is in control? Is the organization’s founder still at the helm, or is a senior staff member who has been there for more than 10 years in charge?  After twenty five years, fresh perspective is essential for growth. Celebrate the visionaries who have organization so far, but bring in a leader who has the growth mindset and energy to make positive change.

II. Branding.

A clear, fresh brand is critical to reposition an organization and its image in the communities where the organization exists and which it seeks to influence. Step outside of the organization and look through the eyes of public. What does the nonprofit’s image, communications, mission statement, and overall aesthetic look like? Ask yourself what this impression means and how it impacts those who receive it. There are numerous companies that specialize in branding. A worthwhile investment for a nonprofit is to work with an outside firm that doesn’t see things through the same lens as the staff or board of directors. A fresh perspective will allow the organization to expand beyond its current branding limitations.

III. Delivery.

Take this moment in the organization’s history to look at delivery. How are the programs delivered? How are you acquiring the constituents you serve? What is the impact? Is the impact what is most needed in your target communities at this time?  Often, there are better ways to deliver your product. But it requires the courage to break the norm and change the organization’s processes, procedures, and staff.

Reevaluating leadership, branding, and mode of delivery can set your nonprofit up for positive change that invigorates donors, funders, community members, and those served by the organization. How will your organization evolve?

Girls in Tech: Hacking for Good

Girls in Tech – a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls interested in technology – is taking a bold step and hacking for humanity.

The organization just kicked off a new series in Melbourne designed to generate innovative solutions to social issues through “hackathons” that involve teams of tech-savvy women competing to produce forward-thinking digital products.

Girls in Tech’s goal is to “create prototypes for technology that can address complex social problems. The hackathons are aimed at using technology to benefit charities, while also encouraging impassioned women to engage in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

More hackathons are slated to occur across the globe, tapping the energy and creativity of 60 chapters and more than 50,000 members of Girls in Tech. Hacking teams have recently tackled issues including hunger, supporting at-risk youth, and clean air.

The White House is even jumping into the gender-side of the STEM conversation, supporting  two new laws: The Inspire Act introduced by Representative Barbara Comstock and the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.

The former is said to “promote STEM fields to women and girls, and encourage women to pursue careers in aerospace.” The latter authorizes the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women.

The effort to level the playing field within all industries is no fad. It is an absolutely necessary task that supports economic growth while contributing to financial and gender parity.

Nonprofits: When is Organizational Transparency a Detriment?

How necessary is transparency?

The National Council for Nonprofits states that “charitable nonprofits embrace the values of accountability and transparency as a matter of ethical leadership, as well as legal compliance.”

But what happens when transparency endangers the lives of those who fund and staff a nonprofit? What if the founder uses a different name other than her/his legal name? Are they violating the trust of donors who contribute to their organization?

These questions are emerging as more nonprofits are formed to help refugees, immigrants and historically marginalized demographics. Should the founder of a nonprofit that builds homes for refugees in Iraq risk his life by using his legal name? It is a perfectly reasonable question – the socio-political contexts in Iraq and Syria are complex, with different factions holding ethnical standards across the spectrum. Think about the nihilistic violence of ISIS and its targeting of foreign aid workers. What may be a moral necessity in Pennsylvania could be a mortal mistake in Aleppo.

Do donors really care about transparency if it risks the lives of those who are working to serve a greater purpose?

Recently, two peacekeepers went missing, presumed to be kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nonprofit work is not always risk-free. The price for transparency in their case may very well have cost them their lives.

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Virtual Reality

Virtual reality presents incredible opportunities for nonprofits. Schools, museums, and performing arts organizations are leveraging its use everyday to teach empathy and cultural understanding, empower people to experience faraway places, and provide the public deeper immersion into the arts. Through virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality, nonprofits can extend their reach beyond their website, social media presence, and physical location. They can be anywhere and share their mission with anyone.

Here are several trailblazing organizations leveraging this experiential technology.

Global Nomads Group. This organization is making an impact by connecting middle- and high-school students with their peers around the world, breaking down barriers separating youth from the global community.

Classical Music Reimagined. Faced with aging audiences and declining interest in classical music, the industry may have just found a way to leverage new engagement strategies through Classical Music Reimagined, demonstrating value to brand new audiences.

Guggenheim. Last year the Guggenheim took a leap and collaborated with Google to enhance the museum experience with virtual reality.  They speak of an enhanced experience not as a replacement but as something different, “a virtual experience of a museum will, necessarily, be fundamentally different from a visit to the physical building, and we trust that those differences can be strengths when in the hands of an engaged public and teachers.”

Think outside of the box – or put the box over your eyes – and ask, “could this technology take my organization to the next level?”

Mar-a-Lago Red Cross Gala Raises Questions

(The gates of luxury: outside of Mar-a-Lago)

Does it matter where you host your charity gala?

The days following Trump’s January 27 executive order were chaos. Customs and Border Protection agents were abruptly tasked with barring Syrian refugees’ entry to the United States indefinitely, blocking all other refugees for 120 days, and preventing the entry of all citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days. The plan was ill-defined and generated immense consternation among those enforcing it. It also created tremendous backlash, bringing protesters out to airports in support of refugees and in opposition to the targeting of a single religion, Islam.

A familiar charity – the Red Cross – was at JFK Airport in New York, providing basic provisions to those impacted by the order, just as they have done since 1881 for others dislocated by major events.

According to the American Red Cross’s 2015 990, the group received over $46 million in government grants. Not a significant amount when factoring in annual gross receipts over $3 billion. But is it a conflict of interest to accept funding from a government that creates duress for those the nonprofit is supposed to serve?

Consider this: The American Red Cross recently hosted its annual charity gala at Mar-a-Lago, a Trump property, which has become known as the Winter White House. The Trumps attended the gala and offered praise to the organization.

Optics matter. Nonprofits should be mindful of the potential repercussions of their actions. Fixing with one hand what the other breaks isn’t going to make any real progress.

Top 5 Most and Least Charitable States

Utah wins! Ranking number one as the state with the highest percentage of donated income. A recent study by WalletHub shows that the United States is full of generous people. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, U.S. donors gave more than $373 billion to charity with 71% coming from individuals.

Which states received top marks for highest percentage of donated income?

1. Utah

2. Minnesota

3. North Dakota

4. Maryland

5. Oklahoma

Which states received poor marks for highest percentage of donated income?

1. Massachusetts

2. Rhode Island

3. Maine

4. New Jersey

5. New Hampshire

Although the U.S. is a country filled with generous citizens, giving back is not easy to do. We are witness to a changing tide – the birth of a culture of giving instead of a culture of consumerism. This fad has become a trend that is entrenching itself in all that people do.

Five Steps to Securing a Millennial Nonprofit Board Member

On the topic of millennial nonprofit board members, organizations are all talk no action.

Boards toss around questions: How do we engage millennials? At what price point will our event seem attractive enough for millennials to come? Where are all the young people?

The millennial generation is innovative, creative, saddled with debt, and has experienced social and political turmoil since birth. 80 million strong in the United States, millennials have changed the way business is done and life is lived. They tend not to have children until their thirties (if at all) and marriage is secondary to financial security.

After watching their parents lose retirement funds and their homes during the recession, millennials exercise caution in their approach to commitment. They are less trusting of older generations but seek their guidance. Millennials lead the market place with innovative approaches to products and services, disrupting traditional industries.

The “rule book” does not apply to this generation. Millennials are loyal once a company has earned their trust, sensitive to advertising, and can detect marketing smack from a mile away. They’re techno-savvy social creatures who care about the environment, the rights of all, equality, justice, and wish for a world that is “good.”

How does this apply to nonprofit boards looking to engage them? First piece of advice, do not take the “check the box” approach. They will sense that immediately and deem you and your organization untrustworthy.

Look at their behavior and values. Sitting is the new smoking; standing desks are gaining popularity. Think BPA-free. Recycling is part of daily life. Planned Parenthood’s mission is meaningful to both women and men. They give donations to the ACLU knowing that the organization plays an important role ensuring justice for all. Millennials want to help create a better world.

They also understand fundraising. And it so happens that the number one issue with nonprofit boards is their inability to fundraise. 

In short, they are primed to be nonprofit board members.

Five steps to securing a millennial board member.

1. Identify: Identifying potential candidates is a simple process. Leverage your network, leverage your organization’s current donor and/or membership base. A board position is essentially a job, so approach it as you would if you were filling any other position.

2. Qualify: The identification process will yield candidates who might be a potential fit. Research them, look at their social media posts, discover who they are related to, where they work, what interests they have, organizations they belong to and donate to. Determine if they are able to contribute a financial gift. If not, move on to the next candidate. The board is a group of people that acts as the cornerstone of an organization and it is their fiduciary responsibility to ensure the vitality of the organization.

3. Engage: Determine the best person to make the connection and schedule a meeting. At this point, the person making the connection should be clear about the meeting’s intent. For example, “Jason, as you know I serve on the Board of XYZ nonprofit. They are making a significant impact in {insert geolocation} helping low-income folks get access to free health care services. The organization is looking for new board members willing to serve and support our community. You came to mind as someone who has demonstrated his love of community. Would you be interested in meeting with {insert nominating committee chair} to discuss this opportunity?”

4. Solicit: During this step, the board chair should be looped in to provide feedback. Following that step, board members should be notified by the nominating committee chair that a potential candidate is in the pipeline. A short description of the individual, how they were identified, and a LinkedIn profile should be circulated. A meeting with the potential candidate and the nominating committee chair should commence. Topics to be discussed include an organization overview, strategic goals, strengths and challenges, the minimum expected board gift, and a candidate’s interest level.

5. Secure: Lastly, if the candidate’s interest and financial standing are aligned with the organization then they should be formally asked to join the board – their position pending a vote by the board.

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