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.

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.

Fundraising Takeaways from 2015

(2015 takeaway: Millennials are the next great giving generation, and they donate via mobile technology.)

After 5 straight years of growth in the fundraising world (2014 topped previous records, pulling in $358.38 billion in philanthropic dollars, and 2015 will likely be even bigger), things are looking good for nonprofits.

The sector has risen from the financial disaster of 2007 faster than other industries. Nonprofits are becoming more adept at deploying technology and reaching the digital marketplace. And, to top it off, #GivingTuesday has changed the game, infusing the holiday season – long overshadowed by the rampant consumerism promoted by days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday – with a philanthropic spirit.

This last component – #GivingTuesday – is also having a huge impact on how nonprofits organize their fundraising calendars. Combined with the increased significance that millennials possess as a charitable demographic, there are a couple key takeaways from last year that will better position nonprofits to thrive in 2016.

While year-end giving has always carried great weight – setting up fundraisers with the bulk of their annual revenue – December’s importance has shifted heavily to #GivingTuesday. With the day’s skyrocketing popularity, it is fast becoming a competitive flashpoint for organizations looking to secure their financial situation going into the new year.

An unintended consequence of #GivingTuesday may be tapped giving. As more and more charitable individuals (including millennials, who are more likely to give small amounts online) make gifts on #GivingTuesday, they may be less responsive to appeals later in the month. This means that the fundraising potential of December may be shifting to the beginning of the month, requiring nonprofits to refocus their strategies and energies in order to finish the year off with a bang.

Another essential area where nonprofits need to pay attention is millennial giving. Defying predictions that the generation would be self-absorbed, millennials are displaying great philanthropic character. In 2014, 84 percent of millennial employees donated to a company cause. Of those that didn’t donate through work, 78 percent donated on their own. For #GivingTuesday 2015, one out of every three millennials in the United States were projected to participate in some capacity.

It’s evident that millennials give. But how to solicit their gifts? They value simplicity and transparency. It is absolutely essential for nonprofits to adapt to mobile giving strategies and digital infrastructures, meeting their desired audience’s attention where it is being directed – namely, on smart phones. Furthermore, nonprofits need to be clear about how solicited money will be used. Millennials need to see the impact they are making. Visualize operations through graphics and video, and quantitatively explain the difference that donors are making.

While the forecast is good for fundraisers, it is essential that they keep on their toes in order to keep a head up on competition. Following these trends will, in part, aid in those efforts.

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