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.

Authenticity is the Key to Effective Nonprofit Branding

Image courtesy of Edgethreesixty Branding

An organization should ask itself everyday: does our brand reflect our identity? If the answer is anything but a solid “yes” it is time to institute change – fast.

Knowing who you are is the bedrock of effective communication. Everyday dispatches – including visual materials, internal and external communications, solicitations, call-to-actions, invitations, and annual reports – must project your organization’s brand and channel the key components of its identity succinctly.

Here are some informal case studies that demonstrate a variety of branding weaknesses.

The Philadelphia Orchestra demonstrates value by leveraging the name of its all-star music director. Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s name has become a stamp of approval on the orchestra’s communications materials, signaling a central role in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s public identity.

This is an interesting take on branding, albeit a somewhat short-sighted one. While the institution’s mark will stay the same, the music director will change over the years, thereby leaving the impression that the orchestra is most powerful and impactful with a “name” associated with it.

Another case study: the Please Touch Museum.

The institution’s trademarked name fails to convey its identity clearly. Originally located in Center City Philadelphia, the museum is now situated in Fairmont Park in a renovated historic building. Please Touch Museum’s current tagline which focuses on this geography, leaving its purpose in the dark. Using hyper-local terms alienates out-of-town tourists, decreasing the likelihood of them exploring this gem of a museum.

If the organization’s leadership wishes to reach a broader audience of families and donors in the greater Philadelphia area and establish the museum on national and international levels, it should consider revisiting its branding to underscore the experience visitors can expect. “Please Touch Museum® where kids learn through play,” is one fitting example.

Let’s look at one last case: The Salvation Army. The international humanitarian organization’s motto is “Doing the Most Good,” and the group maintains a commitment to “meet human need without discrimination.” There have been – however, a number of controversies over the past 15 years, including firsthand accounts of LGBQT individuals facing discrimination when seeking services from The Salvation Army. By directly contradicting its stated mission and ethical practices, this discrimination obviously does not mesh well with its public image. Critics of the organization have used the evident irony behind this brand to underscore the organization’s perceived hypocrisy.

Since accusations of anti-LGBTQ discrimination emerged, the organization has taken strides to improve its treatment of gay and lesbian individuals. Transgender people, however, are still frequently discriminated against and experience difficulty obtaining temporary housing through The Salvation Army. As long as the organization does not live up to its brand, critics will still be able to use it against the group, diminishing its effectiveness and preventing it from pursing its mission.
The most important component that could improve these brands: authenticity. Authentic branding and a clear understanding of organizational identity are key to developing a strong base of followers, donors, and patrons.

PricingPrivacy PolicyRefund Policy