Live blogging from the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit: The Generational Divide (Panel Discussion)

by Amy Sample Ward on June 22, 2011

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Today, I’m live blogging a few sessions from the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit. This panel discussion focuses on the generational divide, with the following panelists:

Wendy Harman and Suzy DeFrancis, American Red Cross
David Smith and Michael Weiser, National Conference on Citizenship
Moderated by Kari Dunn, Case Foundation

Intro from Kari:

When the Case Foundation was first discussing with partners what they wanted to get out of the Summit, they talked about how to bridge the generational divide. Both of these organizations have both been able to figure out how to bring people together across ages, cultures, etc. We see a lot of attention on next generation leaders, but not on how they will change our institutions. The Red Cross has been around for 130 years and so much has changed – for example with text-to-give after disasters. It’s been met with fear and excitement. With NCC, both the chairman and the CEO were brought in on the same day – one at 27 and one 56 years old.

As part of the rising generation, what do you see as far as myths about Millennials?

Wendy: First, there’s this idea that Millennials want to go their own way and be outside institutions. But what we found was that they had much higher trust in institutions than genx and boomers. It is not so much a distrust, but more that they really want to be part of the change. There’s also the selfish factor. I’m guilty of calling our community on the social web selfish because what it means is that anything we put out, it needs to be useful for them. They need to take it with them.

David: There’s greater trust with Millennials than other generations. Are there really that many differences between generations? I just had the honor of being part of a new leaders group studying how different generations were leading in the work force and we found there were lots of differences between where people were in life. For example, if two people had just had kids, regardless of age, they had more similarities than just age. It also feels that sometimes genx is being forgotten in this conversations. The Millennial generation has more of the perspective that “the leader is me” instead of waiting for the world to change.

Kari: Carol Phillips wrote an article this morning suggesting that the differences in the work place may have less to go do with generational differences and more with trust. Perhaps there is more that connects us than divides us?

Suzy: I know many people think the boomers like structure in the work place, we are concerned with making money – but we were the age of Aquarius! In the work place, what I love about Millennials is that they seemed really focused on their passions, not necessarily their professions. THey can be given more free reign to do amazing things. But also some Millennials are running into the fact that you want to go after your passions but you have to make a paycheck. I agree though, that there isn’t a divide. As a boomer, we want to be more welcome to Millennials – we are revamping our intranet, etc.

David: I agree there are a lot of things about the nonprofit sector that are attractive to Millennials, but hopefully it continues to become more competitive with forprofits for actually making those paychecks. In the for profit world, though, there’s more leadership development. When you take on a job in a nonprofit, you’re normally doing a lot more than you signed for without a lot of structure. If we could do more to support that growth we could attract more Millennials.

Michael: For all their frustrations about unemployment, they should be frustrated. Millennials come to the work place more prepared to teach than previous generations. When you step in the door, you come prepackaged with skills you can share. Technological expertise and an understanding with social media others don’t know. The ability to teach, with patience, is essential. And I think where Millennials make the greatest impact is when they realize their capabilities to teach and that there’s an audience that wants to teach.

Wendy: I had the chance to talk to 10 Red Cross workers from across the country that are all Millennials yesterday and they all had stories about trying to teach colleagues and try to shift organizational culture. It was beautiful to see how much confidence they had but we are also still all learning.

Kari: I’m so glad you brought that up. For so many organizations that are participating in the Summit, you can see these things can work! What are the conversations that should be happening and what advice do you have for organizations on how to be the teacher?

Wendy: If nothing else, Millennials are collaborative. That works really well at the Red Cross. It’s been a fantastic journey to see the cultural shift mirroring the way business changes. I think collaboration and turning organizations inside out is the way organizations will operate in the future.

Suzy: Collaboration is the best skill someone can have. We have to collaborate across silos, organizations, other partners on the ground. You look around the world at the collaborations happening between organizations and governments, etc. Seeing Millennials with those skills is great. Though, you also have to have focus and structure and I think it’s some times frustrating for Millennials to bump up against not having their idea move forward.

David: I think that goes to different ways you can structure how you bring people together. I suggest creating inter-generational working groups that go from ideation to implementation. It helps learning about the process and learning from each other. And it creates informal and formal opportunities for mentorship. I think mentorship can happen both ways.

Michael: I think it does go both ways. There is no substitute for perspective of power of technology. Social scientists will debate impact and influence of social technologies for a long time. But in building a level of trust, particularly with a chairman 30 years senior, is all about an environment where you can learn. Don’t expect to snap your fingers and have people praise your brilliance. It takes the same sort of intrapersonal elbow grease that it always has. And that’s an important lesson to learn.

Kari: We would be remiss to not talk about the technology a bit. Share with us about a little insight about where you innovation and so on?

Wendy: If we take the text to give campaign, we saw a group of people – Millennials prefer to work together, not against each other and it really manifest in the test to give. What we saw was that by 9 pm on January 12th we were able to launch the program and for the next thee days people only found out about it from Twitter and facebook and so many shared it. We also had accountability and that’s what Millennials are expecting – we can share just what the impact of the $10 is. They want to feel that intimacy and belonging.

Suzy: You can only sell so much, community has to sell it for you. We really saw that with the tsunami and earthquake – when it happened, and we came to the office, we were already trending on Twitter and we hadn’t yet done anything. They are different tools from traditional media and we have to learn how to use it, and not just for marketing. It has to be with the community.

David: What we’ve seen as we moved from a brochure website to one where people could interact and post and learn, we saw the traffic going up 1000s of % a year. But we really saw a lot around our conference. Many are adding hashtags and so on, but we started streaming content and letting people engage online we found we were engaging 10-100 times more people than were in the room and we could actually listen to them. So we are pushing on that and trying to do more. How can you engage a wider audience that isn’t just the same audience?

Michael: Working around and against gatekeepers really seems to be the biggest obstacle to tackle.

Suzy: When we grew up learning to develop a message, and write talking points, and stay on message…and now we are in a world where messages are being shared out there and your message is being controlled by others.

Kari: I imagine there’s some jealousy, that they’ve figured it out and others are still big insittutions. What do you think organizations should be thinking about?

Wendy: I do this all day every day. To me, listening is the absolute most important thing to do. If you aren’t doing it, start it right away. One of the keys to our success is that over the last four years we have moved from part of communications to working with all staff. We are good now at explaining just what is happening on the ground anywhere at any moment. There’s a lot of opportunity there for any nonprofit to carry out their mission on the social web using the power of people and collaboration.

Suzy: DOn’t be afraid that you’re losing control, people want to part of your mission. Find opportunities for them to be part of your mission. It doesn’t always have to be “the Red Cross way” maybe they have something else they can do that we didn’t even know about it. You can’t be afraid to let others be involved in your work.

Michael: Appreciate the power of what new media can do, it requires you to think in three dimensional terms. The message is less important than the push and has to be something is authentic. But at the same time, the message is incredibly important because of it’s ability to reach so many people.

David: For people thinking structurally about engaging Millennials, I would say that one of the big questions out there is whether or not they are going to change things, etc. But finding a mentor and a champion, we were able to make things happen.

Michael: All of my partnerships have been with my contemporaries and now I have a great partnership with someone that is the age of my children. I can’t speak to the kinds of opportunities there are in transcending that.

Kari: Whether or not the panelists are Millennials or not.

Suzy: I’m a baby boomer and have raised 3 Millennials.

Wendy: I’m on the cusp of the genx and Millennials.

Michael: I’m definitely a baby boomer but have never self-identified that way, it’s not part of how I think of myself.

David: I’m a Millennial and I stand by it. I fought for the Millennial name back when people were calling us genY.

Kari: Hierarchy within organizaitons – is it a good thing or bad thing?

Suzy: I think it exists and I think for Millennials, learning to work within the hierarchy is important. Learning to work within structure is important but it doesn’t mean you don’t push for your ideas, etc. A bad example: Millennial was given a performance review, the next day her manager got a call from her mom saying that they could work together to get better performance from the child.

Wendy: I think traditional org structures are going to change and aren’t the best. I think we should look more at spoke and wheel and working across the organization.

Michael: I think human beings develop habits and affinities and express those across gender and ages etc. They come together out of their like-mindedness and the more you can enable that the more learning can take place.

David: I think Millennials are looking at themselves as their own brands and what they can bring to the organization and the world. As organizations realize how to get the most out of people, you’ll see more team-oriented structures.

Kari: How do you track text-based giving?

Wedny: it’s very difficult to track. People can opt-in to getting additional messages from us so we may get their phone number but that’s it.

Suzy: the payment is also different so people give right away but we get the funds once the phone bill goes through.

Kari: What do you see as the future for mobile giving and keeping those people?

Wendy: The trust I have is that the people that gave that way know how to use Google – we aren’t hard to find. I’m not trying to hound anyone to stick around. If we aren’t providing value, they won’t. So we have to relevant.

Kari: How do we move people from fear to collaboration?

Wendy: I think it’s through examples – sharing success stories. I’ve been doing this for 4.5 years now and there’s always been a fair amount of fear. Nothing bad has happened. But I think some great stuff has.

David: If you’re raising money and you say this is going to be a new way to do it, you have a bottom line. But when you’re looking at collaboration, you’re looking at what other positive externatlities can come from that. Is it a better project, a better work place, recruiting talent? Is your organizational culture shifting?

Michael: We publish the civic health index which essentially says does it work? do people respond? Our own work to figure what the impact is, we’ve had great response to do more.

Kari – thanks to everyone and please share via #MDS11

  • http://twitter.com/nathan_hand Nathan Hand

    Wow you were busy. Fingers of fire. Nicely done & thanks!

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Thanks, Nathan! I find that if you don’t look at what you’re typing, you can
      go much faster :) Happy to provide the “service”!

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    Great!

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