The now familiar slogan that I have chosen as the title of this blog is not meant to be a political statement or an endorsement of any kind. Rather, I was musing over why Bernie Sanders, a 74- year-old self-described socialist, appeals overwhelmingly to Millennials. I wanted to understand how these “Feel the Bern” Millennials differ from Baby Boomers and how the differences are impacting the social consciousness of America.
MILLENNIALS AND NONPROFIT FUNDING
It is already becoming clear that the nonprofit fundraising landscape is changing and that we better be changing with it, or we will be left behind. The Baby Boomer donation model of the under-the-radar donor dying and surprising a nonprofit with an enormous bequeath is fast disappearing. Millennials prefer to:
- Think global but act local. They want to cure world hunger but do it one local hungry person at a time. They want to see outcomes one step at a time. They are activist investors who want to have a say in the nonprofit effort.
- Distrust large bureaucratic organizations. They see them as a hindrance, not a solution, to real social change. They would rather put their money into social entrepreneurship.
- Have new social concerns like global warming and income inequality. They do not feel as connected to the classic baby boomer world hunger, peace, and disease issues. Escalating medical costs, increased tax burdens, and longer life expectancies have changed their priorities away from charitable organizations to integrated social solutions.
- Embrace social entrepreneurship and insist on corporate social responsibility. This new activist perspective has left nonprofit's desperately trying to explain their utility.
- Social media technology that they have grown up with has matured with the Millennials’ world outlook; social networking software and mobile apps have connected them to important social issues and helped them to organize and act. Crowdfunding, for example, has become a favorite way to take action that bypasses the nonprofit bureaucracy.
Senator Sander's has been selling the same socialist message for thirty years. No one could have imagined that the 74-year-old Senator from the little state of Vermont would become the millennials’ standard bearer. How did he do it? What was the magic?
HE LISTENED, and he adjusted his message to fit the anxieties of the current generation. They have the same fears as the baby boomers, he realized, but they completely distrust large bureaucratic organizations to solve problems. The truth is that socialism expands bureaucracy. But if you’re Bernie Sanders you can expand socialist programs and still tear down evil organizations. That’s why Millennials love him.
If our great legacy nonprofit organizations are to survive in the age of Millennials, they must re-imagine their organizations and their missions. They must become less opaque and more accountable. They must become more immediate and versatile in pursuing their mission, and they must let donors actively participate in, and accurately measure, outcomes.
Bernie Sander's is proving that a new social reality is emerging. All of the political professionals are surprised and confounded. Don’t let that happen to your nonprofit. For other fundraising ideas - check out our fundraising idea category.