Non-profit paralyzation

imagesI have sat on many non-profit boards from organizations, institutions to education.  Through all of those tenures I have always found myself to be the outlier, the Anti-christ.  I have been the person who pushes others to think about reality of the future.  I am constantly frustrated.  It is not easy for most to think that way particularly when the majority of institutional boards are not filled with people from the next generation.

Millennials will be the next generation who sit on the board of trustees for all organizations  As millennials grow older and into the adulthood their philanthropic values will look to organizations that are tied to how they operate in their profit world. They want their non-profits, where they have chosen to have an affiliation, to be savvy when it comes to being sustainable, communications, charitable-giving and opening up a wide net to embrace everyone.  They are not interested in going to an annual event to sit down and eat a chicken dinner that honors someone with the hopes that this particular honoree will have a draw to bring in the dollars that year.

Millennials want to see their work and donations to an organization go directly to what they believe in.  The days of Executive Directors (and boards) agreeing to hire another expert for an absurd amount of money to give the organization direction will not be applauded.  They want organizations to hire those experts to work inside the tent in order to reshape the future.

I do believe most boards understand that this is the future but are paralyzed on how to move forward.  It is easy to fall back on the golden handcuffs of old school donations and long term asks.  It is easy to fall back on the annual event to raise awareness and money.  It is easy to not look at an organization from the ground up and worry about at what time will the next generation of donors not be interested in their old school ways.

The time is now.  Just like the smart start-ups that have changed verticals and built new ones, those entrepreneurs came up with those ideas and built companies around that years ago.  They worked hard to create those companies that are now the norm.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  You have to see the future and react now because it takes a long time to turn around a cruise ship.

Many of our revered institutions, such as the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) is finding out that the future is now. They didn’t raise enough capital last year.  From the outside it would appear that it has been managed with the thought that they could just raise more money to cover the experts to be hired, a big staff and more.  They recently had to cut their staff to deal with the $30m of debt and the strangest decision was to cut out the person who oversaw the web component.  Their revenue from retail sales was down which means to me nobody is being innovative on that front.  I wonder if they are really thinking differently over there or are they paralyzed to move forward and are hoping to rely on another large donor to bail them out….and what about next time?

The next generation of philanthropists are here and they want their charitable giving to operate just like the rest of their universe does.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I am certain you are right here.Not directly related but generationally the same realization–You know my hobby is natural wines so did some speaking and panels at an event in Bushwick the last few days.What I found was that I–the radical in this area against the wine establishment–was now old school by a new and huge generation of really young craftspeople who are simply not accepting any rules, any distribution systems, going completely crazy local.When new becomes old.BTW–I plan to be a voice for them and help them lead the change.

    1. Gotham Gal

      On my way to vote for them too!

  2. pointsnfigures has software that will maximize the effectiveness and participation of a non-profit board. It’s called BoardMax.

  3. panterosa,

    You speak of that dark, calcified underbelly of institutional non-profits and foundations. They profess to want change, pretend to be modeling it and effecting it. Either they have no idea what that means (hence they aren’t doing it), OR they find out it means radical changes within their own structures and practices and recoil in horror. It sucks, and people like you, who know that change is beneficial, push, and should push. But that’s a lot of work and energy. I do have high hopes for the upcoming generation’s work in this area, though they will need support.