I Won’t Support My Grandma’s Nonprofit

chapincoleheadshot13smallGuest blogger, Chapin Cole is a proud Millennial who works in nonprofit development in the California Bay Area. She blogs on getting successful (yet stress-free) as a nonprofit staffer.

Lately, there’s been attention on the idea that nonprofit organizations should take more risks. There’s a stigma against risk in the sector because of a myriad of reasons, including discouragement from funders, the stereotype that nonprofits don’t have sophisticated operations, and the important services that are at stake.
As a Millennial, I just want to say, wake up! I’m not going to pay attention to you if you’re not doing anything innovative.

Big problems will not be solved by maintaining the status quo. Inventions, movements, and ideas come by having a vision for a better world and thinking creatively about how to get there. Nothing new is achieved by doing the same thing over and over.

As a Millennial, I’m not interested in you repeating what’s worked in the past. While I appreciate working smart, I don’t appreciate doing the same thing over and over when everything else around you changes. I don’t appreciate wasted resources and time spent on what worked before for the sake of maintaining. I’m interested in you having that vision and doing something new to get there.

The only way I will support you is if I feel you are the expert on the issue you are working on. And experts don’t just do what the person before them did. They bring their fresh perspective to the table, and they make change. Through innovation.

So how do you prove you’re an innovator? If you don’t have the capacity to demonstrate your innovation in programs, innovate in your fundraising, marketing, operations… anything. This proves to me that you can think outside the box about solving problems, too, which is why I will support you.

What are some ways that you have seen nonprofits prove their willingness to innovate? Did that make you more or less inclined to support them? Please share  your ideas here.

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Guest Blogger on May 10, 2013 in Audience Research | 8 comments
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  • Luis

    Ok. Innovation, doing things differently or thinking out of the box I support if what you’re doing no longer gets results. But, saying innovate or go away is just being different for the sake of being different. I think of some great meals I’ve had built on time-tested recipes that don’t need changing. Innovation is a bit like the word community, what does it mean?

  • Chapin

    Luis, I agree! There are certain tried and true elements to nonprofit programming that don’t need to constantly be re-vamped. But, I think it’s worth our time to stay on our toes and always be considering the best way to do things, and evaluating whether what we are doing is the most efficient. If the answer is yes, status quo is A-OK. But often the answer is no, and I worry as a sector that we don’t often enough do something about that. In fact, I worry as a sector that we don’t often enough even ask ourselves that question, which is where we should start.
    Thanks for the comment!

  • Luis

    Right on. I agree. Thanks for the conversation

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  • I love this post! I am also a millennial and I feel the same way. I support nonprofits that are good storytellers, use photos and graphics, and make their communications look fresh and creative. I am always more inclined to support organizations that don’t bog me down with text, get to the point and show me how my money would be put to good use. Make-A-Wish Foundation is one of my favorite organizations to get e-mails from because they feature stories about what wishes have been granted lately which I LOVE.

    Among my friends, also millennials, I notice them donating to organizations that have an immediate ask (like Boston Strong, Newtown, etc.) both of which I donated to. When the need is clear, I think more millennials are inclined to participate and offer support.

  • @LaurenB89:disqus, thanks for sharing your take. So 1) Short & sweet 2) Stories 3)clear info on how donation will be used.

    What else does it for you? And what sends you running?

  • The “need” sends me running. As I’m from Massachusetts, the Boston bombings impacted me greatly. While I wasn’t at the marathon, it’s an event which draws so many of my friends, colleagues, family members. Even if we didn’t know someone who was there that day, we knew it could have been any one of us there and the victims’ stories impacted us so much. Their stories played on the news every night – The One Fund itself didn’t need to tell their stories – the news outlets already were.

    As a nonprofit marketing/communications professional, I appreciate nonprofits that think out of the box and take risks. Maybe they have a simple one- or two-line message with the focus being photos, or perhaps they use shock value (which can also be risky – ie. my alma mater’s “blah blah letter” to alumni http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/multimedia/documents/x1052810249/Framingham-State-alumni-insulted-by-blah-blah-donation-letter#axzz2VZ2dCdNA). I like communications that stop and make me think. I don’t think I’m alone when talking about millennials. I think a family/friend/ or other personal connection makes millennials give. Countless millennials do the walk for breast cancer, participate in races, etc. because they have a connection to the organization or simply feel as though each step is making a real difference. While some people may not see millenials as those who frequently “give” so many of my college friends got involved in habitat for humanity, volunteering at soup kitchens and other initiatives. Millenials like to see the end result and how their “little bit” helped.

  • Chapin

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on the post, Lauren! I’m in total agreement that short and sweet with clear value works well. And, thinking outside the box! Perhaps one of the reasons the Boston fundraising efforts work (besides the personal connection, of course) is that it is more sporadic and one time, so it’s inherently innovative and new. The question will be, in twenty years, will everyone still be donating to the efforts if the organizations are doing the same thing?

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