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Posts Tagged ‘Millenials’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Work can be tough when everything depends on how the boss communicates.  Is it simply a matter of adapting, or constantly bending over backward for someone who’s never going to be satisfied?  See what Esther* and Fern* did.

When Esther* came to me, she was worried.  As an older employee, she felt that starting a job search at her age would be a never-ending task, since she expected to face a great deal of age discrimination.

On the other hand, she told me that she already was, in her opinion.  Since her new manager came on board last year – a much younger manager – it seemed that he wasn’t really interested in hearing any of her ideas when he asked the team for their input.

The new manager made a point over the past year to emphasize that he wanted “everybody’s” ideas, Esther told me; however, although she contributed nearly every time by emailing him a suggestion or two – well before the stated dealine – he very rarely brought her ideas up for discussion during the bi-monthly staff meetings.  In fact, there had been occasions when similar ideas to hers were discussed . . . and other staff members were credited.

I examined Ester’s process of submitting her ideas more closely – particularly when the similar ideas made it to the meeting, asking her, “How did other staff members submit their ideas to the manager?”

Esther discovered that most of the (younger) members actually sent him text messages, rather than emails, much to her surprise.  She also reviewed her emails on the topics and found a couple of responses from the manager, asking her to send him a consolidated version prior to the meeting.

“I thought that I had,” Esther recounted, “But I’m pretty sure that was the month that he presented (and credited) someone else’s similar idea.”

I told Esther that I believed she could Fix It! by learning how to communicate with her Gen X boss in his preferred medium: texting.  Something that would help her become more comfortable and skilled in this area would be to open a Twitter account and learn how to tweet.

Not only does Twitter teach users how to succinctly make a statement, but the 140 character limit forces writers to make every word count.  Clearly, this type of writing is important to Esther’s boss, who just wants the bare minimum when collecting ideas for staff meetings.

Esther applied this new tactic, and within a few meetings, not only did she get her ideas on the agenda, but was complimented on her improved writing skills.  She is very pleased to know that she can continue being appreciated for her talents in her current job, rather than begin interviewing.

Fern* had seen firsthand how difficult the economy was for people.  For the past couple of years, her cousins had been out of work – searching, to no avail – and living with her.

She had a very difficult boss, but didn’t feel she had any choice about putting up with him.  It was obvious to her that the job market was difficult, and she felt lucky just to have a job.  Besides, other people were counting on her – it wasn’t just about her.

Recently, though, the fog had begun to lift.  Each of her cousins had found positions that were permanent, and had begun to save some money.  In several more months, they were planning on moving out, to get their own apartment!

Just knowing that things were going to settle down was making her home life much less stressful, which had the side effect of allowing Fern to really notice exactly how stressful her workplace really was, though – with a kind of laser-like focus.

Fern began to see that the CEO’s odd behavior wasn’t solely directed at her, for one thing, but that others had similar frustrations, not knowing what to expect from him, one day to the next.

She could see that this was the crux of the difficulty, actually:  he was so unpredictable and moody day to day, that his mood swings often greatly affected her mood afterward.

The CEO’s demeanor frequently would oscillate to great extremes, often playing out during meetings, as well as affect policy decisions.

For example, there were numerous planning meetings, where the CEO sat nearly sullen and silent, leading others to speak up more, ultimately heading the project and making the decision on what would happen, because as everyone looked to the CEO, he either nodded or clearly didn’t care, from his shrug.

Later, (often much later) when a great deal of the project was in the works, the CEO would step in, sneer, and either dismantle it altogether, or find so much fault that it ended up getting such a makeover that it didn’t even resemble the original design!

Other times, the CEO was so engaged from the start, nobody could get a word in edgewise during the planning stage, but it was just as well.  Clearly, he only wanted “yes men,” so people either nodded vigorously, or sat silent, waiting for their assignments and watching the clock.

Those who had been through his “mania” before knew that he’d lose interest in whatever he was currently feverish about soon enough, anyway, so there really was no point in volunteering for something that would be altered or shelved, so why bother?

As Fern considered this repetitive pattern, she told me, it gave her a bit of relief.

“I suppose it could have made me even MORE depressed, but I think it was what I needed:  a chance to step back and look at the situation rationally.  My fear of my circumstances had just gripped me before, but now, I could see that it really was him, and not me . . . and that I needed to Forget It!

Without others depending so much upon her, and an indication that the job market was a bit better, Fern decided to start looking for a job for herself.

Although it did take several months, Fern feels that she wouldn’t have been a good candidate before her change in attitude and outlook, anyway.

“I am so relieved to be in a new atmosphere,” she says.  “It’s incredibly different, to be headed to work and think about the tasks I’ll be facing, rather than wonder – with trepidation – what sort of emotional storm lies ahead today!”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Merle* and Naomi* deal with age gaps in the workplace

Lynn* deals with her OCD manager

Gabrielle* found a way to be more relevant

Diversity Requires Effort, Not Merely a Posture

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Nonprofits know they need to better diversify their marketing efforts.  New research shows that most companies do a poor job of advertising to ethnic minorities.  (When asked for an effective brand, most respondents couldn’t name one.)

To ensure that your nonprofit is in the forefront of constituents’ minds, what can you do? It will take more than being available for them to contact, donate and volunteer!  You will have to learn how to appeal to the various segments of people in your target markets.  Most likely, they each have their own special wants, needs, likes, dislikes and preferences.

In addition to understanding the ethnic makeup of your supporters, many other demographics are necessary, but it doesn’t stop there – and you shouldn’t presume to know without due diligence.  Many people will make assumptions about age, for example, rather than doing research.

A common misperception has to do with age and technology.  Often, people take for granted that Boomers (and older) are not online, don’t donate online and don’t use cell phones, texting, etc., while Millenials are the primary consumers of all things technical, leaving those in between somewhere in the middle.  This is a dangerous assumption, not to mention full of holes.

Research is showing that smartphone penetration is not only increasing across all markets, but Gen X and Y account for the largest market share.  In addition, all segments donate online, and Convio’s The Wired Wealthy study dispels myths about online gifts only coming from younger, smaller donors.

When looking at differences between the genders, it’s been established that women – particularly wealthy women – drive the philanthropic decisions in most households, so particular attention must be paid here, not only to the type of appeal, but in details such as follow up, acknowledgment, etc.  It’s important to most women donors that they learn about how their donation is being used and what affect it has had.  Not providing personal, meaningful feedback is a sure way to lose women donors.

A subset of Millenials has been identified recently – the Post88s.  GirlApproved has identified this demographic as a separate segment of female consumer/donor who responds differently than her predecessor, and therefore, will require a different marketing pitch.  Would you agree?

Another thing we know is that women spend more time on social networking than men do, while men spend a greater amount of time watching videos online, and the amount of video consumed is increasing substantially.  These are things to keep in mind when preparing your campaigns.

You still may have a couple of annual or semi-annual appeals that you want to send across the board, but clearly, it will help to really study your constituents and understand how they exist in smaller clusters of people, too.  Have they been long time supporters for years, or are they specifically donors to your XYZ fund?  Do they always attend your spring event?  Are they inclined to volunteer?  What sets them apart from other constituents?  How do they typically respond?

The need for segmentation was recently demonstrated by a Dunham + Company study which showed that email length and relevance were the most important factors compelling donors to either respond or disengage from a campaign.  Surprisingly, frequency of communication was not among the complaints found.  Effective, targeted – and concise – messaging is what’s most desired.

Diversity also includes more than ethnicity, age and gender.  How accessible is your organization to people with various disabilities?  When you hold an event, are you certain that it is wheelchair accessible?  Do you ask on your registration forms if attendees will need interpretive services for the deaf?  What about your website?  You may be planning to make it mobile-friendly in 2012, but what about making it equal access for the blind?

Of course, a nonprofit that does or doesn’t dedicate itself to true diversity in marketing most likely has a parallel situation internally.  Much of the problems an organization has with their prospecting approach begins with internal issues, such as lack of diversity with their staff and board.  This hasn’t changed much over the years.

When all the ideas are coming from one type of perspective, it’s not surprising that there’d be a homogenous approach resulting from the organization.  There’s even a greater danger when all the power is resting with one set of individuals over another, staffing-wise.  This is when power corrupts.  Diversity has many benefits.

Marketing with old stereotypes and assumptions just won’t cut it any longer, even if you do segment.  Consumers and donors are more demanding now.  If you want them to remember you (fondly), you’ll have to work for it.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Address Your Donors?

How Do You Retain the Donors You Have?

Are You Making the Most of Email?

How Do You Address Your Donors?

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Helen* initially had difficulty implementing an organizational policy for database issues on how constituents were entered, updated, etc.  That is, until an email went out addressed, “Dear Mr. Smith and Mrs. Deceased.”  Mr. Smith was not pleased.

“Of course, we had to apologize profusely to Mr. Smith for the error,” Helen says, “But apparently, that is what it took for our organization to realize that we seriously needed to implement an overall policy throughout . . . along with training for all staff.  We didn’t make that mistake again!”

Addressing your donors in the manner they wish to be is key to getting the response you want, and this begins with having specific, accurate data that is customizable.  Not only do you want to know such things as address, phone, email and spouse names, but it’s also important to track nicknames, titles, degrees and so forth.  How formal or informal are your constituents?  For some organizations, they still maintain a more formal approach with direct mail (“Dear Mr. Smith,”) but opt for an informal tone with email: (“Dear John,”).

Of course, no organization can know everyone in their database personally, which necessitates creating default policies for records which have unknown fields or unanswered questions.  Testing can help, as well as knowing your demographic’s overall tendencies and preferences.

Ivan* works for a religious affiliated organization, and a great many of his constituents prefer to be addressed as “Rev. and Mrs.” therefore, the defaults in his database are to list the man’s name first for couples, and to make unknown titles for married women as “Mrs.”

Joan*, on the other hand, works at an organization where they have found that most women prefer the title “Ms.” – married or not – and so if a woman’s title is unknown, their protocol is to list that instead; however, they also list the man’s name first in all couples for direct mail and email.

Kaitlin’s* organization delved deeper into their data and decided that they would list the donor’s name first when addressing couples.  For couples who had not yet donated, they decided to list the woman’s name first, because upon analyzing their data, they discovered that the wife donated more frequently than the husband.

A recent study supports the findings of Kaitlin’s organization.  For every category of income group, the likelihood of donating to charity for female heads of household was higher.  In each group but one, the amount of giving was higher among women as well.

Lloyd* ran into double difficulty making policy with his constituents.  In addition to having many foreign names in his international database (and frequently being unable to ascertain gender when it wasn’t listed), he had many people who had earned various professional degrees and found himself addressing “Dr. ___ and Dr. ___.”  The order seemed to matter less than proper spelling and title.

Morgan’s* organization, on the other hand, needed to make a judgment call regarding same sex partners.  Their constituent base had a significant enough of an LGBT segment that they wanted to acknowledge and honor them by treating them as couples and address them accordingly when living at the same address.  On the other hand, they also had a segment of college students – many of whom were simply roommates, and should get separate mailings and be treated as individuals.  The organization worried that, in either case, one segment might end up feeling insulted with a default policy that didn’t recognize and address their circumstances.

Morgan’s organization decided that, until specifics were documented, each individual would receive a mailing.  This was followed up with concerted efforts to gain more detailed information on all supporters, however, via various incentive methods, which proved to be quite successful not only in engaging their constituent base, but in improving the overall quality of information in their database.

Nicholas* worked at an organization that deals with a great many memorial donations, and they have a policy which might seem controversial to some, but he assures me that it works for them, and they haven’t been swarmed with complaints over it.

Their database tracks the donor information of those who make memorial gifts, and the dates of the deceased.  On the anniversary of the dates of the deceased, his organization makes a point to send the donors a card which expresses a “Thinking of you at this difficult time” type of sentiment.

As Nicholas explains, the date is ever-present in the mind of loved ones, and they appreciate that someone remembers . . . because often, even those who do remember feel that the event can’t be talked about or acknowledged.

There is no direct solicitation of any sort within the card, but a return envelope is enclosed, and his organization does get some donations returned in these envelopes over time.  In any event, his organization maintains a presence in the mind of the donor, which can be difficult with memorial gifts, since those donors often are only one-time contributors.  This “anniversary card” campaign has turned many more into repeat donors since it began.

Whether you agree or not with some of these approaches, they are made possible because of detailed record keeping and specific, targeted policies and campaigns.  All fund raising – but particularly Annual Giving – begins and ends with the quality of the database.

Are there campaigns that you have been able to do – or wish you could tackle – because of how your database is structured?  What could you accomplish if your database allowed for it and helped you instead of hindered?

No database is perfectly clean, of course.  A more accurate question would be “How dirty is your database?”
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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Monday, September 20th, 2010

While dining recently, I had the chance to see a corporate and non profit partnership in action.  Unlike the previous poor examples I outlined, this one was beneficial to both parties, and didn’t require the non profit to do all the heavy lifting.

When it was time for the check, my Chili’s server (and server-in-training), made a point to tell me and my dining partner about the current opportunity we had to add a donation onto the bill for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  They were excellent representatives, beginning with asking us if we were familiar with St. Jude’s work (and clearly prepared to educate us if we were not).

Since we were, they continued by explaining that we could receive various thank you gifts (key ring, t-shirt) – and that 100% of our gift would go to St. Jude’s.  We were impressed, and made a contribution.  I told them that they could keep the gift(s), but asked that they pose in the t-shirts that were promoting the campaign throughout the restaurant – and show the keyring.  In the background, you can also see the Create A Pepper artwork drawn by children.  (I wasn’t dining with any children, so hadn’t been offered a chili of my own to color.)

As more non profits are seeking new and various sources of funding, it is all too tempting to cut corners and take whatever offers you can get, but it is essential that we remember several basic premises:

•     The partnership must help your organization at least as much as it assists the company (otherwise, it isn’t a partnership . . . and it isn’t philanthropic).
•     If the non profit is doing the majority of the work while the company reaps the majority of the benefit (publicity, income, credit), it’s a bad deal.
•     The company should be a good fit, mission-wise, with the non profit.  Either their service, product, policy and/or politics should align with the organization.

Stacey Goldberg, at IEG Advisory Services, elaborates further on how to find the best corporate sponsor(s):

There are definitely other great examples of current corporate partnerships out there, such as the Minnesota Idea Open, which has sparked many people in Minnesota to learn more about critical societal issues and then submit various ideas on how to improve upon said situations.

Another excellent case in point is one that Southwest Airlines is proud to promote on their blog, regarding their sponsorship of the Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) and several students who visited Washington and the White House for the first time in their lives.  The story about these individuals through their director’s eyes is quite compelling.

When one sees fantastic illustrations such as these, it’s all the more reason to take seriously warnings against companies that attach too many strings to their support.  Unfortunately, there are some corporations that have seen the difficult economy as an opportunity to add more marketing conditions to grants.

There is another sector that is promoting the notion that philanthropy is actually beneficial for businesses, however, and it is growing at a steady pace.  Recent research backs this up, particularly for mothers and Millenials, who show the strongest preference to purchase products that support causes that they do, sometimes even to the point of switching brands.

Most important of all, though, is that your organization continue to portray the image that you wish, rather than be viewed as having some type of For Sale sign erected.  Your organization’s brand and image take years to build, and can be easily lost.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

My Feeling Is…More Facts Are Needed!

Monday, August 30th, 2010

One of the hardest positions to be in is to find that your organizational strategy is based entirely upon not what’s been requested, nor even what’s been successful (since no tracking has been done), but solely the personal opinions of a select few in management who feel that they speak for all.

It’s simply too easy to assume that “we know this group” and set our campaign toward them on auto-pilot; however, this can have detrimental or disastrous consequences, because all groups evolve, adapt and change.  When an organization, company or medium fails to listen, notice or adapt with them, this is a formula for disaster.  Mike Frey makes a good argument about how social media was created because traditional media didn’t pay attention and became further and further removed from its customer base.

Research toward your constituents should be ongoing, segmented and with dual considerations:  Industry-wide data is important to monitor, but you also need to keep tabs on what your own organizational data is as well.  They may not follow the same trends in all circumstances.

When reviewing and segmenting social media data, for example, we see that overall use is growing at an incredible rate among seniors, particularly in the 50 – 64 age category.  While their consumption does not yet equal that of the 18 – 29 age group, it is notable that the rate of increase has roughly doubled in the last year . . . and the year before that.  The rate of increase in social media usage is clearly higher among these seniors than any other group.

This research explains the trends of the data that gut feelings might not, such as:

•     It’s likely that even greater numbers of Boomers will join the ranks of social networking as more of them get high speed internet
•     Older adults tend to be home bound in greater numbers, and appreciate being connected with loved ones online

There are many ways that social networking engages participants of all ages, too.  Consider the plethora of online games and the market penetration of such things as FarmVille viewed on grocery shelves.  This crosses a variety of demographics.

A common misperception about a different segment is that Generation Y exists exclusively online, and the only way to approach them is through Facebook, but there is never just one way.  For one thing, recent studies have documented Facebook Fatigue among Millenials, who are finding it less cool, now that their parents and grandparents are joining in droves.

Teenagers and young adults elsewhere are showing additional offline trends as well:  In Australia, they are using the web as a means to search for ways to shop offline; and there’s documentation that German teens are becoming more interested in face-to-face time these days, too.

American Gen Y entrepreneurs have also recently been meeting with one another in person to brainstorm about how best to create new ideas, including starting the largest Google Doc.

We can’t be positive what the next new trend(s) will be or exactly what our constituents will want from us in the coming year(s).  What is certain, however, is that we must continue to learn all we can about their needs, desires – and proven response rates and meet them where they are . . . not where we decide they should be.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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