“One day, going on Facebook will be synonymous with going on the Internet.”
“In the future, there will be far fewer middle managers.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, someday soon, every brand on the market will be tied to a nonprofit or a social cause.”
I don’t think these are futurist claims. It seems to be that what we think of as likely happening in the near future is actually happening right now. Often, it has already happened.
It’s possible that going on the Internet will be synonymous with going on Facebook, but in many ways, that’s the case right now. There are already fewer middle managers in the workplace than there have been in recent years, and corporate social responsibility has been called a new, necessary value for corporate survival. There are a lot of seemingly confident predictions that we make everyday in nonprofit organizations. Usually, these casual comments aren’t just predictions that we share conversationally with coworkers, but important perceptions and clues to strategic organizational evolution. Casual comments about the future are key to organizational periphery because adapting to ‘the future’ as if it were right now is likely to keep cultural nonprofits relevant and better able to adapt to change.
Here are six societal changes that have already started happening in a big way:
1. Nonprofit, for-profit, or individual: only the kind survive. Evolutionary biologists (from Science Daily and other places, too) predict that kindness may trump fitness in the next leg of human evolution. We’re seeing clues of this already. Much of the youngest generation entering the workforce is looking to be hired by nonprofits and public sector entities (though that doesn’t mean they don’t hope to change a few things). More than ever before, folks want to be doing meaningful work. When unemployment went up even early in the recession, so did volunteer rates. When people lost jobs and were unable to volunteer money, they volunteered their time to helping others instead. We are becoming nicer, and we are placing increased value on organizations that are nice. In 2009, Time Magazine called the change in societal and consumer behavior a Responsibility Revolution. According to Towers Watson, being socially responsible is no longer an option for private companies. It’s required for organizational survival. In sum, we’re all high on feel-good oxytocin and we feel it and spread it when we’re nice.
- Champion your mission- Work your cause!
- Help yourself while helping others- Team up with other nonprofits and social causes.
- Make it easy for people to show publicly that they support you- You look good and so do your passionate supporters.
2. Online and virtual communication has changed how we operate. Speaking of oxytocin, we also release it when we use social media and it contributes to feelings of trust and security. Perhaps this is why virtual relationships feel “real”… because, according to our brains, they really are real. There are 600 billion people on Facebook, and all that friending, sharing, and liking has already had effects on what we value. Namely, transparency has been a transformational force in the global economy. Because everything is online and in the open, we want nothing to be hidden. Combining the movement toward positive public good described above and transparency born from the Web has yielded radical transparency. Now we need see-through CEOs. Information share, information access, creating connections, building relationships, learning new skills… It’s all already moved online.
- Update your public relations plan. Value-alignment is more important than making sure everyone says the same exact words during a PR crises.
- GET ONLINE. – And experiment with social technology.
- Be real. Be sincere, identify yourself and your relationship to the organization, and speak conversationally.
- Don’t be defensive. People will wonder what you are hiding.
3. Content is king. And his reign is stronger than ever before. Speaking of wanting everything to be in the open, Information rules. In fact, every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of man until 2003. This is in large part thanks to the web, but don’t be quick to think that’s we’re robots spouting crazy facts like those people in the Bing commercials. Studies have found that people who really need information seek it from other people– especially people they already know. (Re) enter: Facebook. It’s not just a platform for personal connections, but for sharing ideas, gathering information, and a mecca for word-of-mouth marketing. This means that social media is great news for organizations. It builds connections while building on a museum’s mission to educate by sharing information- and making it easy for other people to share that information, too.
- Know your stuff- If you have information to share (more than something to sell), then you have value.
- Share your stuff- Make your organization accessible and share your information.
- Become a hub- You don’t need to know all of the answers. If you’re unsure of one, point your fan or follower to someone who would know the answer. They’ll remember.
4. Employees of an organization work with one another, not for one another. The idea behind flat organizations is that removing intervening middle-managers empowers employees, allowing them to play an active role in the decision-making process, creating organizational buy-in, improving morale, and therefore strengthening the entire organization. Flat organizations move more quickly than hierarchical organizations and have several other structural benefits. These organizations are gaining attention. This is how modern businesses run themselves now: with an eye toward employee empowerment. This is in large part due to the web and the growth of information-share. This type of organizational structure should be of particular interest to nonprofits, as it allows organizations to move quickly. A side, fun fact? The science of teams is now actually a science.
- Remove the walls and encourage conversation- Put the museum director in meetings with the coordinators.
- Encourage more teamwork– Because teamwork improves learning and career success.
- Reward new ideas– Or make developing new ideas possible like Google does.
5. If you’re a softie, now’s your moment. There may be no crying in baseball, but we’re moving closer to crying in business. Well, at least business is becoming more subjective, emotional, and related to non-measurable aspects of conscientiousness. Given all of the shifts mentioned above, this isn’t much of a shock. Now even MBA programs want folks who are more creative team-players than the old-fashioned my-way-or-the-highway guys. All this sound feminine? It kind of is. Does that mean the pay gap will catch up and the nonprofiteers (often masters of soft skills) will be making all the dough in the future thanks to their in-demand leadership skills? I sure hope so, but I guess we have to wait and see…
- Hire soft-skilled employees– Look for people who are resourceful, collaborative, and display a positive attitude.
- Celebrate your employees and coworkers- Because chances are, they already display the soft skills that are leading your cultural organization.
6. Generation Y is taking the reigns. And there are a few general qualities that make up members of this generation: entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, over-confident, casual, team-oriented, and we value time over money. There’s value in getting this demographic on board and connecting with your charity. The key to that is in supporting them. I think blogger Sam Davidson says it best: “More Millennials would rather buycott than boycott, and we’d rather volunteer than vote… Gen Y has the potential to change the world, just not in the way you think.” Aside from the fact that they operate in ways that mirror big societal changes taking place and they can keep you current, here are a few more reasons to hire and engage Millennials.
- Hire young folks as managers– or staying relevant may be a bit harder…
- Listen to young employees’ over-share– It could really help you!
- Understand there are things to learn– They operate differently sometimes.
- Know that the way everything operates is changing– And will change even more with Generation Z.
About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore