The Movement Generation

On a business trip to LA last year, I found myself in the unusual state of having some free time. I sat down at an outdoor table at a pub on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. As I sipped my beer, I noticed a group of 10 teenagers hanging out on the street. They walked up and down the block aimlessly – each kid being very careful not to get separated from the group. They looked like a school of fish.

All the while, each kid was frantically texting. Soon enough, kids started coming out of the woodwork, one after another, joining the school of fish. Before I knew it, there were over 30 of these “Millennials” shifting about, dominating the sidewalk.

I don’t remember hanging out in such large groups or inviting that many people to hang out on the sidewalk with me. I just did everything with the same motley, 4-man crew that I still hang out with today.

The next generation of activists, donors, volunteers, and nonprofit entrepreneurs in our country are growing up in a high-touch, ultra personal, socially sensitive, movement culture. Having had wireless connectivity since birth, Millennials are accustomed to spreading ideas quickly and involving as many peers as possible…even if the idea is just “lets go to the movies.” For this generation, Social Movement Marketing will be the norm, and nonprofits need to prepare.

Though it’s popular to lament this generation’s prospects for leadership or to lambaste them for having short attention spans and for having been raised with an “everyone wins” mentality, I think they actually represent a bright future in many ways.

They are the most diverse generation and the most culturally aware. They are the most creative, entrepreneurial generation yet – 8% of them are already making money on the Internet. They are multi-tasking machines who do more in a day than previous generations used to do in a week. William Strauss and Neil Howe call them “the next Great Generation.”

Perhaps even more encouraging is Millennials’ insistence on meaningful work. The importance of money in work has been rated lower by this generation than by any previous. Not surprisingly, they show very little loyalty to their employers as they have no patience for jobs with no social significance. Accordingly, they also show very little loyalty to brands. In fact, the only thing Millennials seem to be loyal to is people.

They see brands less as products and more as a culture of people. The line between consumer and employee is blurring as everyone is just grouped into one dynamic brand culture. This is good news for non-profits since they’re more about people than products by definition. Nonprofits that learn to build culture and create brands that employees and volunteers buy-into and promote will be the marketing gurus of the next generation.

The best way to sell culture is to get your employees and volunteers to start running their traps. They’re not just people working for the organization, they are the culture of your movement so get them to start blogging, Tweeting, and everything else. NPR requires all editorial staff to attend multimedia and social networking training and encourages them to speak up on the Internet as much as possible. How many people in your organization are blogging about your cause?

To get a head-start on building your internal culture check out BRANDEMiX.

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