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The Light Files - Kari Dunn Saratovsky

Kari Dunn Saratovsky

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Who are the millennials and why do they matter? Laura Max interviews Kari Dunn Saratovsky, author of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement.

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Laura: Hi, everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of the Light Files, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. I could not be more excited for our show today. I am here with Kari Saratovsky, the author of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement. Welcome to the show, Kari.

Kari: Thank you so much, Laura. I'm thrilled to be here

Laura: Well, as a millennial myself, and you are a millennial as well

Kari: I am. Well, I'm technically a cusper. I fall right on the cusp between Gen X and Gen Y, but depending on the day -

Laura: So tell us -

Kari: - I'm a millennial.

Laura: For those in the audience who don't know what a millennial is, as a millennial myself, I'm accused of being part of the "me” generation. What does it mean to be a millennial?

Kari: Millennials, as all the generations before us, are characterized by a variety of stereotypes, and I think Joel Stein and Time Magazine several months ago called us the "me, me, me” generation.

Laura: Right, how many pictures of selfies have I seen -

Kari: Right, exactly. Well, I think -

Laura: - and characterizing all of us -

Kari: And selfie is the word of 2013. So -

Laura: It is the word of 2013.

Kari: - but in any -

Laura: I'm guilty of them myself.

Kari: So millennials are born roughly between 1979-80 to about '93-'95, so making us about 20-35 years of age.

Laura: So that's actually much older than I think - I think a lot of people assume millennials are just those of us who are right out of college, but -

Kari: Right, right. I think that that's the case, but for those of us on the upper cusp of the millennial generation, we've now spent more than a decade in the workforce and are in a different place in our lives. I think millennials are in large part getting married later.

Laura: Getting married later, yeah.

Kari: Yes, and starting on their careers a little bit later and starting families a little later. So there's actually even a segmentation among the millennial generation themselves, in terms of those who are right out of school versus those who may be in a little bit different place in their lives.

Laura: So your book, Cause for Change, it really zeroes in - our - the millennials have been accused of not being interested in making a profit, not being interested in making money, staying on their parents' couches. Your book actually focuses on what they are really good at, which is nonprofit engagement. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Kari: So what Derek, my co-author, and I really tried to - we tried to debunk a lot of these millennial stereotypes, and rather than focusing on this "me” generation, focusing on the characteristics that make this generation really unique. So it's collaborative styles of leadership. It's opposition to hierarchy. It's living our lives in very transparent ways.

Laura: We are very transparent, and I think that's a huge positive. You don't have like the June Cleaver family anymore, where you have no idea what's going on behind the door. I think people feel like they can relate to each other a lot more now.

Kari: Exactly, and you have parents who are on Facebook now, and so actually what's interesting is the younger millennials are actually steering away from Facebook and some of the places that their parents are now hanging out on and finding other things like Snapchat and Instagram and places that their parents haven't quite discovered.

Laura: That makes me feel old because I'm still a huge Facebook ____.

Kari: Well, hey, that's [laughter] - but in any case, that - so Cause for Change really focuses on how organizations and institutions and nonprofit organizations in particular can leverage these unique characteristics of the generation to really capitalize on this generation as donors, as volunteers, as champions for their causes.

Laura: So this is a book that really does debunk a lot of myths about millennials, as you've said. So what was your primary motivation in writing it? I mean, were you one of the victims of those myths, or were you judged? What was it that made you write that?

Kari: When I first really started talking about and writing about and blogging about the millennial generation, I was actually working at the Case Foundation. So the Case Foundation is Steve Case and Gene Case's family foundation. Steve was one of the founders of America Online, so responsible in large part for getting our generation online and -

Laura: That was the beginning.

Kari: That was the beginning, and you probably still remember your IM accounts and -

Laura: I remember. I was LMaxShopper11.

Kari: There you go. I was FunDun1. I sounded like a Chinese dish or something.

Laura: So it's not just me. Yeah.

Kari: So I was working at the Case Foundation, and the - we had this really interesting vantage point. We sat at the intersection between technology and social change, and we were quickly realizing that it wasn't just technology that was driving all of this change. It was all of these - it was a generation that was coming of age with a little bit of a different perspective on how they wanted to engage. I mean, there are different expectations of interacting with organizations, and so we started really focusing on that, and then spent a lot of time blogging and writing about this topic, then spent some time with Derek Feldman, who's my co-author. He had been doing research on the millennial generation for about three years prior to our starting to write. He's now in the fourth year of the research, which is found at the Millennial Impact Report. A lot of the research and data that comes from the book is taken directly from kind of our personal experiences working in the nonprofit sector, in the philanthropic sector, kind of the social sector, over the course of the last decade plus, and if you look at this first decade of the 21st century, we saw such incredible change.

Laura: I mean, everything has changed since 2000.

Kari: Right, absolutely. I mean, economically, politically, socially, technologically - all of these things had - change is nothing new, but kind of the accelerated speed of change is having such an impact on all of us, and so it's - and it's particularly having an impact on millennials, who came of age during this time of great change and great instability, both in our country and around the world, and so all of that has kind of played into feeding the chapters of the book.

Laura: Well, as a millennial myself, I couldn't be more excited to read your book because I happen to think I'm part of a fabulous generation. I love being a millennial. I own being a millennial. I think we're great. So thank you, and I can't wait to read it. Where can our viewers find your book if they're interested in purchasing it?

Kari: Sure. Well, Cause for Change can be found on Amazon. It can be found on Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold these days, which unfortunately is not very many places kind of.

Laura: I know we all have our Kindles and our Nooks, us millennials.

Kari: Right, right. Well, you can download it there too.

Laura: Awesome. Well, fantastic. Thank you so much. This is Kari Saratovsky, and I am your host, Laura Max, of the Light Files, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. You can find me on Twitter @LauraMaxNelson, or Facebook, and as always on We'll see you next week. Bye, everyone.

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