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August 29, 2023
Derrick Feldmann
Generational Activism: Engaging Millennials and Gen Z with Derrick Feldmann

Generational Activism: Engaging Millennials and Gen Z with Derrick Feldmann

Show Notes:

In this episode Derrick Feldmann discusses the importance of building social movements and engaging individuals in creating meaningful change. He explores the intersection of social issues and generational engagement, highlighting the unique perspectives and characteristics of Millennials and Gen Z. The conversation also delves into personal journeys in civic engagement, the motivations for giving and sustaining involvement, and the need for inclusive activism. 


“The more you do, the more perspective you gain for the issues around you that are often hidden.”

Topics covered:

(00:06:44) Bridging Local and Global Perspectives

(00:13:25) Personal Journey in Civic Engagement

(00:20:16) Enabling Engagement and Action

(00:27:18) Importance of Inclusive Activism

(00:33:43) Social Issues and Generational Engagement

(00:40:25) Motivations for Giving and Sustaining Involvement

(00:47:19) Importance of Milestones in Engaging Supporters

(00:55:07) Corporate Social Mind

(01:01:49) The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility

(01:09:09) Career Path and Cause Areas 

Links mentioned:

Guest links:

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00:00:00 - Derrick Feldmann
Because in social movements, you have two types of movements. You have movements that are looking for policy change. You have movements that are looking for cultural, behavioral change. Now you kind of want the two to intersect. You want the two to be a part of one another, but it doesn't always happen that way.

00:00:18 - Mike Spear
Welcome to Cause and Purpose, the show about the leaders, innovators and change agents working on the front lines to solve some of the world's greatest social challenges. My name is Mike Spear, and our guest today is researcher, author, and advisor Derrick Feldman. Whenever I need information on giving behaviors among millennials, gen, z's, or in the workplace, I seek out Derrick's research. He's the managing director at the Ad Council Research Institute, a visiting research fellow at the Skoll Center at Oxford University, and managing director of ISG Research Advisors. Like most of us, his interest in the social sector came at an early age through several formative experiences that helped shape the way he viewed the world.

00:00:56 - Mike Spear
We cover a lot of ground in this episode, and there are a bunch of concrete takeaways you can use as you engage your audiences and build movements around your cause.

00:01:03 - Mike Spear
Hope you enjoy.

00:01:05 - Mike Spear
Derrick, great to catch up, as always. Thanks so much for doing this. Just to kick things off, how did you first become interested in impact related work and in building social movements for good?

00:01:14 - Derrick Feldmann
I grew up in a very small town in Southern Illinois called Aviston. If you have a listener from Aviston, that would be amazing. I mean, it's town of like when I left, it was seven 5800 in the middle of Southern Illinois, about an hour and a half east of St. Louis, and now it's like up to like 1500. So it's doubled big time. Now there's two stop signs, I think more than one, but things have changed a little bit. So when I was there, it was interesting because I grew up in a pretty rural community. My mom is actually from California, northern California, citrus Heights in California, and then met my dad in the army, moves to Southern Illinois, where my dad has always been the unelected mayor of the little town. In a way, he's a very popular guy, all this stuff. And so I have this very rural experience. I go to college not that far. I couldn't really afford much, so I went to Southeast Missouri. It was an eye opening experience because I left my sort of small town and Southeast Missouri was a small college and I go to Springfield and all of a sudden there was like two or three of us statewide interns. I was assigned to policy work, and as part of that policy work, we had to kind of find balance between what everybody in Chicago wanted and then I knew my life in Southern Illinois, and I'm like, that isn't how I learned anything about how that is. We always had this like well that's Chicago. They were almost like this other country up there versus know, down in southern part. And what was interesting too is it was my first exposure to when decisions are being made based upon people's actions with social issues or policies or culture. And it was my first exposure honestly to a lot of other people being affected by things that I never was overall. So I had this pretty interesting and incredible experience where I'm like I think I want to help people, I want to help people get more involved in their issues. Because when you're on the other side of it, meaning that those who are in the place of making decisions related to policy or you're making decisions at organizations, you are the recipient of the constituency's actions, right? Like you see it and they're trying to influence you and you're like if only more people got involved they would realize it actually has an impact. It's not talked about because a lot of the people who are performing the actions are not on the receiver end of it in general. So that moment really kind of sparked this interest in cause work. I then though realized that I was really really interested in learning why or why not the behavioral side of it. So why somebody gets involved, why somebody doesn't, all of those things which naturally led to a lot of the research work that I do now and still to this day. Although obviously much of it was generational focus at the onset from there. So that's kind of where it all started. And if there ever is a piece of advice for people who are working hard on social issues is that they do matter. The actions people take really do matter because it's meant to influence the other end of it. And if you ever are on the other receiving end you would realize how important those actions are. So maybe there'll be a day that many that take action can be also on the receiving end of it.

00:04:39 - Mike Spear
I think my perception is that folks in small town tend to treat quote unquote good works that they do as being more person to person. You help your neighbor out no matter what, there's shared meals, there's hosting, there's different things like that. As you were growing up, I was wondering how you were aware of that distinction. And as you did more work in the field, how have you experienced that bringing sort of big picture sort of causes back to people who in their daily life in general, but especially for folks that may treat their quote unquote charity as like more person to person?

00:05:09 - Derrick Feldmann
So I was shocked that entities existed to do the work that we did without those entities. Because when you're in a rural community you don't have a lot of the things that maybe the organizations that are established in San Diego have or the infrastructure in general, I'll give you a memory that just always stays with me. I remember going in lunch at that time I'm going to date myself was quite low. It was like eighty cents, eighty five cents, ninety cents, whatever it was, for when I was growing up in that little community. And I remember that you would have certain colors of lunch tickets for the free and reduced lunch folks, and then you would have people could pay the day kind of thing. And I remember someone like, I remember friends would have the pink ticket, and I had the yellow ticket. What was crazy is it really didn't matter. It all went to the same count in the end. It was just like this system, right? And I remember one of my friends was like, yeah, got the pink ticket. It kind of sucks. And I'm like, you can have some mine. Nobody really cared when you're living in it as much. And although the stigma on hunger exists when you're in a rural community, I felt like because I knew so much about them, I knew that their dad or their mom, the farm wasn't going well. So it makes complete sense. It's in an off year, and there were so many reasons to understand why they were in their situation more, and I knew more about them. And so for us to deliver food on a week or a weekend, it's just because we knew each other so well, it made sense. And to not do it felt like you were just being unparticipatory, and no one wanted to be unparticipatory because it was socially uncool within the rural community as well, in a way. And then I realized there were organizations that do that. When I got to obviously left in Springfield, did all those other things, as I mentioned earlier. But the stigma around hunger was there, but it was very different because we all knew each other's business and challenges, because they were mostly ours as well, right? I mean, I bailed hay during the summer. You're looking at a guy that would never if you saw a picture of me, you'd probably be like, that guy never bailed hay in his life. No, I had to do it in order to get my first computer, I had to do a lot of these other kinds of things, and part of that was because they couldn't find other help, and I did it for free because at times they couldn't I knew they paid me at some point. There were all of these systems that were just unaccounted for, that were kind of in there. And so the stigmas around hunger, the stigmas around other issues were there. But I think what was different for us is that we knew everybody's situation and the context around it, because we were in it with them more than it was. Where I feel today, knowing that your neighbors are hungry, that's sometimes even harder to understand. Or know when you are living right next door.

00:08:07 - Mike Spear
In general, people tend to think more locally, I think, in small towns and rural areas, so bridging that sort of think local, think global divide, I think is an interesting thing that you've taken on in many ways what is interesting.

00:08:19 - Derrick Feldmann
Around the sort of think local and act globally. And you're going to find that throughout my career, much of it has had to do with figuring out what is the reality around the generalizations that we have around cause and social behaviors. And one of the things I'll often hear is that somebody they will think globally and they're doing all these global actions. You're talking to a person that has offices in Europe and other places. So I can see this or not, but the data doesn't necessarily support that ever in a way that it makes the generalization true in the sense that what we see is that a lot of people think maybe about an issue, but they're not ever going to understand its complexity until they are witnessing or experiencing it. And when they experience it, most of their actions will be local. Because even if I'm in a city in San Diego walking from the parking lot to the office, you are going to see social issues constantly. You might see somebody who's in need of hunger or in need of food. You might see somebody that's in need of health or any other kinds of things. And so your actions are going to happen there because you're exposed to it, you're going to have it. But you might say, well, I hope this doesn't happen anywhere else in the globe but in a rural community. The thing is that my exposure isn't just an interaction once. My exposure is a consistency over time in understanding those individuals that build systems around it, whereas in episodic exposure and intervention sometimes don't have that kind of infrastructure as well.

00:09:57 - Mike Spear
Bridging that divide in a very literal sense. You write about it in your first book, the Hands Across America event. Can you talk about it a little bit and kind of share how you experienced that?

00:10:08 - Derrick Feldmann
Honestly, I had forgotten about it in general until I went home one year for Thanksgiving and my mom's like, we're moving. You need to take all your crap out of that room. And look what I found. And in there with some old participation trophies, I found that picture of my mom and I. It says, like, Annette Feldman signing up her son Derrick Feldman for Hands Across America. And I'm like, oh my like, I had in that moment found the reason why I do what I do, right? Because I'm always like, trying to figure this out from a behavioral research know, in the short amount of time that I found that piece to the time that I sat down with her, I was like, So I just found this. And she's like, oh, I remember that I said you were really into hunger relief globally? Because that's what it was. And I was going through all of this, and I had this whole thing in my head. I'm like, mom, how come we never talked about, you know, for my parents to drive from southern Illinois to Springfield, just north of Springfield, where the line was going? Like, my parents weren't overly charitable and actionable. Right? So that was a lot of to do that. And she was, you know, us and the Millers went up there. We're like, hey, this hands thing's going on. We should do it. Everybody else is doing it. And I'm like, no, that wasn't the reason, was it? It was like my whole idea of why I got into it in general, but it really solidifies something that is a part of our cause world that for me, I wanted to act like, never really exists, but leaders know it exists, which is that we have people that participate just because of in the moment environments, right? Like friends are doing things and all this other stuff. And even my own exposures that way have been fairly in the moment because my parents are not big charitable givers. My parents are not the protesters out there doing any of those things. In fact, they're always asking me questions about what is going on in general. And it just really solidified my thinking that if this is a showcase of how participation is, we really got to help leaders understand it more. Because not only do they need to influence the right people, but we need to sustain it. Right? So my experience earlier with the governorship was in the governor's office was, let's figure out I want to help people understand that their actions really do matter, influence. And then my experience even growing up, and then to now and looking back, is there's so much episodic environments that I just never really took advantage of in general. But I think that's for many people, I'm not the only one out there.

00:12:49 - Mike Spear
But it's funny how that stuff sticks with you.

00:12:52 - Derrick Feldmann
It does, yeah. I mean, many of the experiences overall, when I think about it through the years, I think built towards that one momentous experience when you're sitting in a body or a governmental body, hearing people being very honest and candid. About how a policy is going to affect their livelihood, that you start to realize, wow, I can't imagine my parents writing a note participating in that way. It must be really bad to think that was how naive I was, because it got to the point that this was the outlet that they thought. And because I grew up and it's like politicians are politicians and all of this kind of stuff, that that was their route to try to create change. And I remember taking that, and I forwarded onto the legislative aid, and I'm like, we should really listen to these people again, that kind of started the whole start for me for research in general.

00:13:51 - Mike Spear
Do you remember what the sort of compelling moment was for you, where you first started really doing this stuff on your own?

00:13:56 - Derrick Feldmann
Yeah, I mean, much of that happened when I was in college and then right after college in general, I had the internship piece of the governor. And then after that, I took a role in a position with an organization called Learning to Give, which was focused on educating K Twelve on philanthropic education and kind of like what we're talking about, civic engagement. I started to realize that when you start seeing the perspective of a lot of other people, you start to get more involved. Like myself in general, the people I lived within my apartment complex, in the city that I lived in, were experiencing things that I could witness and see. And this might just be the social science part of the job and the role that I have, but in addition to that is that consistent exposures to these issues and things really change the way that you approach future stuff. And I remember we had a situation where we had lost power and all of this stuff was happening in the community where I was living in at the time. And I remember someone knocking on the door once asking for some help. And I'm like, well, absolutely, it brought me back to the rural days, right? Like, why wouldn't we in general? And there were a couple of moments like that when you are living in the experiences with others, that you start to realize that while one perspective, the things affecting me are nowhere near the issues affecting the people that are next to me the neighbors that are hungry and the neighbors that are dealing with electricity and bills and stuff that I know nothing about. And then two is it doesn't take a lot to kind of help out a little bit. It doesn't take money, it takes a lot of other kinds of things. And so I had a little bit of those moments incrementally. But I will also say, too, is that there was this point when I was at Learning to Give, doing some other work, and I started to see a lot of young people because we were focused on K Twelve. And when I would see them get involved in stuff and then myself not getting involved, it felt a little tough. It was a little tough, but there was no pivotal moment. Like sort of that one kind of thing. But I would just say is that the more you do, the more perspective you gain for the issues around you that are often hidden. Like I mentioned earlier, around hunger was hidden in a way. And all these other issues like mental health and all these other kinds of things that I now address, you would never know it on face value. And I think that that was my naivete coming from, because in rural communities, you don't often talk about these issues. You just participate or engage or you don't.

00:16:31 - Mike Spear
You've done a ton of research, especially around millennials and employees sort of giving back and mobilizing. And a lot of your work is in sort of root causes and emotion and kind of what people respond to. So I'm curious for you personally, are you aware of what part of your personality you tap into when you start contributing in these ways?

00:16:50 - Derrick Feldmann
It was interesting. I wrote about this in the second book. There's some really good, obviously, neuroscience around the feeling one gets when performing acts, right, of social issue and support. I often talk about this too, when I speak with others, around the purpose of sometimes marches, protests and rallies and how good when you're out there, it's just the feeling you get because there's two parts of that that's really important. The first part of that feeling is comfort, knowing that people around you believe like you do. That's amazing because to this point, right, we live in a digital world, a digital society. I can literally perform a lot of these actions for my home and never really truly interact and have relationship. But the moment I go to a protest march or rally or one of these other kinds of things, if you get that feeling, that's what it feels around that camaraderie. The second part of that is that even if there is no outcome in that moment, the second part is that you feel that somehow progress might be made. And much of my experiences have been involved with family or friends or other kinds of things that have happened in my life in general, like most of us have had from somebody coming from a very small community, a rural community. And I go to other communities now, much bigger, and I see and witness those things. It's like, well, I don't think you understand what's happening. We just did this study recently with Alians. It's called the risk taker assessment of social movement leaders. You hear a lot of social movement research, leadership research, and much of that research is all around what people succeed at. And this was not only on what they failed at, but what were the risks coming at them. And you start to realize that some of the leaders put themselves out there in very vulnerable positions to fight for something, right? And when you talk with people about that vulnerability, they become very vulnerable with you, right? From a qualitative perspective. I remember listening to some of these when we were sitting down, and this study was only on the EU social movement leaders, not in the US. And much of those leaders talked about when you are vulnerable in that moment and you have people around you that love you and support you and lift you up, regardless of the people who are negative against you, it means the world and you need those moments. And I would say that at the beginning, most of the issues, not that we weren't confronting those when I was growing up, they were just probably some would say we weren't addressing the root causes, we were just helping people get through. But that's all we knew in that moment. And I think now what has changed for me is trying to get to the understanding of people's behaviors so we can get better at addressing and advocating for the root causes that are necessary in general. Because I've seen it work on the other end. And I think it's been those experiences, not necessarily one that I can point to, because, Candidly, as a researcher, we take every moment as a learning opportunity to figure out, okay, did that work? How do we reorganize that survey or study, and how do we look at qualitative better in general? But that's been some things for me that has been eye opening. And I honestly wish that one of the pieces more leaders get an opportunity to do is be exposed to other leaders who are risking a lot as well to learn from them how to build community, because that's the community that's really helping them in the global sense.

00:20:28 - Mike Spear
I think there's a lot tied to human nature in what you said. I heard sense of belonging, wanting to participate in something bigger than yourself, just the sort of psychological aspect of giving, being more rewarding long term than receiving safety and taking risk. What else should be on that list in terms of enabling people with a cause or with a movement they want to produce or expand the human nature, things you really have to tap into to be successful.

00:20:57 - Derrick Feldmann
There leaders that focus on action or engagement with their community or their movement or even a company is trying to get consumers involved, which Candidly, we work with a lot of companies now way more than we ever have. And much of that work centers around the behavior from the other side, not from the side of the person trying to incite it, right in general. Because the challenge about the people who want to incite action is sometimes I think they lose mindset around that. This issue, is it really that important or is it kind of like, yeah, all of those things. So I often talk first about where does the issue sit from the list. And I mean capital T, capital H, capital E, and the list is transportation, health, economics, and employment. These are basic needs people need to feel. And if those issues affect those kinds of things, now we're in a different ballgame. If it tends not to, and you're trying to get somebody to care about that, you're asking them to go way above how their brain operates. Because our brain is a path of least resistance. The brain isn't going to be like, hold on, really important issue that's affecting you. Let me take care of this other thing and bring it back in. That just doesn't work that way. So that is first and foremost, how does the issue stack up against the list in general? The second thing is that when you're thinking about behavior, you will always have people that feel that the reason for their actions well, they won't necessarily state it this way, but the reason that they do it is because the sense of belonging, like my mom did it because the Millers went and everybody else was doing it. It was on TV cultural moment, right? I mean, love her to death, but she was just doing it episodically. It is what it is. She belonged in the moment. There are so many moments that happen every single year of our time, right? And each of those moments creates opportunities for action. And it's our expectation that not all of those moments will actually produce people that will be interested longer term. So we move from this belonging state to the state in which that we actually have deep interest in it. And it's at the belonging state of our sense of exposure, our sense of exposure to those that need help or the beneficiaries in general. And it's also the sense of being exposed to the realities of the issue and its effects on populations and people overall. This is the storytelling that in your line of work in the past, right? Like really great storytelling and all that. Yeah. The storytelling aspect of that, though, the thing that's really key here that most people do not market towards is the receiver's knowledge, attitudes and beliefs already in existence, right? So when we're talking about storytelling for fundraising, you might do it in a certain approach, but storytelling in which that you are taking that person in the receiver's end current knowledge because you know what they know or don't know. You know how they approach that knowledge. You might have a very rural audience. You might be fairly conservative, or you might have that I came from in general that excites certain beliefs like, well, why wouldn't that be acceptable? Not because they're just trying to be difficult, but because they just don't know. They grew up in this familial cultural environment in general. It is the moment that you help them truly understand based upon those kabs knowledge, attitudes and beliefs and behaviors, that moves them into deeper engagement. The work that is not done effectively at that stage where we take into account the real receiver's knowledge attitude, the way they think about the issue into the way that we communicate about it will determine whether or not they engage. And what we mistake at that stage of is clicks and petition signings and all these other kinds of things as participatory interests. And it really isn't because you still don't know enough. You still don't have that base there. And then we kind of get to those that tend to lead. And when I say lead is that they self organize. They start to do other things because they're into it. You'd sell refrigerators, they're going to buy one tomorrow, right? But the vast majority of the public sits between the first two phases of belonging because of the moment cultural, familial, friends, everybody else is going to persuasion to all of that stuff and those that are somewhat knowledgeable or unknowledgeable. And it's our gain to help communicate together to sort of address those kabs in the work I do right now at the Ad Council, at the research institute where I spend half my mean, that's all I focus on a lot of is, okay, is every Gen Z person interested in climate change? Is it? When I hear that generalization, right, I'm like, wait a minute, so what do they know? What attitude are they coming at and who is being interviewed? Because when you start to put stuff out there to try to incite more participation and you're like, well, wait a minute, we did all the fundamentals of email marketing according to fundraising. I think the leaders need to understand that you're going to get a big belonging set. You're going to get Annette Feldman's, love her to death, but that's what's going to happen. And then you're going to have a population that moves out of that, that you really that's the sweet spot. That's the group that you spend time with and don't fool yourself with participatory interest.

00:26:32 - Mike Spear
You're categorizing folks in a way by sort of the initial interest to having more of a sense of belonging, to being a real leader, evangelist or organizer, personality wise, are those different people or there are things you can do to bring somebody from really just that initial conversion point to higher levels of ownership and action.

00:26:49 - Derrick Feldmann
It was interesting because I think you recall this at some point it's just like, okay, then all of a sudden they're going to volunteer and then they become a donor. It was like we have these stages, look at something related to this in which does the real involvement flow actually happen the way we do. And then what we discovered is that it does for some who are already predisposed to the issue, to the familial, to the culture around, yeah, that does happen. But what you're talking about is someone who is likely it's like kind of giving the scholarship to the person that was likely to get the scholarship already versus getting the scholarship to those who really need it in general. And you need those people. No leader would ever say, no, we're going to discard them because you need everybody and anybody to apply influence when necessary, whether it's through their own personal assets or anything else. But it is your job to try if you're really trying to get people to move from one stage to the other. I always say to leaders, and I. Say this a lot to corporate marketers that I work with who are trying to get their consumers engaged or do something. And social movement leaders is not everybody's interested in organizing and that's okay. It is completely. And the vast majority will sit in a state of brand recognition. And when you perform an ask that's very achievable for them, we'll do it. They will be a part of the movement. They don't need to lead it. And we have to get that in our head that that is okay. Because now here's the really important thing. You could spend hours and time and money on trying to get that ramp like we're that flow that we were just talking about with a few individuals, which will be fine, you'll get those. But the vast majority just want to remain consistently involved. Great donors, great supporters, whatever that support really means. It could be financial or non. When you need to call upon them, you need them to apply pressure at times because of certain issues. That's when it all comes back. That's when it's necessary in general. And so I think what's really important here is to understand is that not everybody is going to be the social movement leader and not everybody's going to organize. And those that do, great. It's like always saying when I compare people, when board members, I'll go into a board meeting, which I often I really don't spend a lot of time with boards but when I do they'll be like, well Derrick, I'm involved. When I hear the I am, I'm like, well wait a minute, you're on the board. The vast majority of the public's not going to be on a board in general. So we got to get that in our mindset about the population.

00:29:24 - Mike Spear
Great points, but I think it could also be seasonal in somebody's life. Maybe for a period of time I'm up for it and for a period of time I don't have the bandwidth and that should be okay too.

00:29:34 - Derrick Feldmann
So we do have this piece that we have done research on which kind of looks at the life cycle changes of individuals as they go through and the civic or participatory habits of it, philanthropic as well. And there's a couple of key things. There's usually about four factors that kind of go into it and you're going to notice the thematic when I get done. But I'm going to take age out for a minute because if anybody's done their research, if you know that the average age of a person in college is much higher than it used to be and so so forth. So it's been growing. But if you look at it right now, the person is financially independent. That means not on mom and dad's health insurance, not on anything. They're financially independent making own financial decisions. Second thing is when they're actually managing people, they are managing and responsible for the delivery of services for their company or for organization and they're overseeing individuals to do that. The third thing is partnership, marriage, spouse, and the last one is dependence. If you look at the thematic in all of that, how many social issues are in every you are now being exposed to the people you work around, challenges that they're going through. You're more empathetic, you're dealing with other issues that make you busy, other challenges to try to help and support your team members. The second thing is you're dealing with some very substantive financial familial issues and working through those and you do see a dip in participation over time and it goes back up once the individual understands and compensates. And I don't use that from a financial perspective, but compensates it for time, for every other kinds of things that they do. They've leveled out and they now can kind of get back into it and grow. In fact, one of the things that we do often in our screeners now, screening for people participation is that I can't have everybody who's figured life out in there. I got to have people who have kids in college and they're paying for it. I've got to have people who are managing and who are not being managed because the sample and the people we're getting information from has to be a better representation, not the overachievers that potentially are out there.

00:31:38 - Mike Spear
As people sort of move into higher levels of exposure, different experience with empathy and a sense of responsibility over others, they sort of engage with these different ways of being activists differently and issues.

00:31:51 - Derrick Feldmann
Will arise because of it. I have two daughters, eleven and 13. I also have been to work on a lot of mental health campaigns and this is the challenge of when work intersects with life and reality in a way. Right? If you were to ask me if an issue of mental health was of most importance ten years ago, to me, I would have said no. You could say, Well, Derrick, now we're opening up. More people are aware of mental health. That is true. However, I have two people in my household that I see their mental health on a daily basis with the usage of their device in so many other things. As a father of two girls who are at the teenage stage, preteen stage, and so that exposure to the issues that now are within my sphere is different than the exposures that I had earlier. And while I heard mental health is important five or seven years ago, it's not until I see it firsthand, right, literally in front of me, that I'm like, yeah, this is big, this is an issue in general.

00:32:49 - Mike Spear
In your last report, I was amazed to see that mental health was actually one of the top issues unseeding, like race relations and some of the other stuff.

00:32:57 - Derrick Feldmann
Mental health is so hard historically, such.

00:32:59 - Mike Spear
A stigmatized thing, and so hard to fundraise for and all these things, but now it's like right up there with people.

00:33:04 - Derrick Feldmann
It's a lot of the work that my colleagues at the Ad Council are doing related to some campaign work, CZ awkward, some mental health pillar work and so forth. And I think what we have to recognize in much of our reports and everything else is no, we actually have one coming up very soon, which is our 2022 year in review and there are some consistencies across there. I wouldn't necessarily look at it from what was top number one or number two, but rather what's in that top portion overall because it intersects with all of those. Right? If you look at race is in there, mental health, there's so many intersections on a lot of the social issues that affect 18 to 30 year olds, which is what we study right now. And much of those intersections are not done in sort of this vacuum where it's one issue and it's just that way. Much of it is contributors to it too as well. When you think about the needs of individuals across these lifespans and the issues that they're intersecting with, is that you start to get to a phase of where am I most comfortable and where am I not most comfortable, right? So it's like work's going good, but my family, you start diverting your attention and spans at times. We know that from a lot of the research we've done and many others that have validated in the work that they do too. When you look at the things that we take on from a personal perspective and so it's where do you spend your time and energies and so forth? And what is most important to you that brings you the best joy in that moment or the most important pieces? And that is the one thing that I often ask cause leaders and social movement leaders is to say you have to recognize that the population you're trying to recruit to engage at such a high level has the list that they're working on, which is also familiar related. And we're probably not going to be able to do it, but we will over time. It doesn't mean you give up, it just means that your expectation for this nice chart flow of increasing every year, of involvement with all this stuff that's out there, is like yeah, that's a world in which society is that sort of a constant in a way.

00:35:19 - Mike Spear
What's unique about Millennials, especially now that those guys control so much disposable income? What's different about Gen Z, if anything? And how has COVID changed the way people engage with costs?

00:35:29 - Derrick Feldmann
We led the Millennial Impact Project for a decade, ten years. I couldn't have done it without the Cases gene and Steve Case and the foundation and the work that they supported it throughout those ten years with Millennials. I think the biggest learning that we had coming out of that ten years worth of work is that a person doesn't view themselves as these labels that we often give people as a volunteer or a donor. They're just a supporter of a cause or an issue. And we attempted probably about halfway through to try to help the field understand that that stuff's not as important as helping them understand that every action they have, has value. Some would say, well, wait a minute, money is more value. They would go through this whole thing, and I have to go through this whole exercise together. And I said, yes, but people also view their vote having more value right now than say, giving you ten more dollars because this person might vote on the issue affecting what you're doing. Again, it kind of gets back to my previous work a long time ago. One of the major things coming out of that and that has remained consistent and actually has built what we would call we did a study for points of light around the civic circle, which looks at all the civic actions that one takes and where the most influence can happen. And what's interesting is that we kind of started out thinking that donations was behaviorally one of the most important influences, and we left after ten years saying participation in so many different ways creates so much influence in general. And that holds true today and specifically around that. Millennials en masse in voting has such an opportunity. It just is. It just really is. And with the fact of disposable incomes, you hear all the folks focused on transfer of wealth stuff. It was big, but it wasn't something that we monitor as much because we know usually that number is not reported with all of the strings attached to that money. So it's kind of like millennials aren't just going to give Free Willy money and it's just going to be great. So we spent more time trying to see, okay, what actions are they taking? And most of those actions were voting related buying decisions. There were all of the things that were secondary effects on social issues and causes in general. That piece is very true. The other thing too, and it's happening if you look at generational studies, more dollars are made from older generations, and now millennials, they're opening up. If you looked at when we were compared to now, that trend is true. So they are your young donors for those that are just financially focused still because Gen Z is not there, and I mean older millennials in general too. And lastly, I would say is that a lot of millennials are in management right now, and so much of their social issue, interest, participation, and acceptance of things is happening through workplaces too as well, where they've kind of helped that kind of piece happen. Now, I will say, though, and this is often a myth, it's like millennials created that. That's not true. Gen X started that millennials just didn't amount of people that really helped reinforce some of those kinds of policies. And now they're making those policies in general too, along with their Gen Xers and leaders. When we think about Gen Z, I will say for us the financial aspect is incredibly low, rightfully so, low resources and everything else. But what we are seeing way more of than what we have seen. If you compare the ten years of studies that we did to the studies that we're doing now underneath our cause and Social Influence banner, which is 18 to 30 year olds, we're not focused on generation, we're focused on age courts. What we see is just political issues are cause issues constantly. While we were in the millennial, if you were looking at comparatives, we would think like, we'd see other kind of non political issues in there consistently and really women's rights and all of those were a part of it, but it wasn't as strong as where it is now in general. And so our political cultural moments have definitely overtaken as the main issues of Gen Z as compared to when we were doing some of our millennial studies. With millennials, a lot of our work was looking at technologies too, right, that were being used, social media platforms primarily. It's interesting to note that in a lot of the work I do right now with Gen Z and we look at influences to that behavior, there is this sort of growing skepticism, a little bit of some of the online stuff. It's like, yeah, I'm not surprised they're promoting it, they're an influencer like those kinds of things. So there's still awareness building, but trust is definitely being built within small friendship groups still, where I think we're just still learning about a lot of the social media platform use and causes and so forth. On the other side, hopefully your listeners don't take that as a don't do it. That's not the case. There's more cognizant recognition and appreciation of the limitations and usage of social media and Gen Z is fairly smart and authentic and can kind of sniff it out fairly quick.

00:40:26 - Mike Spear
How much of it do you think is just them trying to avoid the transactional nature that comes with giving? Quite a bit. I feel like millennials as well really want to have that personal significance, that personal sense of belonging, and the feeling that they're being asked to give something unique about themselves rather than some cash. How true is that in general, and does that resonate at all with your work with the Gen Z's and other groups?

00:40:49 - Derrick Feldmann
Giving and philanthropic behavior is very low in Gen Z from a financial perspective. And so when we look at it, we're like, okay, we kind of take the same common piece that many others might do at that point. Or the assumption, right, let's test the assumption. Is it because they don't have financial resources or what's the reason? So we do tons of interviews, we do some qualitative and some quant and we find that they just don't feel that giving is as effective as a mode of change. And that tends to be the highest driving reason for behavior that we've been able to track and see not the transactional nature of it, but rather it's like well, I can get more attention this way, I can get more change to happen this way. And so it's almost like a cost based analysis of where can my actions be the most fruitful. What's interesting, by the way, in our year in review, we also asked young people to help us, social movement leaders or researchers who are like let me help you analyze and evaluate if your social movement is successful. I always like to ask the people who participate what their viewpoints are on whether it's successful. So what do you think a young person believes they measure social movement success upon policy change? No, you would think that would be number one. It was more about behaviors and culture and people around them. And that was done through attention. It was an attention style environment. It's like I want to know that other people know about this to try to correct their own behaviors. It's a cultural change because in social movements you have two types of movements. You have movements that are looking for policy change. You have movements that are looking for cultural behavioral change. Now, you kind of want the two to intersect. You want the two to be a part of one another. But it doesn't always happen that way. So for instance, you can have a policy change and still people behaving the way they want to, right? So health care or anything else, right? And then when you think about the cultural side of it you can have marriage as a law or legal or gay marriage but it may not be culturally accepted. So when you think about the social movement side of it, when you ask young people well, wait a minute, what do you think is success? Is that it basically comes down to knowledge and attitudes and behaviors and beliefs are changed in addition to policy but let's put one before the other in general around them. But I think that that's an important piece is to look at the perspective. And when we usually think about transactions or giving, it just has always been fairly low and I mean low. To give you an idea, it's like 5% of they believe it's, we'll get less than 10% effectiveness 5671 time we had it at twelve and that was during COVID because people were trying to give resources and money which I'm going to come to, which is a part of your COVID question in a second. So I think that what we are seeing right now is a change in belief in what is effective from the individual participant level. Now, I know some cause leaders are going to be like, I hear you, I recognize it, but you have to understand how it's perceived right from the other end of it in general. Now let's talk about COVID Where we saw changes was direct service product. Like all of that stuff, donations, funds, all of that had dramatically increased in all of our studies. Double, quadruple. And then it has since that time, gotten and flattened back to where it was before. So that was the dramatic difference where actions of all the typical other social movement actions were sort of lessened in what they believed was needed in that moment. And direct support and access was such as it was almost like natural disaster, behavioral in general, than what we've seen.

00:44:36 - Mike Spear
Once somebody starts on a campaign, signs up for something, they volunteer, they give, or whatever their entry point is, how do you keep them involved over time? And how much of that is are you able to shift from an emotional sort of person to person view of things towards impact data or policy change, things that are a bit more abstract?

00:44:58 - Derrick Feldmann
Over the course of the last ten to 15 years, there have been great new technologies to make giving as a transaction easier. New technologies that help to incite actions that we didn't have before. That was just truly amazing. I mean, the first year of our millennial impact site, we didn't even incorporate some of the social media platforms in it because they weren't really there yet. I mean, they were there were like, okay, we got to kind of do it the next year, right? So I think the reason that while it was always there, and I agree with you, the reason our attention moves towards the other places, because we have tools to make those pieces easier, but it's harder to make the motivational side easier, right? So I can make transactions and other stuff happen. Now, to get to your point, and this is the piece that is so crucial, I will talk with a leader constantly about what are you doing to keep people involved? And they immediately go to the digital side. Always. I'm like, okay, but here's the thing. So I want to backtrack to how individuals look at progress in general. I always love the studies that it's like these people want to see the impact of their gifts. That is the worst survey question ever. There isn't a person in America that would say, well, you know, I don't want to see the impact of my gifts. I mean, that's going to happen, right? So let's get past that point, which is, is it impact reporting? Is it any of those stuff? Or when you sit down with all kinds of people who are in those different lifecycle stages, everybody kind of sums it up like this. I just want to know if I gave of anything, my time, my money, my assets, my resource, whatever it is that something happened with it, something good. I don't think we need to solve something tomorrow. I just want to know that something was helped, some progress was made and that's about all. I think what we are looking for at times is trying to report like these whole big kind of things when the vast majority are just looking to say that you did something with something I gave you that I thought was valuable and it's another reason to maintain involvement. Now the second part of this that's even bigger to that piece is that we all need to look forward to something. We all need to look forward to a piece that we can work on or work towards. When I see a very uninvolved population of constituents, it tends to be from those individuals who haven't been placed with a milestone of achievement as a collective together overall they haven't been presented with something, not a 2030 goal, not a 2050 goal. But what is it that we supporters of this issue no matter what that support comes in, what are we all fighting for that we can achieve together in six months or a year? That makes me want to stay involved because it's such within reach. That's the difference between keeping involvement. Now there are tools like email, all that other stuff that helps that. But you as a leader have to create milestones of issue achievement for your constituents to rally around, to get excited about, to get their fellow friends involved, to communicate and participate with in general. If you don't do that, it is no surprise that you sent me the direct mail letter in December and I don't really hear anything, I don't have anything to work towards or work for. I'm going to lose interest naturally regardless of how beautiful that email is. And you did everything technologically correct. And so that milestone is based upon progress and the person feeling that they had a contribution to that progress. That's the secret to a lot of the engagement that is often missing. Our engagement is okay, opportunities to get them more involved that don't ever communicate, don't ever really communicate about what we're fighting for together and what's in reach and what I need to be involved with. So that's where we need to head.

00:49:22 - Mike Spear
How does that feeling of just doing something that helps somebody someplace connect, if at all, with things like the effective altruism movement, the desire to really tackle only the high impact programs or focus on solving root causes, that sort of thing?

00:49:38 - Derrick Feldmann
Well, I think you're talking about the difference between a slice of the population who is their job or high interest to determine impact, right? Versus those that want to know they're having of impact in general. It's like saying the board members behaviors rep reflect the population's behaviors. And that doesn't work out that way because my studies only focus on the general population. I always tell somebody they'll be like derek, can you talk to us? Major donor or major gift officers? I'm like you guys are going to hate the stuff I say. So probably know in general I'm not your guy. There's probably better folks because my focus is on those the swath of the large American population or any international population that we work with to try to get them to be activated and involved. Will they be your biggest donors? No. But a force as a collective, they're pretty powerful, right? And they got a lot of resources in general and so there are some in there. Here is the thing, though. At the end of the day, I will have people signal in studies I do a lot of due diligence on, okay, can you share with me the transactions that you gave to in the last year? And I look in there and there's tons of episodic giving because it's natural. There's tons of all other kinds of giving in there that goes they didn't put their standard against it because when we see challenge pain, we're human, we're empathetic people, we're going to react. That is going to happen, so to say. And from the effective altruism movement that you only make those decisions that you're trying to say in a moment of challenge pain in society, you're going to kind of dismiss the empathetic feeling that you're going to get in that moment to step in to try to do all of the other things necessary. Now, some might say, yes, that needs to happen. Okay. But I can also say that the vast majority of the population is not going down that decision making process. And those vast majority of those are going to be the people that you need to show that the issue has strength, it has a community, and it has some influence in some way, shape or form.

00:51:53 - Mike Spear
Even if we're not being as narrow, say, as effective altruisms handful of organizations they put forward. If you think people are interested in understanding the nitty gritty behind the causes they're donating to or understanding that this program is better than that program empirically for these reasons, or it does it not enter the conversation as much?

00:52:15 - Derrick Feldmann
We did a field test once in an email and a direct mail. We put the CEO's phone number, cell phone number in it and said, if any of you want to call us, call me personally to talk about how we'll use your gifts. My cell phone is below. You can do it. How many phone calls did they get? Zero. We even bought a list, by the way. But when we post surveyed individuals who donated and we said what was one of the first time, they said it was really great to see how transparent they were, knowing that if they wanted to, they would. So now we're getting into desires versus behaviors. Right. So I agree with you that every organization that's listening to this should absolutely, 100% do as much transparently as they can to show impact. And even if you want to put the cell phone number out there, but realizing that the signal sometimes that we get. Because sometimes when you are operating those things in vacuums and asking questions, it's acceptance bias. I don't want to look bad but we have to recognize the realities of that that intersects with the realities of the world that are living in. So I don't think what I would say is every leader should do everything impossible to show transparency and talk about impact as much as you can. We should be also recognizing that not every person is doing the evaluative environment that some that maybe get more attention in the philanthropy media might be doing. Makes sense, right? And since the general population is the vast majority of funding 70% of the dollars right? Or individual donors and so forth, then I think we kind of have to look at it and say what is involvement really mean for us? How do we ensure that we create opportunities over the year to address milestones and keep them involved that way? Because just because they're a member, just because they gave one and you don't have them working towards something even if it's attention or anything else towards the next milestone you're trying to achieve, there's no reason really to follow other than just pure passion and desire and interest and that can be easily taken up.

00:54:40 - Mike Spear
I'm curious for all these groups that we've talked about and even the human nature side, do people engage with causes differently in a corporate employee environment? What do you see there? And how can organizations do more than just the greenwashing stuff? How do they really incorporate social impact work into their corporate cultures?

00:55:02 - Derrick Feldmann
Some background for the listeners so we run a research initiative. We have several. One is on Cause and Social Influence which is sort of the post millennial impact studies and that looks at 18 to 30 year old social movement, social issue behaviors and actions and influences because we're pretty good on what they're going to do. It's sort of like who's influencing that behavior is really important. Another study that we do tangentially is called the Corporate Social Mind and that piece is looking at consumer and employee perceptions of corporate social behaviors overall. So we do general population and we do a comparative actually between two countries the US. And Germany to try to see some differences along with my colleagues in Europe. A lot of that study is looking at especially at a time right now, corporate social issue involvement with big issues topics. So we usually take like four or five in the US. Four or five in Germany. We look at issues as relates to migration, immigration across countries and then social behavior. What's interesting on the Corporate Social Mind is that there is still a high expectation that companies are involved in social issues. But now. Here's the interesting part of that. It doesn't necessarily mean that they want to be involved from a consumer standpoint with that company. So it's kind of like you should be doing that. Don't expect me to be involved in doing it with you for you or on your behalf in general. So we got to keep that in our perspective because when I work with and I mostly work with marketing teams like CMOS and others that are doing brand integrations, social issue integrations and so forth. And in much of that work I often talk about it is, okay, what is your outcome of this in general? Why do you want to take on this issue? And while some come to us and want to do the issue of the moment, and we're always like, sorry, we can't help you, because I can kind of sniff that out fairly quick. The folks that do want to do something more long term, and we work with folks like Biostorf, who owns the parent company in Ivy. I used to run an Aquifer globally to. We've done work with American Eagle or Levi's and know the companies that are interested in working on social issues, see them as how do we use our platform to generate awareness and engagement not with us on our behalf, but within the issue, because they might be affected by it. And one of the best ways is that and I often talk to CEOs about this when they're about ready to handle a social issue or work on one, is you really don't need to be the loudest voice in the room. I know that sometimes people expect you to be because of your company. Is that convene four or five nonprofits and say, we're here to learn from you, and how do we build you all up together with us and use our platform to work on things, especially when it comes to like, mental health or some other kind of campaign efforts. And so the companies that I have worked with are not looking at it from a pure philanthropic perspective. Most of them are developing initiatives or supporting initiatives that are in existence and saying, okay, so this is our platform, and if we were to drive, say, 100,000 consumers your way, what would that do? How can we help them? We're going to give you funds to support them. We want to bolster your work that way. Much more strategic and smart decisions when it comes to it. You should also know that we do a lot of risk assessments for companies to determine how the public is going to perceive their involvement with a social issue, which this is the moment that I love, because when we produce that report and we sit down with them, I'll be like, you know what? 80% of your consumers are with you, 20% are not. And you're like, wow, okay, so now is the moment to see and determine what they're going to do it's like right side of history or not. But I have a client that's like, it's got to be 90. I needed to get 90. And I'm like and I've got other clients that are like, we're going for it. It's 60 40. You just don't know in the moment sometimes. What I would say is that those companies have usually taken this kind of gets to the employee side of it, have usually taken a cue from their employees first because those are the people that are most closest to them. Because everybody wants to preserve talent as much as they can. Financial reasons are challenging, but good talent, you keep them, you want to engage them. And social issues are important to people because they're being personally affected by all the things we talked about. And the biggest thing employees can do is to talk to their employers about using the employer platform in some way. It's not just donations, it's much more than that. And communications and awareness, building that knowledge and attitude and all of that other kind of stuff in general. So what's really key here? When I think about companies that the best ones have never had the loudest voice in the room, they usually have worked with some collectives in certain ways. Their goal has been to educate, build that knowledge, shift some attitudes of the consumer audiences that might be affected by the social issues that they're working on. And from there, that kind of looks at, okay, how do we support organizations in a meaningful way that not only supports their operations and so forth, but also supports the people who might be driving there in general because we don't want to create inefficient systems for them in our partnerships in general. On the employee side, what we need to do is obviously create the mechanisms for people to be heard, right? And when they're being heard and they're being understood is how do we create a platform for any employee to use their voice through us, to use many different ways in which they can be effective in general. And most of the time that's done through some ERG work. But what I find really important is that we let our employees help us understand the realities of the consumer public too as well. I work with companies that ask employees to go ask their friends and family how are they being affected by issues. They become our eyes and ears out in the community to help us truly understand the communities that we live in, what they're dealing with. Because it's very easy to be wrapped up in sort of your own little bubble, especially in certain things. And so employees are great connectors into community and not just to organizations they're involved with, but from a social research perspective, helping us understand what families are dealing with in communities that need help.

01:01:28 - Mike Spear
How would you recommend or what have you seen as effective in terms of taking these values, sort of social impact, sort of ideals that may be talked about in the C suite or know in the company ethos, but driving alignment and making it tangible for folks on the front line.

01:01:44 - Derrick Feldmann
With Levi's it's all like how do we encourage and engage every aspect of our business into it? In the book, too. I talk about Aerie. Their president Jennifer is just truly she will take store footprints. She'll do whatever she can to communicate about young girls and food and environments and mental health and it's just great. I think one of the aspects that companies today is to look at the sort of intangible assets that they have that are really so effective. A lot of the partnerships that I work with, for the brands I work with, money is always a secondary thing. It's a conversation that happens at the end. It's not one that is a conversation at the beginning. A conversation at the beginning is where are you going? What are you doing? We feel like our consumers and our employees are affected. What do we need to learn and know and how can we achieve what you are interested in achieving as a collective too as well? And it has been so much better that way overall and you can measure effectiveness much better in general and with employee and corporate platforms that are out there right now. One of the interesting things on a piece of research I worked at the iCouncil Research Institute is called Trusted Messengers. And in rural communities, including where I kind of grew up and in suburban communities as well as in some urban, the local business leader is a really great trusted messenger of information for many, right? It's like well in the rural perspective we always looked at as well, they've made that successful business. They got to be and so business leaders are trusted messengers for many things and there are platforms and ways that they can be involved with as well. And I think that the best leaders out there are ones that lift up the organizations and the issues before themselves and the company and have figured out collective impact before they've decided that they're going to make investment impact in some way. And lastly, the corporations, at least the ones that I have looked at too is that have done a lot of really great research to try to understand what aspect of the issue they can actually help sort of move the needle on together with somebody versus just coming in. And specifically what that means is it's where they add value. In fact, in our slide deck we'll talk to a company and say at the end from our research, this is specifically where an initiative can add value. And here, and I am very clear here are the places where you will not. And we have to accept that, that we as companies and leaders can't do everything but we can add value and we got to find where that value is. So that requires some time and research for sure.

01:04:39 - Mike Spear
What do you think is on the horizon for nonprofit fundraising, for cause related work and for some of these companies that want to do more than just essentially maximize shareholder value?

01:04:49 - Derrick Feldmann
I think part of it is understanding from the corporation's perspective that our company isn't in isolation and island by itself. It has employees that come from the community. It has vendors that represent families. It's got so suppliers that do the once you start to recognize the intricacies of the networks of things that make business happen start to realize there's real people, there's real things, there's real society around it overall. That's the mindset we discuss. And when you think about it from that perspective, you start seeing that from a corporate mindset that risk and challenge from political, cultural and social movements and issues are going to cause disruptions. And whether we take a stance or not, there will be other issues in the future that will come at us because the people that are in our society are going to be affected and they are going to have all these other intricacies too as well. And as I always talk, it's like well, how do we take a line here and don't take a line there? There is no easy answer. You have to look at it from the perspective of these kinds of moments and what the values are and where they represent within the company. Now that is a line you'll often hear from consultants. But usually what you would say to that is do we as a company want to stand behind inaction or this kind of when you start presenting actual action and assess where you would be with those steps, that's different than just saying we're coming out with this kind of thing. I think we now live in a society we need to assess where our involvement and how it will look across many different social issues and spectrums. And it's not one size fits all because there's just complexity. There's gray stuff everywhere that exists and you want to be inclusive. You want to try to be inclusive to ideas that are not ones that are of your own either in general. And so as I look at it is to say if you're pretty solid on what you stand for, the rest of the decisions usually can come in line. The person who says the 60 40, they made their decision solely based on what they felt was what the company needed to do based upon their value set person that was 90 was like, well, I'm unsure a little bit now. It's just always waffles to me because then I kind of look at it and say I wonder how strong the internal culture is if you're going to get pushback in general. So I think for corporations going forward, I think we're out of the episodic environments. We're really looking at initiatives adding value because some and rightfully so have been burnt in the past appropriately for their participation, again rightfully so for the future of corporate social issue involvement. I think the company has so many other platforms and assets because they into themselves are a trusted messenger and that's an important key piece on nonprofit fundraising and all those other kinds of things. I think we all recognize that individuals have much more to do than money and volunteering. So that narrative when we started to shift that from the research kind of taking ground, I'm not saying we're responsible for it, but many others too are as well. I think we've realized the capacities of the human population to have do more. A lot of organizations in the future are going to get better at maintaining interest because they're fighting for something and they know it. And you have really great communicators coming up into leadership that know how to parse out milestones and communicate about those milestones along the way. And I think more and more organizations are going to operate like social movement style organizations of the past to now, because the tools will be easier. And it's not so much just about service delivery, but it's about what we stand for across all communities and how we're going to mobilize people in general in this line of work. I've seen that happen more and more where organizations come and say we want to shift to a more movement style. And I'm like what does that mean in general? What it usually comes down to is we want to put something out there and fight for it because we can't just deliver and not fight for the issue. At the same time, at this point.

01:09:01 - Mike Spear
What'S the path not taken for you personally? If you weren't doing this kind of work, what would you be doing?

01:09:06 - Derrick Feldmann
I actually went to southeast Missouri. I got a criminal justice major and a minor in zoology. I had no idea what I was going to do. Zoo cop or something, right? I originally thought an architect from there I would really probably be a teacher. Yeah, I mean I love teaching what I do now as well. It's fantastic. It's fun. It's fun to see up and coming leaders who are really trying to learn as well as ones who have really been in the system for a while and so on. So I think that would probably been the path in general now after looking back at it. But if you would have asked me early on, I would have said an architect or something in marine biology, but that didn't really work out of all.

01:09:45 - Mike Spear
The cause areas that are out there, there are many important ones for you personally. What do you think is the most important thing we can tackle right now?

01:09:53 - Derrick Feldmann
Hunger. I mean, we produce enough food in America to feed everybody, but our neighbors are in need and hunger. So that's a challenge that I think is fixable based upon the production. It's not a supply chain. It's like it is and it isn't. So I think that that's an issue that we addressed and I work closely with Feeding America and it's great. They're working hard. The second issue is just and this comes down the economic remember, the list is kind of the health and economic side of it. And I mean, wage and employment, it's just know when you see multiple jobs, all of those the economic side, and you talk about lifecycle changes and the reason why it probably hits me more. If I was not in this job, I don't think I would have said that one because I wouldn't have exposed to it. But when you're like when you start to interview, survey, do as much research as we do because we have to have representative samples, you start to hear it and see it and witness it firsthand. Especially when we do ethnography pieces. So that piece is really challenging because it affects family, it affects so many things in general. Other thing on a slight piece and I had a liver transplant six years ago and so I encourage everybody to be an organ donor. The person that I got a liver from saved seven people besides me. So if you really want to have personal impact that is a great way to so that is another thing that I'm personally involved with because I am the direct recipient of that. So to the point that we were talking about earlier, nowhere near would have ever said that until this happened.

01:11:30 - Mike Spear
When you're ready to move on to a new chapter, what would you like to have accomplished with the work that you're doing now?

01:11:36 - Derrick Feldmann
This is interesting because a lot of the stuff I do now I'll be at a conference or an event like we use your research all the time. You never know. You see people clicks and I get all these reports and stuff and I'm like what if that's just a bot and nobody's really doing any of it. It'll be great. I'll go to a conference and they're like thank you, that piece is great. And I think so when I'm all done I am hopeful that and this happens a little bit now already but that cause leaders use it and it really helped we have more people fighting for our issue because we took a cue from what we learned from you. That would be amazing because that's what our intention has always been overall and it's interesting because when I think about research it's like either to prove or disprove something. Sometimes it's how people approach it and I don't it's all like okay, so here's another piece to the puzzle, right? We're all trying to figure this stuff out, getting closer and closer every day but doesn't mean we have a lot more to do. But at least people are learning along the way with us and it's kind of like happening in that manner. So that is the biggest thing that would be hopeful. I will say it's interesting that my kids now kind of they're like, dad, I Googled you, you wrote a book. I'm like, well, not just one, but that's fine. It has been interesting because they have come to me with a lot of questions around current events and it's been fun to inform and educate and to try to provide all sides of all stories, which is as a researcher, we have to do so. Hopefully they'll take that and learn from that is kind of the other big thing. But it's kind of interesting to see when your kids are growing up in a lot of these issues that you're studying.

01:13:27 - Mike Spear
Lastly, what's next for you and for the work and how can people get in touch and access the great information you're putting out there?

01:13:34 - Derrick Feldmann
We produce cause and social influence every quarter and then an annual review so we produce that every quarter. Corporate social mind we produce at least once or twice a year, imperatives in general so you can all find that on You can find those two studies. All the research that we produced at the Ad Council that I produced with them since I lead the research institute there can be found at the Research Institute there's really great studies if you're a marketer interested in trusted messengers on certain social issues. We've got great reports on everything from voting to loneliness and from the pandemic we did tons of COVID stuff, you name it. So lots of really great there and some really good interesting stuff coming out on mental health in the future as well. So those are great resources. And then the books and stuff you can find at my website. Derrick in addition to those research studies I'll be producing the next book which is going to be on the we're going to be breaking down the socially conscious consumer. So one of the myths in the field is that all gen Z is this anytime I hear the word all, I'm like immediately we're going to do something in general but marketers a lot times talk about socially conscious consumers and then there's even socially conscious consumers that don't even consume the goods, but they're socially active and activists in general. So we'll be doing something on that. In addition, there will be some work being done, more on the movement side of my work through Oxford that I work at the school centers as a research fellow over there. So yeah, thanks for the time.

01:15:02 - Mike Spear
Well, thanks so much man. It's great to catch up. Thanks for the time and the insight. Thanks so much, really appreciate it.

01:15:07 - Derrick Feldmann
Absolutely. All right, take care my friend.

01:15:12 - Mike Spear
Well, that's our show. Big thank you to Derrick for taking time out of his schedule to speak with us for more information about Derrick's work, find him on LinkedIn or check out the show If you enjoyed the show, please follow, subscribe or leave a review. Wherever you listen to podcasts or share the link with any friends or colleagues you think might find it valuable. We've got another great show in store for you. Next week, Matt Scott will join us for his second appearance on Cause and Purpose. He just published a new book called The High Growth Nonprofit. He has a ton to update us on and some new stories to tell. Hope you can join us. Until then, Cause and Purpose is a production of On behalf of myself, Derrick and our entire team, thank you so much for listening me, and we look forward to speaking with you again sooner.

People in this episode

Mike Spear

Social entrepreneur, consultant, and podcast producer, Spear has been a member and critic of the impact sector since 2006. His work spans product, innovation, impact advising, storytelling, and go-to-market strategies. Part of the founding team at, specializing in helping social good organizations build amazing products, increase their impact, and scale.

Derrick Feldmann

Researcher | Author | Advisor


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