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Axelson Symposium Attracts Nonprofit Leaders to Explore Changing Demographics


CHICAGO, IL (May 17, 2007) – Nonprofit organizations must communicate across rapidly changing "media platforms" to all generations if they are to succeed, John R. Morse, president and founder of the research firm Byron Media, Inc, told attendees at a luncheon during the 2007 Axelson Symposium Wednesday on the campus of North Park University.

"Media will change more in the next five years than in the last 50," Morse said.

Four hundred people attended the 2007 Axelson Symposium which is sponsored by the University's Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management. The event focused on the impact of changing demographics.

In his luncheon keynote address, Morse acknowledged that differences among generations exist but noted that commonality, including the increasing use of various electronic media, is often overlooked.

Commonalities also include the drop in personal contact. Studies show, he said, that in 1975, 50 percent of poll respondents said they had visited a friend's home in the past week. In 2006, that number fell to only 18 percent. He attributed the decline in part to the "tremendous increase in contacts by telephone."

Email also is replacing personal contact. People age 61 and over are increasingly using the "new media." The change is coming "thanks in large part to their grandchildren," Morse said. Also contributing to the trend is the addition of computer rooms that give access to residents of retirement communities.

Virtual communities are emerging, however, and all generations are more comfortable communicating electronically, Morse said. As a result, nonprofits will have to communicate simultaneously via television, the internet, and text messaging.

The number of Americans multi-tasking electronically continues to climb, Morse said, noting that 25 percent of people watching television also are on the internet at the same time. Often, they are accessing the web sites of the shows they are watching because the programs give opportunity for feedback.

As a result, nonprofits also will need to provide more opportunities for feedback electronically, he said. Web sites will need to include blogs, for example.

Morse said electronic communities are different in intent from traditional forms. "You don't build (electronic) community; you join it," he explained.

He added that "self-expression is the primary driver of participants. That desire is evidenced in the explosion of blogs."

The daylong symposium, which has become a nationally recognized event, featured leading researchers, scholars and practitioners sharing their expertise on critical questions and strategic options. Three plenary and numerous breakout sessions offered participants the opportunity to explore interests such as art and culture, religious and faith-based organizations, education, healthcare, human services, and associations. Other sessions explored implications for governance, fundraising, programming, human resources, financial strategies, marketing and strategic issues.