Many associations are in the midst of a membership flatline or even decline. In 2017, roughly 62% of associations in the U.S. identified as being in this group. This membership decline has many contributing factors, one of which being the lack of generational diversity. This gap could point to the disconnect in how associations understand the importance of age diversity and what younger professionals want.
A case for generational diversity
Age diversity is essential to every association’s success. A wide representation of generations in an association will give voice to difference perspectives, career backgrounds and life experiences. A diverse group of colleagues has been proven to make individuals work harder, think more creatively and preform more diligently. Plus, adding younger professionals to the mix will ensure the association will continue once more experienced professionals retire from the workforce.
Now that Millennials—also known as Gen Y, individuals born between 1981 and 1996—make up one third of the workforce it’s even more important to invite them to engage your association. But how do you engage young members? It’s up to you to learn about who they are as well as what they care about and are looking for in an association membership. Use these tips not only in your membership engagement programs but in your overall association marketing strategies.
What Millennials want
You may hear Millennials blamed for the demise of many things, including home ownership, diamonds, golf, department stores and the 9-5 work week. Though there may be elements of truth to these accusations, the talents and values of these young professionals are worth exploring at a deeper level. Then, use the provided suggestions to engage these values in the form of association membership.
- The latest technology: Members of this generation were kids during the birth of the Internet, rendering them tech-savvy at a young age. This is a quality they have brought to the workforce and seamlessly use various forms of technology in both their personal and professional lives. They are also quick to learn and adapt to new technologies.
Steps to take
- Be active on social media channels and engage with your members in this space. Social media is one of the first places Millennials will look to evaluate if your association is right for them.
- Make sure your website is always updated with current information and is optimized for mobile.
- Consider developing an app just for member of your association to use (The American Library Association is a great example of an association that did so with great success.)
- Be open to suggestions of new types of technology the association should explore.
- Making a difference: Feeling fulfilled by both their career and personal life is a quality unique to this generation. Millennials want to make a difference in every aspect of their lives. They care about causes that reflect their values and are willing spend their time and money supporting them. This is especially relevant right now. According to the 2017 Millennial Impact Report, Millennials’ cause engagement through activism increased in the first quarter of 2017, with the November 2016 election listed as a turning point.
Steps to take:
- Clearly show how becoming a member makes a difference or how the association is working for the greater good.
- Highlight your association’s involvement in the community or industry. If there are additional causes or organizations your association supports, demonstrate this across all digital channels and website and offer ways for members to get involved.
- Connection: More than 70% of Millennials in the workplace want their co-workers to function like a second family in a fun and social work environment, according to a poll conducted by PGI. That same poll found 75% of them desire mentors, citing mentorships as crucial to career success. Collaborative and team settings are important to Millennials, since they highly value connection with friends and colleagues both in person and online.
Steps to take:
- Offer mentorship programs. This is a great way to integrate young members with members from older generations.
- Social media groups or online forums are a great way to tap into this generation’s tech skills while offering the opportunity for members to connect outside of in person meetings.
Don’t forget the newcomers: Gen Z is already here
The focus rightly rests on Millennials as the largest generation in the workforce, but what about those who come after? Enter Gen Z. Born between 1996 and 2010, the oldest in this generation are just starting their careers. This group is even more tech-savvy than Millennials since they were born into a culture already saturated with smart phones, computers and social media. They learn quickly and are looking for a company or association where they feel heard and valued. According to a survey by David Stillman, 84% of Gen Z participants expressed face-to-face connection as being their preferred communication style.
Steps to take:
- Give your members the opportunity to provide feedback about your associations.
- Think outside the box when considering ways to connect with Gen Z online. Consider a YouTube video series or creating a Snapchat account.
- Offer a career development workshops to help members of this young generation feel at ease in the workplace
Stay open to adjusting your membership strategy while we learn more about Gen Z as professionals and they find their footing in the workplace.
It’s worth the time it takes to slightly adjust your approach when recruiting new association members of different generations. Boosting generational diversity through targeting young members could be just the second wind your association needs.
Have you found success in a diversified approach to member recruitment? We’d love to hear what the key to engaging your members and gaining new ones has been.