The New Recruit: What Your Association Needs to Know About X, Y, & Z
…those being the Millenial generations!
by Sarah Sladek
Boomers want a successful career and to make the world a better place; membership associations help them do both. However, this relevance is lost on younger generations who are already doing these things without a career or experience.
I recently had a conversation with a board member about promoting community arts events and new ideas to tap into a wider audience. He remarked–uncreatively, I though–that ‘under 40s’ weren’t their target market since their families took all of their time and money.
Quick ideas to ponder from the organization Women of Today:
• Totally electronic communications
• ‘Big sister’ mentors
• Leadership, public speaking, and professional development opportunities
‘What’s in it for ME?’ younger generations ask. Although organizations have been trying to answer this regarding their target markets for years, Gen X demands answers, and since they can get the benefits that associations traditionally offer in so many alternative ways, if they don’t have a sense of belonging, they’re not going to join.
What young folks, in general, want from an association:
o Must have a sense of belonging–an invite, not a form
o Age-specific networking opportunities, career-building , making a difference,
o although time-sensitive, so employ virtual career and networking opportunities
o One-time projects, make decisions (meetings–ugh!)–episodic volunteers, just like new retirees
o Opportunity to lead a group or oversee a task
o Marketing materials make a strong first impression–straigtforward, online. Appeal to all generations’ needs in your bullet points! Case studies should profile how membership has made a difference in careers.
Membership will take longer, as it’s a trust-building process with younger generations. This process will affect traditional recruiting, and most of all budgeting. Future projections must be taken into account when investing in new ideas to reach new populations, not just the per member cost or annual revenue.
o Offer a discount rate
o Target recruiting at colleges, teleconferencing and web availablility, and two tracks of programming
o Consider special fairs targeted just to students, relationships with colleges, discounts, student chapters, mentoring and more.
o Another creative idea is a competition only open to the target generation, one that relates to your mission and gives young professionals a chance to connect with their careers.
o How about a students-only resume posting section on your website? Or a student award?
High emphasis on students creates a sustainability–not a revenue-generation–plan. Prioritizing recruits from college, high school and even younger develops long-term interest and builds that trust necessary for a membership relationship. Students must be involved in the planning and management, though.
Ideas from Others
At Minnesota Entrepreneurs, they aligned their new outreach with their mission, focused on:
Inspiration: high-profile speakers in profession
Education: panels of experts
Some changes to their normal m.o. were that dues ($240) included admission to all events, which were held at a trendy locale with amenities that appeal to younger generations. They featured young members and new events on their website, and swapped discounts with other organization’s young professional members.
The National Association of Women Lawyers has a career-introductory program called Backpack to Briefcase to connect students with professionals, something that could be implemented online, on campus, or via a one-to-one mentoring program. Job shadowing could also be seen favorably. Mentors could bring protégées to events for free.
Boston’s Young Professionals Association boasts 10,000 members from its low cost ($35) membership, weekly networking, and service opportunities. Many of these organizations grow rapidly from their inception, I suspect because the concept is both new and speaks to the younger generation.
A Minnesota Chamber group hosted for-fee Emerging Leaders sessions that were speed-networking, but also added a monthly service project for those Leaders. I like this concept of casual interaction and then a follow-up opportunity. A San Francisco PR association got PR firm members to host monthly programs by their executive leadership, offering tips and connections. Access to these programs is through membership in the Young Professionals program, $50 annually, which includes many regular membership benefits such as training discounts and a one-time discount when transitioning from student to chapter member.
Two things you must have in order to attract young professionals:
o Opportunities that appeal. What about connecting young potentials with opportunities to serve on boards, mentor, volunteer, or serve at peer organizations?? This is not the old way of doing business, e.g. committees-for-life, board and officer positions
o Tech on your website! Interactivity, self-control, membership interaction, online learning, video, blogging & podcasting are all part of Gen Y’s life. If you’re not including these things, you’re not relevant.
Ready to begin recruiting younger members?
Remember, you’re not making money off their membership, it’s their future investment and purchase you’re after. There is a great grid in the book where you list each of your association’s specific programs, services, communications, and opportunities, and compare them to the desires of younger generations:
Does it: Use Tech? Provide Tangible Benefit? Offer Professional Development? Engage in community service? Take < 2 hours/mo.? Cost < $30/ mo.?
Of course, the next step is to expand the areas where you’re not fulfilling those needs, and to budget for associated estimated costs.
Some Other Ideas and Next Steps
Consider a ‘transition’ membership for new professionals to avoid the drop-off of student members who are suddenly faced with the burden of the full rate. You can attach age limits, years in profession, or adjust the rate to more than 50% of the full rate. Also consider appointing a young spokes- or chair-person for this effort. If you’re trying to recruit younger members, it makes sense to have someone of that age inviting people to join in a public way via the media, online communications, at the board, or emceeing events. Recognition is an important benefit, and if you have younger members involved, be sure to recognize them.
Once you’ve secured members, be sure you’re engaging them. You can conduct an organizational overview webinar or conference call, host new member receptions, send emails or handwritten notes with business cards at quarterly intervals, even just give new members a personal welcome call. Continue to recognize repeated memberships–2, 5, and more years, and list these in your publications. If they can’t volunteer, ask for their input to solicitation, speakers, and print materials or invite them to contribute articles or introduce events.
It also seems you need to evaluate if you have any younger or student members to begin with. If you have a student membership that isn’t being utilized, analyze why that is and strengthen this program. If you have younger members who are inactive, how can they be engaged? Ask them. Get creative–plan a trip, a special award for young professionals, or a networking event.
No doubt, it’s a lot of work, and more work than with other generations. If you want younger members to feel they belong and that their contributions are valued, your need to find a way to meet their needs and invite them not only to participate, but to lead. Set you goals for recruiting younger members, and name three action steps.