August 5, 2014
Chances are that over the past decade your association has been chugging along with the same annual budget, the same conference ideas and many of the same members. Each year can seem like a “cut and paste” of the previous year. It can be tempting to just mimic the plans of the previous year or to run the same email communications. And limited budgets don’t help either - there are so many more cool things you could do if you just had MORE MONEY!
The coming of age of Generation X and Millennials creates an opportunity for associations to make more money by appealing to a new group of prospective members. All you need to do is sell memberships to the young and up-and-coming. But what can be done to attract their attention?
The first place to start is with technology. Generation X and the Millennial Generation are the first generation to grow up with computers as a mainstay in their lives. Some of the biggest players in technology like Google, Amazon and YouTube sprang from the minds of Generation X. How can you association stay on the cutting edge?
You’ll need to make sure your online presence and the technology you use to power it is modern. Do you have a modern website? Are you using the latest technology to the greatest effect? What about your Association Management Software? Your Association Management Software should be on the cutting edge of technology. It should reside in the cloud and it should allow you to integrate with any other programs you use.
Younger people tend to love social media and the communication style and interaction that comes with it. To attract millennials to your association you’ll have to speak their language, and that involves using the tools they use to communicate. Is your association active on social media?
Social media is an important promotional tool for your association. You can create groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that promote the associations activities and show your members having fun. This can attract new members who want to be a part of the fun. If you don’t have public facing social media accounts, you can create members-only groups and encourage conversation within them. One association I’ve spoken to has done just that by creating “post a picture of your practice” events in their members-only Facebook group. This has increased engagement and supported the cohesion of the member base, especially its younger constituents.
Keeping your association activities engaging is another key to attracting and retaining millennial interest. Speaking from experience, I can say that millennials tend to have shorter than average attention spans. This can be a good thing if you’re trying to re-brand your organization as being appealing to millennials - they’ll likely forget how boring you used to be fairly quickly. But it also means you’ll have to keep your content fresh to maintain their interest.
Engage millennials by putting on events that are rich in interaction. I’ve spoken to some associations that have reported having success using concerts and special events to light up their membership. Doing fun activities as a group, whether they relate directly to the mission of the association or are outside of it, have been key in keeping member bases engaged, associations have reported. And interactivity at trade shows was also noted as important, infusing otherwise bland events with fun times for everyone involved.
Generation X and Millennials hate things that are difficult to use. Is it easy to register for a conference in your current system? Can they participate in discussions and forums easily? If you want to grow your membership by recruiting millennials, you’ll want to ensure the system is easy to use.
Starting conversations with like-minded people, connecting with others in the same industry, and broadening reach and status is important to Millennials and Generation X. In order to do that successfully within your association, your software has got to be easy to use. Is your system intuitive? Your members logging into the portal will know the difference, and your younger members demand the best in layout, ease of use and technology. Make your association technology easy to use and you’ll likely find millennials flocking to your organization.
Another defining feature of the new kids on the block is their desire to give back. Millennials care about making a difference in the world. They care about their workplace, their world, the economy, other cultures and bettering the future for all. Are you speaking to their larger vision with your association's communications? Are you inspiring them to take action, to participate, to be a part of the movement?
Millennials care about making a difference in the world - is your association speaking to that larger vision? ”
One way you can accomplish this is to broaden your vision. Look at the big picture, and in your communications, try to recapture the essence of what it is your association is trying to change or do in the world. Utilize the idea of hope, the idea that they can change things through being a part of your association. Communicate how what you’re doing is really making a difference in your community and world.
Is your association running business the same way as was done ten years ago? Are you still doing things the outdated way, tracking members in a spreadsheet or worse? Make an investment in the future growth of your membership now, before it’s too late and you’ve lost your chance at speaking to the younger generation. Speak their language and you’ll be noticed. Don’t, and they’ll go somewhere else. You’ve only got a single chance to make a first impression. Millennials aren’t just coming your way - they’re already here. Make sure you’re speaking to them now.