04.14.20 | Associations

The Next Generation of Association Membership

Two young professionals meet

Membership is your greatest tool; don’t let your focus shift.

During times of economic hardship, it’s even more important to engage your membership and prove the associations’ worth. While your members are staying home, they are looking to their associations for industry updates, job opportunities, networking, and professional development to help them navigate the current crisis.

Take advantage of this time to try new things like virtual meetings, happy hours, and putting your online resources front and center. Make it your goal to better engage your current membership and gain new members from younger generations.

Just as the cultural discussion on Millennials is dying down, Generation Z is starting to infiltrate the workforce. Like every generation before them, the members of Generation Z have their own ideas on how to make the workplace and the world better for everyone. As associations find ways to adapt and remain relevant in this new decade, they need to consider the needs of these two generations who will soon be in the workplace majority: according to CNBC, in the next decade Millennials and Gen Z will top 58 percent of the workforce.

With the knowledge and skills to access any type of information they need to on the Internet, why are Millennials and Gen Z joining associations? The core reasons people join associations do not seem to have changed: networking, jobs, resources, professional development and acquiring new skills top the list for everyone. The difference comes in how that information is communicated and delivered.

To remain relevant, take a look at where your association stacks up across these key areas:

Creative Communications

Both Millennials and Generation Z have grown up in the digital age – it’s no surprise digital is their preferred platform for communications. This communication needs to be intentional, personal and authentic to resonate with them. That’s why connecting to them in different ways and on different media platforms plays a huge part in your success. This group wants information delivered to them in small, easy to digest pieces. In addition to changing how you communicate, you need to change where: Depending on where your audience is, start a podcast, create some Instagram stories, or launch a Facebook group.

One of our clients has expanded its reach with a phenomenal new podcast. Michelle Lee, executive director of the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) hosts a weekly podcast, part of the Dental Podcast Network, focused on industry hot topics and the importance of dental infection control. Since starting the podcast, OSAP has seen an increase in engagement from younger generations through membership and attendance at its events. OSAP’s following continues to grow, providing the opportunity to educate more listeners on dental infection control.

eLearning Flexibility

In the past, white papers and long-form articles were the most sought-after form of content used in learning; today, younger generations have benefited from educational changes that introduced a wider variety of learning environments and expect the same in their professional lives. According to Naylor, Gen Z may be just as likely to attend an event as they are to live-stream it. This means that you need to appeal to all sides of Generation Z and Millennials by offering in-person professional development along with video call or live stream options. Both generations are hardworking and ambitious, carrying the lessons learned from growing up in the Great Recession. Offer this group appealing, flexible options to learn new skills, network, and advance their careers.

Social Connections

As these younger generations saturate associations, they are looking for more ways to be social IRL (“in real life”, for those of us not yet used to communicating in text lingo). Millennials and Generation Z focus on work/life balance, and that doesn’t escape their professional networks. They want to connect with peers and industry leaders outside of the office. Merging their personal and professional lives is welcome as a way to make new connections. This is a great way for local chapters and associations to shine, by offering more in-person events for this group.

Community Outreach

Millennials have the passion to be a part of something that is meaningful and to work as a part of a group to accomplish something bigger than themselves. Generation Z has grown up with a similar mindset, although often more globally driven. Both generations want to give back and help change the world for the better. As mission-driven organizations, this is a benefit for most associations. Even if you’re not a save-the-world non-profit, you are working towards a common goal to better an industry and the people within it. Lead the new generations to this and give them an opportunity to give back not only to the association, but to a nonprofit that shares your values or is connected to your local community. Many organizations are conducting community service projects either before or after live events to provide attendees with opportunities to give back. This can range from volunteering at the local foodbank to doing something more adventurous, like a river clean up.

Leadership Opportunities

Once these generations believe in the association, they will be willing to invest more time… so how do you get them to that point? Engage them from the very beginning while their interest is high. Start new member orientations and formalize your onboarding so they feel a part of the association from the start. Emerging Leader programs and new professionals’ groups are a great way to get new generations involved. Meetings Expectations has experienced phenomenal success with an Emerging Leaders program on behalf of our client OATUG. Get the inside scoop on how we did it in our latest whitepaper: 5 Steps to a Successful Emerging Leaders Program.

Over the next decade as Millennials and Generation Z become more engrained in the workforce, how you communicate, offer resources and professional development will continue to be crucial to the success of your association. Take some time now to get ahead of the needs of the next generation today, for a more successful association tomorrow.

Want to prepare your association to meet the needs of the next generation? Let’s talk.

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