The heart of your association is your membership. Your members show up and stick around because they’re getting something out of the experience. If any association executive was polled about why their members join and renew they’d probably say something about the great programs, networking with industry leaders, professional interaction, doing good in the community, and so on. While all that may be true, there are other reasons your members join as well.
Take the Millennial generation, for example. There’s a lot of buzz about how the Millennials are a horse of a different color, but love them or hate them they are the emerging leaders in pretty much every industry. If you don’t embrace change and accept new members’ ideas and visions your association runs the risk of dying out. So how do you get more Millennials in your association? Sure, networking and community good are very important to this up-and-coming generation too, but they have other reasons for signing on and some of them may surprise you!
1) Camaraderie and making friends
Millennials are known to be city-hopping, brass-ring-grabbing career climbers with a little less loyalty to their employers than in years past. The result of all that moving and shaking could be a disjointed (sometimes nonexistent) social life. When a Millennial says they want to join an association to “meet people” you can count on the meaning to be at least 50/50 “connect professionally” and “make friends.” The work/life balance is important to Millennials and your association could help with both the work half and the life half!
2) Events are actually fun
Your events don’t have to be keg parties or games of truth or dare- Millennials have gotten past that. But even a stimulating conversation or terrific speaker can make an event “fun.” When you put on learning programs, take a second to screen them and see about interactivity. Encourage activities and discussion! You want your members, Millennial or any other generation to walk away saying, “That was great! I learned a lot and had fun.”
3) Professional growth… but not in the way you’d think
As mentioned earlier, Millennials don’t necessarily see their career paths the same way previous generations do. When a new member of this generation comes in looking to “grow professionally” it could be that he or she is looking into how to get a promotion, or it could be that he or she is looking to push the boundaries of their skill set and see what else is out there. Appeal to this adventurous spirit by branching your membership out and accepting all kinds of professionals related to your field.
4) References (both the professional kind and the text book kind)
Ever notice how articles and blogs with titles like, “The Top Ten Books on Steve Jobs’ Bookshelf” and “What Global CEOs Eat For Breakfast” seem to go viral? That’s because while Millennials see themselves as highly individualized, they also know enough to emulate behavior of those whom they admire. Zappos the online shoe retailer, for example, has a library on their campus and encourage Zappos employees to read books that the CEO and other executives have read. If you make it a point to mention a great book at your meetings or in your newsletter you’ll probably be surprised at how many people jot down the title and author.
5) To try something new
It seems almost intuitive to join a professional association to grow professionally, but remember that most Millennials have had social media since college. “Connecting” doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did 10 years ago. “Why pay to meet people when you can connect with them on LinkedIn for free,” a Millennial may be asking him or herself. Joining an association is trying something new to them. Acknowledge that, and make it worth their time and money!
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