Nearly half of association executives find attracting and engaging nextgen members a challenge.

Offering the highest quality and most trusted education and information may not be enough to recruit and engage today’s young professionals. In a quick poll conducted by Avenue M in late June 2022 with 19 CEO/Association Executives, 47% indicated it is a challenge to recruit/engage young professionals/nextgen to their organization. (Click HERE to participate in future polls.)

It’s often been said that the holy grail of membership is your ability to provide members with meaningful and relevant opportunities to connect, learn from, and collaborate with others. Yet delivering on this promise and engaging young professionals is not as simple as it sounds.

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To help your organization better connect with the next generation of professionals, consider the following:

  • Be deliberate with your strategy to recruit and retain young professionals. Create a strategic membership plan that goes beyond marketing tactics and demonstrates why membership will make a difference in your members’ careers and professional goals.
  • Ensure your brand identity still aligns with your current goals and ideals. This goes beyond your taglines, marketing collateral, and communications. It also includes the makeup of your board and volunteer structure. (Less than 20 percent of non-profit organization board members are under 40, leaving a huge discrepancy in age between membership and leadership.)
  • Keep in mind that young professionals may be willing to join organizations to gain access to benefits, but the current world also offers them plenty of options to advance their knowledge and connect with others. Associations will need to prove they’re worth joining.
  • Gen Z is a diverse generation. While a commitment to diversity is important to many, it is more of a norm for Gen Z and is simply expected by them.

Want to learn more? Read our quick summary of the following articles and click the links below.

A Membership Roadmap for 2022

  • Understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ Data will drive membership in the future, and that means upping your commitment to collecting, analyzing, and using data as part of your decision-making process.

A Guide to Recruiting and Retaining Next-Gen Association Professionals

  • Forget stereotypes of the younger generation, many are untrue.
  • Younger people want to make a difference but compensation is still a factor.
  • Retain young professionals by recognizing their hard work, making them feel like they’ve had an impact, and have a clear pathway for them to advance their career.

4 Steps to Recruit and Retain Millenials and Gen Zers

  • Young professionals are more willing to join something that appeals to their personal values, so make sure you can give a sense of purpose.
  • Offer experiences that promote unity and allow people to network and collaborate together.
  • Young professionals want to volunteer when they think they can help. Give them opportunities to do so.

Add a New, Young Voice to the Boardroom

  • In order to better understand and connect with the younger members of the Emergency Nurses Association, the organization created a liaison role to hear things from a new perspective.
  • The liaison is treated like a board member without a vote. They go to all meetings and are called upon to share their perspective.
  • If an organization wants to add a liaison to better understand the incoming workforce, make sure the station is mutually beneficial and the liaison actually feels listened to.
  • Having something like a liaison can help with retention of young professionals, as they feel like they have a voice in the organization they’ve joined.

What the Arrival of Gen Z Means for Membership

  • Gen Z is a diverse generation. While a commitment to diversity is important to many, it is more of a norm for Gen Z and is simply expected by them.
  • Gen Z has a deep commitment to causes they care about. Give them the opportunity to help solve problems.
  • The youngest generation will want the benefits of education, networking, and content, but in order to really gain their loyalty, they will also want whatever organization they join to have something extra special.

How to Catch a Unicorn: Diversify Your Nonprofit Board Like you Mean it

  • Only eight percent of board directors identify as minorities, only 1 in 5 millennials serve on a board (junior or otherwise), and the number of women on boards starts at under half and shrinks as the budget increases.
  • Boards need to embrace and address their diversity problems while making sure their recruits understand that they’re picked for their skills, not just their skin color/age/gender.
  • Review recruitment and organization plans to see if they’re designed to recruit all people or if they’re focused on audiences of the past.
  • Having a more diverse board will send the message to young professionals that the organization really does care about everyone’s voice.

Welcoming the Next Generation of Board Leadership

  • In order to better understand younger members and potential members, there must be more diversity in age.
  • Make sure young professionals are incentivized to join your board, and look through potential policies or requirements that might be keeping them out.
  • Engage young professionals on leadership aspirations, not just giving aspirations.

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Contributor: Jillian Getter, Intern

(Image: Adobe Stock)