The term “millennials” makes some associations cringe.
About 56% of associations report difficulty engaging with this group. That’s because this generation and its unique culture don’t fit into the typical association mold – and they refuse to do so. But as members of the future, associations must transform themselves to best meet the needs of millennials in order to survive.
The Mind of Millennials
Many associations spend exhaustive efforts promoting the networking benefits they offer when in reality, young professionals don’t need help networking. With the internet at the palm of their hand for almost their entire life, they already have expansive networks on social media. By gaining a firm understanding of what appeals to millennials, associations can better appeal to this generation.
This is a tech-savvy group that is career oriented, but their work comes second to quality of life, family, and friends. In addition to being continuously connected and consuming media for 18 hours each day, they appreciate being recognized for their efforts and having their ideas and opinions heard.
Most millennials know the importance of education – and they have the college debt to prove it. Stories and emotional appeals go a long way when establishing initial relationships and creating messaging for them. They demand personalization, so don’t try sending generic emails on topics that don’t matter to them. Engagement is a big priority too – it’s not enough to gain their attention, you have to continue to keep it!
Why Should Associations Appeal to Millennials?
Far from the stereotypical “selfie-obsessed” young adult, research has shown that a majority of millennials excel in establishing communities with like-minded individuals – sounds a lot like the purpose of an association! In addition, they value life experiences over “things” and care about the environment and corporate social responsibility.
Also termed Generation Y or Gen-Y, this group consists of anyone born between the years of 1980 and 2000. In less than ten years, this generation – the largest living right now – will consume a majority of the workforce, 75% by 2025 to be exact. Associations that employ efforts to attract millennial members are making a long-term investment, ensuring their stability and sustainability for years to come.
6 Ways Associations Can Appeal to Millennials
Create an Exclusive Environment
Who doesn’t love things created just for them? By creating an exclusivity to their membership, associations can better market themselves to millennials.
Establish special meetings and conferences just for professionals in this age group, and tailor everything to what this generation wants, likes, and needs. Recall the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Their Next Generation Success in Leadership Conference was both fun and informational. Don’t forget to continue this exclusivity online. Create digital materials, hangouts, or groups only available to these members. Even an exclusive, private Facebook Group is worthwhile.
[Case Study] National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Next Generation Success in Leadership
The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) is taking huge strides in incorporating millennials in their organization. By creating a sect of its association just for these individuals, Next Generation Success in Leadership, membership has increased.
In addition, the NBWA has exclusive offerings for this group including educational opportunities, an invitation-only LinkedIn group, and special group meetups. The Next Generation Success in Leadership Annual Conference, which takes place in addition to the NBWA annual conference, features fun music, entertainment, and even shorter keynotes! How have these efforts paid off? Of the conference attendees in 2017, 36% were first-timers!
Employ Cause Marketing and Social Responsibility Efforts
A research study revealed that 84% of millennials made charitable contributions in 2014, and 70% volunteered their time. Millennials love to make a difference and be part of something bigger than themselves
Cause marketing is a strategic business effort executed by an organization that is mutually beneficial for it and the charity it seeks to serve. How about donating half of your membership fee to a charity during a specific month for any new member who joins or current ones who renew?
Rotary International is a famous association with a mission for world change. Responsible for the almost complete global extinction of polio, Rotary has a firm understanding that in order to survive, millennials are the answer.
In addition to promoting their charitable efforts – a big draw for Gen-Y – some Rotary clubs have gone completely online by hosting virtual meetings.
Offer Educational Opportunities
Education is extremely important to millennials. But it isn’t just about expanding your knowledge of the industry you are in. It also includes gaining new experiences and learning about different thoughts and ideas.
Don’t be afraid to get creative, take educational sessions online, mix in a few hands-on experiences and incorporate field trips. How about going behind the scenes of your local zoo or aquarium where your members can experience what it’s like to run that type of organization – don’t forget to make a necessary stop to feed the penguins. Or, hike a mountain and hold a meeting at the summit, or turn a workshop into a potluck!
Hosting traditional workshops and classes are great but don’t forget to think beyond the notepad and pencil. Things don’t always have to be about your industry. They live and breathe that all day, every day. Think outside the box.
Promote and Incentivise Engagement
Social media can be a great tool for associations to engage with their members. Choose ones that make sense to both your organization and your audience, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, and actually USE it. You wouldn’t create a YouTube channel if you had no intention of sharing videos. Likewise, don’t create a social media account if you don’t plan on posting routinely and sharing content.
Few things motivate millennials more than competition and the promise of reward. Try gamifying membership by associating points with efforts to increase engagement. For example, all meeting attendees receive 10 points. Engaged on social media? That’s another 5 points. Brought in a new member or gave a presentation at a meeting? 100 points! Recognize the members with the most amount of points and give a reward. Millennials love to be recognized for their work and efforts!
Many associations have implemented mobile apps for their conferences and large events. Leverage push notifications, download incentives, and key features that will make the app indispensable.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to engaging with members. Strategically consider your options and choose one or two that are the most compatible. Consistency is key.
There are three distinct personas that make up the millennial generation and specific tactics will resonate best with each of them.
Personalize Everything and Anything
Personalization, personalization, personalization. The more you can personalize the member experience, the more millennials (and traditional members) are going to want to be involved and included.
With virtually everything from emails, online shopping experiences, social media and more suited to their preferences, millennials are increasingly raising the level of personalization they expect. Create emails and publications with content specific to them, host workshops on topics that meet one of their specific needs, or establish a personalized website experience. Take it offline and personalize conference material or giveaways.
No one knows what millennials like more than millennials themselves. Let them sit in the driver’s seat. Establish these individuals as the leaders of their own groups, meetings, and conferences.
Have them manage recruitment efforts for their peers. Open the floor at a few meetings or workshops and let them take over.
Change is inevitable for associations. Those that refuse to make alterations to their structure and establish mutually-beneficial relationships with millennials are sure to be nonexistent in the coming years. Take action now and start getting these younger, prospective members onboard and involved. They are the future of our organizations.