Embracing and Engaging Young Professionals

Our annual survey of association professionals reports repeatedly that a common concern is the increased pressure to recruit young members.

The bulk of the workforce is made up of Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers, and Gen Z is not far behind. How do you take advantage of this demographic shift to attract young professionals to your association? Our 8-point guide, The Power of Young Professionals, tackles the challenge of engaging, recruiting, and retaining 20-somethings.

If you’re of the TL;DR (“Too Long; Didn’t Read.”) mind, let us save you the hassle. Here are 10 takeaways:

  • Use technology
  • Provide learning and development opportunities
  • Younger generations care about causes and want to be involved
  • Explore ways to reduce barriers to membership
  • Focus on what you can do to help young professionals succeed
  • Provide a path to leadership
  • Stay in tune with issues they are facing
  • Offer a variety of ways to volunteer
  • Successful onboarding makes a difference
  • Don’t delay recognition

Want to learn more? Young professionals are sure to determine the future of associations, making their participation critical to the vitality and longevity of member-based organizations.

Myth: Young professionals are not willing to join or take an active role in an association.

Fact: They’re willing, but participation needs to be a win-win; it must benefit others as well as benefit them personally. In order to survive, associations must learn to reach young professionals and adapt to their culture.

Regardless of its mission or structure, an association’s day-to-day operations essentially mirror that of a service-based business. Businesses have customers. Associations have members. Why do customers seek goods and services? To solve a problem. Why do members engage with an organization? To solve a problem.

Young Professional Join Association Ad

Young professionals are busy. Competition for members is fierce and meeting the demands of this young demographic is critical to survival. To stay credible and relevant, luckily, associations have the resources to provide young professionals with exactly what they want. The key is to have a plan to make those resources widely available and ensure the target demographic is aware of them. The good news is your plan is already in motion! You’ve established a goal (recruit and engage younger members) and pinpointed what you need to provide to achieve the association’s goal: to motivate, guide, and provide experiences.

5 Tips to Engage Young Professionals

  1. Young people care about causes and want to be involved
  2. Help young professionals succeed
  3. Know the issues they are facing
  4. Provide a path to leadership
  5. Recognize successes immediately

Regardless of size, budget, or mission, most associations are struggling to come up with ideas to engage 20-somethings. Why not have some fun while you attempt to get their attention?

8 Fun Ideas for Alluring 20-somethings:

  1. Group dinner featuring local breweries
  2. Personal growth seminar using Clifton Strengths-Finder program
  3. Poker tournament with play money but real prizes
  4. Sky-diving simulator
  5. Bingo – cheesy, but fun!
  6. Virtual horse racing or homerun derby
  7. Performance bartending (Google it)
  8. Giant “Operation” or “Light Bright” games

Tip: It’s important to view engagement activities for young professionals as an investment, not a revenue generator, Consider your best possible scenario to be a break-even, and you’ll be on the right track.

Young professionals need employer support. Many employers won’t pay or subsidize dues and refuse time off for association activities. Therefore, associations must educate and communicate the value of membership to individuals AND their employers.

Providing association benefits to this younger audience is critical. But more importantly, communicating these association benefits is key. Our tip sheet, The Perks of Association Membership for Young Professionals, outlines the advantages of association membership. It’s a oimage of download link for young professionals workbook downloadne-page pdf that associations can share on social media, post on websites, include with emails, or feature in member newsletters.

Consider the “member as the customer” angle as it relates to younger members. With the influx of Millennials and Generation Z into the workforce, it’s time for associations to accept a new type of “customer” has emerged, and they’re here to stay. Engaging with young professionals is important because they are energizing, creative, and innovative. They delight in making positive systemic and organizational change. Which begs the question: Can you afford not to engage them?

But how? Word of mouth is one of the best ways to attract new members. Young professionals aren’t going to believe what you say about your organization; they’re going to believe their peers. This generation is connected to large networks via social media, so getting a few younger members advocating for your association can go a long way.

Young professionals want to hear from you. But they also want to seek out information independently. If you haven’t already, go mobile! Younger professionals are more likely to communicate by text message than a phone call or email. After you’ve connected, stay in touch by text. Everyone texts. You need to, too. And keep your association website updated!

Connect often: young professionals are hyper-connected and want to know what their peers are doing and where they are, around the clock.

Preferred Contact Methods of Young Professionals:

  1. Text (including IM apps)
  2. Email
  3. Social Media
  4. Phone Call
  5. In-person

When you do make contact, keep it relevant and streamlined.

By providing young professionals with the tools to become leaders in their industry, associations validate their value. This, in turn, increases association recruitment and association retention numbers. Read The Power of Young Professionals and learn how to communicate with, gain, and retain younger members.

BONUS: Get The Perks of Association Membership for Young Professionals as part of a bigger kit of valuable resources, How to (Actually) Get Under-30s to Join Your Association. Young Professionals are an elusive bunch. This set of tip sheets will help your association recruit and engage them.

This kit includes:

  • 10 Reasons to Join an Association: The Perks of Association Membership for Young Professionals
  • 8 Engaging Event Ideas: Fun Ideas for 20-Somethings
  • 6-Step Plan for Recruiting: How Associations can Successfully Build a Young Professional Member Base

This generation isn’t going away. Whether or not associations are going away depends on their willingness to adapt to 20- and 30-somethings. The sky’s the limit, so try something new. What have you got to lose?



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