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Articles from GKS Consulting for thought leaders in nonprofit organizations, education and service-based businesses.

Surviving Millennials: Attracting and retaining younger members
November 30, 2017

It’s top of mind for every professional association. It’s critical to arts organizations. It’s about membership, employees, audiences and participants. For many, it’s about survival.

Most organizations face the same concerns. Older members remain active. They comprise our leadership. They’re our biggest donors and most loyal attendees. Yet, we know that we can’t depend on them for the long-term. We must engage younger members and help them find value in affiliation.

When thinking about how to reach a younger audience, the most obvious starting point is asking. Talk with those younger people who do join your organization, attend your events, or support your cause. They can talk about the value they derive from affiliation and have good perspectives on why their peers may not. Talk with those who should belong – younger members of the profession your association represents, for example.

And when you do ask, be prepared to listen to their answers. They may tell you that your programming isn’t relevant. They may remind you that employers are less generous regarding association memberships or events. They may complain that your costs exceed their means.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when thinking about attracting younger audiences:

  • Understand your organizational value overall. It’s just as likely that your appeal to younger members will also be valuable to others but that you’ve not clearly articulated why your organization exists, what makes your organization distinctive, and why someone would be affiliated with it.
  • Recognize that business as usual likely interests no one. The momentum that keeps older members coming back does not suffice. Regardless of age, we all want more engaging, interactive and relevant programming. We want to see authentic communications that breakthrough the clutter in an interesting way.
  • Know your audiences from psychographic as well as demographic perspectives. You’ll likely find commonalities in motivations, values and interests cross age segments and that it is easier to talk with and program for audience segments based on these more personal differences.
  • Attend to segment understanding in communications. The return on the effort to create five versions of a letter, three direct mail covers, or dynamic images on your website will be worthwhile.
  • Make room for younger people in your organization. It’s well known that members of the Millennial generation want leadership fast. Proven engagement tactics such as young professional board slots, active advisory groups, and volunteer recognition programs can create big fish in small pond opportunities.