Societal changes and technological advancements affect each generation differently. The same can be said for association members. The social drivers for a Gen Xer to join an association are likely quite different from what drives a Gen Zeer to sign up.
Here lies the challenge for association employees responsible for membership. What enrollment tactics worked for the generation 10 to 15 years ago is now different. How does one attract and hold the Next Generation’s attention and convince them your association is worth investing their time and money in this post-COVID digital age?
As a consulting firm for associations, Big Red M has five strategies to help you avoid some trial-and-error membership campaigns and help your association grow.
1. Be Fully Optimized on Mobile Devices
While you may think your association has some digital savviness, if your association’s website isn’t designed and built for mobile devices, you have found your starting place.
Unfortunately, many association websites are “minimally optimized” (a.k.a. mobile responsive) for mobile usage, meaning their website is viewable but limited in engagement. If a potential next-generation new member cannot easily join your association (and pay dues) from their smartphone, then you are inadequately optimized for mobile. Don’t shortchange this critical part of website development. Spending the necessary time and effort to ensure your association website is easily navigated by a mobile device will pay huge dividends in securing new members and renewals.
2. Engage Digitally Through Instagram & TikTok
You might have a Facebook account and probably a LinkedIn account, but do you have an Instagram and TikTok account? Both social media platforms are key for younger generations and primarily use short, entertaining videos and images to drive content. While most postings on these platforms are strictly for entertainment, some associations and organizations enhance their postings by weaving informative messaging into them. To create more engaging content on TikTok or Instagram, create online polls, quizzes, and live sessions to encourage participation. Associations can also highlight member accomplishments through these platforms.
Your younger members may be more versed on these platforms than you are. Don’t be shy about calling some of these members and asking them their thoughts on what topics to put on Instagram or TikTok. Reaching out to younger members for help will create more engagement and creative ideas that may help attract their friends to join.
If you use this tactic, we suggest building out at least six postings simultaneously before you post your first. This best practice makes it easier to roll them out over two to three weeks. Creating a series of posts at one time keeps a creative continuity among the posts. See what works best for you in creating Instagram and TikTok posts, but the key is to be consistent with posting on your scheduled day(s) of the week.
Many younger generation members join an association not only for career networking opportunities but also to learn from experienced professionals. The younger generation wants to climb career ladders much quicker than you did. It isn’t a mentorship program if your association simply has a “swipe left or swipe right” mentor/mentee posting on your website.
It takes careful planning to make a mentorship program work. The first step is carefully matching mentors and mentees based on their goals, interests, and experiences. You should spend the time and effort, considering personality and communication styles for compatibility.
Secondly, offer training for mentors to enhance their mentoring skills. This may include such practiced activities as active listening techniques, communication skills, and goal-setting exercises.
Lastly, your association should conduct orientation sessions for both mentors and mentees to set expectations, define boundaries, and establish communication protocols. Also, the association should check in with the mentee to see if their learning goals are being met by their mentor. If the chemistry is right, the bond between a mentor and a mentee that is sparked by the association can last a lifetime.
Potential younger generation members may not have the financial support of an established company to flip the tab for an association’s annual dues. To help attract the next generation of association members, consider the following:
- Flexible Payment Options: Offer flexible membership plans and payment options to accommodate varied financial situations.
- Student Discounts: Provide discounts or special memberships for students and young professionals entering the workforce.
- Grants and Scholarships: Create a scholarship program or grants to support and encourage young members, especially students, to join and participate in your association. Offering financial assistance through scholarships or grants can help alleviate the financial burden and make membership more accessible to students and young professionals.
Creating an internship program is a great way to attract new members to your association, especially among students and young professionals, a.k.a. the Next Generation. Here are a few things to consider when developing an effective association internship program:
- Establish partnerships with local educational institutions. Educational institutions want to help their graduates land new positions in their respective fields of study. Reach out and begin to build relationships with academic departments related to your association’s industry.
- Create a clear internship program structure with a defined duration, outlining the start and end dates and the expected time commitment involved. Collaborate with the academic department heads to help craft the internship program.
- Assign mentors within your association to guide and support interns throughout their tenure. Foster a culture of open communication and encourage interns to seek guidance when needed.
- Offer training sessions and workshops to enhance interns’ skills and knowledge relevant to your association’s industry. Be sure to provide access to resources to aid in their new career paths.
- Be sure to include a membership component in the internship program, providing interns with a taste of the association’s benefits. And offer discounted or complimentary memberships to interns during and after the program to entice them to become longer-term members and experience your association’s benefits.
By implementing these five strategies, your association can create a more appealing and inclusive environment for the next generation of members. Remember to continuously listen to young members’ needs and adapt your approach to remain relevant in an always-changing business landscape. Take the time to stay current with membership trends and adjust your association strategy to meet the ever-evolving needs of the next generation, and the next generation, and the next generation of new members.