Next-Gen Membership

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by the nice folks at Naylor for Association Adviser TV. One of the questions they asked me to address was: What are the top three things that an association can do maintain the value proposition for the next generation of membership?

  1. You must understand the difference between life stage characteristics and generational ¬†characteristics. Are Millennials slow to join and participate in associations for generational reasons, or because the oldest of them are in their late 20’s and they’re just figuring out the whole job/career thing. There are lots of “generational experts” out there who will say they can answer that question for you. To my way of thinking, the gold standard is the Lifecourse Associates work of William Strauss and Neil Howe, and the answer, likely, is, “don’t freak out – this is a life stage issue.”
  2. That said, there is a generational problem on the horizon – the hourglass issue. I’ve written about this before, but the short version is that, while a much larger Millennial generation is coming, associations are going to have to figure out how to bridge the Gen-X gap between the large Boomer and Millennial generations. One way to do that is by keeping retiring members involved through mentoring, teaching, and fundraising.
  3. Finally, check your assumptions. Even the best generational cohort research consists of generalizations. To really know what’s going on in your industry or profession, you have to actually talk to your members and other audiences about their lives, experiences, needs, and preferences. Associations must shift from the mindset that we have to be 100% right and 100% perfect all the time to the start up mindset of “launch in beta, experiment, actively solicit feedback, learn,¬†and iterate.” Regardless of generation, your members will cut you slack if you let them know what’s going on. Really they will.

What do you think associations need to focus on to remain vital resources for the next generation of members and other audiences coming up?


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