Tuesday Buzz: Is Gen X Running the Show for Associations?

An association exec ponders a membership book from a few years ago and realizes something surprising about the generation gap. Also: When is a sustainable events argument too tiny to make a big deal about?

What a difference three years makes.

That’s when XYZ University’s Sarah Sladek wrote a book (published by ASAE) titled The End of Membership as We Know it, a book the National Fluid Power Association’s Eric Lanke picked up after seeing Sladek speak at a recent Wisconsin Society of Association Executives event. As he read it, he found himself disputing a number of its points, and he highlights those on his blog.

See, what he found when reading was a number of examples of language that suggested associations were “governed and supported by the baby boomer generation” and that they had to make room for millennials. But after raising questions about some points in the book, he came to an interesting observation:

The book is written for the association executive who is a Boomer, and who finds him or herself befuddled by all the strange new online pastimes of their kids and grandkids.

That’s clearly not me. But what’s more interesting is how much the market has changed in the three years since the book was written. In 2011, there may very well have been a lot of executives that needed to hear this message and who needed a guide to help them start addressing the problem of their dwindling membership. But from where I sit, looking around at my industry in early 2014, it seems like there are fewer and fewer people who meet that description.

It’s a realization that raises an interesting question about the generation gap for associations at large: Are we moving past the days where the boomers are running the show? And if Sladek’s book already feels somewhat out of date, does that show some kind of progress? It’s a good question to ponder for those trying to attract different types of membership and leadership.

Sustainability Small Potatoes

Sustainable events are a big deal, but is it productive to make everything a debate about conference waste?

Adrian Segar, a sustainable event supporter who has been known to use a Post-It Note or 10 at his teaching sessions, argues that complaints about paper usage are insignificant in the grand scheme and are more than made up for by the value proposition they create.

“Yes, I know that the flip chart sheets, note cards, and sticky notes produced during interactive exercises are rarely kept afterwards,” he writes. “But they are needed for the experience of creation. Writing something down, sketching, or drawing a diagram provide powerful alternative modalities for learning and sharing that we traditionally restrict to hearing and looking (which often, by the way, don’t translate into listening and seeing).”

For those unconvinced by that argument, Segar does a little math. Short version? Those sheets of paper are way less wasteful than either driving or flying to the event. (ht @executiveoasis)

Other Links of Note

“Kids won’t derail your career. They will make you a more efficient manager of time, a far more compassionate boss and colleague, and will give new purpose and import to getting out of the door and earning a living.” — Coulter President Erin M. Fuller, FASAE, MPA, CAE, offers that insight, and others, in a piece titled “Advice to My Younger Self.”

Vine hasn’t gone anywhere, but it’s not nearly as buzzy on the social media scene as it was when it launched. It still holds value for chambers, though, Christina Green writes on Frank J. Kenny’s site.

If you’re looking to expand globally, it helps to get up to speed with BRICS and MINT. Steven Worth explains what those acronyms mean over at Plexus Consulting.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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