After starting a Young Professionals Taskforce for his local state society, a YP shares three things organizations can do today to get ready for next-gen members.
Talking about young professionals and what they mean to associations is as hot a trend as windbreakers and butterfly clips were in the ‘90s. You really can’t go anywhere without running into someone who wants to learn more about how to get next-gen members involved as soon as possible. This is a great thing considering millennials and Gen Z will make up nearly 59 percent of the workforce by 2020.
The downside is that like any other trend, there is a lot of bad information out there. Typically, I’ve noticed a lot of this bad information comes from other generations making assumptions about Millennials and Gen Z without proper research. That’s why my colleague Emily Viles and I went straight to the source when we created the Young Professionals Taskforce for the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE). Being millennials ourselves, we knew we didn’t want to misrepresent our generation by just assuming every millennial was the same as we are.
What we soon discovered was that there are three main things every association can do today to get ready for next-gen members:
Take a pulse of young professionals. Work with your fellow association executives and board members to identify two to three next-gen members who you believe have the ability to help lead and organize young professional activities. The reason I’d suggest approaching two or three people to lead together is that it really is a time commitment. Emily and I were fortunate to be approached by WSAE President and CEO Michelle Czosek, who asked us to work together to for the taskforce and do what we can to increase next-gen member engagement. We soon found out that having another person to rely on was a huge blessing.
Hold focus groups. This may be the most important step that every association needs to take before taking any action. Once you have the next-fen members who can help you get your movement off the ground, work with them to hold focus groups in areas that are easily accessible for large sectors of your membership. For WSAE, we held two different focus groups. One in Madison, and one in Milwaukee, because that is where a large portion of our members reside. During each hourlong focus group, we asked them they wanted. Questions discussed included:
- What do they not like about the association currently?
- What are the best days and times to hold meetings?
- Do you prefer in-person or virtual meetings?
- What are the things you would like to learn about?
- Do you want to learn from your peers or those who are more advanced in their career?
Hand over the keys. Emily and I agree that one of the reasons we believe things went so well with WSAE’s Young Professionals Taskforce is because Michelle and the rest of the board gave us complete autonomy. They were there to support us when we had questions or made budget inquiries to hold events, but they told us to go out and do what we thought necessary to get it up and running. They saw that it was imperative to not let their opinions to influence any decisions we made.
My advice if you’re considering something similar: Don’t be afraid to let your next-gen leaders take the lead. You’ll be amazed with what we can do.
Aaron Manogue is strategic marketing coordinator at AMPED Association Management in Madison, Wisconsin. Email: [email protected]