We talk a lot about engaging the next generation in your association’s management. Sure, it’s a good idea, but it’s also critical to engage up-and-comers if you want your association to lead on into the future and if you want to retire some day.

Another thing we say often is to recruit where potential members already are. From this point of view, a great place to recruit future leaders is colleges. Think about it: concentrated pockets of young adults studying subjects relevant to your association.

Send your association back to school

Here are some pros and cons to working with college students:


-Anxious to network and learn

            Because their careers haven’t started yet or are still at the intern stage, many college students have zero (or very few) connections while they’re still enrolled in university. The more savvy, career-oriented students are chomping at the bit to meet people and make professional associations in their chosen field. Just be prepared to be asked for recommendations!

-Membership-driven culture

            College is a culture of “joiners.” Many colleges and universities have activities fairs every semester to promote different clubs and activities, and campuses are practically covered with fliers promoting this event and that.  It could be much easier than finding working professionals who can easily lapse into the “I just don’t have the time” excuse.

-More technology savvy

            Facebook started on a college campus and it’s a pretty distinctive characteristic of college students that they are technologically “in the know” or at least up on the latest trends.  They could provide some valuable insight into the best ways to connect with their peers.


-Reduced availability

            “Regular hours” changes with every industry anyway, but college student hours are particularly hard to pin down. Students often juggle classes and labs starting anywhere from 8am to 8pm, with jobs and other activities squeezed in the gaps. Not to mention a thriving social life. Because of this it might be tougher than usual to get a time that’s convenient for everyone to meet.

-“Student membership” dues

            Another thing generally true about college students: they’re broke. We’re talking peanut butter sandwich 7 days a week broke. You would be too if you had to buy $400 text books you only open twice a semester! You might have to offer a student tier of membership to account for those stretched budgets. Ideally, they’ll have such a pleasant and productive experience in your association that they’ll be willing to pay full membership dues when they get their first job!

Now that you’ve decided to connect with college students in your area, how do you do it?

-Mentor programs

            Partner your members with college students for a one-on-one mentoring experience. It’s a great way to solicit volunteers and engage members, allow them to give back, and impart their knowledge on the next generation of up-and-comers.

-Internships, if your association is big enough

            But all that technology know-how to work! Bring on an intern for college credit if you can. It’s a great way for a qualified student to get work experience and you to get some extra help and know-how.

-Cheap mixers

            This might not cut it with your members, but often college students are happy with free pizza and soft drinks. Take advantage of the FREE FOOD pull on association events and host an event on campus!


So what do you think? Make some contacts with department professors and mentors in a field that relates to your association and get started venturing back to college life!