Recruiting new members and keeping them engaged is a crucial activity for all associations. And while it’s a challenge to engage any of your member base, engaging young members can feel particularly daunting—particularly younger Millennials and Gen Z. How can you encourage them to lean into being active in your association or member organization?

Fortunately, young members do realize the importance of participating in industry organizations. According to recent data, most young members (87%) said it was important to be part of an association, and more than half (51%) reported that being in an association is more important than it used to be.

So, how do association marketers speak to young members and get them to lean in? With these 9 tips, you can work to enhance your member experience and frame your membership benefits in a way that’s compelling for young members. 

Here, we’ll cover how to: 

  1. Reevaluate the journey for young members
  2. Provide chances for career development 
  3. Connect young members to one another
  4. Meet young members where they are
  5. Encourage young members to be leaders
  6. Create a compelling job board
  7. Create fun, informal events
  8. Highlight a young member in your newsletter
  9. Solicit input from new members

1. Reevaluate your young members’ journey

When it comes to engaging your young members, the first step is to get a deeper understanding of their journey. If you don’t have a comprehensive knowledge of a typical young member’s journey, then it’s difficult to successfully engage your members and address any pain points that cause them to leave.

Map out the member journey for your youngest prospects — from when they’re initially aware of your organization all the way to signup and renewal. Is there any friction at any point in this journey? For example: do you clearly communicate membership benefits for younger members at crucial points?

If you identify any areas for improvement, focus on those pain points to enhance the young member journey.

 2. Provide career development opportunities

Young members are likely still hustling to build their resumes and get established in your industry. So, one effective way to engage young members is to provide a bevy of career development opportunities through your membership benefits.

Start by going beyond basic networking opportunities. A mentorship program can help ambitious young upstarts move up the ladder by matching them with established members who are seasoned in their careers with younger upstarts. Seasoned members can offer guidance on forging a career path, point to ways to upgrade their skills, and provide tips on how to handle negotiations.

You can also provide extra value for your young members with learning opportunities. A recent survey showed the biggest reason younger members opt to join an organization is for ongoing education. Host informational webinars on industry best practices, online and in-person training, as well as certifications through online learning modules. That way, your young members can add new skills to their resume.

Also consider hosting workshops to assist members who are brand new to the industry. Cover resume tips and mock interviews to help them get that job they’re vying for. 

3. Give them a chance to engage with each other through networking

According to Edge Research, the top reason that people join associations and member organizations is for potential job opportunities. That’s why it’s crucial to offer Millennial and Gen Z members opportunities to connect with one another and access to a community of other professionals.

Create and promote a series of networking events as a way for young members to casually meet with other professionals from their industry. And hosting it at a relaxed venue like a coffee shop, local restaurant, or brewery keeps the event low-key and fun—that way, it’s easier to spark more spontaneous conversations. 

4. When it comes to communication, meet them where they are

Your young members likely communicate differently from your established members who have been with you for decades. While seasoned professionals may prefer to communicate via phone calls, Gen Z and Millennials may prefer emails and social media. 

To find out how your younger members prefer to communicate, do your homework. Do some research and consider reaching out. Send a survey to ask them directly. 

5. Involve them in leadership opportunities

Helping your young professionals grow into their careers means developing their leadership skills, too. So, brainstorm a few tactics to encourage your young members to plug in and create opportunities for them to lead.

Not only will your organization benefit from the new ideas they bring to the table, but engaging your young members with leadership opportunities gives them skills they can add to their resumes. Encourage your young members to get involved in committees and other positions where they can influence the organization.

6. Offer a job board

As we already established, career opportunities are likely important to your young members. So, keep them engaged by offering access to an exclusive job board for your industry.

For example: Members can pay a small fee to post open roles on the job board where candidates in your industry can find these jobs all in one central place. Or you can manage a job board that only members can access for exclusive opportunities.

This kind of job board is valuable for both members and job seekers, of course, but it’s yet another potential revenue stream for your organization as well.

7. Host fun and casual events

Not every event you host needs to be strictly for the purpose of networking (although, that might happen naturally anyway). Instead, opt for more casual events and/or team-building activities. 

A casual event could be anything from happy hour at a local brewery, a free luncheon, a trip to an escape room, or even an outdoor picnic. Read up on more casual event ideas for engaging your young members

 8. Spotlight young members in your newsletter

Get your members engaged by highlighting the achievements of one of their own. Use some valuable real estate in your newsletter or on your social channels to spotlight one of your young members—you can even make it a recurring feature to get young members excited about being featured.

A member spotlight is typically a brief profile you write to highlight the person’s achievements and contributions to the organization. These member spotlights are often relatively short; just a few paragraphs with some quotes directly from the person, similar to this example from Builtin. Depending on where you publish your member spotlight, you can expand on it beyond a few paragraphs to write a more robust profile on your valued member. 

In your brief profile on one of your young members, include how long they’ve been a member, if they serve on any committees, and detail any outstanding accomplishments. 

9. Ask for their feedback

When it comes to successfully engaging young members, you can ask them outright for their thoughts. What do they think about your association? Do your current membership benefits serve their needs? 

Solicit their honest feedback through a member needs assessment to get a sense of their satisfaction with your organization. Based on their insights, you can gain deeper knowledge of what your organization is doing well, what needs improvement, and any gaps you can fill to better meet their needs.

Moving Forward With Engaging Your Young Members

New, young members are the seasoned mentors of tomorrow for your organization. So, engaging young members now will pay off in spades as they stick around, build institutional knowledge, and help make your organization even better in the years to come.

Need more help recruiting new young members? Check out our guide on recruiting young professionals (and getting them to stick around).