6 Tips to Attract Younger Members to Join Your Association

Young Professionals Are More Important to Your Association Than You Think

This story appears in the
Association Focus 2024 Issue 1

Presently, millennials comprise about 35% of the U.S. population; Gen Z, about 12%. According to Gallup, both generations contribute nearly half (47%) of today’s full-time workforce, and some studies estimate they will account for up to 75% of the labor market by 2030.
These two groups of workers grew up with smartphones and computers; they are digital natives living online. They don’t remember when telephones were attached to a wall or that their televisions didn’t have a remote and only had three channels from which to select programming.
The world has changed as it has progressed. And attracting young professionals to join your association may be more important than you might believe. As these generations enter the workplace, they may seek to further their online lives, look for networking opportunities within their specific industries, and, subsequently, elect to join an association. A Community Brands study found that 76% of workers join a professional organization within their first five years of employment.
Early careerists represent the future of your association, and you should begin brainstorming and developing ways to bring in newer and younger members. Becoming part of your members’ lives early in their careers may assist overall member engagement and retention at your association.
Here are six effective tools to help you strategize ways for more millennials and Gen Zers to join your association. These tools may assist you in recruiting young professionals, increase their engagement and — perhaps most importantly — retain them on behalf of your association’s future.

1. Know Your Audience

As you look to attract younger members to your association, you must understand what motivates them. Transparency, trustworthiness, social responsibility and personal and professional growth are some of the factors that will sway a millennial or Gen Zer to your association.
Also, according to the Community Brands Association Trends Study, over half of early-career members value training as the most important member benefit. For young professionals, the second most important member priority is raising awareness, and the third is fueling the industry’s growth. However, early-career designation doesn’t always signal a member is a young professional — it could indicate a recent switch in industries. Half of mid-career members value training as the second member priority, and 48% value raising awareness as the third priority.
As you build recruitment and member engagement communications for early careerists, focus on training initiatives, opportunities to raise awareness and fuel growth in your industry, and the benefits of professional education. Additionally, focus on job and networking opportunities, career tips and resources to help them in their early professional stage.
2. Offer Job and Career Advancement Opportunities
Community Brands’ research shows that job opportunities and career advancement are the top reasons people join a membership organization. For young professionals in your association, put multiple offerings in place to help them grow their careers:
  • Provide mentorship opportunities. Connect young professionals with experienced members to mentor them. To ensure a good fit between mentor and mentee, ask members to complete profiles specifying their demographic data, individual skill sets and what expectations they may have for your program. If you use association management software (AMS), input the profiles to streamline the matching process.
  • Develop an internship board. Offer an internship board to connect students and new graduates with employers with internship opportunities. Encourage current members to post these opportunities at their companies or professional networks.
  • Offer an online career center. Provide a huge benefit for members — especially those in the first five years of their careers — by connecting them with job opportunities.
  • Create digital and printed career resources. Support your young professionals by designing industry-specific resources so they can build a career roadmap to assist them in reaching their professional goals. Remember to include professional development, employer recruitment and industry‑required training materials.
3. Provide Learning Opportunities
Because young professionals value training opportunities, your association should gear up its learning program. Although most organizations offer conferences or virtual and in-person learning courses, association members — including the younger ones — value various learning experiences. 
To take your learning program to the next level, you may consider the following options:
  • Offer engaging learning content. To engage young careerists in your learning program and — importantly — keep them coming back for more courses, add a variety of content to your association learning program. Try offering live webinars, webcasts of live events, videos, social learning, virtual conferences, recommended courses and on-demand learning opportunities.
  • Organize training and certification opportunities. As young professionals seek to grow their careers, arrange for your association to offer them training and certification relevant to helping them become more attractive in the job market.
4. Make Your Association Easier to Join
Though you may attract the attention of young professionals, membership costs may be a hardship for them when deciding to join your association. Review your membership fees and consider offering different levels at a reduced price. Levels could include student, new graduate or first-year professional membership. Also, allow flexible payment options, like installments, scheduled payments or recurring payments. This may assist a prospective member in feeling even more comfortable about joining.
5. Offer Incentives
A compelling incentive can break down final barriers for those on the fence about joining. Perhaps a free month of membership will give students and new graduates a taste of what they can expect as fully-fledged members. Or grant them a special discount toward an online learning opportunity or webinar registration. Promote these incentives on your association’s home page, blog, targeted email campaigns and social media.
6. Engage Early Careerists
Once young professionals join your association, the first interactions will make a lasting impression and set the stage for a long-term relationship. Here are some tips on how to welcome and engage with early careerists:
  • Provide a memorable onboarding experience. Personally thank young professionals for joining. This touch ensures new members feel glad they decided to join. Let them know you’ll be sending more communications with information about their new membership, and then do it. Give them a short, simple list of communications they can expect to receive, from whom and where they can find more information and resources.
  • Invite your new, young members to connect. Get young professionals involved by asking them to virtually connect with your organization and other members. Engaging with new members as soon as they join your association is the best way to boost their involvement with your online community. For example, invite new members to a subgroup or channel designated for young professionals. Consider pairing new members with volunteer member ambassadors in your online community to welcome them and help them get to know your organization better.
  • Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to understand how to attract young millennials and Gen Zers to your organization is to request input from them. Forward a survey asking how they found out about your organization and why they joined. Also, ask what benefits they find most useful and what would make their experience as a member more valuable. Then, use their feedback to inform your recruitment, onboarding and engagement activities.

What is the Next Step?

Since the next generation of your membership is of the “technological” age, attracting new members is important to the ongoing success of your association. So it’s vital that you utilize and embrace the technology available to you. You need to invest in new digital marketing strategies, create user-friendly online member portals, use video content and ensure your content is mobile-friendly. 
And, if you’re at a loss about how to help your new generation of members and what they need, be sure to ask them! Use them as a resource. It’s possible these new generations can assist your association further into the future than you ever thought possible.