Everyone is talking about Millennials and what associations need to do to attract this large demographic as members and leaders.
Our experience (confirmed by emerging data) shows that Generation Y (Millennials) displays little interest in running the association but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in participating in associations. They want to be engaged in co-creating solutions to issues that matter to them. They will NOT remain involved in anything that is not purposeful, rewarding, and enjoyable. Their loyalty is to whom that are working with and the outcome they are trying to achieve. They are most comfortable with frequent objective feedback (like scores on a video game and Google analytics) than they are working independently with no clear objective.
While these preferences are most pronounced in North America, they are trending in 20 and early 30 somethings throughout the world except in war torn or unstable areas where there is little effective government, lots of corruption and forceful power are the norms of the culture, and daily survival is the priority.
It’s not only about how attractive volunteer opportunities are. There also needs to be consideration of how attractive the profession itself is to a particular generation and where an association’s particular niche falls along the typical career path of those who are attracted to membership. For global organizations, there is also the issue of where folks can work on things of importance that matter to them – locally, nationally, or internationally? What’s important to members of any generation can also vary from personal career to the profession itself. All those factors speak to membership recruitment, retention, engagement strategies, and governance.
There is general agreement that Millennials are those born after 1980 (or 1982) until around 2000 (20 years). No hard line has been drawn yet for the beginning of the next generation (unnamed but sometimes referred to as Gen Next) which most believe is at least 10 years into the making. Gen X’ers (1965-1980) are now turning 50. They were a big bust for associations in terms of membership and leadership – not a lot of them and they aren’t big joiners. And Baby Boomers, now turning 70, are actually starting to retire but still major players in associations, partly due to their size and influence but also a sense of wanting to give back to their profession/industry.
These kinds of insights influence changes in engagement, governance processes and culture of the organization more so than structure, but should indeed be considered. They should factor into any recommendations for organizational change.