How to Engage with the Next Generation of Members

DateSeptember 2018

Getting a grasp on what makes the younger generation tick is critical for any membership based organisation. If your organisation seems to consist of older or middle aged members, then getting your head around how to talk to the digital generation is going to have to happen soon. The truth is, that if you market the same way, present your services the same way and look for members in the same places, you’re always going to get the same members signing up.

Creating a relationship with any demographic that you’ve never broken into before is a tough task for any organisation, and one which should be approached in a planned and methodical manner. Bursting into a social group, be it online or real world, with in your face advertising and demanding sign up is not going to get a good response from anyone. No, in order to break through the barriers to the next generation of members, you need to understand who they are, what they want, what you can give them and be able to speak to them in a language they can understand.

Who are they?

With the new millennium into its second decade, you’ll be looking at those born in the twenty of so years before the turn of the century to find your new, fresh members. This section of the population is popularly referred to as ‘Generation Y’, having been preceded by the better known ‘Generation X’. Statistics show that Generation Y are a growing section of the population, with around 71 million people worldwide occupying this niche, compared to just 41 million of the previous Generation X.

Seemingly always plugged into something, Generation Y have truly embraced the technology of our time. Having grown up in a digital age, these individuals have come to expect to be perpetually online, to receive information quickly and in a variety of media, and to engage and interact with people and companies all over the globe, all the time. These traits of the next generation are important for you to understand, but we’ll come back to that later.

What do they want?

Think about where these people are in their lives. Many will have recently graduated from university, some will already have middle or senior management level jobs. Some will have just started a family or bought a house, whereas others may be focussing on developing a professional career. In general, Generation Y are money rich and time poor, wanting everything delivered in a manageable (preferably digital) format so they can make a quick decision and move on.

What can you give them?

Only you will know what your organisation has to offer your new members. However, what is common across the board is that, no matter what your organisational focus, you can give them the opportunity to join. This means you have to actively include these people in your communications strategy and find a way to reach out to them where they are.

Speaking their language

Thankfully this doesn’t mean you have to learn all the nuances of txt spk (text speak) or that you need to gen up on the colloquialisms of our time. However it does mean you need to drag your brand, your image and your communications into the 21st century kicking and screaming. Take note of how brands that engage with the younger generation all the time present their ideas and information, and if you still can’t see the wood for the trees, find yourself a dynamic copywriter to freshen up your message and language.

Embracing the change

Considering all these elements, it may be that your organisation needs to embrace the need to change. Aside of the basic language and image you portray, if you want to really engage with younger members, you may need to completely rethink the way you do business. Consider some of the following examples and whether you are doing enough already:

  • Social media: Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and in many cases is the Generation Y’ers preferred method of communication and contact. Having a presence on special media sites is one hurdle, another is having enough of a presence to be able to answer queries and questions in a timely manner.
  • Modern communication: Your mature members probably prefer to hear from you through postal communication, but younger people will not expect their information delivered this way. They are used to being communicated with in a variety of media, from text messages and emails to mobile apps and website messages.
  • Search engine presence: When a millennial uses technology to find out about a non-profit organisation, Google is their first stop. Research shows that 86.4% of respondents used a search engine to find their association. In addition to this, 71.5% used email, and 51.2% used Facebook to find information on organisations, demonstrating how important a presence in these environments really is.

To make communications with millennials work, they need to be at the heart of your strategic planning. The good news is that moving to a more contemporary, digital means of primary communication will not only give you new opportunities to engage with member’s, it will probably save your organisation money in the long run too.

Ideas for engagement

As well as embracing modern marketing techniques, you can try out some key strategies for getting to the heart of the Generation Y community with some of these ideas:

  • Buddy up with a brand: Find a company that has a similar target audience, and run a joint project to bring your association into the minds of that brands customers.
  • Go where they are: Both on and offline, you need to be where they are. This might be at universities, clubs and sports groups, or indeed forums, social network groups and other online gatherings.
  • Dangle a carrot: Offer something of value to your target audience. Think about discounts, competitions and freebies to help build brand awareness.
  • Demonstrate your value: Run free online seminars (aka webinars), provide ‘how to’ guides and factsheets, make your organisation valuable, knowledgeable and trustworthy to your new audience.

Most importantly, even if your efforts to boost membership with the younger generation fall on seemingly deaf ears at first, make sure you nurture and continue to build that relationship for the future. Generation Y are marketed at every day in so many ways, sometimes it takes persistence and true dedication to win their favour.

Logo - Bear only Get in touch