Generation Why? – Why Recruiting Millennials is Key for Associations

Categories: Association Content Marketing

During his inaugural address in 1961, John Kennedy famously said:

“…Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…”

Now, more than 50 years later, Kennedy’s sentiments seem relevant again as Millennials come of age and become a driving force in the marketplace and grows into a leadership role that is defining the American landscape and marketplace.

This transition creates an opportunity for member-based associations and organizations to market to a new audience and position themselves as leaders in an industry, as they’ve done for several generations.

However, it’s not as easy as cut and paste.  What worked for Baby Boomers and Generation X won’t necessarily resonate with Millennials – They, well…we, like our communication. (Since I fit in to this demographic I should probably write in first person.) We are constantly connected, always engaged (often doing multiple things at the same time), and hungry for information now.

Before we discuss how associations can capitalize on this market, let’s break down the Millennial Generation.


  • Born between 1982 and 1995.
  • Defined by a “Hero” archetype that places a deep trust in authority, is highly motivated, and thrives in a team-oriented environment.
  • Extremely open to change.
  • 97% of Millennials own a computer.
  • 94% of Millennials own a cell phone.
  • 76% Use an Instant Messenger to communicate.
  • 40% Use television as their preferred news source.
  • The term, Millennial was actually developed by Millennials. We want distinct differentiation from Generation X so we took it on ourselves to define what we want to be.

See the Full Infographic

Millennials are trending toward an increase in the use of technology as an integrated part of our lives, and as a result we expect our information and communication be targeted, unique, and instantaneous.

With this open acceptance of technology and change, the inherent trust in authority, and the level of motivation possessed by Millennials – this is a perfect opportunity for member-based associations to get on the bus, and position themselves as trusted resources of this generation.

2012 is an exciting year for the Millennial generation. Not only will the oldest members of this group turn 30, but the majority of Millennials have “come-of-age” and are developing lives and careers that will define them.  The time to market to this group is now, but as I said before, this must be done delicately.

Here are several Millennial Trends associations can take into consideration when marketing membership to members of this generation:

  • Technology is key. Millennials are technoholics. Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Facebook, iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Spotify, Wikipedia, etc. These are all buzzwords that will resonate with this generation. A key marketing principle that spans generations has been, “Meet the consumer where they are.” Reaching Millennials is no different. iPhone Apps, content and media rich association websites, updated social media profiles, interactive ways to connect with other members – these are all key in developing relationships with Millennials.
  • It’s all about me. I’ll be honest. You’re not going to get my undivided attention. At least, not right away.  If you want to attract me, you’ve got to hook me with a short, snappy, message. It’s got to be through vehicles I’m used to using, and I have to see value in it.  Millennials often need the proverbial, “Slap in the Face,” to be jarred away from a constant assault on our attention spans. (I promise you, we don’t have Attention Deficit Disorder. We have Information Overload Disorder.) So, shock me, call me out, personalize your communication. If what you have to offer is valuable, you’ll get my attention.
  • We are your peers now. Yes, I know. You’re more experienced, wiser, and Millennials can learn a lot from you, but that doesn’t change the fact we’ve entered the workforce, we’re highly motivated and capable, and we should be at the table, and we should be taken seriously, when decision are made or contributions are needed. (Let’s face it – this audience makes up 25% of the American population – there is no escaping us.)

social-silhouettesWhat is your association doing to attract Millennials? Do you have a mobile app that updates members on the latest news from your organization? Are you developing programming that caters to our needs and engages us so we see value in your association? When you make a fundamental decision about the direction of your organization, are you welcoming the opinions of the NEXT generation of membership? Or, do you just have a “Young Professionals” group that meets for drinks once a quarter?

You’ve got an opportunity to lead with this audience. You’ve got the knowledge and experience, you’ve got the network and resources, and you’ve got an extremely energetic and motivated audience. But, you need the technology and the plan to back it up. What is your association waiting for?

The torch is being passed, and if you do what is necessary to engage the generation of the future, you can build relevance for your association, increase membership, (and through positive retention strategies, maintain membership) and position yourself for the future as well. We’re here, and we are listening.

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