Now is the time for associations to rethink what it means to be a member and create new ways for young professionals to engage. Here are five changes to consider if you’re serious about appealing to the next generation.

As any young professional will tell you, we move fast and expect everything instantly. And it sometimes seems that nothing moves slower than associations. While print media, film, and retail have reinvented themselves to be on the next generation’s radar, the structure, procedures, and governance of associations hasn’t changed much.

As we move into a post-COVID world, there is an amazing opportunity for associations to reinvent what it means to be a member and create new ways for young professionals to engage with the organization. Here are five changes young professionals would love to see take hold in the association industry in the next five years.

Involve young professionals in your top-level committees. We don’t have to be the head of the steering committee. However, giving YPs a seat at the table and responsibility to manage a project will not only build our confidence and trust in the leadership, but it allows us to learn leadership and decision-making skills firsthand. We can bring forward a new perspective, boost your YP morale, and eventually boost your customer pipeline.

Reconsider your content offerings. Young professionals consume content differently (and other member groups do as well).  Associations need to reevaluate their value proposition and how they’re supplying this value to all types of members. The pandemic has shown us that we are very capable of consuming content through a screen, and that there is a craving for accessing it whenever and wherever is most convenient. We’re already watching our shows, reading our newsletters, and listening to our podcasts in our spare time, so why not add updates from your association to the mix?

As we move into a post-COVID world, there is an amazing opportunity for associations to reinvent what it means to be a member and create new ways for young professionals to engage with the organization.

Help us build our networks. And I don’t mean with people just like us. Sure, it’s great to meet other YPs in the same field who we can relate to, but we also want to meet people from different career levels, in different disciplines, and with different experiences than our own. Millennials are known as the “job-hunting generation,” according to Gallup, and are more open to different job opportunities. We aren’t afraid to change our careers and widen our expertise. If associations can help us navigate our career path by making it easier to build our network, by being our network, they will be invaluable.

Bridge the gap between student and mid-level career programs. So many associations have amazing incentives to get students to join. You can find competitions, discounts, and career resources at most association events, but when students get that degree and transition into the workforce the same level of opportunity is not always there, even though this is when we need it most. Use those student initiatives you already have as a starting point and adapt them for YPs. Remember, we are willing to pay to learn the skill sets we need to make it to the next level of our career.

Make sure your organization’s values line up with ours. Millennials are phasing out of the YP category, and Gen Z is starting to make up a bigger portion of the workplace and potential member. One quality of Gen Z that Forbes noted is that they take values into account when considering an organization and seek out those that align with their personal morals. Sustainability, social justice, and DEI are just a few topics that young members are looking to associations to take a stance on. They will be harsher critics in making sure associations can put their money where our mouth is, so to speak, and work toward making the world a better place.

If you want your organization to be forward-thinking and future-proofed, and your membership pipeline full, then today is the day to start investing in your young professionals.

Brooke Wilson

Brooke Wilson is a senior experience designer at 360 Live Media in Washington, DC.