Fast Company published one of the best articles I have ever read regarding the Millennial generation. This piece by Josh Allan Dykstra is a succinct deconstruct about why Millennials don’t buy stuff and, on the other hand, what the buying experience really means to these young people born in the late 20th or early 21st century. Dykstra outlines why this generation buys things and it’s not to acquire stuff. The purchasing explanation provides the rationale as to why this generation may indeed be the future of associations (adapted with thanks to Dykstra):
1. People buy association memberships because of what they can do within the organization. Two of the primary reasons that people join associations are for professional development and networking. Certainly many of the Millennials are launching their careers. With the jobless recovery that seems to be permeating the globe, maintaining professional and industry expertise will be critical to maintaining employment. Regarding networking, these young people already are pros. Through their active participation in social media, they constantly are networking. Quality blended learning and networking offered by associations fill the bill for Millennials.
2. Millennials value community. Sharing with others is highly prized by Millennials. Thus, businesses are encouraged to foster communities. In the association world, communities of practice, discussion groups, P2P conversations (e.g., TSAE Peer-to-Peer) are alive and well. If associations actively encourage community in the digital and f2f arenas, they could attract more young members.
3. Millennials purchase (or not) for the greater good. Generation Y (another moniker for the Millennials) is particularly attracted to practices or experiences that allow individuals and groups to walk the talk of sustainability and conduct socially responsible lives. Associations that function for the greater good , or offer opportunities to do so, could become magnets for these young professionals. ASAE, the center for association leadership, launched a social responsibility initiative several years ago and continues to grow green. There are organizations around the globe committed to socially responsible operations. One such group is the Green Meeting Industry Council. Another society, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, built the first LEED certified non-profit building in Maryland. Association membership can be one purchase that complements Millennial commitment to the greater good.
Associations are on a slippery slope related to relevance. As membership rosters age and retire, the future may be right under the collective association nose: Millennials. To attract these young and future members, 1) non-profits must make access and engagement simple yet dynamic; 2) foster community; and 3) support social responsibility as a core value. Three good reasons why Millennials look like future association members.