October 23, 2014
5 tips to make your association relevant to young professionals
By Eileen Johnson, Esq. | 09/12/2014
Association TRENDS

Probably the vast majority of association membership benefits are the traditional ones – a publication of some sort, access to the association’s “members only” website, discounts on conference fees and purchases, access to group insurance programs, etc. While these benefits retain their popularity with some segments of association members, are they really useful – or even interesting – to your younger members?

“What do our young professionals want from us?” That question is being asked over and over by membership directors, program managers, meeting planners and senior management. How can you make membership in your association relevant to young professionals? Here are five tips to jump start the membership benefits conversation.

1. Start over. Don’t assume that any of your association’s current benefits are of interest or value to your younger members.

2. Ask them. Take advantage of electronic surveys, polls, social media sites and other tools to ask your younger members and prospective members what they want from your association. Start with a discussion on your association’s Facebook page. If you don’t have one, get one.

3. Pay attention. Listen to what you are hearing – or not hearing – from younger members and prospects. Don’t dismiss survey results as not being indicative of the larger (and probably older) segment of your membership.

4. Be open to new ideas. Not every member wants or even needs to receive the same member benefits. Free webinars that members can access 24/7 might appeal to more than just your young professional members. You could find that you are developing an entirely new suite of member benefits that will attract and retain more than just the under-40 crowd.

5. Experiment. If you offer a benefit and you don’t get the response you expected, try something different. Creativity and experimentation are how your association got started in the first place.

If your association’s bylaws specify the benefits that your members must receive, you should give serious consideration to giving your bylaws a thorough review. The associations that will be successful in the 21st century are those that can quickly adapt to changes in society and the marketplace. Your bylaws should encourage, not inhibit, change, particularly when it comes to your members. Association membership programs are like swimmers – they’re either moving forward, treading water, or going under. Make sure your association is in one of the first two groups.

Johnson is a partner in Whiteford, Taylor & Preston’s nonprofit and associations practice, Falls Church, Va., office. This column appeared originally appeared on the WTP site. Contact her at emjohnson@wtplaw.com.


Association TRENDS