Seismic Shift – How Workforce Changes Will Alter the Face of Association Membership in the Next 10 Years

Seismic Shift – How Workforce Changes Will Alter the Face of Association Membership in the Next 10 Years

By Sue Farrell Stock, Director, 911 Catalyst Consulting

Have you been in a conversation with someone when they say “Chipotle is bae” or texted with a friend who replies “The Bears are so bad this year…SMH”? If your answer is no, chances are you’re not a millennial, the next boom of people now in the workforce.

With Baby Boomers rapidly moving into retirement, millennials are launching their careers and will become the economic drivers of our economy. In fact, shows they are now the largest segment of the workforce.

For associations and professional societies, this shift prompts an opportunity to engage this new workforce and consider new ways to develop volunteer and staff leadership in ways that embrace succession. It also is a chance to create new strategies that drive organizational growth and requires associations to think about their value propositions to members and customers.

Why think about “customers” when cultivating and retaining members is a key to sustainability?

Consider the impact to revenue models.

Historically, associations relied heavily on member dues and conference registration revenue to advance mission critical growth and sustainability objectives. Baby Boomers historically valued membership as a vehicle for professional affiliation and networking, as well as professional development. This professional development was designed traditionally through in-person conferences offering didactic sessions or hands-on workshop environments.

With millennials, the engagement model needs to change.

As we consider this emerging millennial market, we need to explore new ways of creating value through their associations from both volunteer, member/customer and staff perspectives to advance the mission. We’ve heard that they are not “joiners” of organizations. And they may not attend a face-to-face meeting.

But they do care about networking and professional development. They desire access to content to equip them with the skills needed to advance their careers. They may even believe in your mission ---they just don’t want to fund it.

A member may be paying $160 for annual dues and not have additional connection to the organization. A customer may be consuming digital content to advance their professional growth spending ten times that amount – yet we don’t build a strategy around customer engagement.

So how can associations advance a strategy to engage customers?

The first step is understanding your value in the marketplace.

What does your organization do better than anyone else in the industry? Understanding the answer to that question and creating a marketing and outreach strategy to attract customers to your unique value proposition will create growth ---but not in the ways that we typically measure. Membership dues may decline, but product sales can increase and drive the mission and new product opportunities.

Being tuned into the marketplace and learner needs will assist in creating a product strategy that enhances member value – but engages customers in new ways. They may not join – but the association is still delivering on its promise to the industry and profession.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what associations are around to accomplish?

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