Why Young Professionals Aren’t Joining Your Association


According to the 2018 Association Communications Benchmarking Report by Naylor, nearly half (48%) of associations struggle with engaging young professionals.

In the age where industry content is readily available and more young professionals are networking digitally versus in person, associations’ perceived benefits aren’t viewed as exclusively as they used to be. It’s not that associations don’t provide value – they do. They just need to make sure their benefits are aligning with the needs and values of young professionals.

3 Reasons Young Professionals Aren’t Joining Associations

Here are a few reasons young professionals are not joining associations.

  1. Educational content is readily available.
    Young professionals grew up with the Internet. This means they can find anything and everything online – without having to pay for it or even fill out a form. Providing educational content alone does not make associations unique. There are plenty of free online communities professionals can be a part of without having to pay annual dues.
  2. Networking is intimidating.
    Since millennials and gen z have been able to hide behind, and communicate through, computers their entire lives, they tend to be a little less comfortable with traditional networking events. Plus, they also like to multitask, so networking alone might not feel like the best use of their time.
  3. You’re not actively recruiting young professionals.
    Associations seemed to have hopped on the inbound marketing train, and I’m not sure that’s the best strategy for them. They have to compete with publishers, influencers, and solution providers who are all fighting for the time and attention of young professionals online.

3 Ways Associations Can Attract More Young Professionals

Here are three things associations can do to attract more young professionals.

  1. Help them learn about products and services in the industry.
    Young professionals have more blog articles and white papers than they know what to do with. Where your association can provide real value is by helping young professionals learn more about the products and services that can help them do their job better. (Hint: This is the also a great opportunity to connect young professionals with your sponsors.)
  2. Spice up your networking events – better yet don’t even call them networking events.
    I’m 10 years into my marketing career, and I have been to one networking event. What got me to go to that one event? It involved laser tag. It sounds silly, but seeing laser tag made me completely bring my guard down. (Bonus points for also counting it as my workout for the day.) It made introductions easy, and the conversations smoothly transitioned from laser tag to marketing.
  3. Focus more on outbound recruiting efforts.
    Being a part of an association should make members feel special and valued – and this all starts with recruitment. Recruitment strategies should be less about helping young professionals find you, and more about you finding the brightest people in the industry to be a part of an exclusive community.

Associations can provide young professionals a wealth of knowledge and opportunity that they can’t just get through a Google search. Associations simply need to make sure they’re keeping up with the evolving needs of the workforce, and they will attract more members across all generations.

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