The millennial generation is notoriously difficult demographic to target. Hard to bring on as members, and just as difficult to keep as members – they represent a major challenge to the future of many membership-driven organizations.
Finding a solution to the problem isn’t easy, but it is possible. Here are 5 tips you can use to start to understand the problem, and define a solution!
1. You aren’t presenting the social value of membership.
Millennial’s – by and large – are a progressive generation. They place significant value on social change, and are thirsty to find avenues to participate in and promote change that aligns with causes meaningful to them.
Does your organization promote positive social change?
If not, picking a cause and finding a way that members can contribute to it through their membership can be a powerful way to attract new millennial members.
If you do contribute to social causes, are you doing all you can to present that fact? It might be the case that you simply aren’t communicating how membership in your organization can allow members to contribute to social causes that they care about.
Whether it’s donating a portion of membership or event proceeds to charity, subscription to an equal-opportunity mandate, or just an official acknowledgement of your organization’s commitment to progressive causes/values – doing anything to promote positive social change can go a long way to preventing millennials from dismissing the prospect of membership.
Member-driven organizations – by and large – are older, established institutions. Largely established decades ago, they’ve developed long-standing processes and directives. To millennials, this can make you appear committed to the status quo. Committing to social change shows them otherwise!
2. You aren’t competing with alternative methods of connection.
Millennial’s were children in a technological environment that gave them historically unprecedented methods to connect with other people. Boomers learned to speak, read, and write. Millennial’s learned all that, but also how to tweet, like, share, and subscribe.
Social media empowers people to effortlessly create, join, and participate in communities built around their interests – for free – and millennial’s use them with unprecedented fluency. Using social media, in moments a single millennial can build a network of connections larger than those offered by member-based organizations, and they don’t have to pay for it.
From this perspective, it’s difficult to understand why anyone would pay to apply for membership. No member-driven organization can compete with social media on the basis of breadth-of-connections, which is why your organization ought to emphasize the depth of connection. A follow, like, or subscribe is a shallow interaction compared to the face-to-face interaction social media doesn’t offer. To attract millennial members, present membership in your organization as an avenue to the deeper connections that millennial’s are starved for!
3.Your structure is centralized and bureaucratic.
Millennial’s have grown up in a world dominated by big, centralized institutions, and have watched powerlessly as many of these institutions have brought devastation to the planet and people.
Though your member-driven organization isn’t a government or multinational conglomerate; hierarchical structures, centralized decision-making, and bureaucratic processes give millennial’s all they need to consider you ‘partners in crime’ with the many institutions they believe to be problems in this world.
While it’s unlikely that your organization creates negative consequences for the world like the big institutions that millennial’s take issue with, by sharing the same organizational structures, methods of participation, and way of thinking – it’s difficult to separate you! Membership in your organization feels like participation in the very way of thinking millennial’s want to change!
4. You don’t employ millennial’s
If you can’t beat them, join them! Or at least let them join you!
Before you expect millennials to engage with you, it makes sense to take the first step and engage with some millennial’s by inviting them to become part of your organization, but as employees – not members.
Instead of brainstorming why your organization might be struggling to attract millennial members, having some on the payroll helps you hear directly from their perspective!
Moreover, as millennial employee’s become ingrained in your staff and become part of your decision-making processes, you can expect your organization to naturally shift and change to one that is optimized for meeting the needs of the next generation. It’s important that you have millennial voices included when discussing marketing campaigns, events, and the future of your organization!
5. You aren’t speaking their language
Your organization likely has a variety of social media accounts, but can you confidently say that you’re getting value from them?
Most member-driven organizations use social media as a one-way broadcast medium. They create messaging, and use LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, etc as a means to get their message out.
Businesses that use social media this way not only get little-to-no value from their effort, but come across as out-of-touch to millennial’s who use social media as a conversational tool. Born in the age of TV, Boomers are used to one-way, top-down communication – but social media empowers back-and-forth conversation.
Using emoji’s in your tweets is not going to help you appeal to millennials. Acknowledging that social media is for conversation, not broadcast, will. Instead of, for example, posting on a scheduled basis – consider seeking out individuals who are having conversations that you can lend value to! Join these conversations without any motive other than simply lending your $0.02, and you’ll present yourself as a rare organization that is actually in touch with millennial’s.
Change isn’t Easy
Before you can fix a problem, you’ve got to face it.
In the case of attracting Millennials to your organization – solutions aren’t as easy as ‘getting on social media’, ‘making meme’s’, or offering avocado toast as a benefit of membership.
It’s about honestly recognizing that you are out of touch with the current generation, and making an authentic effort to meet them on their terms, instead of having them meet you.
Above are 5 powerful ways that you can start to do so, but they are far from comprehensive! There are thousands of possible techniques you can use, but they’ll never become known to you unless you can recognize that your lack of millennial members is a problem with your organization, not with the millennial generation.