Are you making attracting and retaining the next generation a priority to sustain your organization and benefit from their fresh insights and ideas? Quite simply, they are the future. Which is why empowering and cultivating the next generation of leaders in your organization, association, industry is so vital.
While appealing to and engaging younger people is the lifeblood of the future of the organization, balancing that with staying relevant and nurturing the rest of your customer/member base is also critical. It is a delicate dance in a time of limited resources.
For example, many membership associations and nonprofits face the dilemma that the average age of their members and donors are now over 50 years old, making involving younger people more critical than ever. Yet budgets and staff time are also at their tightest and they worry that focusing on engaging young people will mean not paying sufficient attention to their core membership and donors.
Here are some quick tips and ideas that are working for a number of organizations:
Avoid making generalizations about the “next generation.” Take the time to find out the priorities, motivations, interests, and habits of the younger customers, members, or donors in your audience. Which social media sites and online communities do they use for what purposes?
Conduct market research and have anecdotal conversations with younger and older people in the segments you want to reach. You may find they have common core needs and interests that will help define your messaging and services you might want to develop for them despite being in different ages ranges.
Look at your marketing materials and online presence – do the photos and graphics represent diversity including in range of ages? Are your main messages consistent with the needs and values of your most important younger and older customers/members?
Consider creating a mentoring program and/or online discussion group that give seasoned customers and members the opportunity to share their expertise and life experience with younger people. This can provide a meaningful experience and resource to both parties while involving them in your organization. Invite some key older and younger people to moderate the discussion group on your web site or a social media site like LinkedIn.
Seek other meaningful ways that customers, members, or donors in different age ranges and with different needs and interests can engage with your organization. Invite some articulate, insightful young people to serve on your Board and key committees to ensure you get their input while making them feel valued.
Younger people expect respect and a seat at the table. They are not going to tolerate waiting 20 years to “earn” their place. Encourage their ideas, give them the opportunity to create a new program or service, or to host an in-person or online discussion panel. Ask them to serve on a task force to take a fresh look at a business line or program area.
Share success stories about accomplished young professionals or customers and how your organization or products/services helped them achieve their goals. Ask a few articulate, successful members or customers to serve as ambassadors for your organization, featuring them in articles, print and online ads, your web site, blog, and social media vehicles. Encourage them to share their stories as well and to ask their friends or colleagues to participate in your organization.
What have you found effective to engage the next generation while nurturing and sustaining your other key members, donors, or customers? What impact have you seen?