How to Change Association Leadership Focus and Get Short and Long Term Growth – The Recruiting Reality of Two Different Targets

Most associations have a ticking bomb and they don”t really know it.  Their core membership is going to start (don”t say it) r e t i r i n g.  All those Baby Boomer members are going to drop out of membership and then what.  Not only do you need to recruit more of these ideal customers (boomers) but you also need to focus on the “young, new blood” in both your marketing, programs and leadership.

Marketing to Baby Boomers is fairly easy.  The Association recruiting efforts of the past (with a dose of Kordell ideas) will do very well.  Where the real challenge is . . . . recruiting new membership with the Gen X & Y (20 year olds to 40ish).  That group grew up during the 30 years of constant layoffs that infected American business from the 1980s until now.  They just don’t trust like the Boomers do.  Their life experience is that mom or dad came home with a pink slip and were miserable.   They believe in work/life balance . . . none of this “to die for the organization is to live forever” stuff that Baby Boomers practice.  They don’t volunteer to join if they don’t see something in it for them.  Remember they want . . .

  1. Educational Opportunities (they want this to grow their business abilities)
  2. Leadership Opportunities (they want  this to grow their business abilities)
  3. To “make a dent in the universe”.

Don’t communicate your association value of “our networking events” to the Gen XY group, because they just expect networking to be a tool/process that will get them what they really want (the 1, 2, & 3 above).  What they want are the clear measurable programs and messages that let them know what that they will be able to Lead, Learn and to make a dent in the Universe.

The challenge for Association Leadership . . . . use your wisdom to balance the focus on Baby Boomer members AND venture into new country by recruiting Gen X & Y.  Two different messages.  One is focused on leaving a legacy and the younger generation is focused on winding UP (skills/contribution) to create a legacy.  Both are the same, but with slight nuances in each.

No hiding your head in the sand on this one.  It requires learning new skills or asking those who naturally have those skills to help educate or lead.  It means getting this younger generation to look at association programming to make sure it connects with Boomers and Gen XY.  I means you have to get presenters and speakers who are not limited to PowerPoint, or their spill.  Many speakers will be going the way of cotton only undershirts, penny loafers and frozen pizza.  Start focusing on great presenters who can facilitate learning and getting participation and discussion with your members.

Which of your offerings can you say definitely helps your members GROW THEIR BUSINESS?  You might need to do some marketing planning to make sure your association activities have ROI for the Gen XY (and Baby Boomers while you are at it.)


Because cars that don”t interface with your smart phone are not that smart.  Because screwdrivers and tools are just barely keeping some legacy department stores breathing.   They just aren”t as sexy as Twitter, as the latest app.  Food has it”s own networks and must be exciting.  Your marketing and message has to be exciting, an experience . . . it must be charismatic.


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