6 Ways Young Members Are Secretly Boomers

Young Members
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Are Young Members Secretly Boomers?

In 2015, millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest population in the workforce. The majority of the workforce is getting younger. Most membership organizations are seeing the average age of their membership go up.

In response, nonprofit associations are prioritizing the attraction of young members. Young members are their future—future volunteers, future dues payers and future leaders. But attracting young professionals hasn’t been easy.

Perception is the root of this challenge. Millennials are unlike the generations that have come before them. Technologically savvy, they sit on the cutting edge of change. Conversely, baby boomers, are thought to be technologically unsophisticated and allergic to change.

These generalizations suggest an insurmountable abyss exists between boomers and millennials. Associations believe they must reinvent their past strategy to attract millennial members. Recent AARP research shows that young members have much in common with boomers. In fact, the distance between the two generations is converging. Associations will benefit more from noting their similarities, rather than their differences. This new perspective holds the key to successful strategic planning for nonprofit organizations.

So what are these shocking similarities?

1. Consumer-Centric

Boomers are the original “me” generation. That thinking has filtered down to the millennials. Often raised by boomer parents or grandparents, millennials grew up around this idea. They expect everything is–and should be– about them. Not only do baby boomers and millennials want what they want, they want to be able to do it themselves.

How can your association’s marketing strategy reflect this?

Both boomers and millennials want a “customized” experience. They will choose the association that can give it to them. That means more options and on-demand services that give them what they want, when and how they want it.

2. Overwhelmed by Choices

Boomers and millennials alike idealize choices. However, the abundant options make the decision-making process a burden for both generations. This is further complicated by their rejection of guidance from intermediaries.

How can your association’s marketing strategy reflect this?

Associations don’t need different content to appeal to option-fatigued millennials and boomers. They need to present and distribute their existing content in new ways. Associations need to expand content distribution to channels preferred by these generations. This will give them the best chance of capturing their attention.

3. General Mistrust of Institutions

Young members and boomers are skeptical of institutions. True to their “me” instincts, they question what’s in it for them. Both generations want institutions to prove their value.

How can your association’s marketing strategy reflect this?

Trust is key to loyalty. Boomers and millennials are loyal to institutions they trust—but that trust has to be earned. Associations can overcome their mistrustful nature by promoting defined and proven membership benefits. They can work to build confidence over time.

4. Value Experiences over Things

For millennials and boomers, things are just…things. It’s experiences they are after. According to a study conducted by Eventbrite, 94% of millennials and 91% of boomers believe that experiences lead to a fulfilling life.

How can your association’s marketing strategy reflect this?

Associations that provide opportunities to engage will draw in millennials and boomers. Whether digital or face-to-face, the prospect of an experience will entice them.

5. Social Sharing as Status

Experiences are the new status symbols and social media is the trophy case. Young members’ affinity for sharing on social media is well known. But boomers are catching on, too. People aged 50+ are the fastest growing segment on social media.

How can your association’s marketing strategy reflect this?

When associations provide meaningful experiences to their members, they share it on social media. This is especially true for millennial and boomer member segments. Social shares spread an association’s message and proof of value.

6. Pervasive Use of Technology

Technology is not just a millennial thing. While millennials are technology natives, boomers have adopted technology readily. They consume it at a rate rivaling the millennial generation. If you’re not reaching out to boomers and young members digitally, then you aren’t reaching them at all.

How can your association’s marketing strategy reflect this?

Associations using technology well to communicate with their membership will see higher engagement.

There are myriad similarities between millennials and boomers. This crop of young professionals clearly isn’t a special case. In fact, millennials are echoing many of the needs of older generations—just in a more demanding tone. The older generations have been more tolerant in waiting for change. Yet their patience is wearing thin.

Associations need to do more than determine how they can attract young members. They need to change to meet current and future member needs. Fortunately, young professionals can tell us a lot about how to do that.

When the needs of millennials are met, so are those of current and future needs of associations. Associations can attract young professionals and improve the experience of older members by bringing the generations together.

For more insights and ideas about young members see: “Who Needs Associations Anymore?  4 New Membership Models.”

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