Surprising Similarities: How Young Members Resemble Boomers in 6 Ways

Resemblances Between Young Members and Boomers: 6 Surprising Similarities
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Young Members Are Not That Different From 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 members go up.

In response, nonprofit associations are prioritizing the attraction of young members. Young members are 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.

6 Shocking Similarities

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.

The distance between the two generations is converging. Associations will benefit more from noting their similarities rather than their differences. 

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, but they also want to be able to do it themselves. 

Both boomers and millennials want a “customized” experience. So they will choose the association that can give it to them. That means more options and on-demand services that offer 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. Their rejection of guidance from intermediaries further complicates this.

Associations don’t need different content to appeal to choice-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. Mistrust of Institutions

Young members and boomers are skeptical of institutions. True to their “me” instincts, they question what’s in it for them. Nevertheless, both generations want institutions to prove their value. 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. In addition, they can work to build confidence over time.

4. 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. 

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.

When associations provide meaningful experiences to their members, they share them 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, you aren’t reaching them.

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

Young Members Predict Your Future

There are numerous similarities between millennials and boomers. But this crop of young professionals isn’t a special case. Millennials echo 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 doing 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.

See: Who Needs Associations Anymore? 4 New Membership Models for more insights and ideas about young members.

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