The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With And Recruiting Younger Members

Membership October 27, 2011

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand
We’ve heard from countless membership organizations that they’re having trouble recruiting and engaging younger members. Yet, there are more than 80 million Gen Y or Millennials (those born after 1979) in the world. This is now the largest generation in American history. So while you may be tired of hearing about Millennials, these 20-35 year old's cannot be ignored.

The youngest Millennials, who are in their 20’s, are your future members, supporters or donors. And the 30-something Millennials should already be participating in your events, committees and even your board. If they aren’t, you might just have a “generation gap” on your hands.

If you want to develop a strategy for recruiting and engaging younger members, you’ll need to understand them and re-focus your marketing, communications and fundraising strategies to target, embrace, welcome and engage this generation.

This compendium includes a wealth of information, insight and ideas on Millennials.  It may just offer up everything you need to know to start connecting with and recruiting younger members, supporters or donors.

Here are highlights and links to 11 resources that will help you better understand Millennials.


Who are the Millennials and why are they so important?

There are many terms used to describe Millennials: “The Net Generation, Screenagers, Digital Natives, Generation Y, or the Echo Boom”. But no matter what you call them, “this generation thinks differently, communicates differently, and is changing the way the world works” and “defining the culture.

As Gabe Rosenberg, at Contently suggests to marketers [as well as associations, clubs and non-profits], "millennials are the holy grail of potential consumers” and, we suggest, members, supporters and donors as well. But, the problem is we “still don’t know how to court them.”

Insight Into Millennials:

The Myth of the Millennial Generation

A  blog post and infographic on Online MPA Degrees, posted by bchilds, offers data that defies many of the preconceived negative beliefs about Gen Y. Their stats include details on Millennials' economic and job status; volunteer work; civic-mindedness and more.

Canadian Millennials offers “research and strategic advice for engaging with Canada’s emerging generation.” Along with providing research, their website offers a “Millennial Personality Quiz”. Their “Meet the Millennials” section offers an overview of the six types of Millennials: the Achiever, the Stampeder, the Pacer, the Simple Lifer, the Spark, and the Firefly.

Infographic: Millennials vs. Gen Z in The Workplace

A blog post and infographic from Ask Cody offers insight into what employers can expect from Millennial and Gen Z hires, as well as what they can do to attract and retain young employees who are most suited for their organization. 

Marketing To Millennials:

Millennials Unimpressed by Content Marketing, Yet Willing to Be Won Over

Gabe Rosenberg (Contently) tells us:

To some, millennials are entitled and expect to be given the world; to others, we are a tolerant group that just wants to change the world. But to marketers, millennials are the holy grail of potential consumers: those with nearly an entire lifetime of buying power ahead of them.

According to a 2013 Yahoo Content Marketing Ingestion Study, millennials will have $1.4 trillion of spending power in the US by 2020.

The problem: Marketers still don’t know how to court them. To try to determine what creative tactics and marketing principles should be used to create enjoyable, shareable content for millennials, Yahoo and Tumblr partnered with Razorfish and Digitas to conduct a study of 15,000 respondents aged 18–34.

...The big takeaway? Millennials aren’t impressed, by and large, with the content that brands are lobbing their way. Forty-five percent of respondents reported that they don’t usually find content marketing compelling enough to share.

recruiting younger members  

Millennials and Membership:

Knowing Y: Engage the Next Generation Now

This is a a new book by Sarah Sladek, founder of  XYZ University, “a future-focused management consulting company that specializes in helping organizations engage Generations X, Y and Z" (also author of The End of Membership as We Know It).

Sladek researched and interviewed hundreds of Gen Y's for her book and as it's summary suggests:

“Many associations and their leaders are waiting for Generation Y to come of age and change their engagement habits to mirror the habits of previous generations who joined associations as their careers and age advanced. That’s a nice thought but should you bank your association’s future on it? I wouldn’t.

...Generation Y has a different set of needs, interests, and values as author Sarah Sladek conveys with convincing statistics, examples, and case studies. And these needs and interests have implications for every functional area of associations from advocacy to technology to websites.

Sladek notes: “You can choose to dwell on the challenges that lie ahead or you can dwell on the opportunities. But one thing is certain – whatever choice you make from here on out, it will begin and end with Y.”

What Members Want: The New Meaning of Value 

Shannon Neeser (XYZ University Blog) tells us:

The problem with your young association members is that they’re always changing. Each generation is a little bit different; they value experiences differently. How you attracted young members a decade ago probably isn’t working for you today; Gen X is not Gen Y is not Gen Z. And even if your association gets these generations in the door, keeping them there is just as challenging.

If your association is going to be around to worry about the next generation of membership, you need to know what the next generation of member values now.

If your association is going to be around to worry about the next generation of membership, you need to know what the next generation of member values now.

    • Real involvement
    • They need to be needed
    • The Next Generation Association...Start your process for understanding what your new members value and how you can offer them value for their membership now.

In another post, Shannon Neeser (XYZ University Blog) offers advice about Communicating With the Next Generation

Your association leaders and long-term members may have completely different concerns and interests than the next generation who are just getting started with you. Understanding how to communicate with them effectively will help you know what they’re looking for. Addressing their expectations and needs will help you gain and retain your next generation of membership and sustain your organization into the future.

However, understanding the next generation of members requires you to be flexible and willing to change the way you communicate.

The Future is ... How do we leverage the Millennials in Associations?

Laraine Kaminsky (CSAE) tells us:

Generational Diversity and Inclusion in Associations

The baby- boomers’ kids are marching into the workplace and this crop of twenty-somethings are really different – what and how are associations doing to engage this particular cohort as employees?

It has been said that this cohort are self-absorbed, gregarious, multi-tasking and optimistic – if that is the case, this article will focus on the generalities of generational diversity.

There are always the outliers and it is difficult not to stereotype, but my goal is to provide some useful frameworks to engage and leverage the multi-generational association workplace and market place.

Without the internal generational diversity it is very difficult to recruit and retain a diverse membership.

Kaminsky outlines ideal jobs for Gen Y's, including:

    • Challenging work
    • A variety of work
    • An environment that fosters a spirit of creativity and innovation
    • Recognition and reward for high performance
    • Flexibility – in work schedule

Millennials and Non-profits:

Why Your Membership Program Isn’t Resonating with Millennials (And What You Can Do About It 

Laura Beussman
(npEngage Blog) advises:

...Don’t write off the Millennial generation (ages 18-32) just yet. There are plenty of articles out there that tell you that Millennials tend to be entitled and selfish (TIME magazine labeled them the “me me me generation”), but World Vision found just the opposite.  Blackbaud also released a report last year that showed that 60% of Gen Y members give. So…why aren’t they giving to your cultural organization? The truth is your carefully crafted current membership and donor benefit structure may not be resonating with Millennials.

Beussman outlines three tips to engage Millennials:

    1. Create mission focused messaging
    2. Target your campaigns
    3. Offer opportunities to get hands on

Millennials and Giving:

How to Build Relationships with Your Future Major Donors and Board Members: Millennials

Marshall Simmonds (npENGAGE) suggests:  

Millennials only comprised 11% of total charitable giving last year” ... It’s easy to justify not focusing on Millennials in the short term from a purely dollars based standpoint. Yet, from a logical perspective, this is a completely shortsighted position. Long term organizational health requires that you refill your donor pipeline and, while Millennials might not be able to shoulder the load of being your biggest givers for the next ten years, they won’t be givers at all if you don’t get them into the pipeline early.

Simmonds offers “a few steps organizations can take to create a robust strategy for connecting” with Millennials, including:

    1. Engage with them on their terms.
    2. Communicate with them about things they uniquely care about.
    3. Harness the power of Millennials for your organization

Millennial Impact Report 

Achieve and its partner, the Case Foundation have released four Millennial Impact reports that have identified some key insight into this generation of individuals born after 1979. Key trends have included:

    • Millennials engage with causes to help other people, not institutions.
    • Millennials support issues rather than organizations.
    • Millennials prefer to perform smaller actions before fully committing to a cause.
    • Millennials are influenced by the decisions and behaviors of their peers.
    • Millennials treat all their assets (time, money, network, etc.) as having equal value.
    • Millennials need to experience an organization’s work without having to be on site.

The 2013 Millennial Impact Report offered insight into how Millennials “connect, involve and give”, and noted that:

  • 83% of Millennial respondents made a financial gift to an organization in 2012
  • 52% would be interested in monthly giving
  • 23% gave $51.00 to $100.00

The 2014 report focuses “primarily on Millennials’ preferences in the workplace and advised companies “to build relationships with Millennial employees from the beginning to spark their passions and create opportunities to engage both their professional and personal interests.”

The Millennial Generation Research Review 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation offers this research report that provides a summary of the research done on the Millennial generation since 2009. It offers a wealth of information, but of particular note was the “PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS ~ Key Findings” section. Here are a few excerpts:


For member-based organizations (as well as for companies and other organizations), the complexity of managing communications and the speed in which information is available are increasing. With the addition of social media (e.g., social networks, blogs, video sharing, and online ads) to mainstream media communications methods (e.g., websites, email, and direct mail), integrating messaging and content is a challenge.P6 Millennials have little patience for the speed to which things get done and may not see the value in becoming a member of what they see as inefficient organizations.(P8)


In the area of fundraising, Millennial donors seem to blend their preference for technology with a desire for personal, traditional giving requests. They use online tools to make their donations, but they need to trust the organizations to which they’re donating and feel that they have a compelling mission or cause. Millennials tend to give smaller donations to a number of organizations versus fewer larger donations and tend to give one time for a specific cause or event versus annually.P9 One study found that 20-somethings donated on average to 3.6 different groups. (P10)

Recruiting Younger Members  

The Software That Saves Time and Money as You Grow Members

One of the biggest complaints I hear from membership managers is how much time it takes to process new member and event registrations. Fortunately a software exists that completely automates the registration process online so you never have to lift a finger again. It's called Membership Management Software and it saves some organizations up to 20 hours a week in administrative work.

The best part is that Membership Management Software is an all-in-one tool that eliminates most of the admin tasks when it comes to running a membership organization. Some of its main components include:

  • Automated contact database updates
  • Online event registration and payments pages
  • A way to accept online donations
  • An emailing system to communicate with your members
  • Professionally designed newsletter templates
  • Instant financial reports

If you'd like to see how much time and money membership management Software can save you, start a free trial of WildApricot, the number one Membership Management Software on the market used by over 20,000 organizations around the world. You can get your free trial here.

Recruiting Younger Members Recruiting Younger Members

Recruiting Younger Members"As our club grew from the 60's to in excess of 150 members and the need to collect dues and establish membership categories arose, it became very hard to manage everything with the paper system we had been using. WildApricot solved all that perfectly."

- Fred Finney, Vistoso Cyclists


Additional Resources:

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.


About results ( seconds) Sort by: 
Sorry, an error occured when performing search.