Young professionals represent a huge pool of potential new members for your association. Here’s how to get more of them to join your organization. 


By Kyela Bishop, YourMembership Marketing Coordinator, Community Brands


As some number of your members fail to renew each year, you must bring in new members to backfill them. Then, you have to attract even more members to grow your organization. In short, the ongoing success of your association depends heavily on your ability to continually attract new members.  

Young professionals in your industry represent a vast pool of potential new members for your association. According to Pew Research Center, Millennials were the largest generation in the U.S. labor force starting in 2016. According to Deloitte, Generation Z (Gen Z) will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth. (For reference, Pew Research Center defines Millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. Those born from 1997 onward are in Generation Z.)  

Most members join an association as a student or early in their career. In fact, the Member Engagement and Loyalty Study report by Community Brands shows that most members join as a student, a new graduate, or within the first five years of employment.  

Many of those early in their careers fall into the Millennial or Gen Z groups. 

So, how can you get more of these young professionals on board? Let’s look at five effective ways to attract younger members to your association: 

1. Offer the content and benefits younger members care about.

Keeping a steady stream of new members coming in your door means providing the next generation of members with the content and benefits they care about. The 2022 Association Trends Study by Community Brands shows that members who are early in their career are more focused on benefits including job opportunities, help advancing their careers, training, certification, and targeted content.

Here are some ways to give them the benefits they want: 

> Provide an online career center

A career center is critically important for recruiting and retaining members – especially those early in their careers. A robust career center offers a huge member benefit by connecting members with job opportunities through an online job board. It can also help first-time job seekers

  • Learn about the basics of developing résumés, preparing for interviews, networking, and building a personal brand 
  • Understand the best career path for their goals so they can get their careers started in the right direction
  • Connect with coaches and mentors who can provide ongoing support by sharing experience and advice.  

Your organization can use this appealing member benefit to attract younger members.

It’s important to optimize your job board for visibility and access to non-members to help drive membership. One effective way to do this is to integrate your job board with your association management software (AMS). For example, YM Careers online job board software integrates with YourMembership AMS by Community Brands. With this integration, non-members who visit your job board and sign up as job seekers can be automatically delivered to your AMS as a list of new member prospects for your to use in member acquisition efforts. 

Learn more about the benefits of using an online career center with a modern AMS system. Read the paper, Your Career Center + A Modern AMS: The Powerful Combination to Help Your Small Association Improve Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue.

> Connect younger members with mentors

Mentors can help your younger members grow professionally. Students and new graduates often seek a mentor to help them as they enter the workforce.

Giving your members access to mentors who can guide them in their career is an invaluable member benefit. So, offer those members moving into their early careers an online mentor board. For example, YM Careers includes a Career Planning Portal with every job board that allows you to give members the ability to connect with a potential mentor.

> Offer continuing education opportunities

Early careerists are looking for training and certifications to help them move forward professionally. Offering valuable online learning content is a great way to give younger members a convenient and cost-effective way to get the professional education and credentials they seek.

Consider partnering with universities so that you understand what training and certifications are most relevant to students and recent graduates. This approach can also build a pipeline of young professionals who will want to join your association. 

Also, make sure you have the right tools and processes in place to deliver educational content efficiently. For example, YourMembership Learning is a learning management system (LMS) that helps you organize content and deliver a modern online continuing education experience.

> Put your online community to work

Your association’s online community is a powerful tool for helping your members connect, share, and learn. Use your online community to give younger members access to information that matters most to them, such as details about your organization’s professional development opportunities. Giving members access to the content they seek makes them feel part of a group and benefits them professionally. Plus, housing key content in your online community is an effective way to create conversations around your content, get feedback, and improve member engagement.

Another approach is to create a group in your online community for early careerists in which these members can ask questions and discuss topics with each other. Ask one of your association staff members or board members to participate in the group to help answer questions and direct members to helpful resources. 

Also, recruit younger members as community leaders. Asking your younger members to become community leaders can help them to feel more engaged. And people often feel a fast connection with their peers, so the more your association’s younger members see members like them participating, the more likely they’ll be to join in. 

A simple thing you can ask them to do is to get conversations started by posting in the community several times each week. These posts might include industry news, a call for suggestions about how to address a challenge, and questions to engage members. 

TIP: YourMembership AMS includes online member community technology that can help you build a thriving online community. If you don’t have an online member community, learn how to get started: Read The Small Association’s Guide to Getting Started with an Online Community.  

2. Ask younger members to help recruit other young professionals.

People often feel more connected with their peers. They’re more likely to be interested in joining your organization if they hear about a great member experience from another young professional. So, consider asking your younger members to help your association recruit other young professionals.

Here are some ideas: 

> Ask for testimonials.

Ask younger members who recently joined your organization why they joined. Invite them to share how being a member has helped them so far. Ask them to share advice to other young professionals who might be thinking about joining. Record these testimonials as written quotes or videos, and then include the testimonials in your recruitment campaigns, including emails, social media, and your website.

> Create case studies.

Find a few young professional members who have become highly involved with your organization within the first year or so of membership. Ask if they’ll share the story of when and why they joined your organization, how they have been involved, and how their membership has helped them grow professionally. Interview these members, and write up their stories or capture the stories on video. As with the testimonials, include the case studies in your recruitment campaigns.

> Offer leadership opportunities.

Ask younger members to become involved as committee members and committee chairs, and even consider appointing a board seat for a young professional. Seeing their peers in leadership roles will signal to other young professionals that your association values young members.

> Use your online member community.

If your online community allows you to provide limited access to non-members, invite young potential members to join the community. Start a discussion group for young professionals, and ask some of your more involved younger members to participate in the group. They can share tips, resources, and benefits of joining the organization to inspire other young professionals to join. 

TIP: YourMembership AMS allows you to give non-members limited access to your online member community to demonstrate the value of being a part of your association. 

3. Connect with Generation Z.

As Gen Z enters the workforce, getting them to join your organization will require connecting with them the way they like to engage. Here are some tips:   

> Engage them on their favorite social media platforms.

The 2022 Association Trends Study shows that Facebook is the number one social media platform used by all members. However, for Generation Z specifically, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat are the most popular platforms. 

> Listen to them in your online community.

Here’s another chance to put your online community to use. Create groups for young professionals to network with each other as they join your association. Ask someone from your association staff to participate in the group and listen to what they’re saying. Then, that person can provide periodic updates to your association staff and board about what’s most important to that group.

> Ask for their feedback.

What better way to know how best to connect with Gen Z than to ask them? Send your younger members a periodic survey to capture their feedback on their professional challenges, communications preferences, and experience with your organization.  

Learn more about what members want, including generational differences in sentiments, benefits, communications, and more: Read The 2022 Association Trends Study.   

4. Offer scholarships.

Offering scholarships to students and those getting started in your industry is a great way to provide a benefit that attracts younger members. Scholarships can help them to:  

  • Finish their education so they can begin working in your industry.
  • Gain training, continuing education, and certifications they need to start their career.
  • Pay for additional education that can help them to move forward professionally.  

To optimize your scholarship offerings for member recruitment, be sure to get the word out. Promote your scholarship opportunities in multiple ways. For example, post about them in your social media channels. Highlight them on your association’s website. Publicize them in member email communications and in your online community. Provide details about them at your annual conference. Ask your board of directors to spread the word about them as well.

Also, give your scholarship recipients industry exposure by promoting the winners in multiple ways. For example, announce scholarship winners in a press release, on your website and online member community, through your social media channels, in your member newsletter, and at your organization’s events.

Discover tips on how to get companies in your industry to sponsor your association’s scholarship opportunities. Read the tip sheet, How to Secure Sponsors for a Thriving Scholarship Program.

5. Offer attractive pricing options.

It might seem like a small thing, but price can be a big barrier to joining your association, especially for those just starting out professionally. Consider offering a student, recent graduate, and/or new member package with discounted pricing. Even if offering a discount isn’t feasible for your organization, think about offering a budget-friendly monthly payment option. 

Learn more. Continually attracting new members is critical to the long-term success of your association.

Find out more about how YourMembership AMS can help you to not only attract, but also engage and retain more members: Explore YourMembership. 

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