Get Millennial Buy-In for Your Membership Organization By Thinking Like a Brand

You’re a nonprofit sector veteran, and you’ve got a big Rolodex and mailing list to prove it. Your professional organization has a strong pool of existing members who have been loyal to the organization for many years. Now, you’re looking to extend membership to millennial-aged professionals who can continue and bring your organization’s work into the next generation of experts in your field.

To reach this coveted demographic, mimic the corporate world by developing brand loyalty. By assisting young professionals who show an early interest in your field, offering connections to mentors, helping to pay for textbooks, and more, you can create a long-lasting connection between your organization and young potential members. Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Implement a referral system to encourage young members to bring a classmate or colleague into your community.

Millennials are much more likely to trust a brand when it’s referred to them either personally or by an expert they trust. You can offer giveaways of educational material, fun “swag,” or even a free ticket to your next conference, in exchange for a referral.

2. Conduct outreach to bloggers and influencers in your field.

Young professionals seek wisdom from other young people in their fields who have a significant online following. Pitch membership, feature blog posts, or conference invitations to these “influencers.” For example, one such influencer in the health care profession is @jenkyer, a nurse blogger with almost 22,000 followers on Instagram, who shares professional insights on her personal website.


3. Increase on-campus involvement with universities, graduate programs, and other institutions.

Your current leadership may have existing members who are current or former faculty members. Ask if they can refer students or alumni to your organization. You can also send representatives to career fairs and networking nights to meet and greet current students.

4. Maintain consistent, friendly, engaging and informative social media activity.

When young professionals first hear about your organization, they will check out your Facebook and Twitter presence to gauge your legitimacy and character. It’s important that the accounts be regularly maintained to reflect the vitality of your organization.


5. Project diversity.

Many professions are attracting more individuals from different backgrounds than ever before. Consider the growing racial and gender diversity of your field when creating all promotional materials and ensure that they reflect the changing face of your profession.

6. Offer webinars and written materials that provide relevant and holistic professional development to a young audience.

Millennials are interested in advice on work-life balance, career development, and navigating the bureaucracy of their workplace. Give them this guidance, and they’ll be grateful.

7. Provide in-person meeting opportunities.

If you already have enough young  members in a certain geographic area (perhaps in cities or counties with a high concentration of graduate programs), organize local happy hours so potential new members can network and learn about the organization.


If you want your organization to have a long life, remember that 20- and 30-something professionals are your future leaders, members, and donors. Start using these tactics now so that your membership association — and not a competitor’s — becomes the go-to choice for the next generation.