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Millennials! Leadership! NextGen Models! Pups!

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By Adam Thocher |March 3, 2014


OK, so I put some buzz words into the title of this post that will hopefully act as “link bait” for the association community, but hopefully they are not 100% off-target. It seems that every week (at least), there is another book, blog posting, magazine article, news story, and/or BuzzFeed photo journal about the next generation, and what they do (or could do) well, and where they fail, and otherwise claiming to know the truth about these mystical kids. So now that I’ve gotten all the links out of the way and missed out on a couple prime selfie-taking hours, this is going to go in a different direction.

I recently had the opportunity to be a facilitator of a great discussion on young member engagement at the ASAE Super Swap. If you’ve never been, I recommend it. The discussion generally takes on a life of its own, and below I am going to highlight a couple of the main themes we hit during our 90-minute session.  In this post, I am using the term next generation as a catch-all for new members, early career members and young members.

Volunteer Opportunities: Micro-volunteering. It isn’t a new idea, but one that will need some changes in the standard way of thinking to make it work. Many in your next generation membership want to participate. Make it easy for them! Restructure your volunteer recruitment efforts so that prospective volunteers receive outreach more regularly. Break up committee appointments so that the application process is open during different parts of the year for different opportunities. If your members have to wait for a single moment every year to volunteer, and they miss that small open window, your organization is setting the stage for prime member disengagement.

Recognition Programs: Everyone likes recognition, and let’s face it:  some of your members just don’t have the time or ability to participate in your volunteer programs. I guarantee you have a lot of members doing great things outside of the organization that are contributing to the advancement of your field. These individuals should still be acknowledged – and there should be a mechanism to recognize them so they don’t have to wait for a lifetime achievement award, fellow designation, or other accolade that may seem far off and distant to an early- or mid-career member.

Governance Structure: While our ASAE discussion didn’t arrive at perfect agreement on whether this was the best course of action or how exactly it should be done, some of us strongly supported the idea that the next generation of membership should be included in your governance planning – somehow. Whether it takes the form of an advisory council, special interest group, or seat on your national board of directors is less important than demonstrating that the association is open to the needs of future members. These individuals have the strongest vested interest in the future of your association’s field; thus, it makes sense that they are both motivated and well-positioned to meaningfully contribute to discussions of intellectual and professional development.

That’s all for now, so I’ll leave you to your Hinamatsuri parties. Until next time, how have you changed the way you engage with and demonstrate value to your next generation of members? Let me know in the comments. Here is another puppy.

Adam Thocher
Millennials! Leadership! NextGen Models! Pups!

Adam Thocher is the Director of Member Services for the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy in Falls Church, VA, President of the Board of Directors for the Clarendon Alliance, and a member of the ASAE Young Professional Committee.

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