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Five Keys to Recruiting Younger Members

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by Dennis Mulligan

Economic pressure and demographic shifts are causing membership declines in many U.S. based associations. As a result, association executives are scrambling to develop member recruitment campaigns focused on the under-35 crowd. They understand that their very existence depends on replacing retiring members with younger recruits who will continue the association’s mission in years to come. While creating precious wallet share with younger consumers is not easy, here are five ways you can add young members to your association without breaking the bank.

  1. Develop a social media strategy that clearly articulates the value of membership and the return on dues. Use blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to attract prospects’ attention. Employ members’ testimonials to describe and support your value proposition. If you are a professional or business-related association, tap LinkedIn to uncover a deep pool of potential members.
  2. Offer financial incentives to prospects to encourage them to join. For example, offer complimentary or reduced dues for the first year or multiple years. Enlist current members to help articulate the value of being a member and have them make calls to prospective member candidates.
  3. Offer complimentary or reduced meeting/conference fees to prospective members. Grant each attendee access to a prospective member lounge staffed by members who can explain the advantages of membership and serve as mentors. Promote interesting speakers and valuable content to attract event attendees.
  4. Offer relevant benefits. Programs geared to meet the needs of the under-35 consumer will build membership if they offer unique benefits that are unavailable on the broad market. For example, many younger consumers struggle with large student debt balances. There are new association-endorsed debt consolidation programs that can help someone with $200,000 of student loan debt save between $200-$440 a month for the life of their loan. In addition, associations with large, financially solid insurance trusts may be able to offer reduced rates or no-cost insurance to first-year members as a way to build membership. Over the last 50 years, association-endorsed insurance has played a major role in building associations. Let’s face it, it is easy to justify spending $150 in annual dues, if you are saving four times that much on insurance.
  5. Leverage mobile technology to communicate, advise, and enroll younger consumers. Replace your old website with a responsive site that efficiently renders content on a mobile device. Build an app that creates an engagement platform for your annual conference. Use online survey tolls such as Survey Monkey to poll prospects and members.

Associations that recognize and embrace the changing demographic trends will have a greater chance for survival. Finding ways to attract new, younger members is critical to the long-term viability of any voluntary membership organization. We encourage you to evaluate whether your endorsed-member benefit programs are relevant and providing you with powerful membership development resources.

Please contact us if you are interested in a free, no-obligation assessment of your current membership benefits.


Dennis Mulligan is Director of Business Development at USI Affinity.


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