Think about the makeup of your association members. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, unless you’re a young professionals group, you’re probably comprised mostly of Baby Boomers with a few Generation X’s thrown in here and there.

How can I be so sure? Because right now, many associations are coming down from their glory days. Because of the way social media and the Internet in general have changed the way we connect with each other, associations have “seemingly” lost value in the eyes of the younger generations, Millennials and the following generation, Generation Z.

It’s easy to say, “you know, we’re going to keep going how we are.” We’ll reach the younger generation eventually, but for now, let’s focus on what we know. But, there’s a problem with this. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age. When they leave their professions, the very tie they have to your association, they’re likely to let their memberships lapse. Before you reach a crisis point in membership recruitment efforts, it’s better to start changing the way you reach your members today.

Not convinced? Check out this critical piece of information from the MemberClicks Blog (follow them at @memberclicks for a wealth of information!). In just 5 years, Generation Z (excluding Millennials entirely) will constitute one fifth of the workforce. Folks, that means that in 4 years, 20% of employed professionals will be those born after 1990.

Put simply…the time to act is today. Not tomorrow, not next week, certainly not next year…today.

What You Should Know

The “younger” generation doesn’t have to be a mystery. They aren’t all strapped to their cell phones unable to connect with the outside world…they just connect differently, these differences should matter to you.

Connections do look different to them. They gather information electronically. This means that the way they feel most engaged is through virtual connections, social networks and the like.

They’re on the go. They want information that’s easy to digest and visual. They’ll likely make decisions based on the information they’re presented with quickly.

They’re more mobile than ever. They spend up to 9 hours a day (on average) connected to smart phones and mobile devices.

They’re technologically saavy. Generation Z is the first generation to grow up connected to the Internet. They don’t remember a time before cell phones. While their early days included AIM, not text messaging, they’ve learned to adapt quickly and will be able to understand any piece of technology you put in front of them.

They’re educated. College isn’t just an option, it’s what Generation Z expects. However, they’re also self-educated. With YouTube tutorials and millions of articles at their fingertips, they’ve learned to search for the information they are looking for and are unlikely to settle until they’ve found it.

They value flexibility and independence. Strapping them down for weekly meetings or expecting to set a schedule that’s arduous is unlikely to be a success. However, virtual meetings that are easy accessed on the go? Much more doable.

What Do You Do With This Information?

Alright, you understand. Generation Z are educated, self-propelled learners who are on the go. Now what?

Now you modify. You find ways to reach them that meets their terms. You’ve done things the same way forever, and that’s worked. Only soon, it won’t.

You can start with a digital community that’s fast, responsive and easy to use. One that functions like the social networks they’re used to connecting with. Set it up, make the introductions and go.

Change the way you meet. The days of weekend long conferences are gone. Host meetings online, post documents in your Social HubSite…follow the tips we’ve discussed before about engaging inside your digital community.

The future is here. The time to act is now. Are you prepared?

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