How to Grow Your Young Professional Membership

It’s the challenge of almost every nonprofit today – how to attract new young members to your organization, and how to get them involved and passionate about your mission for the long-term. Without new blood, your nonprofit cannot sustain itself.

Quite frankly, most charitable, philanthropic organizations don’t do a great job of appealing to a younger audience. The boards are usually made up of members who are 50+ and are pretty set in their ways, often doing the same types of marketing and events year after year. They want to do a better job at bringing in younger members, but don’t really know how.

Tips to Attracting Younger Nonprofit Members

Make sure that any younger members you currently have are happy. If your existing young membership isn’t satisfied in some way about their association with your organization, they are unlikely to recommend their friends to join. Talk to your younger members whenever possible and see what they think the organization could be doing better.

Ask your existing members to help you recruit. Especially the younger ones. Offer them incentives like a Starbucks gift card for each new member they bring to a meeting or event. Create a contest among your members and give out an annual award for whoever brings in the greatest number of new recruits.

Find a particularly dedicated and passionate young member to be your “Director of Young Professional Membership.” Let them take the reins of promoting your group to other potential recruits and planning events and incentives that will appeal to that demographic.

Create a “Young Professionals” subgroup. If your organization is large enough, it may make sense to have a committee or subgroup for young professionals with events and networking designed specifically for them. Playhouse Square in Cleveland has successfully attracted new, young members for years with their active “Playhouse Square Partners,” a subgroup of their standard membership. The numerous events hosted by the partners appeal to young professionals looking to socialize and network and offer a lower cost of entry for interested parties to dip their toe in the water of nonprofit engagement.

Make Your Meetings More Fun

This will benefit your membership in general but will particularly help you in attracting and keeping younger members engaged. Most nonprofit meetings can be deadly dull and make it tough for newbies to really feel like they are contributing or connecting with the group.

Ditch the table. Consider putting your chairs in a circle if your group is not too large, and ditching the big conference room table, which just acts as an intimidating psychological barrier.

Provide snacks. It’s no secret that offering snacks to your guests puts everyone in a better mood. People are better able to concentrate and contribute in a positive way to meetings if they are not hungry. Millennials in particular are attracted to free perks like snacks at work. Nonprofit meetings can benefit from the same principal.

Get out of the office. An even better strategy for attracting younger members – consider hosting your next meeting at a local bar, restaurant or some other creative, fun location. Breweries are a great choice for appealing to people in their 20s and 30s. Your “hipness quotient” will get a big boost by choosing the friendly, relaxed vibe of a place where new members can mingle with a drink in hand rather than a stuffy boardroom or sterile meeting room.

Marketing to Younger Members

Get on social media. This should go without saying by now, but you need to be on social media promoting your news, events, success stories and mission. And Facebook is great, but don’t limit your organization to only one social media outlet, especially if you are trying to attract younger members. Many younger people have gravitated towards Instagram or Twitter. Find out where your target audience hangs out online, and make sure you have a presence there. This is another one of those areas where you should enlist the help of a few of your existing younger members to beef up your online promotion.

Make sure your website is up-to-date. Nothing turns a millennial off more than a website with out-of-date information, contact forms that don’t work, or (heaven forbid) a printable PDF form that they have to mail in with a check in order to join. Younger people often don’t even have checks or stamps anymore. And they don’t want to have to call you to get more information. Make sure your website is complete, cell phone friendly, has online contact options and allows them to pay for their membership easily online.

Add some testimonials to your website. This will help with attracting all demographics, but if you can find some younger members to attest to how they have been shaped by their experience with your organization and share their photos and inspiring words on your website, that can go a long way in showing potential interested parties that there is a place for someone like them in your association.