It's Time to Stop Saying Millennials "Aren't Joiners"

It’s a mantra I’ve been hearing in conference rooms, in blog posts, and at networking events for the last few years. Millennials, it seems, just won’t join associations; must be something in the avocados or something, right? But, if we’re honest with ourselves, this is really just a cop-out. Of course, millennials will join associations – just as long they see value for their money. It’s time to put the notion that millennials won’t sign up for membership organizations to rest. Here’s why.

Membership Needs to Change

It’s high time to rethink what “membership” means to members, both current and potential. Millennials aren’t alone when it comes to their desire to belong to an enthusiast group or professional organization. However, simply paying membership dues doesn’t fulfill this need to belong. Additionally, their perception of a group’s value is perhaps different than those members of previous generations. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. As consumer and member trends change, the value proposition offered by an association needs to adapt accordingly. To this end, we should look to platforms where Millennials join by the tens of millions annually, i.e. subscription-based companies like Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music, Hulu, and others. What qualities do these platforms have that make it a no-brainer for Millennials to join? What can we learn from these platforms that can help us acquire Millennial members?

When Members Become Subscribers

Seventy-two percent of millennials subscribe to Netflix. Twenty-seven percent of Millennials subscribe to Spotify. These platforms provide access to highly personalized, on-demand content for a reasonable monthly fee. The music, movies, and shows on these respective platforms can be viewed on any device at any time. The value of these platforms is clear: all the content you want for less than the cost of going out to lunch. For associations, there are some clear takeaways. First, an association’s content (webinars, industry news, tutorials, etc.) is key. Does your content add value? Is it routinely refreshed? Does it come in video form, or short, easy to read formats?

I’m certainly not suggesting that your association needs to create a platform like Netflix to bring in members. But are you creating content to meet people where they prefer to consume content (which is clearly trending toward mobile devices)? More importantly, does the content you’re creating (webinars, blog posts, educational events) justify the cost of membership? These are questions that you should be asking your membership – Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers alike.

Membership as a Service

At the end of the day, membership is and always has been a service industry. For a yearly fee, an association is essentially performing a variety of services. From advocacy to continuing education, to licensing and information distribution, associations aren’t unlike the streaming services and digital publishers that utilize paywalls. The problem, it seems, is that associations have been slow to adapt to the new way consumers engage with service-selling companies. A shift in the thinking of why members join is crucial to the longevity of associations in the years and decades to come. Membership isn’t dead. However, it’s changed entirely. It’s time associations changed, too.

VP Demand Creation Services is a marketing company with over fifteen years of membership marketing expertise. Check out our association marketing case studies. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram for more marketing tips and industry news.

Article written by:

Wes Sovis

Business Development Manager