Based on the results of a new Pew Research study, Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends, bad times are coming for associations. Four out of six takeaways from the study seem pretty not-great for associations:
Millennials have fewer attachments to traditional political and religious institutions. Could easily translate to including traditional professional associations. But “they connect to personalized networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups through social and digital media”--again, bad news for associations--because if networking is the number one reason people join associations, apparently they’ve already got that covered.
Millennials are the most racially diverse generation in American history. So how are they going to like your association’s all white male executive leadership and staff? Probably not very much. So if the “your” in that remark resembles your association’s current staffing or leadership profile, you should probably think about changing that sooner rather than later if you don’t want to pre-alienate your next generation of members.
Millennials are less trusting of others than older Americans are. Boomers look to associations as trusted institutions and sources of information. Millennials, not so much, which will greatly ramp up the challenge of attracting and retaining them as members, in my opinion. I think membership is a lot about trust, and if millennials are coming from a place of generally not trusting, that could be a significant challenge for associations to overcome.
Millennials are more burdened by financial hardships than previous generations. So if they already don’t trust traditional institutions, aren’t happy because of the lack of diversity of association leadership and don’t trust associations’ authority, the percent chance they’re going to be willing to spend their disposable income on association dues? I’d say probably not high.