Association Management

Bridging a Generation Gap Between Your Members: What’s a “Next Gen” Committee?

By Association Adviser staff • June 7, 2022

Did you know that there are currently four generations in the workforce? (Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z). Your membership is almost certainly made up of a diverse group of professionals with varied ages and experiences – and, hence, different needs and wants. This could mean that a professional who has been in the industry for 20 years or more may not connect with the same messages and content as the new industry professional who graduated last fall and is new to your association. With today’s emphasis on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, it is important to include age as a consideration. Naylor sat down with Sara Keene, Director, Professional Development & Members Program with the National Apartment Association, to discuss how important it is to include a next generation committee in your association’s leadership structure, and how having a next gen committee can be a benefit to professionals of all ages.

Naylor Association Solutions: What is the benefit to an association of having a next generation committee?

Sara Keene: Offering a next generation committee in an association brings value and an additional benefit to your members. In any industry, you will have the opportunity to bridge a generational gap and provide experienced mentorship between your members. NAA’s Next Gen Committee works to cultivate the rental housing industry’s workforce of the future. By offering a Next Gen Committee, NAA can identify and engage young rental housing professionals through community involvement, peer-to-peer networking, and educational events.

Naylor: “Next gen” often references someone who is under a certain age starting their career; however, it could also reference someone new to the industry. What advice would you give to other associations on how to include both member subgroups who might want to be part of the next gen committee?

Keene: NAA classifies “next gen” professionals as those 40 and under looking to be more involved with our association and throughout the industry. For other associations interested in creating a next gen committee that addresses both “age and new to the industry,” I would recommend breaking up your next gen committee into subcommittees where there is a focus on “early career” and “new career” professionals, ultimately allowing for programming and activities for both audiences. Even still, there should be an age requirement.

 Naylor: When did you realize that a next gen committee was important to have as part of your association?

Keene: In 2014, NAA’s Board of Directors approved a motion to create a Next Gen Committee, as they noticed there were very few young professionals represented in volunteer positions. By creating this committee, the goal was to expose young professionals to what NAA has to offer them and get them involved in NAA’s governance.

Naylor: What are the first steps in having a next gen committee?

Keene: The first step in having a next generation committee is to determine the purpose and goals you are trying to achieve. Once you determine those, you will need to create a plan of work and action plan for accomplishing those goals. It’s also key to track engagement. If you are unable to see that your activities are attracting the next gen audience to your association, your efforts are for nothing.

Naylor: What mentorship opportunities does NAA offer its next gen members, and how does mentorship impact those members involved? If mentorship is something that is available to them, how do you see a change (if any) for those members who take part of mentorship?

Keene: Mentorship opportunities are important when cultivating next gen members. NAA’s 20 in their Twenties recognition program is organized by NAA’s Next Gen Committee and has a built-in component where seasoned members are assigned to mentor a respective participant. NAA has found great success in this model, as it has provided an opportunity for young members to see the importance of getting further involved in their industry and associations at all levels.

Naylor: What are some of the best ways to have members engage in a next generation committee?

Keene: The best way to engage with members of the Next Gen Committee is to use the new and innovative tools that they are using. For instance, if they like to communicate a certain way or on a certain platform, meet them where they are since it allows for them to feel more comfortable in volunteering and, ultimately, be more engaged longer-term.

Naylor: How do you get your supplier vendor members involved in the next generation committee?

Keene: Some of our most active Next Gen Committee members are suppliers. Whenever possible, we allocate a few spots for supplier members to participate in the Next Gen Committee and/or programs.  We also create sponsorship opportunities for them to get involved.

Naylor: What are some tools you used to get NAA’s Next Gen Committee up and running?

Keene: NAA’s newest online community, Clubhouse powered by Higher Logic, has been a great tool for our Next Gen Committee to communicate with one another throughout the year. It has served as our one-stop shop where we can save all materials and resources in one place to keep committee members organized.

NAA is also very intentional about the plan of work and schedule for the year. Starting in January, the committee is provided their deliverables and the committee meeting schedule for the entire year. This keeps everyone on track, as they know exactly what their year looks like and can plan accordingly.

Final thoughts

Having a committee that focuses on the next generation in your association’s membership is important. Creating a space where committee members can talk freely, create ideas, develop lasting relationships, and close a generational gap can provide a benefit to current and future members well into the future.



Erica Caceres is Naylor’s Digital Engagement Marketing Manager where she is responsible for producing strategically planned thought leadership content and managing Naylor’s digital platforms, SEO, online paid advertising/SEM, monitoring and increasing the audience for and thought leadership brands, website updates, supporting lead creation and distribution, gaining market insights through surveys, and providing branding support. Prior to joining Naylor, Erica was with the Pennsylvania Apartment Association where she unified three separate chapter associations, developed three websites, increased membership enrollment and attended the national trade shows where she introduced key-note speakers. When Erica is not working, she is caught up in a mystery/thriller book, taking a Zumba class or catching the latest episode of Law & Order: SVU.  She loves being a fairy godmother and has been given the title of the cool aunt. To contact her, email [email protected].

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