Want to Engage Young Professional Members? Invite Them In

By Jeanette Gass • April 23, 2019

Young professionals (YPs) are the future of associations. Without them, the association risks declining membership and revenue which could translate to future organizational decline and instability.

Wondering what to do about this? Create engagement.

Young professional members still value face-to-face interaction

Despite advancements in technology, YPs still value face-to-face interactions as they create authentic, meaningful and valuable connections. Associations are ideal for this. There is a community of people all interested in the same things and the framework to foster connections already exists. Hosting YP meetups at conferences help us meet each other while hosting events between YPs and more senior members help us gain insight and different professional perspectives to form the real-world connections we so desperately desire in a world full of instant, online communication networks.

Invite YPs to Volunteer

While in-person meetups are a starting point, to create true engagement between the YP member and the organization, invite them to volunteer—and not just on the Young Professional Committee. The young professional committee is wonderful and necessary for the advancement of YP programs, but we have work experience and perspectives in other association domains too.

Ask young association professionals to serve

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people ask how to get YPs involved both as an association professional and as an association member. The answer is simple: Ask them! We are often excited to volunteer, but we need support to do so. Sometimes we are unsure whether we have the appropriate qualifications for volunteer roles and hesitate to sign up for opportunities. A simple email letting us know our backgrounds meet the needs of an open volunteer opportunity with a link to apply is all it takes. Another method is to create a willingness-to-serve application where a YP (or any member) can fill out a few questions to let association staff members know they are interested and available to volunteer.

The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) offers this option. This creates a bank of available volunteers to be considered for short-term committee or task force opportunities, standing committees that might be short on members, or a group of people to survey when you’re looking for the member perspective. It also helps those who might not be interested in a long-term commitment stay involved or give members an opportunity to volunteer on a short-term basis before they commit to a longer opportunity.

Reserve committee and board seats for young professionals

To reach the next level and have YPs consistently involved, think about creating YP-specific seats on standing committees and councils or set a goal to have YP members as a certain percentage of volunteers. The Emergency Nurses Association has gone one step further by creating an Emerging Professional Liaison seat on their Board of Directors. This helps ensure YP involvement is long-term and not just a one-year initiative that fades away with a change in leadership.

YP members, like all members, want to feel valued and that their voices are heard. A sense of belonging with opportunities to contribute and advance the association keep YPs engaged. This creates a purpose to being a member, value in being part of the community and a want to continue.

Ultimately, YPs want to make connections, build networks, advance our professions, give back, and do well. This is what associations are made to do. No fancy marketing schemes, association-branded giveaways, or free food necessary.

About The Author

Jeanette Gass is a program development and special projects manager for The Optical Society, the world’s leading professional society for optics and photonics. She manages OSA’s awards and honors program, helps plan global trips for the Society’s volunteers, and also serves as a staff assistant to the Strategic Planning Committee and the Publications Department. Jeanette holds an MS in management from UMUC with a focus in Nonprofit and Association Management, and an MA in Global Communication from The George Washington University.