Just as it is important for association leaders to hear from established leaders on topics of importance to our industry, we feel that it is also important to hear from up-and-coming professionals on topics important to them. Thus, we've created our Ask the Young Professionals series here on the blog. Here’s our second question, as well as answers from 10 of AMC's young professionals.
If an association was looking to engage millennials/young members, what kinds of volunteer opportunities and experiences should ideally be made available to do so?
Stephanie Wimmerstedt, Education Coordinator, American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology and National Association of Neonatal Nurses
It is essential for the evolution of an association to involve young professionals in volunteer opportunities or to serve on committees, as they can offer fresh perspectives. Offering the opportunity to be paired with a mentor would appeal to a young professional, as well. We want to find a mentor (or a few) to help us navigate through the journey to find ourselves and the best career path. The key to engage young professionals is making them feel qualified to be a part of a project or committee and allowing them to really make a contribution. Ultimately, involving volunteers in all different career stages allows for innovation for everyone.
Val Good-Turney, Account Administrator, National Frame Building Association and Metal Construction Association
Millennials want to connect with people, see how they’re making a difference, and have fun while doing it!
1. Allow and encourage them to work with a group of people (co-workers, friends, etc.). People are more likely to sign up for something if they know other people who will be there. It also helps keep them accountable since individuals they specifically know will be counting on them.
2. Show how they will make an impact. Millennials want to know how their work is making a difference, even if indirectly. Provide case studies, statistics, infographics, etc. and make them shareable via social media. If they are involved and invested, they will want to show off exactly what they are working towards and why.
3. Have an element of fun to them. Whether there is a game, a competition, or a fun series of videos, it’s important to have something that piques Millennials' interest and shows them this is not just an ordinary volunteer experience but something that will be worth their time!
Tim Scheel, Operations and Education Coordinator, American Pain Society
For millennials and young members, something of utmost importance is the ability to network with members who are more established in their careers. One of the most popular activities at the APS Annual Scientific Meeting is the Early Career Forum, in which early career members are paired with volunteer mentors who are more established in their careers. In a sometimes volatile job market, having the ability to gather knowledge from people who are advanced in their careers can help give younger members unparalleled guidance.
To further engage younger members, it is important to give them a seat at the table. Giving younger members a place on committees and task forces ensures that this vital part of membership is heard and represented. Having the ability to be in leadership positions within an association helps to ensure future success, and mobilizes younger membership from the start.
Remy Bohn, Member Services Representative
Anything that gives direct exposure to the cause of the association.
When you give the younger crowd the back of the room jobs, or the data entry spots to volunteer, you run the risk of numbing them to your cause. Sure, the volunteer gets a nice resume filler and the organization saves some money, but after that transaction ends the cycle continues. We learn that volunteering is a means to an end. A personal end.
I think my generation wants to help in ways that make a difference, and when you allow us to see the change your association is making, you give way for volunteers to be ignited by the passion of the association. Lightning never struck a volunteer filling out his/her 500th page of paperwork. It will never happen handing out flyers to people who don’t really care, but it can for someone who sees the value an association brings to a table.
Cara Pawlowski, Program and Product Coordinator, National Association for Healthcare Quality
I think the opportunity to meet others—either through online communities or in person—is a great way to get young people involved. Starting off in a career, we are often looking for a mentor, or simply some perspective on where the field is going and how we can make a difference.
Our younger members want to see our association bring a sense of inclusiveness and community to our conference. We are working to achieve that through networking events and group activities, as well as replacing symbols of hierarchy, like a long string of ribbons on a badge, with invitations for conversation, like a button that says, ‘Ask me about data analytics!’.
Lawrence Hammer, Marketing Coordinator, National Association for Healthcare Quality
I really value things that can give back to the community and do some good for the environment as well, so something like a natural landmark/park cleanup or day of service is something I’d imagine a lot of people around my age could get behind. That or something as simple as volunteering at a soup kitchen because it’s something that everyone is able to help out with equally and provides immediate aid.
Taylor Thomas, Meetings Coordinator
I believe a key factor in driving millennials and young members to engage in volunteer opportunities for an association is making sure they have multiple ways and multiple platforms to get involved. If volunteer opportunities are easily visible through social media platforms, emails, websites, etc. it allows an accessible and quick way to connect, and it allows millennials to share experiences and network with other young members to further support the cause.
Olivia Schmit, Education Coordinator, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses and International Transplant Nurses Society
For millennials, I think a shared viewpoint is transparency. We like to see how our careers can progress if we put in hard work. For this, I believe that associations can engage young members by providing mentorship opportunities. We are also a generation who seeks continued feedback, so an opportunity to work with leaders in the industry will excite us.
Millennials are also full of innovation and their ideas could move educational conferences into the future. Opportunities to work on a planning committee could not only benefit the association as a whole but allow young members to engage in a project that they can see from start to finish.
Amanda Duski, Meetings Coordinator
I personally enjoy when there are opportunities to do community service projects or other non-profit volunteer work. It provides a way to network with colleagues while also giving back. This past year I attended a networking/volunteer event where we made baby blankets for orphans and it was a great way to get to know others in the industry with no pressure.
Christopher Hall, Operations Administrator, AMC Professional Relations & Development department
Associations that are attempting to engage millennials may want to consider the following strategies:
1). Use a notable speaker to bring awareness to a conference. Just like a university recruits a commencement ceremony speaker, associations should consider hiring an unbiased notable public figure to speak at one of their events. I think it’s refreshing to see a different side of a celebrity/athlete/public figure raising awareness to a topic that doesn’t necessarily apply to them.
2). Utilize social media to the max! Millennials spend hours (hours!) looking through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. for not just their friends, but for current events and news clippings. Utilizing all forms of social media will catch the eye of millennials.
3). Promote events that force millennials to be active. Events such as 5k runs, Dance Marathons and Hunger Cleanups thrive with large attendance and will shift the emphasis away from the classroom while at a conference to being on your feet.
4). Create action plans that span several years. Millennials like to see their progress over 3-5 years of commitment, and creating a way that will show how their efforts have a lasting effect is rewarding.
Previous Young Professionals Question of the Quarter
If one of your friends was considering joining the association industry, what would you tell them is the best thing about working for associations?