Why Don't They Join?

Jun 29, 2023 by Gency Brown

I became a joiner later in life. Not that I was a complete loner in my younger days. But then again, I realize my social life was pretty much limited to school, church, family, and the activities they offered. Maturity brought groups, classes, and organizations I connect with and can influence positively. While I’ve given up most leadership roles, I still support music, writing, fishing, and other groups and enjoy them all.

As I sit in meetings and concerts, I’m amazed at all the grey hair in the room. It makes me wonder, “Why aren’t there more young people here? Is our organization aging out?” Are young people not making music, fishing, or writing? Of course, they are. Then why don’t they join our efforts to promote and sustain those activities for future generations?

In a survey conducted by Marketing General Incorporated we find that in recent years 47% of associations report a decline in membership. On average, 71% of associations' member base is over the age of 40. Is it over or can we learn from those more successfully adding new and younger blood to the mix?

I think first we have to acknowledge the new world we live in. Whether changed by the recent pandemic or a tsunami of technology that engulfs the youth of today, this is not the environment of generations past. Baby Boomers are now passe. The Gen X, Millennials, etc. find their socialization and education in smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Gone are the days when you sat with your grandfather while he taught you to tie a fly, throw a curve ball, or change strings on your guitar. The mother or aunt who taught you to bake a pie, better have a YouTube presence to reach kids these days.

A writing group I belong to saw its numbers grow by over 100 and become a truly international fellowship during the pandemic. How? We couldn’t meet face to face. Zoom. Our meetings now offer the online connection. A handful learned the ins and outs of Zoom and now we continue to grow.

Traditional recruitment methods like word of mouth, emails, and events, while still important, don’t seem to be what catches the younger eye. We have to meet them where they are.

Young people today network and find work on LinkedIn. They learn on You Tube, Upskill, and Udemy. They get inspiration from Instagram. They find community on Reddit and Facebook. These are the channels where young members might discover and connect with your association. If only you meet them there.

That means we must embrace the technology that turns the lights on in the brains and emotions of this new generation. You don’t know how to do that? Someone you know does. Tap that resource and open the doors. Be ready to tell those that enter what you have specifically for them and then make darn sure those things happen. Help them believe you appreciate what they bring to the table by listening. Keep them involved by utilizing some of their fresh ideas. Understand that joining them is not an obstacle but a much needed challenge.