Professional associations connect professionals within an industry in order to share industry insight and encourage learning and networking. But recruiting and retaining younger members is becoming a challenge for many associations. A study by Horizons found that 87.3 percent of respondents agreed attracting younger members to their organizations is a growing problem.
Without a steady flow of new members to build the membership pipeline, associations will see declining numbers. And since joining a professional association comes with a cost, associations are feeling pressure to provide valuable experiences that outweigh the cost of membership dues.
According to Abila’s member engagement study, professional associations should focus on recruiting new members who are still early in their career – either students or young professionals up to five years into their career – as they become increasingly challenging to recruit once they are more established in their careers.
Learn How the Society of Petroleum Engineers Grew Its Mentoring Program by 33 Percent
So how can associations increase the value of membership and make a compelling case to this younger crowd?
Focus on What Young Professionals Value
The first step is to understand what young professionals care about. What do they consider valuable, and what types of opportunities keep them most engaged?
Abila’s member engagement study also found that professional development and networking opportunities are the two activities that engage millennials and Gen Xers most in professional associations. This makes sense as we know that opportunities for career growth and development are the number one drivers of successful engagement and retention of millennials.
Millennials value collaboration, they crave development, and they want to find answers to their questions quickly. In order to engage millennials, professional associations need to provide opportunities for career development, learning and networking.
Now that you know a little bit more about today’s young professionals, it’s easy to see how mentoring programs can serve as an alluring attraction. In fact, a study by PGi found that 75 percent of millennials want a mentor and deem mentoring crucial to success.
Deliver More Value with Mentoring
Mentoring programs are a way for professional associations to deliver on their mission while providing valuable opportunities to their members. According to AssociationAdviser, mentoring can help associations “remain relevant to younger people by giving them a personalized way to develop.” With mentoring, associations can connect students, young professionals, and seasoned professionals for an engaging learning experience that meets everyone’s needs.
Benefits to Students
Mentoring programs give students a chance to get academic and career advice from someone who’s been in their shoes. It also gives students an opportunity to build their networking skills and learn about real world applications of what they’re learning in class.
Benefits to Young Professionals
For young professionals, mentoring programs offer a chance to get advice and insight from a more experienced professional. They can gain a deeper understanding of their industry, and close the knowledge gap that often exists between young and experienced professionals.
Benefits to Experienced Professionals
Mentoring is a meaningful volunteer opportunity for experienced professionals. They can give back by helping students understand different career paths and practical applications of complex concepts. Their valuable insights, experiences, and big-picture context can help deepen the expertise of their mentees.
Implementing a mentoring program is a win-win for professional associations and their members. It increases the value of membership by giving participants opportunities they really want, which in turn helps to drive association membership. Members will be more engaged, actively learning, and gaining skills they can use to further their careers.