5 Proven Techniques to Engage Young Professionals in Associations

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DeLaine Bender CAE


So often we hear potential new association clients comment that they have an issue with reaching younger potential members. Often they say,  “Gen (fill in the blank) are just not interested.” However, an association cannot be sustainable long-term without continuing to recruit and retain younger members.

The question to ask is whether the association is reaching out to potential members through the right channels and doing things that are appealing to the needs of young professionals. The “same old, same old” is not going to resonate with every demographic, and in fact may be inadvertently giving the message that association membership would not benefit them.

To reach younger potential members, associations need to adapt their services, outreach, and engagement strategies to resonate with their interests and preferences. Here are some effective ways to attract and engage younger individuals:

1. Refresh your Social Media Presence

You already have a social media presence, but are you using the channels that reach your target audience? Data shows that younger members gravitate toward more visually interesting options like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. But don’t make the mistake of adding new channels without rethinking your strategy. Engaging content, visuals, and videos will have more appeal; anything else may have the opposite effect. All the better if you can collaborate with influencers or thought leaders who have a following among the younger demographic in your field.

2. Put a New Spin on Your Content Marketing

Who better to message the value of your association than your own members? Engage your younger members to create and share blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, or webinars on topics they feel will resonate with their peers. Focus on quality content that specifically addresses the needs and interests of those who are in the early stages of their careers or are looking to enter the field your association serves and ask younger members to help promote the opportunities. This has the double benefit of engaging existing members and helping ensure your content marketing is on point.

3. Offer Facilitated Networking and Mentoring Opportunities

To grow their careers, young professionals want to connect with each other and with seasoned industry professionals. They value networking and building relationships but may be hesitant to approach big names in the industry on their own. A hands-on approach to making those connections facilitated by the association is often appreciated, whether it is a mentoring program or something more informal. Also, to plant the seed early, consider a student membership and collaboration with colleges, universities, and student organizations to introduce your association to potential members at the beginning of their careers.

4. Rethink your Website

Keep an eye on your website data using tools like Google Analytics. If most of your traffic is coming through on mobile and your website and communication channels are not optimized for mobile devices, make a change now! Your potential audience heavily relies on smartphones for information, so structure and content must be focused on mobile readiness, easy navigation, and quick responsiveness. Incorporate gamification elements to make the experience more interactive and create online communities or forums where members can connect, share ideas, and discuss industry trends with their peers. Also, consider providing exclusive content both inside and outside the members-only firewall to give prospective members a taste of the association’s value. A young professionals landing page within your website could be a great opportunity for targeted resources and messaging.

5. Be Authentic and Community Minded

This section is the longest because I think it’s the most overlooked. Many young professionals aren’t motivated to join their professional association because they don’t feel they have a voice until the later stages of their careers, or they assume the association doesn’t care about issues relevant to them. What are you doing to create a sense of community? Here are some suggestions:

  • Hold focus groups or survey younger members – and ensure you take their feedback into account when making decisions or planning initiatives. This demonstrates that you value their input and are willing to make improvements based on their suggestions. Whatever you do, don’t ask for their input and then not be open about how it was used (or not used).
  • Don’t be hesitant to engage in conversations on social media, forums, and events where members can express their opinions and share experiences. A willingness to be transparent and communicate openly will build credibility and make younger members feel more engaged. Members need to feel they can contribute in meaningful ways, or they will find other ways to spend their time where their contributions are valued.
  • It goes without saying that your association must demonstrate a commitment to all aspects of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, as these are critical principles for your organization overall. This is not an initiative; it is embedded in everything the association does. Ensure that new members feel welcomed and supported when joining the association by getting to know them and what they hope to gain from the association.
  • Engage in philanthropic activities and support causes that align with the values of your association. Many associations organize community service events or fundraisers in conjunction with their conferences (great idea!),  but how else can your association make a positive impact in the community?


The participation of young professionals as association members is critical to the long-term sustainability of your association. To recruit them, your association must have visible, relevant services and an effective strategy to reach them. To retain them, your association will need to continually reassess member benefits and communication strategies.

Engaging directly with younger members is an important element of understanding their needs and preferences. Get to know them, and tailor your approach to align with their interests and career aspirations to create a positive and lasting relationship.

Then, remain flexible to adapt to the next wave of young professionals entering the workplace! Flexibility is one of AMR’s core values. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help your association grow.

Cropped profile photo of DeLaine Bender
DeLaine Bender CAE
Vice President of Client Services

Degrees and Credentials:
Certified Association Executive (CAE), Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Oklahoma

Association Management Professional Since:

What inspires you about your work?
In my career, I have been blessed to work with some amazing, inspiring association leaders, who have become mentors and friends. I also enjoy the challenging, ever-changing environment of associations, and the sense of fulfillment in having made a difference in a profession or on an issue.

All Posts By DeLaine Bender CAE