Category: Frontpage News
MEMBERSHIP IS DEAD?
A number of powerful generational, cultural and economic forces are colliding to create a perfect storm that will make the next 5-20 years some of the toughest ever faced by associations. Associations who don’t adapt face a slow decline into obscurity as they are replaced by newer, more innovative, less bureaucratically challenged, less change resistant competitors. While the idea of membership will continue, the antiquated models of recruiting, retaining and engaging members cannot survive in an increasingly challenging and ever-changing operating environment.
Are younger members joining your association and then leaving after a year or two? Or not joining at all? Are you struggling to get people to your events? Are you battling to recruit quality volunteers? Is your board full of men aged over 50? Are competitive organisations forming around you?
These are the stirrings of the "perfect storm" of generational, cultural and economic forces that are combining to challenge the way associations operate.
Association leaders need to effectively position themselves to deal with these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities they bring.
Following are some of the major issues that association leaders should be addressing now for the future success of their associations:
Baby Boomers are retiring
Baby Boomers started their adult lives determined to change the world and they have certainly done so. During their working lives they have been the most likely to join, the most likely to renew, and the most likely to volunteer with associations.
Perhaps more importantly, they are more likely to join an association with the understanding they will need to work to assist the association to achieve its goals.
The fact that Baby Boomers are generally willing to contribute their time and expertise to develop the associations they choose to join strongly contributed to the rise in the number and strength of member based organisations from the 1970s onwards.
2011 represented the start of a big change for many associations. This was the year that the first Baby Boomers turned 65 and started to retire. By 2029 most Baby Boomers will be retired. By 2034, the last of the boomers will be 70 and you will have very few members of this generation left as members.
It will not be long before the membership - and leadership - of every association will consist almost entirely of people from Generation X and Y.
As Sarah Sladek discusses in her book, The End of Membership As We Know It, the departure of the Baby Boomers from the workforce heralds a massive change for associations as they can no longer rely on these active, engaged and supportive Baby Boomer members to support the growth of their associations.
The one mitigating factor is the economic issue facing many Baby Boomers today. The lifestyle aspirations of the Baby Boomers means that nice cars, holidays, bigger homes and other luxuries are seen as “needs” rather than “wants”.
This, combined with the effect of the recent economic turmoil on investments and retirement savings, is likely to see many Baby Boomers extend their retirement age past 65 with many already indicating they will need to work until 75 to achieve their financial goals.
While not great news for Baby Boomers, extended retirement dates will soften the impact of this generation’s departure from the workforce by giving some associations more time to adapt. However, it is a temporary period of grace and not a reason to delay implementing necessary changes.
If your association is to thrive into the future, you must be attractive to all generations. Your entire organisational culture needs to reflect a generationally diverse, welcoming and engaging community.
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