In the past few years, I have actively participated in managing several non-profits. And I have learnt many things, but one of them is most important for anyone trying to have Millennials joining his organization and actually staying there for a while (and paying dues). I think this is something “old style” organizations – Lions, Rotary, the Freemasons and suchlike – find hard to understand; and similarly, they cannot grasp why the average age of their membership keeps climbing upwards.
I admit, at first I couldn’t grasp it too. I thought the activities might be too old and boring, so let’s have some “younger” activities – and they would come. Let’s have meetups targeted for the younger generation! Let’s have a frat pledge in a beer pub! (L’Chayim!) And I was wrong, as they came in once for the novelty of it, but didn’t come back afterward.
With time, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon.
Millennials wouldn’t come for regular meetups and lectures, they wouldn’t waste time on administrative meetings and often times wouldn’t pay their dues.
But when there was a just cause, they came along in masses.
Of course, we still had to keep it short, simple and cheap (and very focused) to accommodate their needs, but once there was a good reason – they would come and give us their time and attention. I couldn’t keep them on the roster or make them show up at a $200 scientific conference, but I knew that I can count on them when it comes to treating refugee kids in Southern Tel Aviv. And I wasn’t wrong.
Based on this experience, I have developed a series of recommendations for a non-profit wishing to keep his membership young and active (although a bit unstable):
- Let go of pricey management and personnel-heavy HQ. Most social activity happens online anyway these days, and you can keep your HQ online. One or two persons can usually run the whole thing, and you shouldn’t keep an office to do what anyone can do from a laptop or a phone anywhere in the world.
- Make your events dynamic, and allow people to sign up to them online and pay with apps (or at least PayPal). Stop using paper forms! Let go of the fax – even Grandma and Grandpa have smartphones these days! It is amazing how faxes still survive in 2017…
- Signing up to an event should be as easy as any cause one supports on Kickstarter, or even easier – it should take as much time as it takes to share an item on Facebook.
- Establish a cause-based membership. True – some members would still prefer paying monthly or annual dues, but there will be many others who will not, and would only join certain events. You can charge them a premium for that.
- Social networks have replaced social clubs – therefore, use them as your club. Have members meet on the social network, keep the discussion alive and engaging – and when the time comes, take it out to the real world. You will be amazed how many people whom you’ve only met online would actually show up.
It would only be fair to say that organizations and clubs failing to adjust to this new reality will age fast and eventually disappear, leaving the field to younger, leaner, tech-literate and agile organizations active in both the virtual and the real worlds.
My advice to “old style” organizations is that it’s never too late to change – don’t be annoyed by it, just do it!