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Marketing to Generations: Membership X, Y & Z

Posted By Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The primary and perhaps the only membership strategy to sustain and grow our associations is gaining membership in generation X, Y, Z, while not losing sight of the Boomer generation who have been the core of our associations through the years. In 2010, 7.3 million Baby Boomers will retire, making a tremendous impact on society and associations.


If we continue to use Boomer marketing strategies, Generation X and Y won’t join or participate because we’re not meeting them where they are at in their career and life. An additional consideration is that Generation X and Y are not exactly the same – each group has its own characteristics to consider and market to.


The differences in generations not only affect the future of associations, but also the future of the workplace. So providing meaningful benefits for different generations in our associations — as well as resources for their employers — is an important consideration.


Understanding differences and developing real strategies to meet those different needs will be a challenge for our boomer-centric associations. Bottom line: Gen X and Y aren’t going to adjust or grow up to become Boomers.


The consequences of inaction are clear. We must transform our organizations into vibrant resources for all generations. If we choose not to deliver real value for all generations, Generation X and Y will create it for themselves through their own Young Professional Groups or other competing organizations.


If we proactively create these opportunities within our own associations, we will transform and create the new association of the future with all generations participating and engaging and gaining real value for them professionally and personally.


Some Key Generational Characteristics:


Gen Z – Born 1996 - ?

  • New silent generation
  • Larger than Gen X
  • Long life span




Generation Y – Born between 1982-1995

  • 1/3 of the US population
  • Will change jobs seven times before early 30s
  • More socially outgoing than X
  • Networking/exchange of info
  • Enjoy collaboration
  • Virtual networking
  • More accepting of different cultures and well traveled
  • Participation is episodic
  • High achievers
  • Interested in mentoring
  • Make a difference in the community
  • Multi-taskers
  • Spend more time online than TV
  • Buzz marketing
  • Rewarded for participation, not achievement
  • Aim for positive feedback


Generation X – Born between 1965-1981

  • Independent, individualistic, self-reliant, work alone
  • Peer-focused – network with their own generation
  • Career building
  • Family first
  • Professional development
  • Training to enhance skill set
  • Very selective on where they spend their time
  • Need trust and belonging
  • More time and effort building a relationship
  • Prefer meeting in small groups
  • Discussions by email


Boomers – Born between 1946-1964

  • Raised with hope and opportunity
  • Driven by desire to succeed
  • Teamwork is a focus
  • Want to help others
  • Socialize and network — more face-to-face than succeeding generations



Membership Strategies by Association Area:


Membership Structure/Strategy

  • Collect year born and gender for benchmarking; additional – hobbies, interests, specialties to connect members
  • Young Professional Groups/Sections/SIGs
  • Student membership
  • Establish relationships with Universities/Schools




  • Mentoring program
  • Invite involvement — contribute in different ways
  • Shorter commitments and focused efforts
  • Review board requirements – get Gen X and Y on the board
  • Task forces v. committees
  • Don’t waste time on long or numerous meetings



  • Podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds
  • Generation-specific resources on web
  • Gen X & Y sections on web – forum discussion groups
  • Online mentoring
  • Focus on creative design and message to get attention, more sophisticated marketing messages, innovative and concise
  • Testimonials – value of membership – all generations
  • Career info and links on web
  • Podcast career tips, interview members on career topics
  • Internships listings/job Boards
  • Send welcome email with podcast of new member orientation
  • Stories/case studies
  • Searchable directory enhancements
  • Polls and surveys — get feedback
  • Distance learning/Webcasts/Audiocasts



  • Public speaking and leadership courses
  • Offer student rates
  • Speed networking
  • Behind the scenes, exclusive programs
  • Assess the length of programs – allow one-day-only options as well as family programs (not “spouse” programs)
  • X, Y, Boomer panel discussions at conferences
  • Mentoring/networking events
  • Job fairs





Definitions of Key Concepts


Wiki “A wiki is a type of computer software that allows users to easily create, edit and link web pages. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites, power community websites, and are increasingly being installed by businesses to provide affordable and effective Intranets or for use in Knowledge Management.”


Social Media – “Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into content publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between or among authors, people, and peers. Social media uses the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to connect information in a collaborative manner. Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, message boards, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures, and video. Technologies include blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, group creation, and voice over IP. Examples of social media applications are Google (reference, social networking), Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Facebook (social networking), Last.fm (personal music), YouTube (social networking and video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), and Flickr (photo sharing).”



Resource Websites/Tools:



















The Fourth Turning, Strauss

When Generations Collide, Lancaster, L. & Stillman, D.

Managing the Generation Mix, Martin, Dr. C., & Tulgan, B.

The New Recruit, Sarah L. Sladek

The Decision to Join, ASAE, by James Dalton and Monica Dignam



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