The Disconnect in Attracting Young Professionals

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles -

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles –

I got a pearl of wisdom here based on my experience.

So I’ve been seeing things lately. I see groups, especially non-profits, all talking about how their membership is aging and how they need to get young professionals to join and participate. I keep seeing a disconnect though. I look at books online and advice online, it is all directed towards the young professionals, such as self-help books, telling them what they should be doing and that they need to network and the like. I’m not saying these books and other related materials aren’t putting forward information that is helpful, young professionals likely should be doing many of these things. However, for all the talk about needing to attract young professionals, I’m not seeing these groups making any sort of significant effort in that direction.

You have all these books telling these young professionals how to run their lives, yet no one seems to be telling these groups what they need to do to get those young professionals. It isn’t a one way street here. The expectation seems to be that it is the Young Professional’s responsibility to seek out these organizations to join, and perhaps that is what they should be doing, however, the fact of the matter is that they don’t seem to be doing that. It is also the organizations’ responsibility to seek out young professionals to join the group.

If we take a look back in time for many of these groups, who created them? I’ll bring out Sister Cities, as I am quite familiar with them. If you talk with the long time veterans of the organizations, they’ll tell you it was university students and professionals with young families who were the core groups that established many of the Sister Cities relationships. Look at the groups now, the average age of membership for most of them are over 60 years. What happened? Where did all the young professionals go? This isn’t limited to just Sister Cities as well, it is endemic across the board.

Most groups have all but stopped trying to appeal to young professionals. There is a lot of talk, but no action to follow up. They have a youth committee that has no youth. They often want to give young professionals roles with no real impact, and they expect them to be thankful for the opportunity. They’re not giving them any leadership roles or responsibilities. These groups have stopped being mentors to these young professionals.

These groups need to realize that they’re offering these young professionals a value proposition, and they need to be able to articulate what that value is. There will be some who do good for the sake of doing good. Others do it for the experience of being apart of something bigger than themselves, where the accomplishments of their cause/organization becomes their accomplishment. Others still are in it for the leadership experience and to be able to learn valuable skills, something they may be able to use on their resumes. Let’s not forget networking as well! Not all young professionals will be participating purely for the sake of the cause. Does that really matter though? If it helps the cause and helps the young professionals become a better person in the process, I consider that a win-win.

Think about your group, how many young professionals even know about your group? If they don’t know about it, how are you even going to get them to join in the first place? Most young professionals won’t see these values without the group communicating them. Really, it is sales, you have to sell the idea, and non-profits are often terrible at it.

Stay tuned, I’ll be going more into the profile of today’s Young Professional and the issues they deal with and ideas for appealing to them.

Posted in Articles, Business Analysis.

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