Innovation has been top-of-mind this week as we near the deadline for the AUC 2015 Innovation Competition submissions (get yours in before 7/31!). The Innovation Competition is a yearly initiative we launch in advance of our annual conference to push the ingenuity and originality of our client community in relation to their Aptify systems. Not only does this spark creativity within organizations, but by displaying these innovations in an hour-long presentation at our conference, it inspires others to implement new ideas and use their systems in unique ways while providing Aptify staff with the yearning desires of our community. You heard that right. In just one hour, ideas from regular association staff members can help aid in the foundation of future product advancements, software upgrades, or the next, best thing in association management software.

innovation-blog-post_image.jpgThese days, it’s no secret that many associations are struggling to attract younger members—Generation Yers, otherwise known as Millennials—yet, overall membership levels in associations over the past few years have remained relatively consistent. According to the 2015 Membership and Marketing Benchmarking Report by Marketing General, Inc., the amount of newly acquired members by associations is continuing on a downward trend—down nearly 20% since 2013, whereas their member renewal rates tend to stay the same. From this, we can deduce one thing: associations are retaining many of their longtime, devoted members (Generation Xers), but they aren’t capturing the attention of a younger audience. This could be due to a number of reasons—one of the most obvious being practices that are at best expected and at worst out-of-date.

In an age where Millennials now represent the largest generation in the U.S. workforce (upward of 34% according to Pew Research Center), businesses need to adapt their strategies and approaches to appeal to this new mass. For associations, this is more critical than ever as membership dues—both new and recurring—often account for a large majority of their revenue.

Although it’d be unfair to assume that Gen Xers aren’t interested in modernized progressions, we do know that as a whole, Millennials are thought of as the technology generation. They live in a world where instant gratification is the status quo and change is frequently encouraged. That being said, this generation isn’t riveted by the thought of just joining an association to join, but would rather join to make a difference and actually see some sort of immediate impact. And when that doesn’t happen right away, they are quick to disengage; lack of engagement accounted for the number one reason why members don’t continue to renew their membership (2015 Membership and Marketing Benchmarking Report by Marketing General, Inc.).

In addition, this report denotes that the top goal for associations in 2015 was to increase member engagement, although it later states that “difficulty attracting and maintaining young members” is a top three challenge for growing membership. Clearly, the topics of engagement and membership growth are directly related, and as previously stated, when members are not engaged, membership rates decline.

As associations look toward the future, they should keep millennials in mind—the largest group to make up the workforce—and continue to find new and innovative ways to keep them engaged and interested in what they have to offer. In turn, they should start to see better ROI and increased membership rates. On the plus side, they’ll be challenging their long-term member base to adopt fresh ideas and new ways of thinking!

For a great example of an association using innovation to their benefit, read a case study on the New Jersey Society of CPA’s e-mail integration with HighRoad Solution to create the Customized e-Newsletter: Cutting E-mail by the Millions