A few more random thoughts from the Gen Y session I attended yesterday...
We all pretty much agreed that we'd be out of business sooner or later if we didn't find a way to engage today's 20-somethings, but we weren't sure how to do that when an organization's members' average age is 50-something. One person said her organization bridged the generation gap by having folks of varying ages work together on a pro bono project. Margolis said that a lot of the biases generations have toward each other come from unfamiliarity—they just don't know each other very well. If you can get them together in ways that put them on an equal footing, as this person did, that can help demystify Boomers to Gen Ys and vice versa.
Gen Ys also have grown up with "experience brands," like Starbucks where you're willing to pay more than an actual product is worth (IMHO, anyway) because of the atmosphere in which it is sold. According to Margolis, "Brand equals the emotional relationship between a customer and your products," and Gen Ys, even more than their predecessors, need to feel some passion for your organization before they're going to engage with you.
This had echoes of two earlier sessions I had attended: Schmidt's "Make Some Noise" and Jackie Huba's terrific "Creating Member Evangelists" session, which I have yet to write something about. You can't slide by on past successes, or by being the only game in town, or whatever may have worked in the past. If you want to be relevant to today's member/prospective member, you better offer something that sparks some emotion.
Margolis gave us a list of 15 different types of meaningful experiences, from the book Making Meanings, then challenged us to explore the types of meaningful experiences we offer Gen Y through our associations, describe the ways in which we engage, communicate, and invite Gen Ys to participate (blogs, outreach campaigns, awards, scholarships, etc.), and then look into what new forms of meaning we could provide. Whew. People at my table quickly came to the conclusion that there's much work to be done! The good news, though, is that, for the most part, we do have a lot of potential for making meaningful experiences; now we just have to move from potential to actual. Easier said than done, I know.
Anyway, there was so much to think about from this session that I will need to digest for a few days. But so many of the things that we were talking about in the context of engaging the next generation also are just good business practice for every generation in today's world, I think. Even us Boomers want to feel passionate about our associations, have ways to contribute, be challenged, and share our knowledge and experience.