According to our Member Professional Development Study, the number one challenge identified by professional organizations is attracting younger members to education and training programs. With graduation season fast approaching, there’s perhaps no better time to evaluate how well your organization is attracting and retaining new graduates, not just to your elearning offerings, but to your association as a whole. In fact, 62 percent of association members join between one and five years into their career or as students, underscoring the necessity to attract these members as early as possible, as it will become increasingly difficult to do so, as they progress in their fields. Moreover, focusing on this segment and ensuring their engagement from day one can present ample opportunities for sustained growth and a brighter future for your organization.

Top Reason Members Join Associations

The top reasons new graduates join membership organizations include job opportunities, credentials and training, and networking. They want more from their organization, from actively looking to them for job assistance to training to make them stand apart in a sea of applicants. And, they want to socialize and create long-lasting connections with one another.

With this in mind, a good place to start your strategy is with a clearly articulated membership offering designed with these specific benefits at its core. For example, does your organization host a job board that connects members with jobs? Online or in-person networking events?

Consider highlighting the value of these as part of a new grad membership package, along with access to online courses or webinars and webcasts, highlighting the various professional development opportunities available to guide them along their career path. Never underestimate the value of hooking them with a good deal and the right message. That said, it’s important to ensure they receive the message.

Target Your Communications

When you look at our research on member engagement, you’ll notice that only 29 percent of organizations take their members’ age into account and only 48 percent take their career stages into account when communicating. This tells us that organizations are missing a major

opportunity to drive engagement with targeted communications. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is not going to be effective across the entire member base or in outreach efforts, especially when you consider the stark differences in the way younger and early career members like to be communicated with versus older, more established members.

New graduates have only experienced a wired world, and you can expect them to be extremely tech savvy. Fairly or unfairly, these expectations for personalization have been formed through other online experiences such as those with Amazon™, Netflix, and other consumer outlets.

While email is still the preferred tool across all generations – students, new graduates, and early careerists are going to be the most open to receiving communications via social, mobile, and text, so don’t shy away from utilizing these avenues. Their least desired way to communicate? Telephone calls.

Extend Your Learning Programs

The value of amplifying your organization’s learning program should also not be undersold when it comes to this segment. They are chomping at the bit when is comes to professional development. One great way to engage them is by varying the mediums. For instance, in-person seminars are still incredibly popular but why not hit two birds with one stone by offering  content from the in-person event as a webcast for those who can’t attend in person, greatly expanding your audience.

This especially targets new grads who may be further down on the org chart and less likely to be sent onsite. Another perk is that by capturing the content live, you will then have it as an asset for on-demand courses and rebroadcasts. Another consideration is to offer a virtual conference, giving younger members the opportunity to participate at less cost with more flexibility, while still accessing the learning opportunities they crave.

There are many ways to attract, engage, and retain new graduates and developing a strategy around this segment is a must. For more insight and recommendations on reaching this group and Millennials in general, check out the webinar, “How and Why You Want to Gain and Retain Millennial Learners.”