Sunday, May 11, 2014

How is your association coping with generational change?

The U.S. continues a massive and unprecedented generational change impacting business, governments, associations and nonprofits.

Some organizations are making changes now; others “waiting.” 

The generational facts:

  • 78+ million boomers ... with more than 10,000 retiring each day
  • 50+ million Gen Xers ... those born between 1964 and 1980
  • 76+ million Gen Ys (aka millenials) ... those born 1980 - 2000
Many associations (see U.S. Jaycees) felt the impact of the change from Boomers to Xers ... which was a 27+ million drop in total population. The next major shift is when the 78+million Boomers fully retire (assuming they do) and the 76+ million Ys assume control of the workforce and associations.

One challenge for all of us: boomers are the ones making the decisions about associations that millenials will be dominating within 10 years.

I recently came across three stories that may be helpful to you and other nonprofit organizations:

Bowling Alone
(from Associations Now)
  • Last week, the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA), the trade group that puts on the sport’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open each year, announced that it would cancel the 2015 edition of the event after failing to draw the level of sponsorship needed to put the tournament on.
  • Long story short, the sport is struggling with aging demographics and economic dynamics. It hasn’t attracted enough of the younger people who tend to appeal to advertisers. And with the slow economic recovery, the group is having a hard time making its marquee event financially viable.
      Tip for Associations:
  • Monitor your demographics (members, conference participants, etc.) so you can spot trends before they become major problems. Even a three or four point change can signal time for adjustments.
Theaters of Distinction
(from the Fort Myers News Press)
  • To break from the norm and seek increasing audiences, some movie theaters are breaking the mold. Among them, the Silverspot Cinema. “This luxurious, multiscreen movie theater has ruined most of us for watching movies anywhere else. Big comfortable leather seats, interesting food, and wine and beer at your seat in the theater? Heaven.” Report from Sharon Kenny in News-Press 
      Tip for Associations:
  • Continually find ways to tweak your offerings to distinguish yourself from competitors and to add value to your members/donors.
Theme Parks in Florida
(from Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams, University Press of Florida)
  • “Nothing lasts forever, most certainly not leisure trends. Theme parks have carefully cultivated three generations of Americans, but tourism remained flat throughout the 1990s, despite investments and hype. Industry officials, engineers and futurologists feverishly tweak and reinvent attractions to create and fulfill each generation’s needs and wants. The new century presents a particularly challenging problem: how to capture the affections of Generation X-ers ... Will dazzling new rides and childhood traditions to sufficient to be bring them back to Florida? Most distressing, many young adults bring a different frame of reference toward work, leisure and family than their parental baby boomers.”
     Tip for
  • Recognize you are likely to need to modify programs – or even reinvent your association – to meet the needs and wants of millenials.
The overall message:
  • Nothing lasts forever. 
  • Monitor demographic changes in your membership, conferences and other offerings.
  • Make changes, even if minor. 
  • Engage millenials in designing what your association can do for them.

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