How to Capture the Attention of the Next Generation


November 16, 2023

Did you know 70% of students were interested in joining an association, but only 38% knew how to find one relevant to their field of study? For association leaders, this should be alarming considering attracting younger members is one of the top challenges for associations reported in 2022. So how do associations close this gap? By taking a new approach to membership growth. Here are 4 strategies you can start implementing to attract the next generation.

Social Media

One key strategy to reach younger audiences is through social media. Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are heavily used by Millennials and Gen Z, with over 90% of 18-29-year-olds using social media. Associations should already have an active social media presence, but to reach the younger audience make sure to:

  • Create engaging content: Share content that is relevant, informative, and visually appealing. Use storytelling techniques, videos, and interactive formats to grab the attention of younger audiences.
  • Engage in two-way conversations: Actively participate in conversations by responding to comments, messages, and mentions. Encourage engagement through polls, Q&A sessions, or contests, as this will encourage younger audiences to connect and share their thoughts.
  • Incorporate user-generated content: Encourage your followers and supporters to create content related to your cause. This can include sharing personal stories, photos, or videos. User-generated content helps build a sense of community and encourages younger audiences to get involved.
  • Advertise strategically: Utilize paid advertising features on social media platforms to target younger audiences based on their interests, demographics, or online behaviors. Experiment with different ad formats to see what resonates best with your target audience.

No matter how you use social media to target the younger audience, you’ll need to regularly analyze social media analytics to gain insights into the performance of your content and campaigns. From there, your team can adjust your strategies based on the data, focusing on what works best to engage younger audiences.


Podcasts can be a powerful tool for nonprofits looking to reach a younger demographic. According to a study by Edison Research, 50% of Millennials say they listen to podcasts weekly, however only 30% of Gen Z and 23% of Gen Alpha listen weekly. The need for content tailored to those generational groups is wanted, but to do so consider the following:

  • Create targeted content: Develop content that resonates with your target audience. Consider topics that are relevant to younger generations and align them with your mission.
  • Utilize influencers: Find influencers in your industry that have built audiences of younger generations and collaborate with them to create engaging content. This can boost the reach of your podcast and help you target audiences that are harder to reach.
  • Promote your podcast: Use social media platforms, email newsletters, and other marketing channels to promote your podcast. This can help create awareness and attract more listeners.
  • Engage with your listeners: Encourage listener feedback and engagement and use it to inform which topics and formats you use for future podcasts.

With the right content, influencers, and marketing, you can connect with younger audiences and drive interest to your association.

Colleges and Universities

Another strategy is to build relationships with colleges and universities. Offering free or discounted student memberships is a great way to get students in the door. Associations can effectively engage younger audiences through colleges and universities, creating a strong foundation for long-term support and advocacy by utilizing these strategies:

  • Offer internships and volunteer opportunities: Engage college students by providing internship or volunteer opportunities that allow them to contribute to your associations mission. Students often seek out experiences that align with their values and give them practical skills and knowledge. This can not only attract younger audiences but also cultivate long-term supporters and advocates for your industry.
  • Host informational sessions and workshops: Conduct informative sessions or workshops on campus related to your associations mission. This can generate awareness, educate students, and provide a platform for discussion. Collaborate with student organizations or campus departments to organize these events and reach a broader audience.
  • Sponsor student events and activities: Support campus events, conferences, or competitions by becoming a sponsor. This not only allows you to connect with students directly but also increases visibility and brand recognition among the college community.
  • Offer scholarships or grants: Establish scholarship programs or grant opportunities specifically for college students who are passionate about your nonprofit's cause. This can incentivize students to engage with your organization and create long-lasting connections with the younger generation.
  • Participate in career fairs and networking events: Attend college career fairs or networking events where you can connect with students who may be interested in pursuing careers in your industry or are looking for volunteer opportunities. This provides an opportunity for direct interaction and recruitment of young supporters.

Once students experience the value of your association firsthand with these strategies, they are more likely to continue their membership after graduating.

Mentorship Programs

Finally, consider developing mentorship programs that pair young members with more experienced professionals. This gives students guidance to help launch their careers, while also fostering intergenerational connections that benefit both mentors and mentees. Mentorship programs are highly appealing to younger members and show your commitment to supporting new professionals, so when building your program, make sure to:  

  • Provide meaningful and impactful experiences: Ensure that the mentorship program offers valuable learning opportunities and hands-on experiences. Younger audiences are often motivated by programs that provide them with practical skills, knowledge, and opportunities to make a real impact. Associations can design mentorship programs that focus on skill-building, problem-solving, and community engagement.
  • Empower mentees as advocates: Encourage mentees to become advocates for the industry or organization by providing them with resources, training, and platforms to share their experiences. When mentees feel a sense of ownership and connection to the cause, they are more likely to spread awareness and engage their peers.
  • Measure and communicate impact: Capture and share success stories and testimonials from past mentorship programs to demonstrate the positive impact of the program. Utilize social media, websites, and other communication channels to highlight the success stories and inspire other young individuals to participate.

By adding these points to your mentorship program, associations can effectively reach and engage younger audiences, fostering meaningful connections and creating a positive impact.



To attract the next generation of members, associations need to meet younger audiences where they are - on social media and college campuses. By focusing on students and new professionals through special offers, networking, education, and mentorship, your association can capture their interest and shape them into lifelong members. The future of your association depends on the members of the future.  

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