by Michael C. Lowe | January 01, 2012

Metro Edge outdoor eventA good way to get young professionals more involved in your association is to organize a volunteer committee with a mandate to create initiatives that will cater to the interests of the under-30 crowd. "We like to create events that appeal to young professionals as well as find a way for them to be heard in our association so they feel like they're being listened to," says Lauren Hefner, vice chair of ASAE's Young Association Executives Committee. Here is her five-step process for starting such a committee:

1. Assess the need. "First, look at your industry and find out how many young professionals are a part of it," says Hefner. "Member surveys are a good start, but you can also use free resources like checking out industry Facebook pages or LinkedIn networks." If the industry demographic strongly favors an older crowd, then it might not be worth it to invest in programs geared toward Millennials.

2. Involve the board.
Once the research is done, present your findings to the association's board of directors. "Getting the board involved is important because they not only have the final say whether the committee gets approved, but they also can provide support and insight," says Hefner. "Don't be afraid to involve industry veterans in the young professional's team. They force us to take a step back and really think about our ideas."

3. Create a business plan. Building a strategic plan of action is crucial to determining the committee's (and ultimately the association's) goals when it comes to involving young professionals. Hefner suggests using metrics, which will largely depend on your association's specific goals, to evaluate the committee's progress down the road. "It's important to know what success looks like so you'll know when you reach it," says Hefner. Tapping established programs from other associations to determine best practices and goal setting is one way to get started.

4. Call for volunteers. Reach out to young professionals in your association and throughout the industry to join the committee, though it's important to think outside of the box. "Make sure you're not just using the normal channels to reach them," says Hefner. Social media is always a good arena when it comes to Millennials.

5. Show support.
Once the committee is up and running, it's important for the association and board to acknowledge and support its presence. "The needs of young professionals are often different from those of industry veterans who may be in senior positions, so it helps to be flexible and understanding," says Hefner. "Unlike members in other committees, they might not have the time, money or resources to meet in person on a monthly basis, so allow them to chat via webcast or on a conference call."