CEO to CEO: Attracting Younger Members and Staff-Volunteer Personal Relationships

Executives share what their organization's are doing to attract younger members and what approach they take to staff-volunteer personal relationships.

What is your association doing to attract young members?

We are tapping into the younger generations' preferred methods for interaction and learning. Examples of this include expanding our presence in social networking forums, offering more interactive education at our conferences, and opening up more opportunities for members to join causes such as community events at our annual conference. We're also looking into drawing Gen Y-ers into various advisory groups we are creating.

—Nelson Fabian, executive director and CEO, National Environmental Health Association, Denver. Email: [email protected]

Our membership comprises engineering and engineering-technology faculty, many of whom face the challenge early in their careers of learning to balance the responsibilities of teaching, supervising undergraduate and graduate researchers, doing their own research, raising money, publishing, and engaging in service to their colleges and universities. We market to these young professionals by emphasizing the products that help them manage competing priorities. In particular, this population generally receives little training on education itself, so we advertise that we can expose them to best practices and research-based techniques that help them become better educators and to do so in an efficient manner that allows them to devote more time to their other responsibilities.

—Norman Fortenberry, executive director, American Society for Engineering Education, Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Today's young prospective member has grown up in the internet age and expects services and information to be delivered electronically. Online learning, along with web-based event registration, membership payments, and communication, are the expectation of this generation. Some traditionalist board members may resist seeing the organization evolve in this direction, but we have been able to help technology-challenged members embrace the changes through tutorials and incentives. By providing a modern, interactive website and being first to provide information that affects them directly, an association makes a strong case to obtain the new, young member.

—Donn Eurich, CAE, president and CEO, Eurich Management Services, LLC, Lansing, Michigan. Email: [email protected]

The Greater Nashville Association of Realtors treats young professionals with respect and welcomes their input. We certainly have the Young Professionals Network but are doing more substantive events and programs than what we see being done by others. Less purely social events; more serious political engagement and fundraising, focused professional development programs, and meaningful community service are all included. We find that including [young members] in decision-making and leadership roles for the association says they are valued now—not just for what they might do or become in the future.

—Don Klein, CEO, Greater Nashville Association of Realtors, Nashville, Tennessee. Email: [email protected]

If there was one thing you could change about your job, what would it be and why?

As an officer and organization leader, I spend far more time "on the business" of running the organization instead of "in the business," working one-on-many with both staff and volunteers. Knowing that I should be in the trenches getting the pulse of everyday issues and celebrations and understanding leadership theories that support what I know, the job still takes far more of my attention away from the very people from whom I derive my energy and who remind me of why I do what I do.

—Sylvia Henderson, founder and CEO, Springboard Training, Olney, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

I would eliminate emails for everything other than brief information sharing. Emails have destroyed personal-relationship building with staff and clients and serve as incendiary devices waiting to blow when used to communicate about controversial issues. Emails have a place, but they are not substitutes for personal interaction and problem-solving discussion.

—Rick Cristol, president, Kellen Company, New York. Email: [email protected]

Working for an association that supports owners and operators of roller skating centers is both exciting and meaningful. At the end of the day I can feel good about what is being accomplished. However, there are days I want to be able to do more to push the association forward and deliver more for our members to help them achieve success in their businesses. My focal point should be on the big picture, how to grow membership, and handling higher-level issues that arise. This would mean spending less time on administrative tasks. In a small office, this can be difficult. Adding an office manager to handle these little things would allow me to better focus on helping our staff grow in their roles, which ultimately means better service for our members.

—Susan Melenchuk, executive director, Roller Skating Association International, Indianapolis. Email: [email protected]

While I have a wonderful job, our organization is complex—the Colorado Association of School Executives serves as the umbrella organization for seven associations for specific types of education professionals—and this makes it tough to meet face to face with members in timely and meaningful ways. This is compounded by the need to be close to metro Denver, especially during the legislative session, to stay current and active with lobbying and advocacy efforts. I would love to cut the tether more often to create meaningful engagement and dialogue with our members and prospects in their schools and communities.

—Bruce Caughey, executive director, Colorado Association of School Executives, Englewood, Colorado. Email: [email protected]