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Monday, September 28, 2009

Engaging Generation Y into the leadership of your NPO

In November, I will be addressing the national convention of the Canadian Society of Association Executives. Of the two subjects I will be addressing, none brings more frustration than comments I hear from non-profit executives regarding the sector's difficulties in recruiting Generation Y into their organizations. Many industries, especially those in the trades, quite rightly are concerned by the aging trends in their membership. Amongst associations, the concern exists that those most senior in leadership (staff and board) will be arriving near the end of their career. For charitable organizations, the need to adapt their fundraising and volunteer pitch to a new audience also means reviewing how they communicate to this demographic.

Known as Gen-Y or millennials, Generation-Y are individuals born between 1980 and 1995, at a volume of 80 million strong in the United States alone. Gen-Y has been raised on technology, so much so that their cell phones are extensions of their hands and text messaging, instant messaging and Facebooking are how they interact with others, even different generations. Older generations can learn a lot from these communities, to better understand who millennials are and what they’re about. One of the major concerns association and non-profit executives are facing these days is how to cope with Gen-Y, yet many of them don’t take the time to get to know them better.

This new paradigm means not only a thought shift is required but from a communicator's perspective, it means thoroughly different communications strategy. Social media is not just a "nifty" networking tool. It demands of associations and non-profits a complete strategy that integrates older and traditional communications strategies with online means of communication. Generation Y expects the ability to be able to use online forums and networking means to facilitate first contact and beyond.

Us "old geezers" have the challenge of showing them the value of face to face networking. By integrating old and new media based on solid strategy of why communication is taking place first off, I believe associations and non-profits will make the significant leap towards engaging Gen-Yers.

What do you think? Can integrating the two "magnify" the unappreciated value non-profits present before this demographic?
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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