Focus on the Cause, Not the Club



By Cathi Hight

ABRAHAM MASLOW TAUGHT us that people seek belonging, connection, a common bond, and being part of something – the community, a solution to a problem for many, or a movement that creates transformational and lasting change for the future. By 2030, 75% of the workforce will be dominated by millennials, and Gen Zers will account for 40% of U.S. consumers. Research shows that younger generations are purpose-driven. They want to make a difference and know that it mattered.

Over time, member-based organizations have created exclusive clubs with coveted benefits provided. The value proposition is to join the tribe to gain visibility, to have their voices heard, and to have a competitive edge in the market.

But for tomorrow’s members, they want to belong to a tribe that creates communities of mutual interest and drives change around issues that matter to them and goes beyond the membership base.

What is Important to Tomorrow’s Members

The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey highlights the values and drivers of these dominant generations, which will shape the actions of future leaders, policies, and the focus of memberbased organizations. Based on interviews with over 14,000 young professionals, it is interesting to note that their values and drivers have not changed over the last 10 years and the pandemic has accentuated them. Here are takeaways and considerations for association executives:

  • A call for action and accountability – The top cited concerns are health care and disease prevention, wealth and income equality, climate change and the need to protect the environment, and systemic racism. They are willing to be involved in political action and hold institutions accountable for their behaviors and how they address community challenges.
  • Businesses have little impact on societal issues – More than 53% feel that businesses are more focused on their own agendas rather than considering the wider society.
  • Stressed about financial situations and family welfare – More than 41% say they are stressed all the time and worry about financial uncertainty and their careers.
  • Flexible and adaptable work environments are desired – 25% want to return to a little to a lot less often time in the office and prefer a work environment that offers work options.
  • Preference to work for companies with a purpose beyond profit – More than 44% cited that the type of work they want to do and who they want to work for needs to be aligned with their values, and they are willing to make career changes accordingly.

Mission Over Membership

Organizations that focus on membership will always be relevant to a smaller group of stakeholders, but not necessarily essential to a community or an industry. Member-based organizations need to think bigger, act bolder, and change how they operate. The future of associations relies on embracing three strategic pillars:

  • Focus on mission to make an impact, not just for members, and help solve the greatest challenges facing communities. Choose initiatives that influence positive changes and educate and communicate your focus in a public-facing strategic plan. People follow and support organizations that have a compelling mission and calls for action.
  • Lead with courage and purpose, and convene stakeholders to solve problems, serve as the sane center among competing interests, and be a catalyst for change. Advocate for your investors, partners, and for key issues facing your community.
  • Adapt the business model by funding the mission and diversifying revenue beyond membership to support community-based work. Leverage your foundation to fund initiatives that support your mission. Not everything you do needs to be funded by members. Create an investment model to support your strategic plan and you may find that members and non-members will write a bigger check that is not focused on member benefits.

Cathi Hight is President of the Hight Performance Group, an organizational development firm that helps develop healthy organizations to manage constant change, enhance customer loyalty and “work smarter, not harder.” Learn more at hightperformance.com.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button