You know what’s scary for associations? When people think they have no time for “workplace-adjacent activities.” That’s a phrase I heard an association CEO use when describing how difficult it is to recruit members for chapter leadership.
He’s not the only one with this problem. I’ve been hearing similar concerns from other association execs. They’re finding it difficult to convince members to make time to participate in association programs.
The rise of the 5:01-and-I’m-done attitude
A recent Wall Street Journal article (gift link) provides some clues as to what’s going on, although it focuses on the lack of interest in office events. “After an initial burst of post-pandemic happy hours, rubber chicken dinners and mandatory office merriment, many employees are adopting a stricter 5:01-and-I’m-done attitude to their work schedules.”
Personal lives have recaptured people’s time, which is a good thing. Older people want to get home to their families or have to pick up kids from school or daycare. Younger ones aren’t willing to make the same sacrifices as Boomers and Gen X. With a healthier sense of work/life balance, they’re not hanging around to schmooze with bosses and co-workers. They prefer to spend their time on personal interests and relationships.
People who are used to work at home resent having to return to the office. They don’t want to spend any additional time on work-related pursuits.
But completely ignoring their careers is self-sabotage. They might be sick of spending time at work, but they shouldn’t ignore personal growth. And this is where your association comes in.
Association participation, like volunteering or attending education programs, can help people achieve professional goals and advance their career. If members show up virtually or in person, they can improve and develop skills, meet peers and potential employers, or find a better job.
Show people why and how to make time for association programs
These strategies will help you convince people to invest in their future and improve their lives by participating in association programs.
Give people the tools to reach their full potential
In a 2018 study, “The Ideal Road Not Taken: The Self-Discrepancies Involved in People’s Most Enduring Regrets,” researchers found that people often regret not chasing their dreams and reaching their full potential.
“So, what’s the way out of this regret-filled maze?” asks Leon Ho, founder and CEO of Lifehack. “The answer lies in shifting our mindset. It’s about making tough but vital choices that put a fence around our time, often meaning we have to release certain activities and people to create room for others.”
If your audience is not ready to make time for personal and professional development, help get them ready. Instead of just marketing your programs, market the need for personal growth. People won’t buy something unless they really think they need or want it. Help them understand the value of making time for self-care and personal growth.
Why self-care? Because people dealing with burnout or stress won’t register for a webinar, virtual meetup, or online education program. They don’t have the mental bandwidth for that.
In newsletters, website resources, and webinars, regularly teach people how to prevent burnout and reduce stress. Share self-care tips on the social platforms they frequent.
Help them figure out how to better manage their time. Acknowledge the need for a healthy work/life boundary, but also give them ideas for making the most of both sides of their lives. Invite members to share how they manage their busy lives and make time for what helps them advance their careers.
Fuel the desire for personal growth
Offer goal-setting workshops as a member benefit. Follow the American Chemical Society’s lead: they offer career counseling as a member benefit. Benefits like this also serve as lead generators for your professional development programs.
Identify typical member values. In marketing copy, connect those values with professional development or other association activities. Encourage people to prioritize activities that help them live their values.
Instill a little FOMO too. Talk up the outcomes that participants can expect if they attend a program or event. Encourage them not to miss out on these opportunities.
Dangle a professional network and community in front of them
The WSJ article referred to the “unspoken rule of office culture”: people get ahead by networking with their boss and co-workers outside of office hours. But many of the comments on the WSJ article revealed a strong desire to avoid co-workers after hours: “I don't want to go into the office from 9-5, why would I want to see these people afterward?”
Another commenter said, “It’s a bit sad that companies are losing their social cohesion.”
Your association can encourage people to get ahead in a different way while finding the social cohesion missing in their workplace. They can schmooze with other people’s bosses instead of their own. They can also get to know:
• Peers who do what they do
• Potential mentors and employers
• Potential acquaintances and friends
In the WSJ comments, many older people reminisced about how much they enjoyed after-work office gatherings when they were young. They wrote about how much they learned and how this networking helped them get ahead. One person said, “Young people are getting cheated out of skill building by not having connections to people a couple of years older.”
Associations can step in and fill that void. People might not want to hang out with their boss and colleagues. But they may want to get out of the office echo chamber to meet and learn from other people in the industry. Ask members to share stories about what they’ve learned and how their career has benefited from attending association programs and events.
In addition to program and event marketing, always market the need for personal growth. Keep stressing the message that personal growth expands your audience’s skill set and opens up new avenues for their careers, ultimately leading to higher financial rewards.