How to Gain and Retain Millennials for Your Organization

What Inspires Millennials?

What Inspires Millennials?

Millennials. You know you want them. They’re young, they’re tech savvy, they’re socially aware, and they’re eager to work for a meaningful cause. Snag Millennial members now and you’ll have a passionate, inspired base for decades to come. But just how can you gain and retain more Millennial members? Start by knowing your audience.

Who Are Millennials?

The folks at Pew Research classify Millennials those currently 18 to 34 years old. At 86 million strong Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S., and they make up the largest share of the American workforce. This group is the most educated generation in American history. It is also the most diverse, with 42 percent identifying as non-white.

About 60 percent are entrepreneurs. They’re making their own way in the world following the economic collapse and poor job market they faced out of college. Many Millennials identify as social entrepreneurs who work to positively change the world and give something back—even if it means making less money as a result.

Millennials are more connected to technology than any previous generation. More than 80 percent have a Facebook account with a median of 250 friends. About 85 percent own a smart phone, and they use apps over general web browsers by a ratio of 2:1. Many Millennials communicate via texting or online chat, even with their parents. They’re also more likely to sleep near their phones! Mobile and social marketing are huge areas of opportunity for marketers who want to reach this group.

What Do They Care About?

Millennials tend to be socially aware and prepared to act. Seven in 10 see themselves as social activists. Four out of five say they’re more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause they care about. Three in four believe corporations should create economic value for society by addressing its needs. Additionally, about a third will boycott businesses based on causes they care about.

Millennials demand authenticity. They are drawn to organizations with socially responsible initiatives, but only if they’re genuinely doing good for people and not just for show. For example, a company should go beyond a single day of volunteering or writing a check to charity. Millennials prefer a culture of giving back and want to see actual results. (Not a bad fit for your life-changing mission, right?)

Among causes important to Millennials is environmental responsibility. Millennials are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. They take buses and bikes more often than other generations, and they tend to work for environmentally responsible companies.

Millennials also value community and family (perhaps the result of moving back home during the recession). Their quality of life includes earning a living wage, but they also value time for recreation. Many cite the need for creativity in their work.

Know Your Base Specifically

Now that you know a little more about Millennials in general, up your marketing game by looking specifically at your own members and prospects. Here are just a few ways to get to know your younger base:

  • assemble focus groups
  • conduct feedback surveys after your event and throughout the year
  • track the results of your marketing promos to determine which offers, visuals, and messages resonate with this segment
  • perform demographic or data analysis
  • monitor attendance at specific events, workshops, and sessions to determine topics of most interest
  • capture attendee stories and experiences with a video booth

You don’t need hard data to know your Millennials. There’s a lot to be said for simply paying attention at your event. What are people talking about? Where are they spending their time between sessions? What questions are they asking at the Q & A? This abstract information-gathering can provide tremendous insight on how to serve your younger members.

Next Steps for Gaining and Retaining Millennials

Being a purpose-driven organization means you’re already a good fit for Millennials. They’re eager to make a difference in the world, and your organization can help them accomplish this. It’s a matter of connecting the dots: Raise awareness among Millennials, connect them to other inspired individuals, and continually reinforce your value through clarity, energy, and spark (a.k.a. your mission, strategy, and brand experience).

Awareness and HQCs

Simple as it might sound, one way to have more Millennial members is to go out and get them. Visit universities, speak to young professionals groups, purchase mailing lists based on age, and target the children of your gray-haired members. Once you get their attention, encourage high quality connections (1) through online forums, social campaigns, new member orientations, mentorships, or volunteer opportunities. Reassure their interest with inspiration:

Be Clear In Your Mission

Research shows Millennials like to see an organization focused on one specific mission, rather than spreading resources too thin to make a difference. Focus your mission, then clearly communicate it to your Millennials. Explaining the WHY behind your organization, not the WHAT, is especially important to this young generation.

Have Energy In Your Strategy

Use technology to your advantage. You can’t ignore social and mobile. Keep in mind most Millennials access the world via their smart phones, mostly on apps. Traditional advertising might not work. Maybe it’s time your organization had an app. Maybe you need a YouTube channel. Once you determine your triggers and the desired target actions you want your Millennials to take, consider a tech-savvy tactic for delivering your message.

Ignite the Spark Through Brand Experience

In addition to great sensory brand experience, consider a philanthropic or eco-conscious component to your event. This could be as simple as adding recycling bins to your event space or choosing promotional items made of recycled or reusable materials. Take it one step further and organize a river cleanup or longer term project that gives back to your community.

Why You Need Millennials

Millennials represent an ideal type of member for your organization. They are young and have the potential to be members for decades. They’re already inspired to change lives, willing to work toward a cause for personal fulfillment, and eager to connect. You just might have to text them to get their attention.

(1) Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.

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Forge Connections to Further Your Mission and Sustain Your Organization

How to Create High-Quality Connections

How to Create High-Quality Connections

Imagine your event is THE place for connecting—for meeting like-minded individuals who are open to new ideas, ready to work together to change lives, eager to mentor others, and excited about new possibilities for your organization. Imagine your members faithfully attend year after year, and they tell others about your life-changing mission. They even bring Millennials. Imagine event attendance and membership are at all time highs…These wonderful things are the results of inspiration and high-quality connections, or HQCs. The sooner you connect people for productive, inspiring, uplifting purposes, the better off your organization will be.

What are High-Quality Connections?

Certain connections are just plain better than others. Some people lift us up while others drag us down. Some people put us at ease while others put us on edge. Psychologists distinguish human interactions as either high-quality connections, HQCs, or low-quality connections, LQCs. HQCs allow us to fully express ourselves, they withstand setbacks, and they open us to new ideas. In simpler terms, HQCs are strong, powerful, and sustainable. Much like inspiration, they make us open to new possibilities at the same time they spark action and creativity.

Here are just a few reasons why you need HQCs:
  • attract and retain new members, including Millennials
  • break the acquisition and retention cycle
  • build loyalty and encourage advocacy
  • increase productivity and creativity to change more lives
  • sustain your organization for decades to come
  1. Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.

LQCs by contrast kill inspiration and engagement, close our minds to new ideas, and leave damage in their wake. Consider how just one “bad apple” can destroy team morale in the workplace. Now think about how lots of these LQCs might affect the success of your event—in the form of poor attendance, lack of participation, failed networking events, and more.

HQCs vs Relationships

HQCs are not the same as relationships. Relationships are close bonds between people and include family, friends, and partnerships. They’re a powerful source of information, social support, and even health. But relationships are formed over long periods of time, and most people have relatively few truly meaningful relationships in their lifetime—perhaps as few as six. It’s simply not practical for your members to forge relationships in order to reach their goals and work towards your organization’s goals. You need action now.

HQCs can be created in an instant—in the hallway between sessions, for example. These micro-moments are defined not by their length of time but by their positive regard, mutual benefits, and sense of possibility. Luckily, people have room for lots of HQCs in their lives.

How to Build High-Quality Connections

Now that you know you want them, let’s talk about how to get them. Here are four pathways to forging HCQs with and among your base:

Be Engaged.

When members are engaged, they’re truly present at your event. They listen and participate, volunteer, teach, mentor, and contribute. They don’t just come for a certification and leave. You can encourage engagement with a killer brand experience at your event, and you can continue to engage throughout the year through your marketing. Communicate regularly with compelling triggers and targets. Broadcast emotionally engaging success stories and major milestones. Consider conducting feedback surveys or focus groups so you can continue to deliver what your members need most.

Enable Goals.

Your organization already has the tools, the people, and the knowledge to help your members achieve their business goals and change more lives. The trick is to make sure each member gets the help they need when they need it. Raising awareness is a good first step. For example, if you have a special session for CEOs, send them a personal invitation. Consider a new member orientation to help first-timers take advantage of all your organization has to offer. Don’t let connectivity end on the last day of your conference. Host regional events or maintain active online forums so members can help each other throughout the year.

Be Authentic.

Unless members are their true, vulnerable selves, HQCs can’t happen. Authentic storytelling is one way your organization can foster a culture of openness and vulnerability. Any forum that incorporates idea sharing is another (ex: panel discussions, roundtable luncheons, and Q&A sessions). Also consider unscripted networking events that allow members to let loose a little. A cocktail hour, golf outing, or game night might provide an arena for authenticity.

Enable Teamwork.

Connect inspired individuals to make even more magic happen! Consider creating an online forum before your event with different groups for CEOs, entry-level associates, or first-time attendees. Launch social media campaigns with event-specific hashtags. These pre-conference virtual meetings can help people connect better and faster in person. Interactive sessions at your event can facilitate teamwork by grouping people based on a particular issue they would like to solve. Incorporating a community project into your event can also build a spirit of teamwork.

High-quality connections are an essential part of the Inspiration-Connection Duality™. Humans are hardwired to connect, and we connect to feel inspired. As a purpose-driven organization you can fuel that basic human need and harness it to achieve your goals. Imagine the possibilities of creating HQCs among hundreds of inspired individuals!

Are you ready to tap into the power of HQCs? Let’s get started!

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How to Build Loyalty, Drive Event Attendance, and Further Your Mission

Motivation vs. Inspiration

Motivation vs. Inspiration

The words motivation and inspiration are often used interchangeably to mean “something that makes someone want to do something,” (seriously, that’s Webster’s definition). At Rottman Creative, we think there are important differences between these ideas. You need inspiration—not motivation—to drive event attendance, inspire brand attachment, and reinforce high-quality connections (1).


Motivation involves an external force nudging someone to take action. It’s often a short-term state of being, and the end result is a given objective. For example, you might be motivated to lose a few pounds because your pants are too tight. Your members might be motivated to attend your event because they need continuing education credits to keep doing their jobs.

The trouble with motivation is that when the nudging stops, so does the action. Once your pants fit, you abandon your diet. Once your members get their CCE credits, they stop attending your event. They aren’t called to work toward your mission or advocate for your organization. They get some “stuff” and then they go away.


Inspiration, on the other hand, involves being called from within to a higher purpose. It’s often long lasting, and the end result is personal fulfillment. Compared to our pants example, you might be inspired instead to adopt healthy habits so you can live longer. Your members might be inspired to go from attendee to presenter or mentor.

Inspiration is a win-win: Members get things that improve their businesses and their lives at the same time they work toward fulfilling your mission and improving the lives of others. This scenario is far more powerful and beneficial over the long term than simply selling a one-time certification or workshop.

How to Inspire

For your organization, inspiration is better than motivation because it opens members to new possibilities, enables goal attainment, and fosters long-term brand loyalty and advocacy. In more practical terms, members who are inspired go beyond simply paying dues or showing up for your event. They set aside their phones, engage in mutual idea-sharing, actively participate, and tell others about it in person or through social media.

Inspired members strengthen and sustain your organization. Here’s what you can do to move from motivation to inspiration:

Tell Stories

Success stories inspire because they show us what’s possible. Sharing a past attendee story demonstrates to your other members that they can achieve similar growth, success, connectivity, etc. (Brain research supports this idea that stories, not facts, move people.)

For your organization, tap into the experiences of past attendees whose lives have been impacted by your event. Did they make a connection that skyrocketed their success? Did they solve a particular challenge by attending your conference? Broadcast these stories before, during, and after your event to foster inspiration on a brain-deep level. Read more about the power of storytelling.

Communicate Regularly

Even pilgrims go to church on Sundays. While inspiration comes from within, your members will still need to be kept aware of special offers, annual events, and any important accomplishments of your organization. Stay in touch throughout the year with a mix of marketing tactics: Newsletters, promotional emails, direct mailings, and sharable content can encourage action and advocacy.

Foster Brand Attachment

We know that emotions—not facts—drive most decisions. When members are emotionally invested in your organization they attend repeatedly, tell others, serve on committees, and achieve milestones. Research tells us that brand attachment is the single most important indicator of whether a person will buy a brand. Read more on how to create brand attachment.

Encourage Connectivity

When your members feel connected, they are compelled to attend your event year after year—not because they need a certification but because they might miss out on valuable interactions with their friends and colleagues. Planned/forced networking doesn’t necessarily lead to high-quality connections that inspire your members. Sometimes the most meaningful connections happen over coffee or in the hallways between sessions.

Consider how you might encourage connectivity through unscripted networking at your event. Lounge areas with comfortable seating, an outing offsite, an ice cream social, a photo booth, or a game night are just a few ideas.

Motivated members might pay dues and even register for an event. But after they get what they want, these tourists will be gone and you will be back on the acquisition and retention rollercoaster. Inspired members, however, are compelled from within to help your organization achieve goals and pursue new horizons. They spread the word about the great work you do. They feel fulfilled while they actively work to fulfill your mission. Maybe your organization can survive on motivation, but it can’t thrive without inspiration.

(1) Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.

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