Old Members Are The Future!

Deirdre Reid wrote a post this week about dealing with a dearth of young leaders in associations. I’m going to take a good crack at the idea we have to increase the percentage of young people in our organizations and I wanted to give Deirdre credit for kicking off this idea when I read her post.

By 2050 over 25% of the population in the U.S. will be 60 years or older according to government projections. 1 in 4! That’s compared to about 18% today. Given overall population growth, that represents more than 50 million new people 60 years or older in 2050 compared to now.

Old people are the future.

A lot of associations complain about how old their membership is. Given the way demographics are going, we better get used to it!

I also wonder how many of the 50 and 60 year old members of today were active leaders of their association 30 years ago. I’d wager a beer that it’s a very low percentage for many organizations. Our personal activities are driven by the professional and life stages in which we are immersed. Perhaps we are being too hard on ourselves about not having a lot of youth involved in the organization. Perhaps they just truly don’t care or we aren’t in the business of providing the value they are looking for at this point in their lives. Or there simply aren’t enough of them!

It is always worthwhile to take a step back and give our assumptions a few solid kicks and see which of them fall over and which stand up to scrutiny. Maybe you should be trying to get more ‘old’ members engaged rather than tilting at the young member windmill.

3 thoughts on “Old Members Are The Future!

  1. Hmmmm…

    When you cite your stat about 25% in 2050 — isn’t that growing population the younger generation of right now that Deirdre was talking about needing to bring in? Where do your 50- and 60-somethings of tomorrow come from if not today’s 20- and 30-somethings?

    But that’s not what I wanted to pick on though. Mostly, I just think too much is made of generational differences. Know what you are as an organization and what your strengths are — then make them stronger. If that happens to coincide with developing products/services for early-career folks or any other particular market segment, great, do it, but do it amazingly — that’s the part that really matters.

  2. Fair comment and is what lead me to discuss if the 50-60 year old members of today were all that engaged with associations 30 years ago. My personal experience and belief is that life and career stage drive decisions much more than the generational cohort into which you are born. We’re not robots programmed en masse at birth, acting the same forever.

    We’re in agreement on your second paragraph.

    The short-term trend looks to be later retirement ages at the same time that older populations are growing. That is a tremendous opportunity for associations.

  3. We should talk more about life career stage than about age. People are more likely to get involved in associations when they become more secure in their careers and when those careers take center stage in their lives. That’s why Boards are often older than the average member.

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