2017 New Idea Search: #3 Chapter Mash-up for Young Pros

I crisscrossed the US this year working with dozens of associations and their volunteer leaders – and in most cases those volunteers where leading components (aka chapters and communities). One encounter really struck me. It was with a young, dynamic professional who is the Financial Planning Association’s NexGen Local Leader Liaison, Ian Harvey, CFP, who worked with me on the “The Next Generation: Growing Young Professionals & Future
Chapter Leaders” session. The idea: mash-up of chapters for young pros.

What’s framing my test idea is in part how NexGen approaches their chapters and in part the aha’s from Ian and other leaders-who happen to be young-that I’ve met.

FPA’s NexGen group is a community of FPA members through age 36. They encourage NexGen
local communities
(notice the word communities). The leadership model is a “partnership or team of driven individuals [which] not only allows for you to spread the responsibility, but allows for a sounding board to better plan events, gatherings, etc.” (Notice the structure.) These local communities are connected to the larger NexGen community for training, resources and ideas. They are also connected in some fashion to the local chapter.

Oh, and I totally love their vision: “To ensure the transference of wisdom, tradition and integrity, from the pioneers of financial planning to the next generation of our profession.”

My aha’s that provide context for the new idea are:

(1) if you ask young professionals to build their own chapter, they will approach it with some notable differences including the formality and the leadership structure.

(2) young professionals are professionals first, and young second. I mention this because around the country when I meet leaders who happen to be young, they place professional development, building connections and giving back in pretty much the same order as us who are bit older.

(3) money and “glass walls” are the two biggest deterrents young members/leaders mentioned. Money is a challenge to participating in two ways. First the obvious: budget. Second is the way we require purchases: up front dues, no try-before-you-buy, incremental pay options, or pay with trades. Glass walls are the barriers set up when we require formal governing, live by “this is how we do it”, or reserve positions for those “who’ve played the game.”

(4) Two articles, one in Entrepreneur and one in AssociationsNow, came to a very similar conclusion about the role of associations in young professionals’ careers and it echoed my experience with FPA NexGen.

John Rampton wrote in Millennials Have Rediscovered the Benefits of Joining a Professional Organization:

Ninety­three percent of respondents ranked social capital as very important or important to their professional lives. The value millennials put on social capital is fueling the reemergence of younger professional organizations that bring quality to a space diluted by Facebook posts and constant, but distant, connections. 

Millennial business owners and leaders overwhelmingly believe that today’s professional communities are a powerful tool to build social currency and further their professional goals,” says Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group. “Over the last five years, it is clear that groups like YEC, Summit Series and Levo have transitioned the once-antiquated industry into a beacon for curated social capital, relevant professional benefits and peer-to-peer
learning from Gen Y.

Joe Rominiecki wrote in Young Professionals: Just Looking for Some Friends:

For young professionals, forming bonds over shared experiences might be the most critical role an association
can fill. My first suggestion is to stop leading with the term “networking opportunities.” We all know intellectually that networking is important, but no one really wants to “network.” You tell me I can come to your association and network, and I think of this:

Networking is vital, but it isn’t an experience. A learning event might be, though. Or a volunteer project. Or even a purely social gathering. (Just don’t call it “networking.”) In any case, it’s important for young professionals to make meaningful connections while doing meaningful work or having memorable experiences (or both).

One other point from Entrepreneur highlighted a reason the FPA model may be working:

A majority of millennials (67 percent) stated they would “prefer to join an organization founded by peers of a similar age,” such as YEC and FounderSociety. These groups have sparked a resurgence of professional organization because they are meeting the wants and needs of Millennial professionals and business owners.

Here’s the new idea I’m shaping. Can we build on the chapter concept with parallel local communities formed by and lead by young professionals, which are also multi-disciplinary, that is, merging related professions in an area? So, it’s not exclusively your young pro chapter, but a young pro community that several associations “support.” Further, by having this cross-association collaboration, can we provide this to young pros at a low cost? To assure the connection to the “defining” professional group, we should connect these local communities with our traditional chapters.

In a practical example, I’d love to create here in Baltimore a young professional group which connects to PRSA Maryland (the group we manage) and with the American Marketing Association Baltimore, the American Federation of Advertising Baltimore, Baltimore Association of Black Journalistsand others. Let the chapter be free.

Another idea, is simply to have a membership option for young professionals at the chapter level that costs nothing but your time.

– As I search out new ideas for 2017, I’ll share em here …
check out

Idea #1: Active

Idea #2: Member
Year In Review