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Keeping Non-Members Engaged, Email-Style

How many readers of this blog get emails from various organizations inviting you to an upcoming conference or event? Or, as an association executive, how many times have you used your non-member list to promote attendance registration for one of your educational opportunities? When was the last time your list was tidied up?

How many readers of this blog get emails from various organizations inviting you to an upcoming conference or event? Or, as an association executive, how many times have you used your non-member list to promote attendance registration for one of your educational opportunities? When was the last time your list was tidied up?

I get emails all the time inviting me to one event or another. Many of these emails (no, they are not spam) I have signed up for ages ago, when I was looking into professional associations to obtain a designation, to increase my knowledge and expertise base in project management.


First, when I contacted these organizations 2-3 years ago, I got a very abrupt response regarding my membership inquiry (something along the lines of “all of the information you need is on our website”…). As a result of their lack of interest in speaking with me, I never joined.

Second, it has been a few years, and while they are still trying to communicate with me, they have not bothered to call to find out if:

  • I am still with the company
  • I am still interested in their organization
  • I am still in the role/job function I was in all those years ago

And yet, I am still being asked to spend my money by attending their conference.

Before I move forward – YES, at least they are reaching out now – but it is clear that these organizations have not done their research in quite a while to determine who (if anyone) on their non-member list is still worth marketing to.

While it is relatively inexpensive to send a text-only email out to a list of contacts, what is the cost to the associations’ image and reputation?  It is the same feeling I get when I receive course catalogs offering me courses in Project Management, Employee Engagement, and other Operations functions.  Since these topics applied to my former role, the company sending these to me is wasting a lot of money!   I do not even take them out of the plastic packaging anymore; I just toss them in the recycling bin.


  1. Know the Statistics: An estimated 30% of your data becomes obsolete each year (or more in some cases). While this ratio is very dependent to industry, etc. it is important to understand that your profession has turnover – and just how much is important to know in order to ensure that your data is kept clean.
  2. Do your research: Whether it is Web research to find if the person is still at the company, or if it is a call that needs to take place to update information, it needs to be done. No matter what amount of money you are spending on marketing to your non-members, a lot of what is being allocated is being wasted if you cannot keep your list up to date. At Greenfield, we recommend that this is done annually, and that consistent budgets are planned each year to account for it.
  3. Take the Leap: People are more willing to provide you with what you need if you offer them something in return. For example, if the association I referenced above had offered the feedback and information I was looking for in the first place, or if after they had put me on their non-member communication list, tried to connect with me every so often to ensure that I still belong on that list, I would be more likely to have told them by now that I have completely changed roles and as a result am no longer interested. I may have even given them the name of my replacement.

If you are looking to improve your numbers – whether it is for courses, conferences or membership – you need to know who you are marketing to – and that starts with a clean list.  From there, you can assess the real costs of creating a strategic marketing plan.

What have been your experiences with your non-member list?

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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