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Generation Y

Why Gen Y Isn't Interested In Advocacy

In our last post on advocacy in associations, we discussed the challenges you face. We were surprised that “Engaging the younger generation in the process” came in as low as number four in our 2012 Advocacy in Associations Survey. So now, in this post of the series, let’s talk specifically about advocacy and Gen Y.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts around the topic of “Advocacy and Associations” that XYZ University will publish during the month of November.

In our last post on advocacy in associations, we discussed the challenges you face. We were surprised that “Engaging the younger generation in the process” came in as low as number four in our 2012 Advocacy in Associations Survey. So now, in this post of the series, let’s talk specifically about advocacy and Gen Y.

Despite the fact that only 40.9% of survey respondents thought engaging the younger generation was a major challenge, nearly 83% of associations are “very concerned” about the lack of participation or interest of younger members (under the age of 40).

Well, you should be concerned.

Younger generations aren’t getting involved as a whole—and their disinterest in advocacy can hardly come as a surprise considering that they are generally disdainful and cynical about politics.

Raised on cable television, Gen Y, has seen political leaders suffer through public scandals like Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky debacle, lies and failure to deliver on promises. Today, much of Gen Y gets its news from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which poke fun of the political process and call out corruption wherever possible.

It is not surprising that Gen X and Y are not lining up to get involved themselves.

Besides, it’s slow and confusing.

The results of your association’s advocacy efforts take years to demonstrate and a lot of patience, but Millennials expect things to happen quickly. They grew up with technology that makes things happen fast—they can microwave a dinner in under five minutes, most won’t wait more than a second for a Web page to load before moving on in frustration and let’s not forget about text messaging and Face Time.

Political engagement continues to drop for younger generations, but it’s not all bad news.

The number of people between the ages of 18-29 who claimed to be following election news closely in 2012 vs 2008 plunged by 50% according to PEW research. Millennials have become less engaged in politics than they were just four years ago. And this loss of interest comes at a time when unemployment and higher education issues continue to be hot button issues, things Gen Y has a vested interest in.Despite low engagement numbers, the number of Millennials who actually got out to vote on November 6 remained close to the numbers from 2008–a good sign. Perhaps there is hope for getting Gen Y involved in the political process after all.

If advocacy is something that Gen Y takes for granted, then maybe when it stops, they will realize the error in their thinking and get involved. Not to be involved in the conversation, working collaboratively with an organization, maybe even government, goes against Gen Y values. And maybe this is a good sign. Gen Y wants to be listened to and taken seriously, perhaps they just don’t yet realize that association advocacy efforts are a way to do that. Or maybe association advocacy methods are not the best way for them to be involved at all.

One thing’s for sure, Baby Boomers cannot continue to shoulder this load for an entire country. Something needs to change and be done so that Gen Y’s voice is heard in government. Perhaps that means working harder and smarter to get the younger generations interested in buying into the current way of doing things, or maybe it means that the entire system needs to change.

 

A special thank you to Shannon Neeser, contributing researcher and Melissa Harrison, design, for their work on the 2012 Advocacy in Associations Survey report.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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