Reaching MillennIals

As Rotarians, we are in a unique role. We are the connectors that make it possible for other people to get things done. Sure, we have our own events and programs, but our success is measured by the project we conduct in local and international communities.
Generational change and technology are combining to make much of what we used to do obsolete. So how do Rotarians remain influential in this era? The same way we’ve been for generations before—innovation and adaptation.
Speak the Language
One fundamental challenge Rotarians face with Millennials is their reluctance to join anything. This generation wants to start things, not join things. Their association with Rotary brings with it lots of baggage they don’t want, such as strange greeting rituals, singing, and the same dull programs. So how do you engage Millennials?
  • Don’t talk about “events” they should attend. Instead, promote the opportunities and experiences Rotary has created for them.
  • Don’t pitch them a membership the way you always have. Instead, ask them for an investment and be able to describe the return they can expect on that investment.
  • Don’t ask for “volunteers” for a committee. Instead, invite them to collaborate with fellow Rotarians.
  • Think words don’t matter? Test these out and see for yourself.
Know your Audience
If your Rotary club wants to cultivate the next generation of Rotarians, you need a sophisticated understanding of who they will be. All young professionals are not the same, and what appeals to some could turn others away. How can you know what they want? Ask them! They will be happy to tell you, and after you listen they will probably offer to help make things happen.
A young professional club is one way to engage Millennials, but beware! They aren’t eager to join things and the programs you offer need to cater specifically to them. What aids a young lawyer in climbing the ladder could be useless to the young entrepreneur who needs professional services and investors for her startup. Get creative and target the right people.
It’s About Culture
Millennials have an almost subliminal obsession with culture, and with finding people, places and organizations that match their values. What are they looking for?
Collaboration - They want a place where individuals can come together and collectively produce something of value. They will give you more in free services than you can imagine, if you can get them excited about the project. How do you get them excited? Engage in a two-way conversation where they feel like they’ve helped to shape the project’s goals.
Distributed Authority - Empowering leaders to feel ownership of projects or experiences will drive them to incredible results. In order to feel the comfort and trust necessary to do this, you need to be very careful who you place in leadership positions. But once you’ve matched the right person with the right project, the rest will take care of itself.
Recognition - After the fun is over you need to spend time thanking those people who made the event or program so great. This does NOT require expensive trinkets (trust me, they don’t want the engraved paperweight), it is about a sincere and personal expression of gratitude. This simple gesture will ensure that person is loyal to your Rotary for their entire career.
Developing a strategy to adapt your Rotary club to match the culture and values of the Millennial generation may seem daunting, but it is essential for you to remain influential. After all, influence is about spurring people to action. You can’t generate activity if no one is listening!