Where Young Professionals Groups Go Wrong

Through client interaction and nonprofit involvement, I’ve watched a sudden proliferation of young professionals groups.

The idea: Get in front of up-and-comers before they settle on a cause or brand.

The goal: Prime position for donations and big purchases when they reach stature down the line.

But the execution sucks.

Mostly, these groups hold social events for professionals aged around twenty to forty. At these events, someone presents or gives a tour after light networking and refreshments. Maybe the group asks attendees to become members of the klatch for free or nominal fee.

That’s it. No strategy beyond a chat-and-chew and adding folks to the newsletter list.

Young-professionals efforts need a longer-term strategy than planning parties to achieve their expected rewards:

  • Engage. These groups need to involve young professionals in the cause or company. If they can’t donate or buy, get them to volunteer or actively undertake an initiative.
  • Graduate asks. Young professionals can’t spend much quite yet—but they can certainly give or buy in modest amounts. Make small asks early. As individuals gain stature, ask for bigger dollars. Groom comfort levels with increasingly bigger spends.
  • Cull leaders. Who influences the community and their peers? Whose career seems to skyrocket? Who has true passion for the brand, company, or cause?
  • Next-stage. Create another level for leaders who have aged out of the young-professionals cohort. Make next-stage membership invitation-only. Assign these more advanced professionals to board committees or put them on the board. Get them to represent the cause or brand in the community—perhaps even by speaking on its behalf. Keep them wooed for the additional professional development needed to garner their big payout. Stop dropping them when they hit forty—and before they have attained significant financial resources.

How do you think organizations should deepen engagement with young professionals?