Chicago -- Generation X will prove fertile ground for membership recruitment by associations over the next decade despite widespread belief to the contrary, according to a new study released yesterday.
The study, "Generations and the Future of Association Participation," concludes that during the peak of their careers Gen Xers will join professional and trade associations at a higher rate than do Baby Boomers during their peak professional years.
The conventional wisdom, shared by some in the association community, holds that Gen Xers are more focused on personal fulfillment than their careers and as a result are less likely to join professional associations than Baby Boomers.
The study also found that, contrary to popular belief, the working-age population of Gen Xers is much closer to that of Baby Boomers when accounting for the difference in the length of time that defines the two generations. Baby Boomers were born from 1946 through 1964 while the Gen Xers were born from 1965 through 1975, 18 years versus 10 years.
"If current trends persist, we can expect more workers, and a higher percentage of workers, to join associations over the coming decade," states the study, the first conducted under the auspices of the William E. Smith Institute for Association Research, a creation of Chicago-based SmithBucklin, the nation's largest association-management company.
The study also concludes that, more so than Baby Boomers, Gen Xers will want tangible benefits in return for joining associations.
The study's implications for association meetings are also positive, since association meetings depend on robust association membership for healthy meetings attendance. But association meeting planners must create programs in which Generation X attendees see a direct return on their investment of time and money.
The study was conducted by Arthur Brooks, an associate professor of public administration at Syracuse University and research director of the William E. Smith Institute, which was named after SmithBucklin's founder.
The full report is available for free at www.smithinstitute.org.