You wanted to engage and recruit younger members to your chamber of commerce so you created an amazing young professionals group. You started it up to provide social interaction, networking and volunteer leadership opportunities for young professionals.
But now that you have the group in place what in the world should you be doing with it to ensure it is asset to your chamber and helps with recruitment and retention?
We’ve researched a lot of best practices and analyzed what makes for a successful young professionals group.
Here’s the list of what we’ve found:
Create a Mission
Create a mission–or at least a goal–that is in line with that of the chamber but also befitting your agenda for the young professionals.
- Is recruitment the goal?
- Do you want more young professionals to join?
- Do you want to provide an outlet for identifying future leaders; a farm team from which to recruit future board members?
- Or are you hoping that they’ll help you with something you’re currently lacking, such as social media and word of mouth marketing?
Whatever the chamber’s goal behind creating this new group, you’ll also want to ensure the people you’re recruiting understand the benefit to them joining. Telling potential members that you were hoping to use the YP group to recruit social media ambassadors says a lot about what you want to get out of them and not much about what they’ll receive from you.
Very few people will join an organization because of what THEY’LL be doing for YOU.
Be clear about the value they receive and they’ll be more excited about the opportunity. Check out what the Quincy Chamber of Commerce wrote on their website to describe their group:
“YP Quincy is a network of individuals that seeks to promote career opportunities, business development, entertainment, and recreation in order to enhance the quality of life in the Quincy area.”
It’s very clear what the benefit is to the individual and the community.
Make It a Group They Want to Be a Part of
Groucho Marx said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” But for most of us that isn’t the case.
You want your YP group to be the kind of place people want to be. You want it to feel a tad exclusive and you want others to talk about it.
The easiest way to accomplish these things is through social events. Millennials are more interested in experiences than things, so handing them some swag isn’t going to bring on any conversions. They also don’t feel the need to be a part of the chamber like previous generations did.
However, they are group thinkers and enjoy working together.
Here are a few activities they might enjoy. (Keep in mind some of these activities will need to be tailored to social distancing depending on your state and current protocols):
- March Madness contest and game watches
- Fantasy Football
- “Follow the Leaders,” which is a speed networking type of event featuring several leaders in the Lakeland community. The EMERGE (young professionals group from the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce) participants enjoy “speed” learning from the leaders who speak about their experiences.
- Lakeland also has “EMERGE Serves” which is a seminar series on learning how to effectively serve on boards in the community.
- A Leadership Breakfast. Host a breakfast with a local leader and limit attendance to about 12, but no more than 20, so that your young professionals have quality interaction with your guests. Create an intimate atmosphere that encourages exchange. Beth Stedman said that when her chamber hosts these types of events the physical setup is such that participants are seated around the table together to facilitate conversation–no podiums, no speeches.
- CEO Roundtable. The Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals group is hosting an event that brings in several local CEOs to speak to the group in one-on-one sessions. Registered attendees must name the four CEOs they want to meet and they’ll be assigned two for the session. Another interesting thing about this YP group is that they allow all ages and industry professionals to attend. They don’t have a “40 and under” clause.
- After Hours. The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut hosts monthly after-hours networking at interesting venues. That gives attendees several reasons to participate: excellent networking, a fun atmosphere, and a social event.
- Tips from the Top. Tips from the Top is a Q&A session with a CEO.
- Fun and Trendy Events. What’s hot in your community right now? Ax throwing? Painting? The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut hosted a sushi-making class, succulent/terrarium-making class, paint night, and small dinner event with a discount at a local restaurant. A paint night party can be done via Zoom with participants either supplying their own materials or partner with a local art store to create kits they can pick up. Here’s an example from the Fresno County Women’s Chamber of Commerce:
- Community Service Project. Millennials love to give back and be a part of something larger than themselves. The Haywood County Chamber of Commerce put together a team for “bowl for kids” to support their local Big Brothers & Big Sisters chapter. They are also developing a Homework Cafe. Connecting with afterschool programs so their “YPH’ers” can serve as tutors to youth in the area.
- Sports Teams Outings. Even though a lot of professional teams have limited availability right now, your YPs might be able to attend a high school sporting or local rec team event as a group. Those teams can provide a fun change of scenery and can command a lot of hometown pride.
- Young Professionals Summit. This can be an annual event/professional development conference or exchange. For the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, it brings in about 600 YPs for their day-long conference. It also yields about $25k in net revenue.
Advice from Successful Chambers
Now that you have some suggestions for ways to engage your young professionals, let’s take it a step further and look into what overall organizational ideas work for other chambers.
Variety of Content
Kate Kobs from the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce shared that all young professional events fall into three categories:
- and business development.
They rotate each type quarterly so they end up with an event (of each) every month. That way people don’t get bored with the same type of event. You may draw very different groups at each type.
Use What They Love
Millennials tend to watch a lot of videos and they’re on Instagram more than Facebook. While you may spend most of your social media time on Facebook and LinkedIn, if you’re trying to reach this group you’ll want to switch to where they are.
Check out this intro video invitation from the Young Professional Network Evanston. Notice the bold use of text. Gen Ys often watch videos while they’re doing other things or they watch without sound. The text means they won’t miss the important parts. Text also helps for autoplay features.
The video is short and tells them exactly what they’ll get out of the event. Plus, it encourages them to bring a friend. People are more likely to attend when they know someone there.
Be Flexible So Everyone Can Participate
Try to avoid assumptions about availability unless you ask them directly. It’s easy to think YP events should only happen in the evenings because that’s when most 20-somethings are available. That is not always the case.
In order to accommodate differences in schedules, the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce hosts a monthly networking event at a member location on the 3rd Thursday of the month. It rotates between coffee (in the morning), lunch and after hours.
In addition to being flexible in your event schedule, you likely want to accommodate the different goals of your YPs. The Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce hosts 3 monthly events to ensure there’s something for everyone. Their P Hustle is a morning event with a professional or personal development speaker. YP Engage is a lunch event with a civic engagement topic. YP Connect is a happy hour networking event.
Want to learn from more chamber professionals about their young professionals group? Then you don’t want to miss this cool exchange on the Chamber of Commerce Professionals group on Facebook.
This article is part of our “Now What?” series, designed to help new members, new chamber staff, and new board members to get up and running to be an effective part of your chamber of commerce as quickly as possible.
I’m a Chamber Board Member. Now What? Responsibilities and Perks
I’m a Chamber Member. Now What?
I’m in Charge of the Chamber Social Media Job. Now What?
I’m in Charge of Chamber Events. Now What?
I’m in Charge of Chamber Membership Development. Now What?
Our Chamber Started a Young Professionals Group. Now What?