Looking at trends and relationships: The magic (and challenges) of association participation

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csc dinner feb 19

Last night, the executive director and president of Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) invited the local chapter executive and membership to a dinner to share observations and ideas about the association and bounce of ideas on how we could improve its effectiveness.

It was a good if not inexpensive evening — I don’t get too many “free dinners” where the menu price tag (before drinks) was close to $70. And there were about a dozen of us at the restaurant.

Most of the discussions centered around internal association dynamics and so don’t really have a place in this blog. However, the concept of the dinner/conversation and one topic raised — the challenge of engaging younger people in association activities — are worthy of some thoughts here.

On the first point, I’ve always considered relevant client and industry-focused associations to be a key element for marketing and business development opportunities. You assess the groups where your potential clients might have interest, and then engage with the associations, building relationships, industry knowledge, and ultimately business.

This is not a short-term deal.  My relationships with CSC go back almost three decades (and I know several people at the dinner from way back).  The voluntary contributions certainly take some time and energy and, if you want to formally advertise and sponsor association events, can be costly. But the payoffs are real and lasting — if you start off with a selfless rather than selfish outlook.

The second point, raised by one of my colleagues at the meeting, relates to generational differences. Not everyone in the room was “old” but neither were there many if any 20 somethings at the gathering.  The suggestion was that younger people are less likely to volunteer for after-hours business activities.  If it is work related, and it is after five or on the weekend, they’ll give it a pass.

I’m not sure if these observations are backed by fact — my perception is that young people, like anyone, will engage in activities that give them satisfaction, meaning, and allow them to enjoy their lives.

Regardless, we can’t force anyone to accept our values and perceptions. I know, however, that young or old, if you engage in community service and association activities, you’ll gain much value from the experience.  It’s a worthwhile investment in time and energy.

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