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What will clubs need to do to attract millennials?

To answer your question fully would take more space than allotted here, but I’ll address a part of it because the club industry has so much riding on its ability to attract a fair share of millennials. Beyond the obvious issues like making your club fun and casual with a broad set of social and recreational activities, clubs should work on updating their image so they can successfully attract people in their thirties. Recent studies focused on perceptions of clubs by young people found that they think of them as elitist, stuffy and exclusionary. This doesn’t sound all that fun for anyone, and these characteristics are diametrically opposed to the ethos of a generation that is the most diverse in U.S. history and has been trained since their first days in school to be more accepting of others.

Your club’s brand is especially important to a generation that also matured in a completely digital age. One of their first steps toward learning more about any topic is to Google it and take a thorough look at the web site. Secondly, they’ll go look at other sources to see what their friends and connections might be saying about it. Referrals and endorsements are especially important to today’s young generation, as is the buzz they can pick up on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms. This is one of the reasons communications directors are such a growing and important part of a club’s organization chart. This message—the brand—must be cultivated and managed. Introductions will increasingly happen over a device and proceed through the pipeline to experiences, trials, and ultimately, joining. There are many reasons to think clubs will be successful with the up and coming generation. In many ways, they were the first shared communities. This should hit home with people who don’t own cars because of Uber and use Airbnb to access unique properties. If clubs can show them that membership is fun and interactive, with a whole mix of shared amenities and experiences, the industry should get its share of them to join. Start down this path by making sure your face to the digital world is sending an up to date message.

Frank Vain is president of McMahon Group, Inc., a premier full-service, private club consulting firm serving more than 1,900 private clubs around the world. He also serves as secretary of NCA and chairs the Communications Committee. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, visit