BY OCTOBER HENSON DAVIS (Iota Chi, Middle tennessee state university) ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
Alpha Chi Omega has current members spanning five generations. From Traditionalists to Gen-Z, our members have the opportunity to connect and engage with members representing a wide range of ages.
Traditionalists (also known as the Silent Generation): Born 1925 – 1945
Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964
Generation X: Born 1965 – 1980
Millennials: Born 1981 – 1996
Generation Z: Born 1997 – 2012
Generational diversity gives our members the opportunity to learn from each other’s unique life experiences and fosters an environment where creativity flows and encourages innovation. The benefits of generational diversity can be felt far and wide through volunteer teams, alumnae chapters and even collegiate chapters. While most would agree with its importance, it can be challenging to know where to begin when engaging with multiple generations at one time.
Some members may not feel they are as engaged as they desire based on their age or generation. While others may find it difficult to connect with sisters of another generation because of their differences in shared and lived experiences. How can we close the gap and engage members from different generations?
Don’t make assumptions.
If you Google any generation, you’ll be inundated with stereotypes and memes poking fun and over-generalizing each group. Don’t make assumptions when engaging members from different generations. You may learn that some sisters don’t relate to their generational stereotypes at all!
Take time when getting to know someone and acknowledge that not everyone is going to receive your information or experience things in the same way. Build in time for you to learn their preferences and what makes them unique; it’s okay to ask what they need or prefer instead of assuming!
Offer multiple opportunities to connect.
No matter which generation they are a part of, sisters enjoy a multitude of opportunities to stay connected. Consider offering a virtual event one month with an in-person experience the following month. Are you hosting an in-person informational meeting? Try sending out paper meeting notes alongside it so that sisters who would prefer to engage virtually can stay in the loop. Individuals may also prefer large group settings versus small group or one-one-one opportunities.
Communicate using different methods and styles.
Communication preferences can vary greatly! Consider using different avenues to communicate with team members. Sending text messages and emails, posting in a shared Facebook group or utilizing a group message app can increase the number of members accessing your message. Think about the content of the communication and tailor your message appropriately to the platform. Remember to keep text messages short and informative, while emails can include more detailed information. Never forget the power of picking up the phone or scheduling time to talk to a sister! While some may hate the idea of talking on the phone, others may appreciate that personal outreach.
Appreciate the difference each generation brings.
While we want to avoid overgeneralizations, we know that each generation has varied life experiences. Those diverse experiences are an integral part of the Alpha Chi Omega experience and we should create spaces that honor and appreciate those differences. How can you leverage varied experiences to create a more inviting and connected environment? What can you learn from the wisdom shared by sisters? How will that help to create a sense of belonging with others?
Give your team and yourself room to get creative when communicating with your members, planning events and creating experiences! Set aside intentional time to brainstorm either alone or with others. By giving yourself permission to be creative and think outside of the box, you might come up with ideas that you hadn’t considered before that will engage members in new and exciting ways!
What is one small step that you can make today to better engage the different generations that you interact with? Is there something you could plan to do in six months that could make an even larger impact?
Did you learn something new? Feeling motivated and want to share your thoughts or personal experience with belonging through your Alpha Chi Omega experience? Share your story now!