One of the biggest challenges facing electric cooperatives is connecting with young adult members in a meaningful way. The 25-to-45-year-old age group grew up in the digital age and access information differently. According to research, their expectations from service providers are distinct from people 50 and older.

NRECA and Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives have developed a Young Adult Member Engagement Initiative to provide strategies and resources to help co-ops connect with this generation of members. The initiative's first product is an online hub that includes strategic guidance, research, customizable graphics and content, planning tools and engagement ideas.

The resources are based on findings from NRECA's Lexicon Project, Touchstone Energy's National Survey of the Cooperative Difference (PDF) and six focus groups of young adult co-op members. Results of those efforts "point to the need to simplify and use language that resonates with young members and meets them where they are," said Holly Wetzel, NRECA's director of marketing and member communications. "We want to engage them so that they feel like members, understand they're members and understand the role of co-ops in their communities."

The joint initiative was a vast undertaking, more than a year in the works.

"This was an opportunity to meet a need, work together and benefit everyone," said Lynn Moore, Touchstone Energy executive director. "Our collaboration offers both strategy and expertise to members while demonstrating how to implement collective content in an organized, effective and efficient way."

While the young adult population merits a special outreach strategy, research shows co-ops already have many services and products that align with this group's interests and values.

"Think of this as a new way to connect your member to what you're already doing for them—but in a way that is new and relevant to their lifestyle," said Moore.

Wetzel noted that the shift to more digital communications and changing expectations of service providers are not exclusive to young adults. Language from the online hub notes that consumers now respond to "simpler language that ties products and services to how co-ops are helping the community to enhance engagement and awareness."

The online resources are divided into six sections:

  1. Research on young adult values, interests and expectations, including focus group findings.

  2. Guidance on crafting a modern co-op story, along with before-and-after examples to help update key communication pieces.

  3. Tips on creating a multi-channel strategy, including a breakdown of best practices for various communication platforms.

  4. Tools for developing a communications plan, including a checklist and situation-analysis form.

  5. Guidance on how to get qualitative and quantitative feedback from members.

  6. A one-stop shop for content, ideas and tools, including four graphic theme packages, a content starter kit and an engagement idea bank.

Users can refer to the site guide to help navigate through all elements of the site.

After the rollout of the initiative at the 2019 CONNECT conference in Houston, organizers will offer a quarterly webinar series and other activities to help co-ops leverage the new resources.