Recently, a client asked if I could talk to their leadership team about "growing professional associations in the 21st century."

Initially, I thought, sure, I can talk to them about all of the cool and progressive membership growth trends I have seen out there. They will be impressed by all the ideas I can share with them.

Then I stepped back and looked at who my audience was. It was a group of dedicated volunteer leaders who desperately wanted to figure out how to grow their association. They had limited tools and resources, and the reality was that they were barely staying afloat in their current state.

I decided that first I was going to focus on helping them get in a productive mind frame. Associations have the opportunity to thrive in a changing environment — if they are willing to change. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a majority of the work force will be represented by Generation Y by 2015. That is just next year, folks.

Here are the 10 steps I have seen forward-thinking associations take:

1. Acknowledge and accept change: The association needs to intentionally create a culture that values tradition but also focuses on and embraces change.

2. Understand: Develop an awareness that there are four generations currently in our workplaces and what the characteristics for each of these generations are.

3. Evaluate: Consistently evaluate whether your products and services are relevant and valuable to each generation. This can be done through surveys and focus groups of members and nonmember industry professionals.

4. Lead: Create a culture where your leaders focus on solutions. Do this when tackling issues and opportunities by asking questions like: Does this matter? How does it matter? Who does it matter to?

5. Board focus: Focus your board discussion on strategy, governance and financial oversight. Don't fall into the trap of allowing tactical tasks to overtake the majority of your meetings.

6. Adapt: Respond and adapt to the changing environment, culture and generational needs.

7. Recognize: Recognize that your stakeholders go beyond your membership. Think about who the other industry influencers may be in addition to your members. This could be vendors, nonmembers or competing industry players.

8. Consider: Always consider the alternative. Assign someone to be the person who is in a position to ask the tough questions. What is the worst thing that would happen if we didn't hold a golf tournament this year?

9. Be inclusive: Create a sense of belonging. Being exclusive will kill forward progress. Engage new members in volunteer positions including board positions. Offer mentorship and involve students and faculty in your leadership.

10. Social media: Embrace social media and take advantage of the opportunities it can create. This video says is all for me: