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Diversity and Inclusion | 5 Best Practices for Associations

Membership Lindsay Rutz

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace and within association member bases has always been a topic at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but with the events taking place around the world, many organizations are re-examining their current diversity approaches, ensuring they are implementing the best practices.

Here are 5 diversity and inclusion best practices for associations to consider:

  1. Review Your Mission and Values
  2. Start With Management 
  3. Be Sensitive to Word Content 
  4. Pay Attention to Unconscious Bias
  5. Encourage Diverse Relationships

Review Your Mission and Values

Before you begin to make any necessary changes, first revisit your association’s mission and values to determine if they promote and include diversity initiatives. Some questions to ask yourself as you reevaluate are:

  1. Is your association dedicated to supporting diversity in your member base? 
  2. Does your mission support all types of people that would benefit from becoming a member? 
  3. Does your association value diversity in the workplace to offer better membership experiences and opportunities? 
  4. Do you offer diversity and inclusion training to staff members?
  5. Do you share content around diversity and inclusion for members as they job search?
  6. Are companies posting on your job board in support of diversity and inclusion hiring?
  7. Do you offer member benefits that are inclusive of all people? 

Making sure your mission and values align with diversity will help your association create supportive spaces for all members and employees. If you think your association can do a better job of supporting diversity and inclusion, make the necessary adjustments to accommodate all types of people and continuously educate members and staff on how they can promote diversity within your organization. 

Start With Management

Organizations are complex and have different internal logics, cultures, and dynamics, so a “one-size-fits-all” policy isn’t going to work for management level employees across different departments. 

Involve your managers in the design process of running their department within your association. Make sure to offer diversity training so managers can learn how to effectively communicate with all types of employees and learn how to lead across a spectrum of people. Ensuring your upper management leaders are well-equipped to handle all circumstances will help your association practice diversity and inclusion in effective ways. 

Be Sensitive to Word Content

When sending out employee or member communications, be conscious of the language you are using. For example, using inclusive language, like “they” instead of “he” or “she” makes sure you aren’t excluding anyone in your communications. Being aware of genderidized terminology, cultural differences and perceptions will help you and your association communicate more effectively to all people. 

This also includes other content your association produces for members like blogs, webinars, social media posts, job descriptions on your career center and more. Making sure you are inclusive of everyone, especially when communicating through computers, is a great way for association to practice and implement diversity. 

Pay Attention to Unconscious Bias

Many people may not be aware of their unconscious biases, so it is important for association leaders to educate and inform their employees about becoming aware of these unintentional biases. Pay attention to how unconscious bias affects your managers and leaders to understand the impact it has on workplace culture, performance and your progress towards a more diverse and inclusive environment. 

This attention also needs to be focused on how staff members communicate with members. Pay attention to how your membership staff speaks to and with members, whether it’s through phone calls, emails, or newsletters. Re-evaluating how your staff interacts with each other and members will help your association become aware of the effects unconscious bias has on organizations and how to prevent it from happening again. 

Encourage Diverse Relationships

Within your association and workforce, encourage people to create relationships with one another through online communities, social media, lunch gatherings, virtual meetings, or any other way you think will work. Within these communities, promote communication between one another, share related content, and educate people on best practices for encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Encouraging diverse relationships within member communities helps prepare your members for what to expect or how to handle certain situations in the workplace, which becomes a valuable skill set for potential managers to possess.

Not only should your association encourage diverse relationships between members and staff, but also with the people or companies you do business with. This includes working with diverse vendors, sponsors and employers who post their open jobs on your career center. When you host a virtual career fair, think about which companies or sponsors encourage diversity in the workplace so every one of your members is included and accounted for. Taking diversity and inclusion into consideration when making business decisions authenticates your initiative to promoting safe and diverse workplaces, experiences, events, and more.


Establishing and implementing diversity and inclusion best practices will help your association better serve your members, help them find the right opportunities, and create a powerful workforce that will help you meet your association’s goals. Take the time to dig deep into your organization’s practices to see where and how you can improve diversity standards to create better environments for you, your employees and members. 

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