How to Make Your Association’s Culture a Member Benefit

In “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture”, an article in the Harvard Business Review, defines culture as what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. It states that when properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive.”

We know building the right work culture helps attract and keep skilled employees while creating a more enjoyable and productive work environment. But did you know that defining your association’s culture is just as important?  In fact, your association’s culture can be your most valuable member benefit.

Your association’s culture starts at the top and works its way through to your membership. At its best, an association’s culture can be an intangible benefit that helps you not only retain your members, but also attract new members. At its worst, it can drive people away.

What characteristics make up your association’s culture?

The first question to ask yourself is “Can I convey the culture of my association?” If you are not sure, then it is time to get to work. Begin by reviewing your association’s mission, strategic plan, and values. These principals and strategies will help you shape your culture. Next, engage your staff and your volunteer leadership. Their input and their buy-in is critical to moving forward.  They are your most important tools in making sure your association’s culture remains at the forefront of everything you do.

Think about the culture you want to create for your members. Are there specific pillars that you want to address as part of your association’s culture? Do you see areas of weakness that, if addressed, could make your association stronger and more beneficial to your members? For instance, have you addressed inclusiveness? While some opportunities may appeal to all your members, one size does not fit all and does not make all feel welcome. By committing to an inclusive culture, you are looking through the inclusive lens in everything you do, whether it is planning your annual conference or developing a new member program.

Should innovation be at the forefront of your culture?  Do you want to ensure that you are helping your members grow professionally and personally, not just for today, but for the future? By including innovation in your association’s culture, you are saying no to the status quo and yes to continually inspiring and challenging your members.

Share the defining factors

Only you, your team, and your volunteers will know what best should define your culture. Once it has been defined, the next step is to make sure all your stakeholders understand it. Start by sharing the final vision with your team, then with your board, committees, and other volunteer leadership. Help them develop an elevator speech so they can effortlessly convey your association’s culture. Then make sure your membership and other key stakeholders know and understand your organization’s culture.

Most importantly, do not forget to use your newly defined association culture as a guiding principle in every decision you make. By doing so, you will ensure that you are providing the best possible service to your members and your members will more clearly see the value of their membership.