Getting started with diversity, equity, and inclusion at your association

Not sure where to start with a DEI initiative at your association?

Read on for some ideas to help you take the first steps.


By Christine Bergeron, Marketing Coordinator, Community Brands



We’re hearing a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) these days. You might be asking yourself how you can get started with DEI at your association.  

Here are some ideas for getting a DEI initiative off the ground – even if you have a small staff:

Assess your current situation.
Review the principles of DEI and think about how your association currently supports them.

DEI is about three key areas:

  • Diversity represents the makeup of your organization – the traits, experiences, and demographics of your members.
  • Equity means promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by your association.
  • Inclusion refers to how your members feel within your organization – the goal being that they feel valued, safe, and welcomed. 

These three areas align with the goals of most associations: to attract members and make them feel welcome and engaged, to help advance the profession or industry of the members, and to keep members around long-term. 

So, with these principles in mind, consider these questions:

  • Does your membership reflect the diversity of your field?
  • Are there initiatives in place to help ensure that all of your members feel included?
  • Do you have a committee and/or volunteer leaders dedicated to furthering these principles for your organization?

Think about what steps you might take to improve DEI at your organization. For example, if your membership does not reflect the diversity of your field, set a goal to think about what more diverse organizations are doing to recruit and retain members that you might start doing, too. You might also consider hosting a focus group with diverse audiences of members to find out more about their needs and how you can continue to welcome them and deliver greater value.

Lead by example.
Your association is a reflection of the people leading it. Your leadership should understand the benefits of a diverse organization. Make diversity and inclusivity a value of your association and you’ll attract members and leaders that also hold those same values.

Implement inclusive policies.
Everything from your sign-up process to the policies and procedures manual you share should aim to be as welcoming as possible for those interested in being a part of your association. If you create a positive organizational culture, you’ll find that your members refer others, building upon the environment you’ve started.

Provide resources.
Create internal resources, programs, and networking groups to support your members. For example, your online member community can be one of the most effective tools your association can use to communicate and foster DEI principles. Help members find common ground in discussions in your online community by making the community a welcoming place to collaborate and problem-solve.

Learn more.
Want more tips for incorporating DEI principles into your association? Read the guide, Promoting DEI Through Your Association’s Online Community: 4 Simple, Yet Effective, Ways to Further the Principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

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