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Is Your Association’s Culture Helping Or Hurting Member Recruitment And Retention?

As an association executive, you may have the power to change your association’s mission with the stroke of a pen. And you may be able to hire, fire, promote and demote people with relatively little effort.

But changing an entrenched culture is the most challenging task you will face. To do so, you must win the hearts and minds of your staff and membership, which requires great effort and persuasion.

Culture is not something you can see, yet it permeates the environment and experiences your association creates for its members. The values, beliefs, assumptions, experiences, and habits create your association’s behavior and ways of working together.

Culture is powerful. Now, more than ever, culture has the muscle to make or break your association.

This is because younger generations are driven by personal happiness and are heavily influenced by an organization’s culture.

In other words, culture significantly affects how effective your association is and will be at recruiting and retaining members and generating revenue.

Economic decline and rapidly changing technology have made associations vulnerable. Members of all ages are likely questioning the return on investment for their dues.

The youngest will continue to pose this question because these generations define and respond differently to culture.

Generational differences can spur cultural challenges for an association, but there are other causes. Resistance to change, lack of management savvy, poor customer service, unwieldy boards, and role confusion can all lead to cultural problems.

The global Membership health matrix

Let's take the pulse of how members think of different association practices. You can use the insights to stop declining memberships and engage existing members better.

Here are a few red flags that will pop up when culture is a concern:

  1. High turnover among staff, volunteers, or board

  2. Difficulty recruiting or retaining members

  3. Negative feedback from your members or others

  4. Emotional outbursts (e.g., arguments, storming out of a meeting, and so forth)

  5. No-shows (e.g., board members not showing up for meetings or continually calling in excuses)

If you suspect your culture has taken a turn for the worse, you must pinpoint the source of negativity, effectively resolve conflict, and improve member relations. Your association’s success hinges on it.

We have assembled many tools to assist your organization.


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