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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 have the ability to hire, fire, promote and demote people with relatively little effort.

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

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

Culture is not something you can actually see, yet it permeates the environment and experiences your association creates for its members. It’s the values, beliefs, assumptions, experiences and habits that 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.

Here’s why:

  • The recent recession, coupled with an extraordinary technology boom, has forced members to question the value of your association’s membership.
  • Younger generations are driven by personal happiness and are heavily influenced by an organization’s culture.

In other words, culture makes a significant difference in 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 largely because these generations define and respond to culture differently.

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

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

  • high turnover among staff, volunteers, or board
  • difficulty recruiting or retaining members
  • negative feedback from your members or others
  • emotional outbursts (e.g., arguments, storming out of a meeting, and so forth)
  • 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, it’s imperative you pinpoint the source of negativity, effectively resolve conflict, and improve member relations. Your association’s success hinders on it.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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