When an association values differences and creates a welcoming environment – one that is comfortable, inclusive, and empowering – they open the door for innovation, increased participation and an elevated sense of community and belonging for all.
Adopted: November 2015
What is a professional practice statement?
This Professional Practice Statement, developed by the Association
Forum, is provided as a management tool for associations and individual
association professionals, developed by experts in the industry, and
recommended as a means to achieve excellence in managing associations
and other not-for-profit organizations.
In a global economy, as association members and
potential members become increasingly diverse, associations must reflect
this diversity in order to represent their stakeholders and the public
they serve. For organizational vitality and impact, workforce diversity
is a strategic imperative. Diversity may be defined in many ways,
including but not limited to individual characteristics such as age,
color, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, race, national
origin, physical ability, political beliefs, religion/spirituality,
sexual orientation, marital status/partnership, language preference,
socio-economic status, professional choices and other facets of social
diversity. Inclusion reflects the degree to which all members, staff,
and stakeholders are included as integral and welcomed participants in
the organization. As membership, customer and staff demographics evolve,
demands on and expectations of associations are changing.
In March of 2015, Association Forum’s Board of
Directors approved the Welcoming Environment™ (WE) Business Plan that was
presented by Association Forum’s Welcoming Environment™ Committee. The
WE Plan builds upon Association Forum’s longstanding commitment to
diversity and inclusion. In summary the plan states:
The environment we create communicates our beliefs about the people
we serve. This environment and the way we offer services are critical
aspects of our work to increase access to all who are passionate about
the association profession. Most of us understand what it feels like to
be welcomed—in a new community, organization, workplace, school or other
setting. It is a feeling that comes when we have a sense that people
want to have us around and that the environment is set up in a way that
is comfortable and engaging and facilitates successful acclimation.
Association Forum’s values and insight draw upon and reflect the
population we serve. Association Forum has always understood that we are
an organization where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
That is the fundamental purpose for inclusion–to optimize the maximum
benefit from our increasingly diverse community. We must make everyone
who interacts with Association Forum feel welcomed, inspired and
empowered. We must aspire to work well together because of our
differences, not in spite of them. With this focused effort, Association
Forum will fully leverage its future potential to impact the
Professional Practices for the Association Professional
Association professionals should foster diversity
in member, volunteer and staff recruitment,development, opportunities
for advancement, and decision-making.
- Facilitate the development of an organizational diversity and
inclusion vision, as well as the establishment of measurable objectives
to achieve and communicate the vision as core to the organization’s
viability and success.
- Actively promote the value of diversity and inclusion in the
association’s workforce and ensure consistent, inclusionary hiring,
training and promotion practices.
- Maximize opportunities for each individual to contribute to the
organization’s goals by actively ensuring a fully diverse body of staff
and volunteer participants in appointments to task forces, special
projects, decision-making activities and leadership roles.
- Eliminate barriers to full participation by all stakeholders.
- Foster and model cultural competence, including knowledge of
cultural practices and differences that demonstrates individual and
group accountability to diversity among the stakeholders.
- Ensure that diversity and inclusion initiatives are integrated
through the organization’s strategic plan, and continuously evaluate and
Professional Practices for the Association Professional
- Develop, publish and actively promote an organizational diversity and inclusion policy.
- Establish, communicate and support commitment to diversity and
inclusion through the organization’s governing documents. Establish,
communicate and support commitment to diversity and inclusion through
leadership behavior. This should include leaders’ outreach to groups
through visits and personal contacts with businesses and educational
institutions representing diverse populations to recruit and welcome
them as members.
- Commit funding for ongoing initiatives to strengthen organizational diversity and inclusion at all levels.
- Require accountability at all levels for fostering and achieving organizational diversity and inclusion.
- Ensure that nominating and appointing bodies proactively recruit and
include a diverse mix of individuals who reflect their membership and
the stakeholders they serve.
- Affirm that access to elected office, committee and task force
memberships, and chair and spokespersons positions is open to all
members in accordance with their talents, qualifications and interests.
- Eliminate arbitrary barriers to participation.
This Professional Practice Statement, developed by
the Association Forum, is provided as a management tool for associations
and individual association professionals, developed by experts in the
industry, and recommended as a means to achieve excellence in managing
associations and other not-for-profit organizations.
The Association Forum expressly disclaims any
warranties or guarantees, expressed or implied, and shall not be liable
for damages of any kind, in connection with the material, information,
or procedures set forth in these Statements or for reliance on the
contents of the Statements. In issuing these Statements, the Association
Forum is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other
professional services. If such services are required, the services of a
competent professional should be sought.
American Institute for Managing Diversity, a research and education
institute committed to demonstrating the power and potential of
diversity management www.aimd.org.
Cultural Diversity in Organizations: Theory, Research & Practice by Taylor Cox; Berrett-Koehler; 1994, ISBN: 1881052435
Best Practices in Diversity & Inclusion for Chicagoland
Associations Resource Kit, Association Forum;
Managing Diversity: Towards a Globally Inclusive Workplace, Third
Edition, by Michelle Mor Barak; 2013, Sage Publications, ISBN:
Association Inclusion Index Tool, ASAE, The Center for Association Leadership (www.asaecenter.org)
“Managing Workplace Diversity: Issues and Challenges,” by Harold
Andrew Patrick and Vinvent Raj Kumar; April 25 2012; http://sgo.sagep
“The Inclusive Nonprofit Boardroom: Leveraging the Transformative
Potential of Diversity,” by Patricia Bradshaw and Christopher Fredette;
NPQ Nonprofit Quarterly, winter 2012 edition; http://nonprofitquarterly.
Transformational Diversity: Why and How Intercultural Competencies
Can Help Organizations to Survive and Thrive, by Fiona Citkin and Lynda
Spielman; SHRM, 2011
The Psychology and Management of Workplace Diversity, by Margaret Stockdale and Faye J Crosby; 2003, Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Making Diversity Work: Seven Steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace, by Sondra Thiederman; 2008, Dearborn Trade Publishing
Periodicals: Diversity Executive Magazine, diversity-executive.com