Diversity Statement

Acheiving Diversity in Associations

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.

Policy Position

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 association profession.

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 communicate results.

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.

Resource List

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; http://www.associationforum.org/Resources/Content. cfm?ItemNumber=3617

Managing Diversity: Towards a Globally Inclusive Workplace, Third Edition, by Michelle Mor Barak; 2013, Sage Publications, ISBN: 1452242232

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. org/2012/12/29/the-inclusive-nonprofit-boardroomleveraging- the-transformative-potential-of-diversity/

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


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