Think of the best job you’ve ever had. Why did you love it? Was it the great salary and benefits alone, or was there something more intangible? Was the work-life balance just where you needed it to get your job done and still make it to the PTA meeting? Did you really love working alongside your co-workers, your boss, and your team? Maybe the company threw awesome employee appreciation picnics and an epic annual holiday party. All of these things contribute to a company’s culture, which is just as important as more tangible compensation.

HappysMost happy employees will testify that a large part of what makes their job great is the company’s commitment to cultivating a good workplace culture. Similarly, many happy association members will tell you the same. Indeed, culture is every bit as important to associations hoping to retain a satisfied membership roll as it is to companies hoping to motivate and compete for quality employees.

While culture is important to any organization, there are different aspects that go into building and maintaining it for associations. From an organization’s leadership on down to everyday members, everyone plays a role in ensuring that the culture is contributing to success.

Leadership – Culture Starts at the Top

There was a great piece in Associations Now recently regarding a talk from author John Spence. In his discussion of finding the best formula for building effective organizations, Spence highlights the role of culture, particularly among an organization’s leadership.

He argues that properly recognizing the contributions of team members, particularly those in volunteer positions (as may sometimes be the case when dealing with the leadership board of an association) is a vital aspect of building a team that will lead your organization in a successful direction.

Leaders must be appreciative, strong, and direct. Perhaps the most important point Spence makes is that if your team is only meeting sporadically, consensus on next steps must be reached, and everyone should have a clear understanding of their role. Communication is key. Association leaders should be just as concerned with retaining high quality volunteers as they are with high quality members. A strong sense of culture can make this happen.

Membership – Make Them Want to Renew

In his lecture, Spence also pointed out the need for employees to feel they are a part of a company’s culture—a feeling they will ultimately take pride in and wear as a badge of honor. Association members ought to feel this pride too. While there are many tangible benefits to belonging, this is among those necessary intangibles—are your members proud of your association?

“The patterns in a successful culture? Spence had a long list, but they involved being treated respectfully; the freedom to succeed; a feeling of doing something important; and a sense of pride in where they work. (There’s a difference between somebody saying “I’m an engineer” and saying “I’m an engineer for Microsoft,” Spence pointed out.)”

What are you doing for your members that will make their membership in your organization not only a professional benefit, but a point of pride? Do you hold events or sponsor entertainment for members? Do you provide opportunities for professional enrichment at conferences, or seminars? During these events, do you go above and beyond to ensure members feel your appreciation?

Perhaps among the most important ways to make your membership feel appreciated is to listen to their needs. A member who feels an association is tuned in to what they’re looking for out of membership is one who is more likely to renew.

What are some other ways to improve your association’s culture?