On June 29th, we gathered for a virtual chat on how associations can help guide and support their chapters in the conversation around DEI. During the swap, participants discussed that while chapters are on the front line, many are confused about how best to proceed. As some chapters have taken the initiative on their own, others are waiting for HQ to take a lead. So what are some of the steps associations can take? Here are just a few ideas we talked about:
Give chapters a seat at the table. Chapters need to be active participants and therefore should have a bigger role around this conversation. After all, they are the main member recruiting channel. Tap the strengths, personalities, attributes of individual chapters bringing them into the development of the initiatives. Reach out to chapters and chapter members who have experience in this area to convene a task force to look at how chapters can act. Note: It’s not enough to have someone at the table. Leadership needs to hear what they are saying and give them a safe space to talk.
Assist chapters with their messaging and initiatives. Create a statement of intent that chapters can “copy/paste” and use locally. Leverage the skills of members to create the messaging; reach out to other groups to leverage their expertise as well. Establish DEI grants to help chapters try innovative solutions. Share demographic data with chapters so they can better target their members. Think about how you can help chapters build upon current member market campaigns that may already be doing outreach to certain demographics.
No one size fits all. Recognize the capacity of chapters (i.e., size, professional staff, etc.) and demographics when creating a plan. The lists of “musts” must be vague enough to be flexible. Create various models and options for chapters to use recognizing the differences. Use language that would be best received across the board. Note: Expect blowback so be prepared and stand firm in communications.
Add content and training to chapter leadership training programs. Work on building skills around being a leader who embraces diversity. Target to different member segments and add training on DEI related skills/processes.
Other questions/challenges posed by participants: Send us your suggestions.
- Younger members ready to go! How do chapters balance slowing down/speeding up when it makes sense?
- How do chapters break out of traditional networks to reach different perspectives?
- There are many related topics to address across the board in addition to diversity. How do we create resources that are respectful if you are not a member of the group the organization is looking to represent?