April was Diversity Month in Canada. This again has reminded me about the missed opportunities by associations to attract new members along with revenue opportunities from Canada’s variety of cultures. You hear a lot about us living in the “Digital age”. Well equally important, we now live here in Canada in the “Multi Cultural Age”. To show you how relevant that is to your association did you know that:
• 1 in 5 people living in Canada were not born here.
• 50% of the City of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada?
• The City of Toronto has become the most multicultural city in the world.
• Canada is currently welcoming the highest number of newcomers in 75 years.
Within your association have you recognized the diversity and cultural of your staff? Different cultures are characterized by beliefs, values, language, decision making processes and learning styles.
We know that people will align themselves with people and organizations they see as sharing their values. That makes your association much more relevant to different cultures and they feel aligned with your association and what it stands for. If you are not seen as aligning with their values they may start their own association rather than joining an existing one in their industry. Therefore as professional trends grow with more diversity groups entering their professions, how will associations handle this?
Recently In structuring a member value survey, I put in a question on diversity in terms of nationality to identify the mix of the membership of the association. Unfortunately that question was deleted from the survey as the association felt uncomfortable with the question.
When I put this same question to a national association, the response was we are not racist so could there been some misunderstandings about this subject of diversity in membership.
The Association of Conflict Resolution learned from a recent audit that if we don't talk to our membership and get a better sense of what our membership looks like, we don't get a sense of where we're missing the boat. The President of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education stated that associations seeking greater diversity need to first understand their membership’s makeup and needs. You have to have some definition and understanding of what diversity means and how it can meet the needs of your membership," he says. He stated that a statistically valid diversity audit allows an organization to engage in self-reflection and ask, 'Why is diversity important to your organization”?
Continuing on that line, I see that an association seeking greater diversity means opportunities to improve membership revenues; broaden a sponsor mix and exchange valued best practice materials at an affordable cost. To understand diversity I recommended you get that understanding by being trained by a cultural sensitivity professional trainer.
There are over 100+ multicultural associations in Canada; I found 29 national associations which was only a partial list. Could there be opportunities for partnering with some best practices of governance or tools that already exist in one association that could be shared with another?
The Chinese Professionals Association of Canada founded in 1992 have over 26,000 members across Canada. Associations such as this one are rapidly growing so think about what possible opportunities there are for some partnerships with synergy associations or better.
So you see as association expert in the membership field of helping organizations grow their business, this idea just won’t go away.
Bill Dennis a colleague of mine who is a very knowledgeable trainer in cultural awareness and sensitivity has some great data if you’re interested. He gets it so why not see what he offers by visiting his website at www.billdennisandassociates.com.