6 tips to create a volunteer group and successfully launch DEI initiatives

Many associations find it challenging to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and take a stance at their organization. However, it’s crucial for leaders to embrace DEI principles and empower the staff and members in their association, especially as 71% of association professionals seek to develop and improve DEI efforts, according to the Community Brands Association Trends Study. 

One simple method to ensure you avoid common DEI mistakes at your association is to create a volunteer group for DEI initiatives. Empowering your volunteers to take the lead will provide an authentic connection to the DEI initiatives, ensuring all are focused and sustainable. It also offers an opportunity to promote inclusivity within your association’s volunteerism efforts.  

Read on to learn more about the benefits of creating a diverse volunteer group for DEI initiatives at your association.

The benefits of DEI initiatives at your association
Diversity is a vital component to recruiting more volunteers because it strengthens your volunteer program by offering a highly skilled volunteer base. Having a diverse group of volunteers provides a broad perspective of opinions and philosophies to your association, bolstering your DEI initiatives and positively impacting your members and community.  

Before you form a diverse volunteer group, first take a step back and consider what diversity is. Diversity is often defined as qualities or traits that make people unique. Here are additional ways in which diversity can manifest: 

  • Race​ 
  • Gender​ 
  • Sexuality​ 
  • Age
  • Marital status​ 
  • Individuals with a disability  
  • Culture or ethnicity 
  • Socioeconomic status​ 
  • Educational background​ 
  • Employment information 

There’s no doubt that every member brings value to your association. Emphasizing diversity strengthens your association by enriching your learning program, developing your cultural competencies, and fulfilling your mission to provide the best member experience.  

Create your DEI initiatives volunteer group
Ensuring your DEI volunteer group is both diverse and inclusive should be a priority as you begin to recruit members to volunteer. After you’ve created the group, you can move into training and engaging your volunteers. 

1. Recruit a diverse group of members. To assist with your recruitment efforts, survey your members and be sure to include questions addressing basic demographic data. You’ll also want to cover association specific details like availability and scheduling, professional interests and skillset, and volunteer motivations. After you’ve gathered the survey results, you can review the information and determine which members would be the best fit for your diverse and inclusive volunteer group.  

2. Train your volunteers. Once you’ve assembled your DEI volunteer group, it’s wise to train and orient all members about your association to ensure they understand their role. Your association may already have a volunteer orientation manual—if so, consider expanding it to include relevant details about your DEI volunteer group. In the manual you’ll also want to include your association’s mission statement, goals and long-term plans, a directory of staff and volunteers, a list of Board of Directors and other committees, the reimbursement policy, and the termination policy. 

Keep your volunteer training interesting by making orientation content engaging. Try using icebreakers, gamification features, videos, a slide deck, breakout discussions, group activities, or roleplay to ensure the session is memorable. Providing immersive content will also encourage your volunteers to connect and engage outside of volunteer hours.   

TECH TIP: Simplify volunteer training by utilizing the learning management software, myTrailhead. Design a DEI volunteer module with engaging content like videos, graphs, and gamification elements to provide broad information on your association and specific details on their role.  

3. Connect your DEI community. To provide an outlet for volunteer engagement, try offering a subgroup or channel in your online member community. Online communities are a fantastic platform for individuals to discuss relevant volunteer experience or industry information. Providing an easy way for your DEI volunteers to communicate will help them exchange ideas for upcoming initiatives or events. 

TECH TIP: Use Nimble Communities to not only connect all your members, but also engage your various volunteer committees and groups with each other and your organization.

Empower your DEI initiatives volunteer group
Once your volunteer group is onboarded and working together, the exciting part can begin—generating DEI initiative ideas for your association. Here’s how to energize your volunteers, guaranteeing they’ll feel appreciated and want to continue investing their time:  

4. Be open to new ideas. Chances are your volunteers are already implementing successful DEI initiatives at their organizations. Based on their backgrounds and skill sets, they’ll have a wealth of experience, resources, and helpful ideas for your association. Additionally, any DEI program ideas coming from volunteers will feel more authentic because your members have a better grasp of the current issues in their industry. 

Now it’s up to your staff to be open to executing the ideas at your organization. Try not to get stuck in the past with old initiatives, but instead, follow up with your volunteers’ suggestions.  

5. Credit your DEI volunteer group. If a volunteer has a viable DEI idea and your staff decides to implement it at your association, ensure you acknowledge their work. Yes, volunteers are offering ideas freely, but you should still credit them accordingly for their thoughts. Respectfully ask a volunteer if it’s okay to use an idea for a blog or whitepaper. Likewise, ask to develop an initiative into a webinar or continuing education credit. After gaining permission, consider tasking your volunteers to develop a DEI resource center of content.  

6. Recognize your DEI volunteer group. Guarantee your volunteers feel seen for their hard work and crucial DEI insights—host an event that celebrates their efforts. During the program offer awards for each volunteer who’s contributed to DEI initiatives. Let volunteers share how they generated the idea and their hopes for their initiatives reach and impact.  

Encourage higher level staff and leadership to attend the event and share their personal thanks. When you publicly acknowledge volunteers for their work and ideas, they’ll want to continue investing in your association. After the event, don’t forget to follow up with a thank you note.  


TECH TIP: Use Nimble Create to design personalized email campaigns and automate your volunteer thank you process. Apply easy-to-use templates to deliver information-rich content to acknowledge your outstanding DEI volunteers.

Learn more

Are you ready to strengthen your association by creating a volunteer group to launch DEI initiatives? Discover additional tips on how to attract more diverse and inclusive volunteers by reading the guide, How to Recruit More Volunteers at Your Association.​ 

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