Membership Development Strategies to Reach Communities of Color

According to Rotary International, one of the world's largest membership organizations, there are three stages to membership development: recruitment, retention, and expansion. Consider the needs and interests of communities of color in each of these stages. (

  • The Association Forum of Chicagoland offers some suggestions for expanding recruitment of diverse members:
  • Broaden membership benefits and services to include the needs of diverse audiences and balance those needs against those of more traditional members.
  • Conduct campaigns specifically to attract diverse audiences.
  • Tailor membership promotions to diverse audiences, using targeted media.
  • Partner with similar industry or professional organizations that represent a diverse segment of your membership eligible universe.(

Some organizations find success in developing membership programs to appeal to a particular group, while others will identify ways that its traditional membership programs can be tailored to diverse audiences.

For example, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has an initiative to build diversity throughout its membership. Strategies include developing a commitment to diversity among key leaders in the organization, creating visible leadership opportunities for members from diverse communities, and creating a toolkit for chapters to use in recruiting diverse members.( On the other end of the spectrum, the Mexican Fine Arts Center in Chicago has created Opano Mexica, an organization reaching out directly to young Mexican Americans in their twenties and thirties.(See Bibliography: Newman)

Other common methods for developing and retaining members from diverse communities include:

  • Intern and fellowship programs for potential members of color.
  • Outreach in partnership with existing membership organizations that reach these groups, such as community-specific chambers of commerce and mentoring programs pairing new members with current members who are from communities of color.

You will want to find the membership development techniques that best match with your target communities and the characteristics of the subset you seek. Since many membership organizations across the country - from the Association of Research Libraries to the American Public Transportation Association - are actively developing diversity among their members, you will find a wealth of ideas to support your efforts.


Overview: Fundraising and Membership 

Why Inclusive Fundraising Practices Matter 

Fundraising Strategies to Reach Communities of Color 

Why Inclusive Membership Development Practices Matter