4 Strategies for Cohesion within Your Association


September 14, 2023

I recently had the pleasure of attending my first Non Dues-A-Palooza, an event that brings together the biggest experimenters and leaders in the association community who are serious about creating new revenue streams. Collaboration is key at this event, and Terri Carden’s team does a fantastic job of fostering productive conversations.

The highlight of the two-day event (for me) was the panel discussion with Kelli Baxter, Executive Director of American Translators Association, and Bryan Harrison, Chief Membership Development Officer for Shriners International, on navigating the challenges of non-dues revenue generation. As the panel discussed their insights about the struggles of non-dues revenue, one roadblock resonated the most with me: siloed associations.

Baxter mentioned that bringing up ideas of innovation – in hopes of generating non-dues revenue – is often hard within associations because the staff is incredibly siloed. The audience’s agreement with her statement was undeniable as many nodded along, showing their shared grievance with this issue.

Being in different leadership roles throughout my career, I’ve learned that in today's fast-paced and complex business environment, the success of any organization depends heavily on the ability of its teams to work together cohesively towards common goals. When teams are aligned, communicate effectively, and collaborate seamlessly, the organization reaps the benefits of increased productivity and innovation.

So, how do you break through to bring your teams together? Several solutions were offered during the discussion, and here are a few of the key takeaways:

1. Create a unified voice.

To bring teams together, it's essential to establish a shared purpose and goal that resonates with everyone. When teams understand how their work contributes to the larger picture, they feel a sense of purpose and alignment. Encourage teams to collaborate to define these common goals that support the association’s vision. This shared purpose will create a sense of unity and motivate teams to work together towards a common objective.

2. Encourage communication and transparency.

Open and transparent communication is the foundation of cohesive teams. Create a culture where communication flows freely across teams and departments. Encourage active listening, respect, and empathy when engaging in discussions, especially during interdepartmental collaboration and planning.

3. Develop cross-functional collaboration.

Bringing teams together requires breaking down departmental barriers and encouraging cross-functional collaboration. Encourage employees to work with colleagues from different departments on projects or initiatives. By bringing diverse skill sets and perspectives together, the organization can benefit from increased creativity and innovation and reach their goals more effectively.

4. Generate support from leadership.

Baxter mentioned during the discussion that the role of the executive director is crucial in breaking silos within an organization. Leaders must encourage and model communication across teams and departments, reward and recognize cross-functional teamwork, and be willing to invest in the tools and resources needed to facilitate effective collaboration.


No matter what, breaking down silos within an organization can take time and effort, but the benefits are plenty. By encouraging a culture of interdepartmental communication, developing cross-functional teamwork, and aligning goals and objectives, organizations can improve innovation, productivity, and reach their goals more efficiently. 

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