Among her achievements over her seven years at Association Forum, Mason said, was being able to present association management as a career path for underrepresented communities — something she has always considered to be her mission. There were times in her career, she said, when she didn’t feel her voice was being heard, but she flipped that around.
“I don’t see barriers; I see opportunities,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to educate. It’s an opportunity to dispel myths, to help understand and reframe the conversation. … I want to use my platform to help others understand how we create a very inclusive environment where all are valued, all are heard in a very authentic way. I do that through education. I do that through representation. I do that through uplifting others.”
Mason approached diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in a new way for Association Forum, introducing an initiative called Welcoming Environment to the organization. Welcoming Environment serves as a resource tool on Association Forum’s website, featuring articles, conversation circle videos on racial inequality, research, webinars, and other content. “It basically focuses on the creation of a sense of belonging and connectedness that engages individuals in an authentic manner,” she said. That kind of inclusive environment drives deeper engagement within the association community, increases revenue, and builds sustainable relationships, she said, adding that DEI gives organizations a strategic advantage.
Mason will continue her DEI mission at ASAE, which she said, “has a very strong history of supporting diverse leaders” and of delivering services to help associations navigate diversity and inclusion.
‘Just a Different House’
Being back at ASAE feels like a homecoming, “but it’s just a different house,” Mason told Convene only six days into the new role. After spending 15 years away from Washington, D.C., she is happy to be back where she grew up, and around her family again, she said. And she is looking forward to helping ASAE continue its service to the association industry. “I believe in servant leadership and so I’m looking forward to helping our members and our member organizations become more effective through [our programs] as they navigate uncertainty,” she said, referring to the pandemic.
“I think that last year, if anything, taught us that this is a time of change. Last year taught us that the old playbook is out the door. There’s a new playbook and so we really need to be thinking about our associations in a very different way,” she said.
Organizations need to focus on members first, she said, to remain relevant and offer a value proposition. One way to achieve this goal is experiment with, test, and ultimately deliver resources that will help members successfully adjust to the ever-changing landscape of virtual, hybrid, and safe in-person meetings, she said.
“And I really embrace change,” she said, “so I’m looking forward to helping the association community be better prepared for the future.”
Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.