January 2023 | Developing Affinity Groups for Member Connections
What is an Affinity Group?
An affinity group is a community within a larger organization that is formed around a shared identity, experience, or common goal to which individuals formally or informally belong. Affinity groups serve a critical role to uplift historically underrepresented groups, build a safe and supportive space, develop opportunities for mentorship and networking, and to share resources and best practices. The Junior League recognizes the current need for affinity groups as we continue our work to embed diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging across the organization and undergo a cultural transition.
Why are affinity groups important?
Affinity groups are essential assets to any business or organization’s DEIB plan. Some benefits of affinity groups include:
- Proving commitment: they add value to a business or organization by proving its commitment to diversity and the value it holds for inclusivity.
- Sense of belonging: affinity groups empower people in diverse populations to feel a sense of belonging. It can also be comforting to make connections with other people who deal with similar experiences.
- Positive relationships: members of an affinity group might not meet or get to know one another very well outside of these groups. That is especially true in a larger organization with multiple committees where members may not interact across committees very often. Building positive relationships can improve morale and membership retention.
What is the difference between affinity groups and the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging committee?
Affinity groups are a safe and supportive space for individuals of a shared identity or experience, such as a historically underrepresented group, to engage in conversation and connection around lived experiences. The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) committee is tasked with developing the strategy, programming, etc. on DEIB. Affinity groups may be invested in DEIB work, but they are not required or expected to lead DEIB work.
Where are we now?
The DEIB committee surveyed JLC members to see what types of groups would be of interest to our members. Answers that were shared from members included women of color, LGBTQ+, women in STEM, stay at home moms, and women who have or are experiencing or exploring infertility/adoption. After receiving feedback from the survey, the DEIB committee plans to host a “Join Week” to gather each affinity group to get started and assist in setting goals for the groups, identifying meeting cadences, and assigning roles.