Boost Belonging in 2023

Tips for Creating a Culture of Belonging


By Melanie Wilt, Shift•ology Communication

I was recently asked by a client to share some ideas with their partners to create a culture of belonging in their organizations. This non-profit serves about thirty other non-profit ministries who are part of their umbrella organization; equipping their members is a big part of what they do. As I reflected on the advice we shared, I recognized how important a culture of belonging is to all organizations and workplaces — non-profit and for-profit, as well as internal and external. So, I adapted this article to share the insights more broadly. Here it is…

Belonging is that sense that you are a valued member of a community. When people feel part of a community, they feel a sense of purpose. Belonging brings meaning into our lives, and this can be found through your organization, workplace or a brand with whom you do business. Don’t you want customers, members, staff and volunteers whose purpose is aligned with the purpose of your organization? 

Belonging is important for many reasons, including: 

  • Sense of individual self-worth
  • Contribution to a cause or purpose bigger than self
  • Improved performance (A 2019 study by BetterUp found that workplace belonging can lead to 56% increase in job satisfaction and 50% reduction in turnover.)
  • New ideas and energy for the organization 

Here are 10 practical ways to make your workplace more welcoming to newcomers, partners and the community:

  1. Create a judgement-free zone – Planet Fitness has cornered the exercise market for its “judgement-free zone” campaign. Simply put, people feel they belong anywhere they are accepted for who they are, not how they look.  
  2. Allow vulnerability – Workplaces in traditional industries like healthcare, agriculture and education are often serious places, and you deal with some heavy stuff. Be a place where tears and laughter are equally accepted. 
  3. Two-way feedback loop – Be sure to talk “with” your peers and beneficiaries, not “at” them. Be an active listener and seek to gain understanding over your shared values.   
  4. Form social bonds – It doesn’t have to be work, work, work 24/7. Add some fun into the organization with games or get-to-know-you activities as part of your board and staff meetings. It only takes 5-10 minutes to loosen up and generate some energy that makes everyone feel part of something important. 
  5. Allow people to take “ownership” of something – Especially in the non-profit world, the board of directors can’t and shouldn’t do it all. Allow volunteers, staff members, interns, community partners, and those you serve to lead a project, answer a question, introduce a speaker, or provide their input. When they do, be sure to give them credit for the great ideas they bring to the table!
  6. Say thank you over and over again – Nobody gets tired of hearing they’re valued. Just be sure to be specific and genuine with your thanks. Verbal thanks is nice, but a social media shout-out or handwritten thank you note is even better!
  7. Practice intentional inclusion – Do certain members of your organization or customer base come from different backgrounds than most? If your staff is mostly men and only a couple women, be sure to be intentional about including the ladies in discussion and seek their opinions. Again, this must be genuine, or it will fall flat if you’re simply seeking their “token” opinion. 
  8. Share and celebrate successes – Share stories and interesting things about your employees, members and volunteers and their contributions through your e-newsletters, social media, and presentations. Everybody loves to have an @ mentioned on their Facebook page or Twitter from someone saying how much they’re valued! Get a special treat for a special occasion they’re celebrating, and include them in group celebration. 
  9. Match up mentors – Mentors and mentees can both learn from each other. Through one-on-one relationships, your staff and customers can be encouraged and informed. Many successful boards match a veteran board member with a new board member to help hasten the learning curve and provide a safe place to ask questions or background outside of meetings. 
  10. Create multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-talented teams throughout the organization – This can include committees and task forces with volunteers, staff, members, donors and the community.  


We encourage you to cultivate belonging in your organization through the work you do through the community and your organization. It is together that we will succeed in creating truly flourishing neighborhoods. You belong!