As we continue to live and work through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for association leaders to actively listen to members’ needs. During this difficult time, associations must keep an open line of communication with members to gauge the overall morale of the association.

Members are an association’s greatest asset. Without a healthy membership base, associations would not be able to grow and evolve. It is important that association leaders foster an environment where members are involved and engaged. Doing so ensures that morale is strong, and that the association can run smoothly. For more on member engagement, read my colleague’s recent article  Maintaining Association Member Engagement in a Socially Distant World: An Interview.

Factors That Affect Morale

A few factors that can affect morale are:

  1. The Organization – the organization itself and the public’s perception toward it can influence a person’s attitude towards their work. If an association recently received some bad press, it might negatively affect a member’s feelings and attitude towards the association.
  2. The Nature of Work – A person’s morale and attitude toward their role can be affected by an organization’s expectations of them. One’s job may be very routine or highly specialized, leaving them feeling bored or alienated from others. In an association, a collaborative approach often works best.
  3. The Level of Satisfaction – Association morale will be higher if a member feels that within their association there are opportunities for personal growth, learning, and a collaborative culture.

Low Morale

When an organization suffers from low morale, employees become less motivated to work and less committed to the company they work for. They sometimes develop an apathetic attitude and are absent from work more often.

Similarly, association members may become less motivated to support the association. They might be absent from Annual General Meetings, contribute less to dialogue, or refrain from getting involved with committee work. Board members can lose their motivation to support the association as well. They may consequently start missing meetings or even resign from the board, taking their knowledge, and positive contributions with them.

Sources of Low Morale

As a leader it is important to identify the key issues that could be causing low morale. Association members become discouraged when they feel like their their voices are not heard. Members should feel like they can make a difference in their association.

Poor leadership is another factor that can negatively influence the morale of an association. If members feel like they are not getting enough communication, support, and guidance from their association leaders, they are therefore less motivated to get involved within the association. For more on association leadership, read my colleague’s article What Does Leadership Look Like?

Leadership and Morale

According to George Root’s article Leadership Morale Strategies, leaders should always monitor the morale in their organization. Without high morale there is little motivation for people to succeed, take initiative, or be productive. Creating positive morale is about understanding what people need to keep them happy and then finding the balance between achieving member satisfaction and organizational success. With so much uncertainty in the current state of the world, it is more important than ever for association leaders to understand what the members want and need.


In summary, finding a solution to low morale is essential to maintain a robust association membership. Improving morale increases board members’ productivity and engagement. If ineffective leadership causes low morale, providing training for association leaders may be a wise investment. Additionally, refresher courses in leadership can strengthen communication skills and inspire leaders to build new relationships within the association.