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Organisational culture

Organisational culture

A sport or recreational club’s organisational culture filters through to all aspects of its activities.

A organisation’s culture is like its personality, and the many elements of an organisation reflect that personality. This includes how new members view your club, how you welcome and interact with members, how you treat different parts of the community, how coaches/supervisors and managers and teams/groups interact with each other, how committees behave.

Your organisation’s culture helps create a sense of belonging and makes people feel good about being part of the organisation. Getting your culture right helps to attract and keep the people your organisation needs - from board members, administrative staff, to members. Organisational culture guides what is expected of its members in the many different aspects and activities they could be involved in, and it motivates people to be excellent members and participants.

The way we do things round here

An organisation’s culture is based on a set of assumptions, values and beliefs. Successful organisations show a strong connection between the personal values held by its members and board members and the organisational values it embraces.

Culture exists in two groups: visible and invisible. Visible elements can be written, and include things such as strategy, goals, statements of values and policies. The invisible elements such as beliefs, tradition, stories, unwritten rules and accepted norms are more likely to be the important influencers of culture. These contribute to the ‘way we do things round here’.

As such, culture should encompass:

  • what an organisation does – its overall purpose and the individual activities it undertakes in pursuit of that
  • why it does the things it does – what it hopes all of its activities will achieve – both individually and collectively
  • how it goes about doing those things and the processes it has in place in terms of monitoring and control.

An organisation’s culture isn’t static and will need to grow and develop – when an organisation develops new goals, as its community grows and changes, or as other factors impact on the organisation.

Tips for embedding culture

An organisation's culture is usually set or influenced by those at ‘the top’ – the governance. An organisation's committee has an important role to play in determining and reflecting its organisation's culture.

  • DecideThe committee should determine what culture they want to define their organisation and establish the values they wish it to espouse.
  • Embody and demonstrateThe organisation’s leadership should act and be seen to act in accordance with these principles, individually and collectively, showing that they underpin all that the organisation does.
  • CommunicateA clearly stated mission and set of values should be articulated to all who interact with the organisation, including external stakeholders. Regular and focused reporting on organisational culture will allow organisations to monitor their efforts, engage stakeholders, and link cultural issues to strategic objectives and performance.
  • EnforcePolicies and processes should be in place to prevent poor behaviour and when it does occur it should be dealt with appropriately and robustly.
  • RecruitWhen bringing people into the organisation, attention should be paid not only to the skills they possess, but whether they suit the culture being promoted.
  • TrainIn addition to technical development, employees, volunteers and board members should receive training on the organisation’s culture and on the ‘soft’ skills required to promote it
  • ReviewThe board should monitor adherence to the agreed culture and its relationship to strategic objectives. Regular reviews can be undertaken both internally and externally.

Main legislative compliance

Key pieces of legislation sports and recreational clubs/organisations must adhere to:

Policies and procedures to assist members and child safeguarding

A huge part of any club or organisation and the one that ultimately reflects a club’s culture is how well it assists its members and safeguards its children. See the following links to relevant policies and procedures:

Member protection policies and procedures

Handling complaints

How a club or organisation handles complaints will reflect not only the complaint policy in place, but the club’s culture. If a club values its members and the wider community, it will take any complaint seriously and deal with it confidentially, professionally and fairly.

Complaints Policy
Disciplinary Procedures and Appeals Policy
Code of Conduct Policy 


Member protection policies and procedures

Guides to governance:

The Board's role in Organisational Culture, Sport NZ
Nine steps to effective governance - building high-performing organisations
Governance Lite


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