Membership Initiatives: compiled by: Ardis Bazyn
(Membership committee ‘open forum’ conference call May 10, 2004 chaired by Ammeter )
Open Forum Topics
Several questions were presented to the participants of the ‘open forum’ membership meeting. From that moment, the discussion was animated and beneficial to all. How do you interest possible members initially and then keep them coming to your chapters? Do you currently have mentoring programs for new members? How do you get in touch with younger persons or those just recently losing their sight? Good ideas came from all participants.
Keeping Attendance High
First, I will list some of the thoughts regarding getting members and friends to attend meetings: a restaurant with a separate room for the meeting, speakers of interest to many, activities after the regular meetings, getting more members actively involved in planning meetings and activities, and providing transportation to the meetings and events (volunteer drivers, paying to use church bus, and organizations– Lions). Some program topics of meetings were: newspaper audio programs available in the community, a diabetes center, persons with diabetic experiences, Para transit, cell phone access, and companies providing low vision accessories.
Involvement in activities outside of chapter meetings was one of the reasons members stayed in chapters. If members don’t become part of the ‘family’, they are more likely to drop out. Golfing and sporting events, picnics, Christmas parties, watching DVS movies, playing games after the meeting, and activities chosen by the members were some of the choices mentioned. Students often come to interesting events with good food. Sometimes, inviting members to have dinner together will allow members to get to know each other better.
Inviting Prospective Members
Some of the ways chapters gained new members were: celebrating White Cane Day in their community, holding low vision fairs, sending flyers to churches in the area, sending speakers to agencies and organizations, presenting the positive view of ACB, sending introduction letters to students of blind centers, getting active with city councils, and contacting low vision doctors and ophthalmologists. Even if NFB chapters are in the area, it is important to focus on our positives rather than trying to compare and contrast the organizations. It is beneficial to have applications available at all events to sign up new members.
Start a speakers’ bureau in your chapter and contact schools in the area and let them know you are willing to speak to them. Have events that are designed to include parents and their blind children. If you get them involved early, the children will want to be members later in life. If you plan an event each month, it will likely bring new members to your chapter. Each chapter could also consider sending a student to your convention each year.
Does your chapter introduce members to visitors? Does someone sit with visitors so they don’t feel alone? Does your chapter have greeters introduce newcomers to a couple of members? Does the president ask if there are new persons attending a meeting? Does your chapter assign a member as a mentor to each new member?
Mentors can help visitors or new members understand how the chapter functions and the purpose of the organization. Chapters that have mentoring programs of some type are apt to keep members for the long term. A fellowship committee should be considered that would keep members and friends comfortable with your group. Sending get-well cards or thoughtful notes to members can help to retain members.
Members will not continue to come to your chapter if they feel they would not be missed. Phone trees are also essential to remind members of meetings especially if changes are made to the regular place and date. Encouraging one another and helping one another, particularly with blindness related problems, gives all a sense of belonging.
Keeping Chapters Strong
Visitors and new members will not understand what your members are talking about if many acronyms are used. Encourage all members to state the names of organizations instead of abbreviations. People enjoy being around positive people. If we can encourage one another and remain positive, we will inspire others to join our activities. All members should try to be sensitive to others. Each person should be allowed to express opinions. Anger management may be necessary for a member who seems to be angry at every turn.
Also, welcome sighted persons to your chapter. Often, they are eager to learn about your group and are willing to help on occasion. However, do not expect them to run and fetch at every meeting or event. If you treat them as friends and supporters, they will be happy to help out occasionally. Remember to thank them when they do volunteer to help. A couple of suggestions were made for including sighted members in a meeting. Have each one answer the questions: “What you always wanted to say and why?” or “How to describe movies to your spouse or friend?”
All ideas on membership are appreciated. If you wish to share other ideas that have worked in a chapter or affiliate, please contact one of the members of the membership committee. We’d be glad to share them with others!
For Positive Inspiration, contact Bazyn Communications!
“Making the Impossible, Possible”