Gaining and Maintaining Membership

Gaining and Maintaining Membership
Compiled by: Ardis Bazyn

Using the Internet

The ACB membership list serve is available for all affiliate presidents to read and send items of interest to others concerned with membership growth and retention. Each affiliate should send the names and email addresses of their membership chairs and/or co-chairs to the national office. We'd like to encourage this list to become more active. Affiliates should set up your own list servs for your members to discuss issues and ideas for your affiliate to consider. Affiliates should contact Earlene Hughes if you wish to set up list servs: support@acb.org.

Please have someone send in your convention programs to the membership list. Conventions are often a drawing card for newly blinded persons and blind and visually impaired persons new in the community.

Affiliates should also have a website if you currently do not have one.

Currently, there are many programs for low cost computer access. You can encourage your members to take advantage of these programs. Many email services have call in capability to receive email by phone.

Publicizing Events

Tellme extensions are available for groups to use to send information about your affiliate activities. Telephone reader services welcome public service announcements about functions planned specifically for their readers. Newsline will read your announcements as well. These services receive government spending and must relay all activities not just for a particular group.

Starting a descriptive video library may encourage more interest in your chapter or affiliate. You could hand out list to members to share with friends and to collect more movies. Your regional library may be willing to hold them and disperse them to registered patrons. In return for your efforts, they then might send membership applications to all library participants.

You could create and give out resource lists to members and interested blind persons to create interest in your chapter or affiliate. Encourage members to give out brochures to friends, family, and members of local service clubs or other membership organizations. This may elicit new members or volunteers for your group.

Finding Appropriate Places and Times for Activities The division for the blind in your state may have rooms available to suit your needs. Blind and visually impaired would be aware of these facilities and how to get there. Your local library service, public library or the library for the blind and visually impaired may also have conference rooms that may suit you. Local churches may also be willing to allow you to meet and even serve meal functions for a nominal fee. Your community may have an Independent Living Center with an area large enough to meet. Restaurants with separate rooms for groups including a meal function might work very well for your organization. Some community centers or office buildings may be centrally located and allow nonprofit groups to meet. If you know someone in charge of these facilities, you may wish to check the times these might be open for your use. YMCA or YWCA facilities also may rent out spaces for meetings or special events. Of course, if you have the funds, owning your own building might be the most convenient way to proceed.

Times and days of the week chosen for meetings and events may play a significant role in the attendance. Friday nights or Saturday afternoons may be the best times to lure those who work full-time. Some may even be willing to come on Sunday afternoons or other evenings. However, transportation may limit some evening activities especially if you live in more rural areas or smaller towns with limited hours for public transportation. Some chapters have a variety of activities during a given month allowing all to participate in functions when it is most convenient for them. Alternatively, chapters could have a stable meeting time but vary the times and days of additional activities.

Transportation issues usually dictate when and where your chapter or affiliate meets. Since most members don't drive, this may be your primary concern when you consider ways to add or retain members. The location and time of your meeting must not conflict with the schedules of your transportation systems (bus, train, or parra transit). Of course, bus stop locations and the proximity to the facility or parking and loading areas should also be of concern.

Sometimes, alternative means of transportation may work well for your group. If members attend a local church, some other church members may serve as volunteer drivers. Friends of members may be willing to drive some members to an event occasionally. Community service organizations such as Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, and other volunteer organizations may take your chapter on as a regular volunteer project. Your central labor councils or labor unions may be contacted for transportation possibilities.

Insurance for riders and paying drivers can be an issue. Paying drivers directly may imply they are responsible if a member slips or hurts himself/herself. Coupons, gifts, or other remuneration might cause less of a liability issue. Alternately, the chapter or affiliate may rent a bus, van, or simply pay an insurance policy to protect volunteer drivers.

Creating Interesting Programs and Events

Some chapters have many activities on a given afternoon: program, lunch, business, and recreation. Your group might meet the 1st Sunday for business and a program or games. Then, you might start a Supper Club that meets the 4th Friday for dinner, and perhaps, follow dinner with a movie. The 4th Saturday, members could watch different DVS movies.

Your chapter could hold a Book Club once a month. Sharing stories about things that happen to you because of your visual impairment might encourage others to talk about similar humorous (after the fact anyway) situations. Fun activities are important.

If you can find a volunteer group that would be willing to help at a single meeting, you could offer hands on projects such as brailing or marking tapes, cds, food products, etc. A shopping spree with volunteers might also be a fun idea - perhaps an outlet mall. Farmers' market, or something else more difficult for visually impaired to accomplish alone. Delta Gama, pro golf organizations, Sierra Clubs, and other groups may be willing to help with recreational activities such as golf, sailing, skiing, etc.

Attract students by attending an amusement park as a group. Other sporting or recreational Activities once a month might draw younger or more physically active members: camping, sailing, rock climbing, or river rafting. Visit a local Zoo to promote disability awareness.

Invite someone from a local fitness club to share some ways for blind and visually impaired to exercise at home. Of course, sharing how blind and visually impaired could use the club's equipment and facilities might also be interesting and provide a more inclusive atmosphere in the club. This could be followed by a visit by members to use the club itself.

It is necessary to both educate and entertain meeting participants. A social time during meetings (lunch, dinner, or snack time) allows members to learn more about individual members. Other ways to involve members in meetings are to sing songs, demonstrate technology or other devices, and share about service or membership organizations in which members are involved.

Involve students in issues important to them: school to work programs, career planning, and listening to other successful working experiences of blind persons. . Currently, accessible voting is a hot issue; so forming a committee to work on this might spur interest by members not involved in other issues. Question and answer sessions about your organization's purposes and goals may encourage newcomers to ask questions.

Some topics of interest might be: "How do you label things?" "How do you do your job?" "How do you find things?" (This could include shopping in person or searching for products and information on the Internet.) Have a month where members Bring "touch and show" gadgets for others to see. Of course, Members enjoy outside speakers who are informative and amusing as long as you recognize which ones would be appropriate for your audience.

Conference call systems

Inexpensive conference calls keep some groups connected on a regular basis.

In southern California, there is a free call-in system: (619) 345-3000, and another one in Florida is: (561) 939-1800.

Conflab.com - Free Internet Voice Communication Create a free home page to make your calls free via the Internet. Voice is available.

Welcome to Grex! Grex: is a public-access conferencing (discussion forum) system. Its users manage it. Anybody can get a free account with public access and free speech.

FreeConference.com - Free Telephone Conference Call Service This gives free conference call services. Conduct a free meet-me audio conference call any time.

SmartConferenceNow Costco members can get conference calls for $.05 per minute.

Unlimited Conferencing conferencing toll free number for $ .065 per minute

Free Conference Call - Free Conference Call Holdings Corporation You can easily find free conference call-in numbers.

Unlimited Conferencing unlimited conferencing provides both flat rate and per minute conferencing.

Cheap Conference Call, Calling, Conferencing, Video Net Conferencing Telechoice offers great rates plus a variety of telecommunications tools and providers.

Voice meeting rooms through the Internet are becoming more popular with many organizations. Web Conferencing, Online Meetings, Online Seminars and Webinars by Voxwire has voice-meeting rooms for a very reasonable monthly rental price. Participants can just join you in the meeting room. Meeting rooms can be small, with only a half dozen people, or large, with up to 500 participants. Add a microphone to your computer and you can speak to the people in the room, or opt to type your messages for them to view online instead. This facility has other options which may not be as useable by our audiences such as placing Web sites, presentation pages, documents, slides, or flash on the Internet screen for all your guests to watch a visual presentation while the president or speaker respond to questions. Of course, it could be described. You can also produce a printed log of the text activity of the Web conference for future use.

Other Membership Issues Inappropriate actions by members or visitors during meetings sometimes cause problems in keeping your attendance high. Side conversations during meetings should be discouraged since it often changes the positive momentum of the meeting. Running an effective meeting is key to encouraging ongoing participation. Occasionally, a Crying party might be in order - "what can be done?" for the board to look at issues of this type.

Special interest chapters in states and dues can conflict. In some states, special interest groups pay fewer dues to the state affiliate. Life members' dues issues do arise - some still pay affiliate and chapter dues. Don't ignore conflicts. However, good communication about all issues will lead to a better organization.