Getting At-Large Members Involved

compiled by Ardis Bazyn

The January 2012 membership focus call tackled the topic of getting at-large members involved.  Participants on the call first compiled a list of reasons why members would join state affiliates or special-interest affiliates as at-large members instead of local chapters or affiliates. The main reason was because they live too far from the nearest chapter. Some knew there were members who were dissatisfied with the chapter nearest them – either leadership or the meetings. Some had visited the national ACB conference and convention and decided to join and were either unaware of local chapters or were interested in limited involvement and wanted to go to other national activities. Other at-large members joined special-interest affiliates that did not have local or state chapters. Some may be younger people who are in school or don't feel comfortable with the older members in a group.

We then discussed ways we could get at-large members more involved in ACB either through state affiliates and local chapters and/or special-interest affiliate chapters. One suggestion was to invite them to state conventions or special-interest state chapters/affiliates at state conventions. Another idea was to have quarterly conference calls for at-large members. Some state and special-interest affiliates, such as California, have web sites with all their chapters listed, complete with contact information so newer members or those hearing about a state or special-interest affiliate can find the nearest chapter to them. Local chapters could also have their own web sites to market to their local community.

This discussion led to what state and special-interest affiliates should have on their web site. Participants asked if there could be another conference on the topic of web sites and what should be on them. It would be a good joint "focus call" for the membership committee and the public relations committee. We will explore this possibility.

Another concept we explored was inviting at-large special-interest affiliate members to visit statewide chapters/affiliates if they are available in their state. These members could also be invited to attend local chapters of their state affiliate. The national office has the membership list of all affiliates; presidents could ask for "at-large" members or special-interest affiliate members in their state, so they can contact them about the benefits of the state affiliates.

Another discussion dealt with what topics could be discussed on quarterly calls with at-large members. Since these might be members who want news about ACB or state affiliates but don't have the time or don't want further involvement, a seminar could be planned just to talk about the benefits of affiliates and ACB in general. Sometimes these members may not be aware of local chapters and just need to know about them. Others may be happy as is but still want to know about your work, advocacy, legislative activities, etc. Some younger people in school or people who don't feel comfortable with the older members in a group may want to participate in a call.

Possible topics could be everything "i", just younger group talking together, state or special-interest conference topics, talking about "The Braille Forum," presidents' meetings and legislative seminar participation, and members can ask for assistance from at-large members on what might be more relevant to them.

Some ways to keep in touch with at-large members or find more are to: send convention info to all on your database, send flyers to all blind patrons of your state library system; have an affiliate office phone number for callers to be able to ask for information -- toll-free number would be best, and linking your phone number with other organizations and on the 200 number in your county if it is available in your area. Many have categories of listing types for non-profits. Your local library may have listings as well; most won't charge your organization a fee. Other listings would be through United Way, 211 state listing, special-interest directories, pink pages, women's pages, Christian Yellow Pages, and resource directories for people with disabilities.

ACB has a membership e-mail listserv; we encourage each ACB state and special-interest affiliate to have at least two members assigned to be on this list. Please contact the national office or Ardis Bazyn if you wish to learn more. Each president should designate the appropriate membership contacts for this list.