by Ardis Bazyn
This year’s membership seminar, held Wednesday during ACB’s annual convention, focused on the theme of “Building Membership through Outreach and Communication.” It featured two panel discussions. The first panel talked about how using member incentives increases membership.
Zelda Gebhard, president of the North Dakota Association of the Blind, said incentives help with PR and recruitment. North Dakota allows members to join in October free and then pay dues in January. They give college scholarships. They invite all possible members to join by sending invitations to all past members and prospective members. Retention is high because of ongoing communication with members: newsletters, dial NDAB calls using Treebox, monthly calls, a week-long adult camp, email list, cards or calls on birthdays, a recreation retreat from Friday to Sunday (junior members can attend, as well as one driver, with those in attendance). Ten people are given $300 to attend national convention.
Leslie Spoone, co-chair of the auction committee, said Florida asks their regional Braille and Talking Book Library to send a letter FCB has written to those on the library’s mailing list. They have trivia night events and use the money to send people to state convention and a $1,300 grant for Lynx tickets for chapter meetings. The Florida Citizens with Low Vision chapter provides a scholarship to send members to national convention. The CCLVI book “Insights to Low Vision” can help local seniors losing sight.
Rebecca Bridges, chair of ACB’s Affiliate and Membership Action Team, mentioned book clubs, monthly or quarterly conference calls, trivia nights, and providing Northern Virginia chapter members with transportation refunds.
How successful are incentives? Aira gave ACB members free Aira for a month and provided funds for ACB to offer discounts on hotel rooms for members. ACB also offered early registration for members. These efforts increased membership dues payments in early May.
The next panel focused on how to get your members actively involved in your activities. Minh Ha, president of American Council of Blind Students, told how ACBS made calls on Zoom about different topics. ACBS promoted these calls on email lists, on the leadership list, and on Facebook. ACBS members talked with last year’s convention attendees. They would ask them to join when meeting one-on-one and keep in contact often. ACBS also paid national dues for state chapters of ACBS. They use social media extensively. A student with a marketing major handles Facebook and Twitter. Minh said an ACBS mentor encouraged her to get involved.
Denise Colley, president of the Washington Council of the Blind, said WCB uses Zoom board meetings so members can attend. The newsletter now has co-editors with themed issues and new columns: health, book reviews, movie reviews, etc.
Carla Ruschival, treasurer of the Kentucky Council of the Blind, said KCB keeps in contact with members. They get 10 to 20 percent of members involved and assisting with activities. On Fridays, they have meetings called roundabouts where talks occur and many classes are held on braille, iPhone, notetakers, chess, family trees, pet care, and the new ID law. Every other week, they serve dinner at 6 p.m. and then play games: Bingo, Password, etc. Anyone can come, and there is no push for membership right away. A low-vision support group meets twice a month. They call members to remind them about the meetings.
This year’s winner of the Affiliate Growth Award was ACB Students, both for the largest number and largest percentage of new members. Handouts on membership benefits and program ideas for students and seniors were made available as well. If you would like a copy, contact Ardis Bazyn via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.