Compiled by Ardis Bazyn

On October 21, our membership focus call was on the topic "Boosting Your Membership: Getting Them In and Keeping Them In."

The group discussed the various internal communication methods used by affiliates in ACB from the August membership focus call. Since communication is one of the key ingredients necessary to retaining your current members, I hope all the suggestions given will be useful to your chapters and affiliates. Please consider adding a new idea or two in the next few months. I will first list the internal communications used by chapters and affiliates to reach current members and past members. Then I will list the methods used by various chapters and affiliates to assist in boosting their membership.

Internal Communications

-- E-mail lists: general membership lists, board lists, committee lists, newsletter lists, chapter lists, and one-way announce lists about upcoming events and updates

-- Newsletters: weekly or monthly newsletters by chapters and quarterly newsletters from affiliates in a variety of formats

-- Toll-free phone number and/or state affiliate number: some have personnel answering the phone and others have an answering machine

-- Weekly Connection: phone or e-mail message to receive updates on events and legislation; some have menu-driven options such as legislation, events, committee memos, etc.

-- Chapters with monthly meetings: some have more than one meeting, including social events, book clubs, or birthday lunch meetings

-- Special-interest chapters

-- Phone trees: call members (both current and past) about monthly activities and legislative updates

-- Monthly or bi-monthly presidents' calls: interactive way to share information useful to chapter presidents

-- Leadership training: some have seminars at conventions and others have separate leadership training sessions

-- Conference call number: can be used by committees and chapters who have members in wide geographic area (using speaker phone)

-- Web site: includes chapter links, brochures, fundraising links, membership links, and other info about the state affiliate

-- Blogs for interactive participation

-- State annual or biannual conventions: variety of events from general sessions with wide range of speakers, exhibits, luncheons, banquet, and business meetings

-- Employment conference

-- Quarterly in-person board meetings

-- State Department for the Blind letters: some state affiliates submit letters for the department to send that give information about the state affiliate and local chapters throughout the state

-- Presidents participate in quarterly board meetings

Ways to Boost Membership

-- Invite blind people you meet during paratransit trips

-- Visit in person or send notices to local senior centers

-- Have interesting speakers on a variety of topics: yoga, stress management, financial management, CPR, breast cancer, talking medicine bottles, transportation options

-- Newspaper and radio announcements

-- NFB Newsline has to give announcements for both organizations since it uses state funding

-- State Department or Division for the Blind info line announcement

-- Web site listing chapter meeting times and locations

-- Letters sent by state library for the blind or other state agencies for the blind

-- Legislative weekend, including a day at the Capitol

-- Have special program for blind people to share specialized technology they use

-- "Everyday People with Everyday Problems": sharing gadgets and services which help blind people (held at beginning of convention to include newcomers)

-- Sharing information about affiliate with service groups like Lions

-- Handing out brochures to acquaintances, Lighthouse patrons, library patrons, churches, and meetings

-- Tandem bike races, community white cane walks, blind bowling leagues, theaters with audio description, and other outings that generate both publicity and interest

-- Contact paratransit companies and give them information to pass on to clients

-- Monthly advocacy classes in conjunction with centers for the blind

-- Ability awareness activities with door prizes

-- Membership contests, giving prizes to those who bring the most members (use coupons from restaurants, free membership dues, gift certificates)

-- Asking members what types of speakers they'd like at meetings

-- Follow-up with blind people met or attending conventions or other events and fundraisers

-- 50/50 raffles and door prizes at chapters and events

-- Participation in community fairs (both disability-related and for general public)

Please check out other membership resources on the ACB web site under resources. If you need assistance for your chapter or affiliate, call any member of the membership committee. I look forward to hearing from you on our next membership focus call, which will be held on Jan. 27, 2008, at 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern. The call-in number will be 1-866-633-8638 and the passcode will be 200701. The topic will be "External Communication: How to use publicity effectively to get more members."

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