compiled by Ardis Bazyn
(Editor's Note: Ardis Bazyn is the chairman of the membership committee.)
On July 10, the membership committee held its annual convention seminar with the theme: "How to create teamwork to improve productivity in your chapter/affiliate." The first panel topic was "How to handle difficult situations and resolve conflicts." Panel members were: Kenneth Semien Sr. (Texas); Sally Benjamin (Florida), and Donna Pomerantz (California).
Donna mentioned the process used in California to decide if the long-time practice of two conventions should be changed to one convention per year. She explained how the issue was presented as a constitutional amendment a few years ago and it did not pass. However, the second time the issue surfaced, more attention was given to publicizing teleconference meetings and then discussion at a convention. The pros and cons of the possible change were made and a negative budget for a few years was cited as the primary reason for change. This ongoing process outlined what possible changes could be made in order for this move to one convention to work. Sally talked about an e-mail list issue in Florida, where very negative comments were made about a member. The board immediately asked for those on the list to participate in a conference call so members could freely tell how this situation could be resolved positively. She thought the problem diminished because they didn't ignore it but dealt with it immediately. Kenneth addressed how to minimize possible board conflict by starting each meeting with a short team activity. He said teamwork requires seven traits: positive attitude toward challenges, accountability for follow-through, good communication skills, competition (push each other to action), ability to see the big picture, diplomatic and respectful actions, and willingness to work as a team player.
The second panel topic was "How to share board responsibilities and get working board members." George Holliday (Pennsylvania) and John McCann (Virginia) were panel members. George suggested asking members about their interests since each board member has to chair or serve as co-chair for a committee in Pennsylvania. Each committee has to set goals for the year. The chairs must have agendas, discuss projects, and present a report to the board before each meeting. He also said Pennsylvania has a candidates' page and forum so members won't vote for cronies unless they have the needed capabilities. John said it is important to have a passion for what you do for the organization, so it's good to cultivate passions in your members. He mentioned the needed qualities: people skills, following parliamentary procedure, mentoring, and asking hard questions. Members should be asked to do small tasks first.
The two affiliates which won the Affiliate Growth Awards were recognized. The affiliate with the largest growth in percentage was the South Dakota Association of the Blind. The affiliate with the highest growth in number of new members was ACB of Texas. The PR committee recognized the affiliates with the most outstanding brochures submitted to them. The winners were: first place, North Dakota Association of the Blind; second place, Washington Council of the Blind; and third place, Utah Council of the Blind. Two hand-outs were disseminated. They are below.
Building Good Relationships
- Be direct and totally honest.
- Quality communication is necessary.
- Listen actively to all sides of an issue.
- Understand others' expectations.
- Reciprocity is expected.
- Respect others' opinions.
- Realize that everyone has different values.
- Ask questions when controversy arises.
- Ask why others feel differently.
- Negotiation is necessary to be successful.
- Listen without judgment when people speak.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Agree that disagreement is OK.
- If there is a conflict or disagreement, elect someone to mediate.
- When decisions are made, move forward without reservation.
- Voting is important and members need to consider the best person for the job (whether they are able to do the job).
Reaching Blind and Visually Impaired Seniors
Seniors often don't want to identify as "blind" people so it's necessary to reach them where they are.
- Make friends with your division of services older blind coordinator and suggest they advertise your meetings, and add your information to their web site.
- Leave brochures and business cards with ophthalmologists, audiologists, and sight/hearing impairment centers offices (especially those that specialize in cataracts and macular degeneration) and suggest distributing your meeting information and any resource lists.
- Contact your local senior centers, assisted living facilities and senior apartments, state or county aging and blindness committees, support groups, and eye-related conferences to suggest speakers from your chapter to explain the purpose of your group and the resources you can provide.
- Find the Department on Aging and deaf-blind agency in your community and offer to assist them with blindness or low vision resources (including chapter contact information).
- Your chapter could offer tip sheets with a list of resources that would interest those losing their sight. This information could be disseminated to social workers on staff at any agency.
- Contact Ears for Eyes (1-800-843-6816) and order some of their audio recordings to distribute to newly blinded older people.
- Ask some of your older members to choose one older newly blinded person to contact by phone and suggest helpful ideas for independent living learned from ACB.
- Ask your local Lions Clubs for help locating newly blind people and finding transportation to meetings.
- Give award to a noteworthy VI senior in your community.
- Provide a happy hour at local senior center.
- Have an annual appreciation breakfast.
- Have members try to get on radio interview shows.