compiled by Ardis Bazyn
On the last focus call, the topic was “Improving communication to retain members and outreach to newly blind people.” Members appreciate communication. They like to know what is happening in the affiliate and chapters as well. On the call, participants explored communication methods, when to communicate, and why affiliates and chapters should communicate more. Most affiliates have email discussion lists. Many chapters give members reminder calls for meetings, and some send email reminders. Most agreed follow-up calls to those who have missed a couple of meetings would be beneficial.
We discussed what kind of communication affiliates have with members at large. Some proposed having quarterly calls with members at large. Letters or emails with general information about upcoming meetings and conferences would be helpful.
Pennsylvania Council of the Blind started general town hall meetings every quarter. A toll-free number with a box to leave questions would give members an opportunity to give feedback. Board members should serve on committees so that members can get to know them better.
When affiliates have calls, offer three-way calls for those without long distance. Most chapters discuss business first and then have a speaker. Some affiliates have presidents’ calls monthly; some hold them quarterly.
Your affiliate can also have chapter presidents’ calls. Presidents’ calls are calls for the local chapter and state affiliate presidents to meet and share updates and events. They are generally open to the president or his/her designee(s). Other guests may attend, but they will be placed on mute. Some state or special-interest affiliates also have occasional “open-house” or “office hours” calls hosted by the state or special-interest president for anyone to attend. On affiliate board calls, you could also allow anyone to listen and give public comments at a designated time. All board members should be accessible to all members. When someone asks questions, answer the person. If you need to look up the answer and get back to them, say so, and be sure to follow up afterward.
One way to stay connected is to invite as many members as possible to serve on committees. Another way to involve people is to encourage chapters to have group projects. The California Council of the Blind’s membership committee gives a “Chapter of the Year Award” at the annual convention. The winning chapter or affiliate must have been involved in a group effort that resulted in significant change for an individual or the local community. A nomination letter must outline the event(s) and its effected change and submit it.
For members who don’t use computers, there is an email system called Philmore Productions. Philmore is a low-cost method with different lines. If you send out a weekly message, use it to share chapter activities. Does your affiliate have a newsletter? Be sure to include chapter info and board meeting highlights in it.
Conference calls on a variety of topics would be a great way to communicate and inform members and other interested individuals. Participants in this call suggested the following topics: hearing about Alexa, learning about transportation applications, discussing audio books, tips on grilling, discussing baseball or other sports, new technology, employment, diabetes tips, iPhone training, using Zoom or Skype, or guide dog issues. Special-interest affiliates could have conference calls regularly between annual conventions as well as open board meetings to allow more communication, except when items are more suited to an executive session. Special-interest chapters in state affiliates help people get more involved in other issues of interest. If your state has no special-interest chapters, you could encourage members of special-interest affiliates to share information about them.
The membership committee is looking ahead at various topics for future conference calls. If you have an idea you’d like to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.