Membership Is a FLAME

By the Membership Development Team

Membership is a FLAME and must be nurtured through Fun, Leadership, Advocacy, Mentoring and Engagement. This concept was developed by PCB’s Membership Development Team and is intended to be a guide that can assist chapters and leaders with retention and recruitment of members. Remember, this is a guide, it is intended to get you thinking and should be a starting point. While what you are about to read is the abridged version of the document, we hope you will be intrigued enough to contact the PCB office and request it in its entirety in your preferred format.

Just as a FLAME provides light and warmth, so should chapters and PCB leaders provide light, insight, and the warmth of human interaction to members. We hope that some of these concepts will resonate with you enough to give them a try. Remember, what we have set forth are suggestions. Come up with ideas of your own that work best for your members in your geographic locations.

Share the Flame of Fun:
The truth is that you will retain members and recruit new members through word of mouth just by making meetings more fun. Make the business portion of meetings as short as possible by making sure committee work is done in committee. Break up the business with trivia or some other quick game. Schedule in social time, such as coffee and pastries before a meeting or lunch after a meeting. Be certain that all who wish to be heard have the opportunity to do so.

Schedule fun activities in between meetings. Plan a book club where members offer suggestions for books and then those interested in the book club vote on their favorite book. Have a game day/night where accessible games are offered. Try a theme party like a wine or chocolate swap. These kinds of events can be held at a member’s home or at some other location like a school or church room.

Cultivate the Flame through Leadership:
Leaders are not born overnight, rather they come up through the ranks of membership. It’s the responsibility of those currently in leadership positions to find ways to develop new leaders. This can be accomplished through peer mentoring, how-to sessions, speakers from outside your chapter, etc. Most importantly, you must provide your members with opportunities to work in leadership roles. Allow your members to work on projects, give them the tools and resources to succeed and be liberal with your praise and appreciation. Think democracy and transparency. Too many of us fall into the trap of doing rather than delegating.

Spread the FLAME through Advocacy:
Since advocacy is one of the biggest reasons for PCB and its chapters, let’s see if we can’t make advocacy fun and truly for all. Impress upon your fellow members that advocacy is not just legislative. It’s as simple as getting out into your community strutting your stuff with your cane or service animal. It’s asking for a Braille or large print menu in a restaurant and, it’s answering the many questions from the public about your vision loss.

Do your best to make legislative advocacy less daunting. If your members want to advocate with public officials, make sure they have the tools and resources to succeed. Give them talking points or write a letter together as a group. Encourage partnering with a friend to visit a legislator or attend a public meeting.

Create group advocacy opportunities. Go to the voting polls as a group and exercise your right to vote using the accessible voting machines. Go as a group to an audio described movie or play. Plan a group shopping trip to a mall or an accessible tour to a local site. Be sure to have time during chapter meetings to celebrate individual and group successes.

Nurture the Flame through Mentoring:
Recognize that your experienced members have institutional knowledge and that it is up to them to share this knowledge with new comers and younger members. Mentoring need not be formal, rather it should be a peer-to-peer relationship where friends share ideas, information, and experiences for their mutual benefit. Make sure that a seasoned member is available to sit with new members as they come to meetings. The goal is to establish a cycle of mentoring within your chapter whereby those who are new to vision loss build self confidence in order to eventually mentor the next generation of those new to vision loss. Reach out to the Local Intermediate Unit, the BBVS office or local blindness organization and offer your members as peer support for students/clients or others adjusting to vision loss.

Feed the Flame Through Engagement:
The most important thing here to remember is that engagement is meeting people where they are and finding meaningful ways to make an impact in their lives. Actively seek feedback and ideas from members to assure you are meeting everyone’s needs. Invite all to be part of the conversation. Develop activities that are designed to get to know your members, their strengths and talents. Keep members engaged in the chapter between meetings through fun events, email lists, phone calls etc.

Engage through advocacy and education by involving your community. Hold white cane safety events, do a fundraiser with a service organization. Overall, allow your community to learn about your vision loss, your challenges and capabilities.

Encourage engagement through the statewide peer network by informing members of topical discussion calls, encourage attendance at the statewide conference and convention, be sure all your members are receiving The PCB Advocate in their preferred format and let them know that PCB offers mentors for those who are interested.

So, you get the picture, to keep current members and recruit new members, you absolutely must tend to the FLAME: Fun, Leadership, Advocacy, Mentoring and Engagement.

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