By Sue Lichtenfels, PCB President
As we are all aware of by now, the PCB Conference and Convention (the conference) is coming up October 18-21, 2018. If the usual statistics hold true, approximately one-third of our members will enjoy the conference weekend in person. All but one or two of our chapters will provide support for the event. Dozens of team members and leaders will pull together to accomplish the many jobs that go into creating an enjoyable conference experience for all. Member participation, chapter support, and hard-working volunteers are all essential for conference success. Imagine how much more effective and impactful PCB could be if we had this level of involvement year-round.
It’s a good thing so many of our members participate in our annual conference. Members need other members to participate, otherwise, they can’t socialize, reconnect, and make new friends. Members functioning independently all weekend demonstrates our mission to the hotel staff and other guests. We rely on member participation to fundraise at the conference through the live auction and the room-rate raffle. Even chapters use the conference crowd for fundraising. Members who visit the exhibits are important because an empty exhibit area won’t draw vendors back next year. The way our organization is structured, it’s the members participating in the conference that make many of the governing decisions through elections, bylaw amendments, resolutions, and budget approval. For sure, a conference with a very low level of member participation would be a waste of time and money.
Member participation is just as important to the year-round offerings of PCB as it is to the conference weekend. By participating, members improve the quality of our peer offerings and make them more useful to others experiencing vision loss. The very nature of the peer network relies on members participating and engaging with other members. Through participation members can give support, get support, can unite to accomplish great things. Members can increase their year-round engagement with PCB by joining peer discussion calls to share experiences and learn something new; submitting items for publication in The PCB Advocate quarterly newsletter and reading what other members have written; using the PCB Information Line and/or the PCB listservs to keep informed and help others stay abreast of blindness-related happenings; supporting all advocacy efforts impacting people with vision loss, even when the member may not be directly affected by it; and attending chapter meetings and PCB open house calls to provide feedback, make suggestions, and lend a hand. The “Getting to Know Us” booklet we distributed to all members over the summer describes many ways to actively participate in PCB. Without member participation, our peer offerings are useless.
Chapter support has become extremely important to our annual conference. This year, we have received financial sponsorship commitments from the following chapters: York for the trivia night, Lehigh Valley for the first-timer’s breakfast, Philadelphia Metro for the audio darts event, Golden Triangle for tour transportation, Hank Bloomberg for the banquet, and Philadelphia Regional for the Sunday breakfast. We can always count on our chapters to donate great auction prizes, interesting goodie bag items, and generous door prizes. Some chapters facilitate the attendance of their members through stipends, subsidies, or group transportation arrangements. Chapter support is a key component of conference success.
Likewise, it is paramount that chapters and their leaders play an active role in supporting PCB throughout the year. When we share information about upcoming discussion calls and advocacy initiatives, chapter leaders need to encourage their members to actively participate. When PCB leadership holds its every-other-month organizational open house call it is essential that chapter leaders call in, so they can keep their members in the loop about what’s happening. We need chapter support to engage members on the local level through speakers, fun activities, advocacy projects, and the like so they stay interested in the council. Finally, we need chapter leadership’s help especially when it comes to collecting the annual membership fee and getting membership records to the office as early in the year as possible. In fact, it’s time to start renewing for 2019. October 1 is not too early to begin the membership renewal process.
The conference weekend absolutely could not happen without the hard work of many PCB volunteers. Members of the program and planning team make all the arrangements for the hotel facilities, lineup the presenters, pull together all the information for the registration materials, recruit sighted volunteer assistance, and coordinate some events such as the tour, darts, and trivia night. Volunteers from other teams organize their own special events, such as the first-timer’s breakfast, the live auction, and the Saturday luncheon. Other members help in the exhibits, stuff goodie bags, make presentations, assist with the audio and more. This year twelve members have spent countless hours preparing for our post-banquet production. Every year, dozens of PCB members take time away from simply enjoying the conference, to do whatever needs to be done to guarantee its success.
Achieving this same level of volunteer commitment on a year-round basis could completely transform PCB. Currently, PCB has a dedicated corps of about three dozen volunteers who work on our projects and leadership teams throughout the year. Realistically, we could use three times the volunteers because a large portion of these individuals are juggling three or more responsibilities at once. With such limited human resources, we’ve been forced to suspend some projects and scale back on others. As one volunteer recently said, “We just don’t have enough bodies to do all the work.” The following is a sample list of tasks that need additional volunteer support throughout the year: making phone calls to members, marketing the AccessiDocs project, updating our website, writing grant proposals, giving community presentations, editing the newsletter, coordinating advocacy efforts, developing resource lists, contacting potential referral sources, setting up iDevice donation sites, curate content for TheReImage, promoting sales of Loving Touch Connection.com products, cleaning up discussion call recordings for public disbursement, and making perception-changing video clips for social media. It’s evident that we need more member volunteers of all skill levels and abilities. Friends and loved ones with time and talent are welcome to join our work.
Our four-day conference weekend truly is an organization-wide effort. The combination of member participation, chapter support, and volunteer work results in a fantastic event. But what about the other 361 days of our organizational year? Quickly, that feeling of connection and level of involvement seriously fade.
Individual members, I challenge you to step up your participation in PCB’s year-round offerings and resolve in the upcoming year to become more involved in the work of your organization.
Chapter leaders, your members are PCB’s members. Your organization is a member of PCB’s statewide network. Let’s do our best to nurture and respect those relationships throughout the year.
PCB volunteers, you are the hardest working corps of council volunteers across the country. You are amazing, and I truly appreciate your every effort.
All, whether it be winter, spring, summer or fall, Helen Keller’s words ring true throughout the PCB year, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”