2011 ACB Membership Seminar: Exploring How Affiliates Can Reach New Members

by Ardis Bazyn

The ACB membership committee had two interesting panels at the 2011 membership seminar. The first, "How Affiliates Use Social Networking," had the following speakers: Richard Rueda (Council of Citizens with Low Vision International), Natalie Beyers (ACB's Twitter administrator), Kerri Regan (National Alliance of Blind Students, now American Council of the Blind Students), and Bob Lichtenfels (Pennsylvania Council of the Blind). Each spoke about how social networking has allowed their organization to network with members and others outside it.

The second panel was called "How Affiliates Can Support Students to Attend National Convention." Speakers were Sara Conrad (ACB Students) and Brenda Dillon (Tennessee Council of the Blind). Sara explained how the ACB Students would like to work with affiliates in setting up funding for sending students to national convention. Either an affiliate could plan to do this on its own or work with other affiliates to send one. Brenda discussed how affiliates could plan special fund-raisers for this purpose. Another option would be for affiliates to solicit sponsorships targeted for this project.

The presidents of the affiliates winning the ACB Affiliate Growth Awards were then introduced. The affiliate with the largest percentage of membership increase this year was the Nevada Council of the Blind, increasing their membership by 78.9 percent, from 57 to 102 members. Rick Kuhlmey said their affiliate members spent extra time speaking to other groups in the community about their organization. The affiliate that recruited the largest number of new members was the Utah Council of the Blind with 247 new members. Linda Collins explained the programs their affiliate offers, especially funds for readers and transportation, which make their affiliate appealing. The following handout was disseminated at the seminar.

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 state's division of blind 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 and suggest distributing your meeting information as well as a resource list.

- Contact your local senior centers, assistive living facilities, 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).

- 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 cassettes 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.

- Check the ACB web site for more helpful resources for this age group. We have a list of program ideas and blindness-related resources.