Chapter Two: Free Bulletin Boards and Calendar Listings

In this chapter, we will discuss all types of free and low-cost bulletin boards and calendars where your affiliate or chapter can get listed.  We say free and low-cost, but all of the examples we include are free listings.  None of them cost any of our affiliates anything.  When you are working with a very limited budget, free is very good!

 
Most cities and counties have numerous types of free bulletin board outlets and places where listings of ACB affiliate and chapter meetings and special events can be publicize. Since ACB chapters focus on blindness and vision loss needs, chapters need to keep their meeting schedules in numerous media outlets so they are available when someone needs them.
 
Publicity does need to be planned well in advance. Most media companies require from one to four weeks notice of a meeting or special activity listing, unless you publish it online. You must remember to include a catchy title of your monthly program or special speaker, so it is more likely to attract readers or listeners to your announcement. Even if some visually impaired or blind people don't read the newspaper, listen to TV or radio, or see bulletin boards in the community, friends and family may pass on information about your ACB chapter meetings or special events.
 
Online listings are generally more accessible for blind computer users, so your chapter or affiliate should try to find relevant web sites to post event listings. Ask other organizations in your community where they post listings.
 

Radio, TV, and Cable Systems

In your area, there will most likely be several radio stations.  Depending on the size of your city or town, there might even be several TV stations and more than one cable supplier that have local business and organization directories and/or community calendars.  If you are a non-profit organization, like an ACB affiliate or chapter, you can submit information about your organization, including an event or activity to be listed free on such directories or calendars.  Often you must submit your information at least one, and sometimes two, weeks in advance.  So, it requires a little advanced planning on your part. 
 
Some TV networks and cable companies have a scrolling screen covering coming events. You should call your local stations to find out what is available. The policies of these stations also vary from community to community. The size of an announcement is generally very limited on the screen: organization, date, time, and place. Some allow a contact phone number.
 

Example

The South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind (SCKCB) holds an “Assistive Technology Night” twice a year.  It is open to the public and is meant to serve two primary purposes: 1) to educate the public about what is available to help blind and low-vision people with their everyday lives, and 2) to identify potential new members with the objective of enticing them into joining the SCKCB.  The SCKCB engages in several methods for getting the word out to its target audiences, including sending the following information out to all of the local radio and TV stations and the local cable company that have community calendar listings available.  Each station is addressed individually like this:
 
Will you please include the following announcement on your WBKO Community Calendar?
 
The South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind is cordially inviting everyone to our Technology Exhibit to be held at the Alive Center in Bowling Green, Tuesday night, February 8, starting at 7:00.  The exhibit will feature all types of devices designed to assist blind and low-vision people of all ages, such as talking computers, blood pressure monitors, household scales, watches, clocks, cell phones, all types of magnifying devices, and much, much more.  There will also be a drawing for a $100 gift certificate.  For more information, go to the SCKCB web site at http://www.sckcb.org or call Erica Cutright, Program Director, (270) 555-1234. 
 
These free community calendars work and get results.  They are an excellent guerrilla marketing method to include in your arsenal of tools for promoting your affiliate or chapter.
 
Radio, TV network, and cable stations now often have a web site where calendars of events are placed. One benefit is that events can more easily be added and deleted as necessary. Also, many allow more listings of meetings and events than these stations would generally accept.
 

Example

The North Dakota Association of the Blind monthly support meeting (chapter) announcements are posted on the online listings on the web sites of the four major TV and radio broadcast networks. They have an extensive list of local media outlets and they update it on a regular basis.
 

Newspapers (in print listings and online)

Most local newspapers have columns of weekly or monthly events. They will usually allow the name of the organization, the name of the main speaker and/or program title, the time, the date, and the place of the meeting or event. In cases where your ACB chapter has been able to involve a more famous or public figure, the local paper may provide a larger space.  While some newspapers charge for items to be published, most allow free postings for non-profit groups.  Since there are varied policies regarding the space allowed for free listings, contact your local newspapers.
 
Many newspapers now have much of their content online. They allow calendars of events and regular meetings. Call your local newspapers and ask about the various options available and take advantage of them. Web site listings can more easily be changed and updated.
 

Example

The North Dakota Association of the Blind said that their local newspapers have their own online listings and their monthly support group's (chapter's) announcements are posted monthly. The largest of the newspapers is at forumcomm.com. Their monthly meeting announcements also appear in the print edition of the three different local papers.
 

Churches (in church bulletins, on bulletin boards and online)

Many churches allow special event and regular meeting listings for non-profit organizations, particularly if you have members participating in the church on a regular basis. While listings in the bulletin might not be allowed unless your event takes place in your church, most churches do allow members to place them on the bulletin board. Some have specific guidelines about size and style -- typewritten versus handwritten. Some churches allow volunteer opportunities to be listed on their web site as well as community events. Members should check with their local churches, since each member’s own church would be more likely to offer this option to a member.
 
Some churches may allow listings if they allow outsiders to purchase an ad in the bulletin. Even then, they might first allow members to have this option. Space may be limited for these ads.
 

Examples

The Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind places announcements in the church newsletter. When the state convention was held in Nashville, they placed a request for volunteers for serving meals, orientation assistance, and other needs. They did not use this for events for those with vision loss. They are using this means to publicize a fundraiser concert for Gordon Mote, one of the Gaithers, because they will be using the church sanctuary. They will occasionally ask to have a listing on the “announcement screen,” “Sunday-gram” given to participants, or the bulletin because they do lead a support group in a facility with a tie-in to the church congregational care: a large retirement home called McKendree. It houses cottages for independence as well as apartments for those needing a range of assistance. They publicized a field trip for an audio-described movie.
 

Stores (bulletin boards)

Many stores, particularly grocery stores, have a bulletin board either near restrooms or near the exit. Members of the public can place announcements of events happening in your community as well as personal notes about needs. Ask each store what its policy is. Many allow a listing to be placed for a specific period of time and request it be removed within this time frame.  Remember that these are in public view, so use discretion in placing a personal phone number or a personal address.
 

Examples

The North Dakota Association of the Blind places posters for its annual Walk-a-Thon at all local grocery stores. The wording for their last one is below:
 
Walk for Vision
Life Goes On After the Big E
 
Today about 3,700 North Dakotans cannot read the big E on the eye chart due to blindness; another 9,300 of our state’s residents are visually impaired. North Dakota Association of the Blind invites you to join us for our 13th Annual Walkathon.
Saturday, April 30th, 2011
Registration - 9:00 a.m.
NDSU Bison Sports Arena
 
Visit ndab.org for online donations and information, or contact Allan Peterson 282-4644 or Missy Miller 298-8091.
 
Honorary Chair, NDSU Bison Athletic Director Gene Taylor
Supplemental funding provided from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
 
The Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind has placed flyers of upcoming events on the Kroger and Publix grocery store bulletin boards. They have also placed listings asking for a sighted assistant/guide for a blind person for golfing.
 

Service Centers, Including Commissions for the Blind (bulletin boards and online)

Some public service centers and organizations allow listings of meetings and special events on a bulletin board or web site. Many Departments for the Blind will allow you to publicize your event as well. If you aren’t sure what is available, ask the manager of the facility. Senior centers often have bulletin boards where community events can be posted.
 

Examples

The Arkansas Council of the Blind has a listing on the Department for the Blind web site, so those going through sight loss can contact the organization for needed information.
 
The Tennessee Council of the Blind partners with the Tennessee Disability Coalition so they can post any issue, event, or need on their web site. The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired will include a letter from the Tennessee Council of the Blind in its mailing to patrons. Hands on Nashville will post any event for the Tennessee Council of the Blind and will also place any request for volunteers there as well. (Originally, there were no membership dues for them to belong, but now they are expected to pay annual dues.)
 

Online Directories/Resource Listings

Some communities have online directories which list non-profit organizations that assist people in the community in various ways. Many larger communities have 211 resource lists. Phone companies often have online listings. Often, non-profit organizations can be listed for free. However, more are charging for listings, so make sure you ask whether it is free before joining a resource list.
 
Some online directories and web sites also list free or low-cost events of non-profit organizations and agencies. Some of these sites also send e-mails to a list of subscribers. Do an Internet search for web sites in your community. Check www.local.com and see if this has cities listed in your area. Call other organizations and ask what online directories might be available in your community.
 

Examples

The Tallahassee chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind is listed on the 211 resource and services list. They are also listed on the InfoUSA list. Both of these lists contacted them to ask if they would be willing to be listed as a resource.
 
The Tennessee Council of the Blind is listed in the directory compiled by the Tennessee Disability Pathfinders. They are listed as a 211 resource service.
 
In the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County, there is a web site called www.valleynews.com, where any user can sign up for a free account and add content to the web site whenever it is needed. This calendar of events allows the Glendale-Burbank chapter of the California Council of the Blind to post its meetings to the schedule. (Articles can also be written about any topic and added to this site under the appropriate category. If the local paper thinks the event or article would be of interest to readers, they can pull it from the web site.)
 
The North Dakota Association of the Blind provides a current announcement about their monthly support group meetings (same as chapters) to a community electronic billboard, managed by the city of Fargo at http://cityoffargo.com/.