HOW AFFILIATE WEB SITES CAN REACH NEW MEMBERS AND PUBLICIZE THE AFFILIATE’S EVENTS AND MISSION compiled by Ardis Bazyn

On July 12, the ACB membership and public relations committees held a seminar, "How Affiliate Web Sites Can Reach New Members and Publicize the Affiliate's Events and Mission." After introductions, membership committee chair Ardis Bazyn introduced the panelists: Becky Barnes from Guide Dog Users, Inc., Steve Dresser from Bay State Council of the Blind, and Ardis Bazyn from California Council of the Blind.  They explained what links were available on their sites that would entice or assist members and potential members. All listed chapters/affiliates of their organization; GDUI also had links to chapter web sites. Becky said the individual chapter web sites encouraged visitors to join the individual chapter rather than the affiliate at large. Examples of good content and links on these web sites were links to important legislation or regulations of interest to visitors; informational brochures; convention announcements, programs and audio content; past newsletters; subscription links to e-mail discussion groups and social networking; and contact information for chapters, board members, and committee members.

Ron Milliman, chair of the public relations committee, conducted the second panel: "How Affiliates Can Use Web Sites to Publicize Their Mission, Events, and Fundraising." He introduced the panelists: Ann Chiappetta from Guide Dog Users, Inc., Gaylen Floy from Washington state, and Denny Huff from the Missouri Council of the Blind. First, web site awards were given (see Ronald Milliman's article in an upcoming issue). Ann talked about GDUI's multimedia strategy: e-mail lists and e-blasts, social media, and the web site, with coordinated efforts. Missouri had a sighted person help them revamp their web site to make it visually appealing, which included putting the mission statement up front. Denny suggested sharing the web site link on each e-mail list you have. Missouri also has web site links for each chapter, as well as links to all types of resources of interest to blind people. Convention streams and conference calls are recorded and placed on the web site. PSAs include web site information. Gaylen said that evaluating your web site is very important; check to see how many visitors checked out the web site. The number of hits will let you know if more than just members are checking your site. Attention-getting words on the links will get folks to read them. Personal stories should be included on your site to encourage those losing their sight.    GDUI has a publication committee with three writers who know the issues and post the information. Photos are tagged appropriately so they are both visual and accessible. The affiliate needs to know what type of content it wants and needs everyone to work together to keep the site updated. Missouri's webmaster posts all information that is forwarded for placement on the web site after the president OKs it.

Ron recognized the Arizona Council of the Blind for having the most improved web site, since they had recently started from a limited text web site and expanded it. He also suggested that web sites include more photos and visually appealing graphics that include alt-tags, such as photos of scholarship winners, events in the city, and award recipients.

The winner of the Affiliate Growth Award was the Nevada Council of the Blind. Their consistent networking with local groups throughout the state led to them having the highest percent of growth and the highest number of new members. We congratulate them for their persistence.

Thanks to each affiliate who sent at least one representative to attend the seminar. We encourage each affiliate to attend our quarterly focus calls. If your affiliate does not have someone on the membership e-mail list, please let Ardis Bazyn know who you'd like added. Send an e-mail to abazyn@bazyncommunications.com and include your affiliate name, the name of the membership representative(s) you'd like added, and the e-mail address(es).