compiled by Ardis Bazyn
On this focus call, participants shared ideas on having a plan for recruitment. Most chapters and affiliates start gathering dues for the upcoming year in the fall. Some send a letter to members and others on their database, telling about the past year’s accomplishments and the purpose and goals for the future. This letter reminds readers to send in dues on time. Participants agreed that recruitment is an ongoing process rather than a one-time plan.
In an effort to reach as many blind people as possible, the Washington affiliate has developed focus calls on a variety of topics of interest to blind people. These calls involve both issues and interests on an ongoing basis, hoping to gain and retain members. Some topics discussed include books, technology, and employment.
When discussing outreach, some folks suggested sending a letter about your chapter or affiliate and asking the state library to send it to their mailing list. Letters can be also sent to colleges and high schools, telling of a speaker that might interest young people or informing them about scholarships. Some Dial-a-Ride and paratransit companies may also be willing to send a letter to constituents if requested. Some places may have a recorded message on their phone service and may be willing to mention an upcoming meeting or event of interest on it. Some chapters and affiliates use e-mail discussion lists and Facebook to share events and meetings with those in the community. An event can be posted on Facebook; be sure to ask for RSVPs. If you want to draw in more young people, social media is the way to gain more visibility. You can share a link online or share your brochure link on your web site.
Your chapter or affiliate could also plan to attend events in the community, such as health fairs and other county-wide events. If one of your members, or family members, is a nurse, you could offer blood-pressure screening and give away sanitizers with a business card that has your chapter contact information and meeting place and time on it. One chapter was able to get sanitizers donated from a local hospice. You could create or locate a brochure on diabetes, since it’s a leading cause of blindness in adults. Other items you could hand out include Band-Aids, pens, pocket packs of tissues, key chains, or check or signature writing guides. You can find a local dollar store to get cheap items to distribute. Affix a label to it, or attach a letter to it with a rubber band.
Ophthalmologists may have a low-vision event and have tables showing aids including magnifiers, low- and high-tech items, and braille alphabet cards. You could provide a helpful telephone list of local and state numbers of agencies and organizations that can assist people who have low vision, including your chapter and contact information. You can also share information about affordable computers from Computers for the Blind, radio reading services (if available in your area), and Newsline offerings. A list of local resources, such as companies that deliver meals, do house cleaning, pick up dry cleaning, or offer repair services, would be helpful too. You could hand out these lists when you attend local blindness support groups or visit nursing homes, local senior centers, and organizations that assist other people with disabilities.
Many more people are multiply disabled. Through networking in a variety of groups, both business and non-profit, you’ll likely meet folks who know other blind or visually impaired people. You can recommend they join an e-mail list to receive and share information of interest. When you’re talking to groups, talk about audio description in museums, theaters, and movies. Invite others to an audio-described show at a local theater.
Some affiliates and chapters hold a quarterly meeting for those who cannot regularly attend a meeting. If you visit a blindness support group, follow up with an article about the visit. To retain members, use phone trees, e-mail discussion lists, listservs, and provide greeters at each meeting. Introductions help others know if guests are in attendance. You could ask each person to introduce his/her neighbor at a meet-and-greet event so they intentionally get to know someone new.
Partner with a Lions Club or independent living center for a lunch-and-learn event displaying computers and low-vision aids. You can distribute business cards/flyers with your web site and phone number, and give the free program NVDA on a flash drive to a newly blind person. When new members join, they should be given an orientation to the chapter, a description of what’s available, such as scholarships, your annual convention, the national convention, local activities and state and national ones. Connecting the dots between levels of the organization shows the full value of membership. Be sure to share your contact information immediately when meeting a new blind person, so you can follow up and they can call you.