compiled by Ardis Bazyn
On this focus call, participants discussed how to involve students and younger members in chapters/affiliates. Their ideas and suggestions are below.
When young people join your chapter or affiliate, mentor them. Ask them to assist with social media and other activities. Teach them how to take on responsibilities in your chapter. If they volunteer to create an activity, allow them to do so without negative chatter about trying it in the past. Let them feel valued instead of shooting down ideas.
To find younger members, start by following Facebook sites where younger people tend to go. Write posts of interest to young people, inviting them to meet-ups, game nights, or technology groups. If one is near you, plan activities with the local school for the blind. Contact the instructor of the school to offer a joint activity. Invite young people to Facebook pages which might be of interest.
Some blind parents invited their visually impaired children to attend activities with them. Those blind children invited other blind students to attend activities. Because of friendships, others attended. Having activities between meetings might interest other students more. Holding family-friendly game nights and connecting with teachers for the visually impaired might boost attendance. Use agencies for the blind to share event information. Inviting young people to share activities online would make more aware of your group, especially about game nights, bowling outings, descriptive movies, etc.
Ask students what hot topics are of interest to young people — tech training, iPhone training, or audio-described movies and plays. Have socials such as Bingo events. Ask for input through conference calls or email. Follow up with those interested in assisting with projects.
If your affiliate has a scholarship program, engage them once they have received the award. Create ways to follow up. Ask about their journey, invite them to apply again, and make sure they are aware of local meetings, events, and fun activities. When inviting young people to apply for a scholarship, remind them affiliation is not required. Invite those who didn’t get a scholarship to apply again and visit your chapter or affiliate events. Invite scholarship winners to speak at your local chapter about their schooling, goals, etc. Reach out to applicants and invite them to your convention. Follow up with past scholarship winners and invite them to speak about their jobs at a local meeting. Interview or ask a scholarship winner to write an article for your newsletter.
Contact disabled student services departments in high schools and colleges to let them know about your scholarships and activities of interest to students. Place events on student center bulletin boards. Post on college Facebook pages, meet-up sites, and Facebook groups. Invite young people to ACB Next Generation’s Facebook group. Post appropriate comments.
Check with volunteer opportunity sites and create a description of your group to get your name out there. Delta Gamma might have volunteers to assist with social media. If younger people do attend, find how they learned about you. Retention is important, so make sure to ask what sorts of speakers and events they’d enjoy. You could also ask them to share tech tips.
You could hold a food drive for your local pantry, with a drawing for those who donate. Prizes could be two tickets to an event, or something similar. Some younger people have ideas but need to learn how to follow through with their proposed event. Place them under someone’s wing to help them get the activity going. It can be a small group activity. Identify ways for people to assist in a project. Ask them to participate rather than waiting for someone to volunteer. This will give them confidence. You can have virtual meetings, since transportation may be an issue. Share the benefits of membership.
Food is always a draw for any meeting or event. Connecting with current and new members and inviting new people is important. Everyone wants to know what is happening. Having an email list, phone call list, and a Facebook page to share what is happening in the blindness community and in your chapter/affiliate is necessary in today’s busy world.
Offer something for young people to do that integrates them into your chapter: game night, outings such as bowling, movies, etc., your picnic or holiday party, training or discussion group on technology such as the iPhone (these can be in conjunction with your meeting, a separate face-to-face event, or via conference call). Make newcomers feel welcomed. Be sure they’re not sitting by themselves at events. Have a follow-up plan to connect with them. Find out their interests, then connect them with a committee or activity. Share information about ACB Next Gen or ACB Students. Ask their thoughts on a topic or for suggestions for things to do or special speakers.
At your state or special-interest convention, provide a good mix of topics and activities on your program. Ask state agencies for the blind to advertise your convention. Share information in advance on social media. Have a way for people to connect with others at the convention. Follow up with first-time attendees and connect them with their local chapters or special-interest affiliates.