compiled by Ardis Bazyn

The summer membership focus call was held Aug. 21, and it focused on outreach to students. Although all of the ideas could be used for any audience, many strategies were generated around getting student involvement.

Has your affiliate provided children's programs at conventions? Also, children's activities would expose visually impaired children to visually impaired adults. Joint youth activities during your convention could be both educational and recreational. Golfing, goalball, bowling, and swimming are good recreation options as well as a game night or pizza party. Adults and youth could have lunch together in between the various sessions. A talent show might encourage participation from both youth and adults. A reception for scholarship winners is another way to link members with students winning the awards.

Your affiliate could have a mentoring program where visually impaired members are linked with visually impaired youth or other newly blinded adults. You could have a career fair as part of your convention. In this way, students and adults looking for work could be attracted to your convention. When you invite prospective exhibitors, why not consider ones that might be more applicable to youth? A career or employment panel could alert students to various possibilities in employment. If your affiliate doesn't currently have a junior membership for those under 18, it could consider adding this option.

How does your affiliate handle first-timers at conventions or other activities? Do you have a first-timer seminar or meeting of some type? Whether it is a breakfast or a simple seminar, it is important to have a time for first-timers to learn about your organization and how membership would be a benefit for them. You should allow enough time for them to ask questions. Your affiliate could provide a buddy for first-timers who could meet with them when they arrive or meet after the first-timers seminar. You could have a place on your pre-registration form for a person to request a buddy for their first convention.

Some activities during your conventions or during the year could provide a way to link up with other visually impaired students and adults. How about having a Braille Literacy weekend? How about having a barbecue or cookout, or a beach or pool party? Or you could hold a youth advocacy and career weekend, emphasizing the importance of self-advocacy and assertiveness in reaching your career goals. Other seminars on topics such as researching on the Internet, public speaking, instruction on computer programs, mobility issues, GPS systems, traveling with a guide dog, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and others might encourage additional participation. Advocacy training events or legislative seminar weekends might help members feel comfortable contacting their legislators or local officials about needed changes in services or legislation.

State agencies should be given your organization's brochures to send to their clients. Both organizations (ACB and NFB) should be able to have their brochures disseminated to all visually impaired clients. You should encourage officials from your state agency to attend your convention so they can understand how your organization's events could benefit their clients. Your members should volunteer to speak to clients at your state orientation center. You could talk about laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination. Also discuss such issues as insurance companies trying to charge higher rates to the visually impaired. Civil rights pertain to all sorts of issues, including emergency housing. Inform your audience about your advocacy committee or network of members which can assist other visually impaired people in dealing with discrimination issues. Always be sure to include contact information on any handouts given to groups your members attend.

If your affiliate is aware of other groups working with the visually impaired, whether they be youth or adult groups, try to work with them. Contact parent groups, rehabilitation centers, and senior centers and provide them with information on your seminars or activities. There is also a free service available for those who wish to get tips in managing the kitchen; it is called "Ears for Eyes," and may be seen at

Please set aside time to participate on the next membership focus call on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006 at 8 p.m. Eastern (5 p.m. Pacific). The topic will be: "How can chapters use their Christmas/holiday event to attract new members? What do you do now or what can you suggest to others?" The call-in number is 1-866-633-8638 and the pass code will be the date (111906).

Sunday, January 21 will be the date of the following call. The topic for January will be "New strategies for the new year: What should we do differently to attract new members in this new year?" The time for this call will also be 8 p.m. Eastern. See you next time!

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