compiled by Ardis Bazyn

The 2009 ACB membership seminar took place on Thursday, July 9. The title of the seminar was Strengthening Affiliates through Networking and Training." The first panel discussed the importance of leadership development. Panel members were: Sally Benjamin from the Florida Council of the Blind, Denise Colley from the Washington Council of the Blind, and Donna Pomerantz from the California Council of the Blind. Each explained the way their affiliate has handled leadership training.

Donna explained that CCB had a leadership seminar immediately before the beginning of the state convention. A leadership seminar has taken place at several recent state conventions. Different speakers would talk about a variety of topics from duties of officers of chapters, advocacy, fundraising, publicity, etc. Presidents were asked on the bimonthly calls and the CCB presidents' listserv what topics they thought were important. Since these were held before the normal convention activities, most participants did not need to stay an extra night in the hotel. Participants were limited to a maximum of two from each state chapter/affiliate. Some participants were currently officers in those groups and some were not. The only negative to this approach was that it limited participants to those already planning to attend the convention unless a chapter/affiliate chose to sponsor a member.

Denise said that WCB holds a weekend leadership training that is not connected with their annual convention. It gives them the ability to have more time to spend on the training. They have a different national speaker come in to assist each year. Their training focuses on duties of officers, advocacy, setting goals, fundraising, etc. They also conduct a quarterly board meeting during this weekend so the potential leaders can see how a meeting functions. Each invited participant is sponsored (hotel, meals, and transportation) by WCB. Washington also has invited potential leaders in surrounding states to attend their training. The only negative aspect to this training weekend is that potential leaders need to be invited to attend, since expenses are covered for members.

Sally Benjamin told how FCB uses its monthly presidents calls to hold training sessions. This does not cost the state organization any money and many participants can attend. Each month they hold a call which focuses on a specific topic that will assist their presidents and other officers in learning how to function better. They asked Ardis Bazyn to join two calls: one to explain the duties of the president and vice president(s) and a second call about duties for the secretary and treasurer. The only negative effect of this training is that each individual on the call must pay for their own long-distance fees if they do not have an unlimited use package on their phone.

The second panel discussed power in networking with others. Dan Dillon from the Tennessee Council of the Blind and Allan Peterson from the North Dakota Association of the Blind mentioned various organizations that have had joint projects with them. Dan stated that their local chapter is a member organization of Community Shares, which is a federation like United Way. They give presentations to workplaces, encouraging charitable giving. Each member organization has to earn points to be in good standing. For example, doing workplace presentations about their organization earns points, as does assisting with fundraisers. Their organization gets a percentage of all the undesignated funds and all the specifically designated funds for their organization. It benefits them financially, as well as making more people aware of Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind and its many programs and services. Some of the other member groups involved in Community Shares include: Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Cumberland River Compact, Tennessee Healthcare Campaign, and MANNA and Reconciliation. MTCB is also a member organization of the Tennessee Disability Coalition. We primarily focus on state legislation and policies impacting disability groups. By participating in various events, we make our voices heard louder by our collective efforts.

Allan talked about various projects throughout the state that NDAB had worked on with other disability organizations. Some were community projects and others were fighting for better legislation. Other participants mentioned organizations where they had worked on joint projects. The S.O.S. state voting advisory committees was one on which several states had worked. Other states work with coalitions on legislation that would cut health care for people with disabilities. Many worked with a number of disability advocacy groups and city and state Commissions on Disability.

Donna Brown was introduced as the delegate from the Mountain State Council of the Blind, since that affiliate was the winner of the ACB Affiliate Membership Growth Award. They tripled their membership during the last year. Paul Edwards, chair of the board of publications and a member of the web site task force, then gave an update on the status of the ACB web site and the changes that were being made. He suggested that everyone check it out and let the committee know if they would like to make suggestions.

The membership committee appreciated the strong participation from affiliates who attended the seminar and their comments on the topics. Watch for our next quarterly ACB Membership Focus call. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions about building membership in your affiliate; my e-mail address is [email protected], or phone (818) 238-9321.

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