by Ardis Bazyn
The membership committee held its most recent focus call on Jan. 27, 2008. The topic was "External Communication: How to use publicity effectively to get more members." The participants on the call outlined the various types of publicity they used. Some affiliates use brochures that are revised as needed, while others just make simple flyers designed for the particular activity. You should try to have your organization listed on 411.com or switchboard.com so people searching for your organization can find you.
Many state lending libraries will send out letters if you give them the letters in various formats to send. If they send out letters for NFB, they need to do the same for ACB affiliates. If possible, meet with students at your orientation center or school for the blind. Offer to speak to the group about what your organization can do for them. Offer to have a booth with your brochures and other items of interest for those students.
Visit senior centers, rehabilitation centers, centers for the blind and visually impaired, talking book centers, independent living centers, doctors and medical centers, colleges and universities, churches, radio reading services, civic centers or organizations, and other appropriate organizations and agencies and give seminars on low vision. Have a booth with your materials and products for them to read. Provide tables on White Cane Safety Day, Braille Literacy Month, or at the same time as a low-vision fair or health fair is being held. Participate in general disability fairs or legislative days at your state capitol.
Call low-vision doctors and hospitals, and state universities to see when they might have special low-vision fairs or clinics and disability days. You might make a float in a local parade so your community is aware you are active. Share booths and tables with other disability groups to save money. Check out senior or disability expos. Some malls may allow you to set up a booth or table to hand out brochures and other materials. Your local Lions Club or doctor's office may offer discounted or free eye exams at a low-vision fair.
You might consider offering diabetes education seminars or classes for senior centers or clinics and hospitals. Members could bring the equipment they use, and other low vision aids might be shown to visitors and participants. You could get gift certificates donated so you can have door prizes for those in attendance.
Provide a regular newsletter for members and friends. It can be quarterly or monthly. The size isn't as important as regularity. It's important to keep your name out in the public. Have extra copies printed so members can give them out at local agencies or organizations. All of the organizations and agencies listed above could receive your newsletter as well as other letters that outline your various ongoing programs and special projects. Fund-raising letters should also be considered publicity and written with information about your most worthwhile projects and services. Always remember to mention any scholarship information. Even if your affiliate doesn't offer any, you can mention ACB.
Send letters and newsletters to donors. Develop a donor list to use. You can start a list by buying a list from a mailing company. You can also start a list from people leaving their addresses or phone numbers on your toll-free line's answering machine and a subscription form on your web site. Acknowledge vehicle donors by sending them a friendly letter and/or your newsletter. Enclose an envelope with any letter, publication, or brochure you send.
Have a press release submitted to radio stations and newspapers whenever you have an event or a newsworthy item. Remember that newspapers and radio stations need your press release at least two weeks ahead of time. Often radio and cable TV stations and newspapers have a calendar of events in which they will put free announcements for community organizations. You can write articles or press releases about your upcoming speakers for chapter meetings or conventions. Also, you can use online calendars or bulletin boards to place your event announcements. Many newspapers have web sites where you can post your community events.
Approach your local rehabilitation boards about the ACB white paper on rehabilitation. Produce a special flyer or brochure on low vision that asks the question: "Do you know someone who has vision problems?" You can provide local information of interest to them regarding transportation, talking books, and other services they may not currently have. Have an "invite a friend" day at your local chapter. Invitations can be given to both sighted and blind friends so more people hear about your organization. Join local listservs and pass on information about your chapter events.
At a state convention, host an afternoon hospitality the first day so those getting there early can meet one another. Of course, evening hospitalities are also good times to mingle and introduce new people to those you already know. Have a picnic or summer barbecue and invite new people. Chapters should make phone calls or send letters in various formats to past members.
One affiliate has placemats made to celebrate White Cane Safety Day and asks local restaurants to use them that month. Each one is ready for kids to color. Coloring books could also be made to pass out to kids -- just four or five pages. These would contain your contact information along with a simple explanation about White Cane Safety Day. You could also encourage restaurants to have braille and large print menus; offer to purchase a couple for them if you have enough funds. Thanks to everyone who shared helpful suggestions.