The Braille Monitor                                                                                         July, 2002

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Motivating Chapter Members

by Nancy Burns

From the Editor: The following good advice appeared in the Fall/Winter 2001 issue of the NFBC Journal, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Nancy Burns is the affiliate president, with years of experience in chapter and affiliate work. This is what she says:

The topic of motivation is an ongoing concern for all chapter presidents and officers. As a result of participating in many discussions and workshops on the subject, I present the following information and suggestions.

Involvement

Nancy Burns
Nancy Burns

It is extremely important to keep every chapter member interested and motivated. Our common goals often provide this impetus, but from time to time circumstances may arise which require some additional thought on the part of the officers and members. Perhaps the following information will be of value.

Each of us is a unique individual; yet we share many of the same traits and characteristics. We each need to be recognized and valued for our accomplishments. The NFB is an organization based on love, understanding, and encouragement. As such, we can each be teachers and mentors in our own right. We may never know how we have affected the life of another person. It is extremely important to keep this thought in mind as we come together in chapter meetings. We need to encourage those members who need such encouragement and to compliment those who are contributing to the success of the chapter.

Reflecting

We also need to look at what we are contributing individually. Are there tasks that we could perform but simply have not volunteered to do? Do we know a blind person we should invite to a chapter meeting but haven't? Conducting a chapter meeting is the responsibility of each of us and not just the president and officers.

If someone has contributed to a specific meeting, don't hesitate to compliment him or her. Be certain the compliment is deserved and sincere. We all love to receive sincere compliments; it validates our worth. If you are able to contribute to a person's sense of self-worth, what a wonderful thing you have done.

A Job for Everyone

The need to be needed is a common characteristic. Be sure that every member of your chapter has a responsibility. Not only does this get all members involved, but it creates cohesiveness within the chapter. A good president delegates, and there are always tasks to be done in order for the meeting to run smoothly. If each member feels his or her job is important, the person will perform to the best of his or her ability.

A good president and board should pay close attention to every member and acknowledge attendance. With larger groups this may be more difficult, but indicate to the group that each person's attendance is appreciated. Don't take your membership for granted.

When a chapter enters into a new project, it is a good policy for the president to ask the group for advice and suggestions. Listen to people's ideas. If the entire group feels involved from the beginning, the members are more likely to participate in the project. Remember, involvement is the key.

Members who feel they have no voice in chapter meetings or projects will probably drop out. By taking the time to ask others for their advice, you have made this project their project.

Dealing with Difficult People

Occasionally a difficult person begins attending meetings--the person who constantly criticizes, complains, but rarely contributes. This presents a challenge and a test of our human-relations skills.

The obvious behavior to avoid is openly to criticize or in any way to demean that person in public. We must carefully watch our own attitude when working with such a person. If we enter a conversation believing it will be difficult, it certainly will be. It may take some time and effort, but you can generally find some positive attribute in such a person that can be acknowledged and nurtured. Keep trying to involve the difficult person, and if anything positive occurs, give a sincere compliment.

I hope that you will read and give careful consideration to these suggestions and that you can implement them. Good luck to each of you in your important Federation responsibilities.

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