Braille Monitor October 2006
From the Editor: What follows is a new feature. It will continue as long as members, chapters, and affiliates find it useful enough to contribute material.
We in the Federation know well the truth of the saying, "We all do better when we all do better." When one of us succeeds in a job or earns widespread recognition for an achievement, more opportunities become available to all of us. Conversely, when one blind person is denied proper training or opportunity, all of our lives are affected.
As it is in our individual lives, so it is in the organized blind movement. We in the Federation are determined to act as one collective body. When all our component parts are vital, healthy, and working together, the whole body thrives. When one state affiliate gains influence, establishes innovative new programs, or sees an increase in membership, the whole Federation becomes stronger and more influential.
For this reason we are offering a new feature in the Braille Monitor. "Spotlight" will be a regular addition to our monthly magazine. You will find it filled to the brim with practical advice on many of the issues we all face as we seek to improve our affiliates and chapters, including suggestions for how to increase our membership, how to develop the next generation of leaders, and how to share our positive message about blindness effectively with the public.
We are most effective as a movement when we share our knowledge and wisdom with one another. The tips, ideas, and suggestions in "Spotlight" will come from Federationists in chapters and affiliates around the country, and we want to hear from you. If your chapter or affiliate has a success story that should be shared, please contact Joanne Wilson, executive director of affiliate action, at <[email protected]>. You can find other useful resources for strengthening chapters and affiliates on the affiliate action team's Web page at <www.nfb.org>. Click on "Members" and then "Member Information." We hope that "Spotlight" will prove useful to every affiliate and every chapter across the country as we continue to work together to change what it means to be blind.
The NFB--Recruitment and Membership
by Allen Harris
During my years in the Federation, people have asked, "Can I recruit new members into our Federation?" My response is always, "only if you will." Each of us in the NFB can recruit new members and can work with our members to strengthen their interest and participation in our organization. In fact, it is our responsibility to share our organization with anyone who may be interested and who may add to our collective strength.
I would like each of us to consider three points when thinking about recruiting new members and supporting them as they become part of our organization:
1. All of us can be effective recruiters of new members, and we should use our personal characteristics and strengths to be successful.
2. Recruitment need not be a daunting task. We should think of recruiting new members as the ongoing opportunity to find one person at a time.
3. We should remember that we have a common characteristic; we are blind. We should regard each person as someone who can benefit from and contribute to the success of the NFB.
I believe the success we have recruiting new members begins with an individual commitment to building our organization; recruitment is not reserved for a few leaders. Each of us knows other blind people or will meet them over time, and we should regard every blind person we know as a potential member. Each of us possesses certain strengths and characteristics that make us good recruiters. In fact my style may not be successful with one prospective member while you quite naturally work effectively with that person. So get started and work to develop your ability to help bring new people into the Federation.
It is important to approach recruitment as a one-at-a-time process. Though outreach campaigns can be effective, there is no substitute for very personal efforts to work with prospective members and help them learn about our organization. If each of us finds one person, each-one-bring-one, we will continue to bring new people into our organization. They in turn will bring talent to our efforts. Each time you meet a blind person or for that matter any person who you know is not a member of the NFB, begin to plan for his or her participation--the next chapter meeting, a fundraising opportunity, a public outreach event, and so on. If you are able to get a person to participate in an activity sponsored by the NFB, be sure to follow up to plan the next opportunity. If each of us takes on this responsibility one person at a time, we will change lives, increase our membership, and strengthen our organization.
Finally, it is important to remember that we all have blindness in common, and we should not limit our recruitment of new members to a certain few. The NFB is a diverse group of individuals who happen to be blind, and any attitude that restricts our efforts to bring new people into the movement is not consistent with our commitment to every blind person. We want to see everyone who is blind, without regard for his or her place in society, to benefit from and have the chance to contribute to our Federation. This has been and must continue to be a characteristic of the NFB that has made us strong, diverse, and representative in our work on blindness issues.
It is also important to remember that, while everyone should be seen as a prospective member, you should be able to recognize when it is time to move on. In other words, invest time and energy in individuals who show signs of interest and willingness to participate. When it is clear to me that my efforts to bring a person into the NFB have not been successful, I must move on. Joanne Wilson was one of those who helped me understand that our future depends on finding members who want to build the NFB and not to trouble about those who indicate that they would not or could not participate effectively. She told me, "There are more where they came from." We all have limits on our time and energy, so it is important to use these resources well.
Think carefully about how to recruit new members effectively, and develop a strategy that works for you. You may not find my approach to new members one with which you are comfortable, but you can develop an approach that is uniquely yours. Each of us is responsible for building our membership, and finding and developing new members one at a time will help us grow and become more effective at our work. Being inclusive in our recruitment efforts will insure our continued ability to be representative in our work and to benefit from the broadest range of ideas and possibilities. For me, the NFB is an easy gift to share with others because our success on behalf of blind people is extraordinary. I find it a joy to approach prospective members since everyone can benefit from and contribute to our strength as a movement.
Most of us are active in the Federation today because NFB members reached out to us, befriended us, answered our questions, and said just the right thing that made us want to be a part of the organization. And, though we want in turn to reach out to other blind people, sometimes we find it difficult to know just what to say to someone who has reservations about the organization or even about blindness itself. Below are some suggestions for ways we can respond to the common questions and reservations we encounter as we extend a hand to other blind people.
1. What does the NFB do?
2. I'm not a joiner.
3. I don't get involved in politics.
4. I'm not blind.
5. The NFB is radical.
6. The NFB opposes dog guides.
7. The NFB opposes audible traffic signals.
8. I can't get to meetings.
9. How do I join?
Other Useful Tips
An Overview of Planned Giving
Making a charitable gift is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Here are some of the special giving programs available through the National Federation of the Blind.
The National Federation of the Blind is a service organization specializing in providing the help to blind people that is not readily available to them from government programs or other existing service systems. The services of the NFB are specially designed to meet the needs of all blind people. By maintaining a widespread campaign of public education, advocating for the rights of blind children and their families, administering scholarship and mentoring programs for blind youth, providing financial and other specialized assistance, conducting seminars on blindness, evaluating and developing accessible technology, and providing information and services to senior citizens so that they can adjust to vision loss and live more accessible and independent lives, the NFB is changing what it means to be blind.
We will be happy to provide you with further information about the National Federation of the Blind or any of these giving opportunities. Please call or write us at:
National Federation of the Blind
Department of Outreach Programs
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2406