by Ramona Walhof
Marc Maurer, President
1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Telephone: (410) 659-9314
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
CHAPTER I. HISTORY, PHILOSOPHY, STRUCTURE, AND LEADERSHIP
Section 1. A Brief History
Section 2. NFB Philosophy
Section 3. Constitutions
Section 4. President
Section 5. Role of National President
Section 6. Vice Presidents
Section 7. Secretary
Section 8. Treasurer
Section 9. Board Members
Section 10. Role of National Board
Section 11. NFB Headquarters
Section 12. Campaigning
Section 13. Dues
Section 14. Committees
Section 15. Divisions
Section 16. Groups
CHAPTER II. MEETINGS
Section 17. Local Chapter Meetings
Section 18. Presidential Releases
Section 19. State Conventions
Section 20. National Conventions
Section 21. Resolutions
Section 22. Washington Seminar
CHAPTER III. KEEPING YOURSELF AND OTHERS INFORMED: NFB PUBLICATIONS
Section 23. State and Chapter Publications
Section 24. Free Reading Matter for the Blind Mailing Privilege
Section 25. Braille Monitor
Section 26. Kernel Books
Section 27. Walking Alone and Marching Together
Section 28. Future Reflections
Section 29. Voice of the Diabetic
Section 30. Voice of the Nation’s Blind
Section 31. Annual Report
Section 32. Presidential Report
Section 33. Other NFB Literature You Should Read
CHAPTER IV. STATE AND CHAPTER PROJECTS
Section 34. Advocacy
Section 35. National Legislation
Section 36. State Legislation
Section 37. Agency Relations
Section 38. Public Transportation
Section 39. Reaching out to the Newly Blind
Section 40. Membership Recruitment
Section 41. Leadership Development
Section 42. Project Suggestions
CHAPTER V. FUNDRAISING
Section 43. General Information
Section 44. Chapter and State Fundraising
Section 45. Fundraising Suggestions
Section 46. National Fundraising
Section 47. PAC
Section 48. Imagination Fund
Section 49. SUN
Section 50. Jernigan Fund
Section 51. Contracts with Professional Fundraisers
Section 52. Special Events
Section 54. Fundraising Goals
CHAPTER VI. NFB PROGRAMS AND SERVICES
Section 55. NFB-NEWSLINE®
Section 56. Independence Market
Section 57. International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC)
Section 58. Scholarships
Section 59. NFB Training Centers
CHAPTER VII. PRESS AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
Section 60. Public Service Announcements
Section 61. Press and News Coverage
Section 62. Speaking Engagements
Section 63. Phone Book Listings
Section 64. Web Sites
Section 65. E-mail and Listservs
CHAPTER VIII. MISCELLANEOUS
Section 66. Coalitions
Section 67. Teamwork
Section 68. Looking to the Future
You have just been elected to office in a chapter or state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. You want to do a good job and build a strong chapter. You know a few people in your state and perhaps some from other parts of the country. They are good resources to use, but you do not wish to pester them, and sometimes it is hard to know exactly what questions to ask. You have participated in other organizations, but you know that practices and procedures vary from group to group. What resources are available?
I have met many people in this position. Perhaps most of us were in a similar situation at one time or another. I have also met many people who are faced with a new circumstance and wonder whether they have the experience and knowledge to handle it as well as they would like. Therefore, I have decided to try to help. I am not an authority on everything. However, I would like to share my experience and observations if that is useful.
I have been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for forty years. I served as a state president and on the National Board for more than a decade. I have participated and observed as the organization has grown and become much more complex. I have helped to organize new chapters and state affiliates. I have participated in at least one activity in all but one of our fifty-two affiliates. I have chaired committees at the national, state, and local levels. I have worked at the National Center for the Blind and held office in several different divisions. In my travels and activities, I hear questions that can be answered in a straightforward manner. Yet, no one can know all the answers. Picking answers out of the minds of long-time members is a very inefficient way to obtain information, although it can be a good one.
In this guide, I am attempting to collect as many answers to as many questions as I can. I hope it will prove useful to new leaders. It may also be a reference for those who have been active for some time. As we take new positions and responsibilities, we may find that a piece of information was missed along the way. I am still learning and expect to continue to do so. Therefore, I cannot know all the answers. But I hope I have learned enough to be helpful.
Although this guide is not intended primarily for reading or study from beginning to end, some may choose to use it that way. It is intended as a reference when action is not quite clear. Because this is a reference guide, you will find some repetition when matters are raised in more than one part. If ever there is to be a second edition, comments and suggestions will be welcome.
This guide is not meant to list rules, although when there are requirements, it should help you find them. Rather, it is intended to show practices and precedents that have worked well in the Federation. Sometimes it is impossible to divide requirements from practices. Chapters need not mimic one another. They can borrow ideas from each other, and we are always looking for new ideas and approaches. This guide is an attempt to provide a foundation in what we do and why we do it. New approaches and ideas based on a firm foundation are more likely to work and increase the effectiveness of chapters and state affiliates.
Congratulations on your election. You are welcome in the movement. I hope and believe your experience will be as rich as mine has been and continues to be.Ramona Walhof
back to contents
It would be impossible to include a complete history of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in one section of this little book. The official history of the Federation’s first fifty years, Walking Alone and Marching Together, is over eleven hundred pages long! Nonetheless, it is useful to understand a little about the organization’s history before we discuss its structure and leadership.
The National Federation of the Blind was founded in November 1940, by a law professor named Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and fifteen other individuals representing seven states. Prior to the establishment of the NFB, there had been state organizations of blind people. Dr. tenBroek and the others who founded the Federation recognized, however, that such state organizations would never truly change the plight of blind Americans (which was dire indeed in 1940) without concerted action at the national level. The Federation gradually grew during the 1940s, and more state organizations of the blind joined as affiliates. These years saw the Federation push for and achieve major reform in the Social Security and welfare laws of the United States, thereby ameliorating the abject poverty of most blind Americans at that time. In the early 1950s, Dr. tenBroek met a young man named Kenneth Jernigan, who became Dr. tenBroek’s protégée. In 1958, Jernigan applied for and received the position of director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, which was at that time the worst state agency serving the blind in the nation. Jernigan set about expanding the commission and instituting a training program for blind adults that set the standard for vocational rehabilitation of the blind in this country. Three training centers operated by affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind exist today following the model Dr. Jernigan established in Iowa. Also during the 1950s the Federation fought for improvements in the plight of blind people employed in sheltered workshops, specifically winning the right of such workers to organize and negotiate for better labor conditions with the agencies that employed them. The Federation continued to grow, but some in the organization were jealous of Dr. tenBroek and wanted leadership positions for themselves. Divisions within the organization became so bitter that in 1961, Dr. tenBroek resigned as president to try to calm things down. At that same convention, some of the member affiliates split from the Federation and formed the American Council of the Blind. Over the next few years, however, the Federation regained its momentum, and Dr. tenBroek was reelected to the presidency in 1966. When Dr. tenBroek died tragically of cancer in 1968, Dr. Jernigan was elected president, and he continued to be reelected to that position until 1986. In 1978, he resigned from the Iowa Commission for the Blind and moved to Baltimore, where he spearheaded the purchase and renovation of the building that still serves as part of the national headquarters of the NFB. At the 1985 NFB National Convention, Dr. Jernigan announced that he would not seek reelection the following year and would instead support Marc Maurer, an accomplished attorney who had already held several leadership positions in the Federation, at the following year’s convention. Dr. Jernigan was so widely respected that Dr. Maurer was elected unanimously the following year, and has been reelected every two years until the time of this writing. Dr. Jernigan continued to play an active role in the work of the National Federation of the Blind until his death from cancer in 1998. All three of our most outstanding presidents have carried the title “doctor” because they have received either full or honorary doctoral degrees due to their personal academic achievements or their work on behalf of the blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.
Consider the following statements carefully. “It is respectable to be blind.” “With proper training and opportunity, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business, and do it as well as sighted colleagues.” “The biggest problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight, but rather the common public attitude that blind people are less capable than they truly are.” “Techniques exist that make it possible for blind people to do the things they want to do at work, at home, and in their communities.” “The primary limitations of blindness are the inability to read print and the inability to drive: nuisances, not disasters.” If these statements are true (and we believe they are) then blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance. Federation philosophy is as simple and as far-reaching as this. The implications of these few statements are complex and require education and training for blind people and for professionals in work for the blind, as well as education of the general public.
Coming to understand and believe this philosophy cannot happen just because certain statements make sense. We must learn to live it. All of us (sighted and blind alike) have absorbed attitudes from society that cause us to sell blind people short from time to time. Our goal is to do it less often and to help others to learn to do it less often. Any of the above statements can be quoted incorrectly or out of context. Many statements are falsely attributed to be NFB philosophy.
There are those who say we do not believe in using partial vision. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I know of nothing in our literature that would indicate such a thing. Nevertheless, we do not believe a person can necessarily function better because of partial vision than without it. It may be convenient and should be used. That is all. It is also said by some that the NFB opposes the use of guide dogs. This is also not true; in fact, the NFB has a division of guide dog users. The NFB believes that all blind people should learn to use a long white cane before making a final choice about whether they will continue to use a cane or a guide dog, but this does not mean that we oppose the use of guide dogs. A third example of a philosophical statement falsely attributed to the NFB is that blind people should not accept any assistance from any sighted person under any circumstances. Dr. Jernigan addressed this false belief in his important speech “The Nature of Independence.”
If you ordered this book with a supplemental packet of NFB literature, you will find many important speeches and articles in the packet that address and expand upon NFB philosophy. If you did not order the packet, you will find a recommended reading list in Section 23 that will help you understand our philosophy. Read the literature. Discuss blindness with your friends and fellow Federationists. Sometimes we have debates about whether a particular policy that we are considering adopting is consistent with NFB philosophy, and such debates are not a bad thing. However, as is discussed elsewhere in this guide, once a resolution of the question is reached, the organization must stand behind it.
Being a federation, the National Federation of the Blind consists of many smaller
organizations; it is organized at the local, state, and national levels. Local chapters are the most basic units of the National Federation of the Blind. Your local chapter generally holds a business meeting approximately once a month. It is a part of your state affiliate, and has voted that it wished to be so. The elected board or membership of the state affiliate voted that it wanted your local chapter to be a part of it. Thus, we try to coordinate the work and activities of chapters within each state affiliate of the NFB. A similar relationship exists between the state affiliate and the national organization. State affiliates have voted to become part of the NFB, and the NFB Board or convention has voted to include each state affiliate. This decision is unlikely to be changed. A few state affiliates have only one local chapter, but that can change whenever a group of people takes the necessary steps to form a new chapter.
The National Federation of the Blind first adopted its National Constitution at its founding convention in 1940. This document has been amended many times. It specifies the basic structure and operation of the organization. The National Constitution is reprinted in Appendix A of this guide, but you do not necessarily need to read it word for word. Local chapters, state affiliates, and divisions all have adopted their own constitutions. Many of these constitutions are based on a “Model Constitution” which is printed in Appendix B of this guide.
State and local constitutions must be in compliance with all the provisions of the
Constitution of the National Federation of the Blind. To be sure of this compliance, each state constitution and all amendments to state constitutions must be submitted to the NFB President before they become binding. Local chapter constitutions are submitted to state affiliate presidents for the same purpose.
If your chapter is new, it should have adopted a constitution when it was organized. If your chapter is not new, you should have received its constitution from your predecessor. If you do not find it, you will need to request a copy from the state or national president.
NFB constitutions are not very detailed, but they contain the requirements by which local chapters and state affiliates are governed. They spell out who can be members of the organization and how to join. They list officers and board positions and show how to elect people to these positions. They specify the amount of dues or how dues should be determined. They explain the obligations between chapters and state affiliates and between state affiliates and the national body. Constitutions include an article or amendment that shows the requirement for making changes. Most NFB constitutions state that the duties of each officer shall be those ordinarily associated with that office. Therefore, we will discuss officers’ responsibilities in more detail in the following sections.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was our second outstanding national president, following founding president Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. He explained that leadership does not automatically come to a person just because he or she is elected to office. He said that you must take leadership. By this, he meant that a leader must take initiative in keeping with the understandings and goals of the organization. We expect our presidents to lead in a variety of ways, such as the following: make proposals to the organization, stay well-informed about what the NFB is doing beyond the chapter, serve as spokesman for the organization in activities outside the chapter, contact members to see how they are coming with their projects, ask for and give advice. If someone is unhappy with what is going on in the chapter, the president must attempt to answer questions and concerns that person has. The president must try to avoid problems and solve them when they occur.
The NFB has a history of strong presidents. We expect our presidents to manage the expenditures of the organization, to appoint and coordinate the work of committees, to plan agendas of meetings, and to preside at meetings. Presidents grow into the job over a period of months or years.
Of course, in order for a person to be elected, the membership must believe that he or she will make good decisions. In addition, the president must have enough skill to work with people within and outside of the organization. If you have been elected president, you have already demonstrated some of these skills, but do not assume that the hard part is over. On the other hand, do not expect perfection from yourself. Each president learns with experience and becomes stronger as his or her term continues. If the membership is not happy with the work of the president, it can vote him/her out of office at the next election. This provides the balance to keep strong presidents effective and responsive to the membership.
NFB Constitutions do not provide for term limits. Many presidents do a better job during their second or third terms than during the first. We have found that there are so few people who are willing and able to take on the responsibilities of the presidency that we tend to encourage good presidents to continue in office as long as they wish or until someone else is found who can do a better job. Most good presidents are working to find and groom their successors. Nevertheless, it is important that presidents stand for reelection periodically, so that it is clear to all that the majority of the members are in support of the president. The membership must be satisfied with the leadership of the group for the organization to be healthy.
There are many other positions of leadership besides president, but the president should coordinate the work of all leaders. When an officer decides not to run again (for whatever reason), the group must find the best person to replace that officer. If someone else in the organization believes he or she can do a better job as president than the existing leader, the Constitution provides that active members in good standing may run for office. Especially when a chapter is new or very small, there are times when the best leader is reluctant to take on the responsibility. Do not sell yourself short. If you are very sure there is a better person in your group, do your best to persuade that individual to run for that office. If you succeed, it is good for you and good for the chapter. If you do not succeed, and you want the chapter to thrive and continue to be active, stand for election. Take the job and do your best. If you can get the votes, you are probably the right one for the job. The NFB has many excellent leaders of chapters and state affiliates. You may be one of them.
The president and vice president of each affiliate and chapter must be blind. We have found that the principal spokesman of an organization of the blind is most effective when that person is blind.
We expect our national president to carry a very heavy load and to have a lot of power. In order to be sure the membership is satisfied with his leadership, he must stand for reelection every two years. Since we expect so much of our president, all the rest of us must help him as much as we can. We need continually to provide him with information about our activities and problems, about our accomplishments, and about relationships with other programs for the blind.
The most efficient way to provide this information is by letter, unless the data must reach him immediately. He can read mail at his convenience, while phone calls tend to take more time and are not always convenient. Because of the President’s busy schedule, e-mail is not generally any faster than regular mail, but he reads e-mail as he can.
What do we expect our president to do?
1. Manage, hire, and supervise the national staff and the activities of the national office.
2. Represent us at meetings around the world in negotiations, informative presentations, and cooperative efforts with other programs for the blind.
3. Manage our finances, including investments and fundraising.
4. Coordinate with fifty-two state affiliates and twenty-seven plus divisions and attend or send representatives to state conventions and other NFB activities as appropriate.
5. Appoint committees and supervise their work.
6. Write and deliver or delegate another person to write and deliver a top-quality banquet speech annually. (Since the 1960s, all banquet speeches have been delivered by the President except in 1990 and 1997 when Dr. Jernigan was the banquet speaker.)
7. Deliver to the convention an annual Presidential Report of Federation activity.
8. Preside at conventions and board meetings.
9. Write stories for Kernel Books.
10. Write articles for the Monitor.
11. Coordinate the writing and administration of grants we request and receive for various projects.
12. Supervise legal and legislative projects of the Federation.
13. Think up new ideas and implement them.
14. Allocate space in our buildings to the best advantage and supervise remodeling and construction from time to time.
15. Prevent problems and solve the ones that cannot be prevented.
It is astonishing that the Federation has found three outstanding men who have been able to do this job so well that the Federation has become the leading force in work with the blind in this country and in the world. Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan were outstanding leaders and made very high commitments to the Federation. Dr. Maurer has continued and accelerated the growth and activities in a way that could never have been anticipated by old timers like me. It is equally true that our president could not do what he does without coordinating his efforts with the entire membership. The NFB is truly a movement. It is exciting to be a part of this work, but work it is! The need continues for more and better leaders to continue to make the country and the world a better place for the blind. Without the kind of president that Dr. Maurer is, we could not be what we are.
Each state affiliate generally has a first vice president and a second vice president. In a few states there may be one or three vice presidents. Chapters have one or two. In the absence of the president, the first vice president must do everything the president would do. If the president is absent for a meeting, the first vice president should preside. If the president is on vacation and a member dies or is hospitalized, the first vice president may authorize the customary expression of sympathy (card, flowers, et cetera), unless this responsibility has previously been given to another specific person or committee. If the president has made arrangements to handle a matter during his/her absence, there is no need for anyone to interfere with what has been planned unless there are unexpected circumstances.
For example, the president is called out of town unexpectedly because of a death in his/her family. There is a chapter social scheduled during the time the president is away. There is a committee to handle arrangements for the social, but the president was expected to welcome members and guests and make a few comments about the organization. Normally, the first vice president would work with the committee chair and fill in where the president was expected to speak. But the committee would still handle the arrangements for the rest of the activities. In the absence of both the president and the first vice president, the second vice president has the responsibility. This is rare, but can happen.
Some affiliates and chapters assign specific responsibilities to either or both vice presidents. These responsibilities may include fundraising, membership, public relations, or other responsibilities. More often, one or both of these people volunteer for a given job. This tends to work well, since we tend to take work more seriously when we volunteer to do it. Most presidents turn to vice presidents for advice and information as needed.
If the president is unable to complete the term, the first vice president succeeds to the presidency, and the second vice president becomes the first vice president. If both the president and the first vice president are unable to complete their terms, the second vice president succeeds to the presidency. If the first vice president should decline to serve as president, the second vice president would be in line to move up to the presidency. Some constitutions may provide something different about the succession, but if nothing is specified, the natural succession is as described above.
Some organizations have two secretaries: a recording secretary and a correspondence secretary. This practice is neither necessary nor wrong. The secretary records the minutes of meetings, handles correspondence for the president if requested to do so, keeps a record of paid members, and often keeps records of blind people in the area who have not yet joined the NFB. Some presidents prefer to handle their own correspondence; and there is nothing wrong with this arrangement. Either the president or the secretary may store records of the organization. Whether one or the other has an extra room or closet in his or her home or office may make the difference. Most chapters and state affiliates accumulate quite a bit of information that should be archived for use as needed. Secretaries may do their work in print, on the computer, or in Braille.
The principal job of the treasurer is to take care of the finances of the organization under the direction of the president. Presidents should authorize treasurers to write checks. Authorization may be accomplished merely by signing bills to request that they be paid or by using a form like the sample printed here.
Treasurers should keep detailed records of all expenditures and income of the organization and sign checks. Treasurers should make reports at chapter meetings and board meetings as requested. Correct treasurers’ reports at meetings should not be merely a listing of checks. Treasurers should keep records of what is spent by category, such as fundraising cost, membership, supplies, phone, travel (including local), etc. Categories for income are also appropriate: donations, dues, candy sale or fundraising, etc. Even if the chapter has previously voted to spend money ($100 for a door prize for national convention, for example), the president should still write an authorization to permit the treasurer to write the check. If the president prefers to have the treasurer bring authorization forms to him or her for signing after reading of the treasurer’s report, this approach will work.
There may be repeat expenditures, which can be authorized for a period of time. For example, a president may authorize the payment of a local phone bill for a year by showing that up to $---- should be paid monthly to the phone company as bills are received. If phone bills exceed the specified amount, the president would need to be consulted.
It is my recommendation that both the president and the treasurer review bank statements. Many state constitutions require that the treasurer must be bonded. This should not be necessary for chapters unless they have large amounts of money. Bonding costs at least $100 per year.
In order to establish a bank account, an organization must have a tax identification number (TIN) from the IRS. The IRS can assign this number by telephone. Assignment of a TIN does not establish that your group is nonprofit according to Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. All fifty-two state affiliates of the Federation are now tax-exempt. Chapters need not apply for a separate 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. In some states, all chapters use the same tax identification number. If this is the case, chapter treasurers need to report enough information to the state treasurer so that the 990 (the required IRS form for nonprofit tax-exempt organizations) can be filed correctly.
Nonprofit organizations are required to file 990 tax returns with the IRS each year on or before May 15 if the group has received $25,000 or more during the previous fiscal year. Thus, most state affiliates must file 990s, but most chapters need not. Nonprofit organizations are not required to pay taxes, only to file the returns. We have found it desirable in the NFB to provide some help to states and chapters that must file. At the 2007 National Convention, President Marc Maurer directed that Charles Brown provide this help. Mr. Brown resides in Virginia and works part-time at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Gardner, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, also works with state affiliates and chapters on finance.
Each state affiliate or local chapter constitution specifies the number of board members
to be elected and how long they should serve. Board members should contribute to the
organization as they wish and as asked. Boards may meet by conference telephone call or in person. Most state boards meet at least twice a year, and chapter boards meet as frequently or rarely as they wish. Although their specific responsibilities are not defined, board members should be in touch with other members, help set the tone of the organization, participate in activities and generally provide leadership. It may be helpful for the boards of active chapters to discuss matters and make recommendations to the membership to save time at meetings. In small chapters, the officers may comprise the entire board. Sometimes board members volunteer to chair committees. Presidents are not required to make these appointments, but often will be pleased to do so. The best board members are elected because they are already leaders.
The NFB Board of Directors has seventeen members. It confers with the president and assists as possible. The board consists largely of elected state presidents, so it should be representative of the membership. Each board member stands for election or reelection nationally every two years. The board holds an open meeting the day before the general sessions begin at each national convention. It generally holds conference-call meetings at frequent intervals between conventions, and it meets in person at least once between
conventions for a two-day meeting.
There are very few things that board members do that others cannot. Voting on board decisions may be the only one. Many other NFB leaders confer with the president, provide him with information, assist with a variety of projects, and represent the organization at meetings when asked. By long-standing tradition and (more recently) by constitutional requirement, the National Nominating Committee consists of one delegate from each affiliate at the choice of the affiliate. This committee recommends one slate for board positions open at any given convention. The committee seeks geographic representation and strong leaders: in short, a group who will work together in the best interest of the organization. If the nominating committee does its work well, it is unlikely that people not on the slate will be elected. However, nominations can be made from the floor, and opportunity for this is always afforded.
Board members take their responsibilities seriously. But they know that it is necessary to bring new and younger people into positions of leadership, as they are ready. Thus, one or more board members may decline to stand for reelection at any convention.
The day-to-day operations of the National Federation of the Blind are handled at the National Center for the Blind, the Federation’s headquarters. The main entrance of the National Center for the Blind is located at 200 East Wells Street in Baltimore, Maryland. This entrance leads into the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the newest component of the National Center for the Blind. However, the mailing address is 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230. We have used this mailing address for more than twenty-five years, and it appears on all of our literature distributed throughout this time. Wells and Johnson Streets intersect at the corner of the property, and the new NFB Jernigan Institute faces Wells Street. The new entrance is beautiful and presents a magnificent welcome to all who enter. These two large, adjoining buildings constitute NFB headquarters. The national president’s office is at the National Center for the Blind, and there is a staff of more than one hundred people. NFB headquarters directs many activities and services that affect chapters, state affiliates, divisions, and committees. Some of these activities and services will be discussed elsewhere in this guide.
In addition to the office of the national president, the National Center for the Blind is divided into five departments headed by individuals known as Executive Directors. The executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute is Mark Riccobono, and he oversees programs related to education, mentoring, technology, and the development of new programs. The executive director for strategic initiatives is John G. Paré, Jr. Mr. Paré oversees the office of governmental affairs, the NFB Imagination Fund, NFB-NEWSLINE®, and the public relations office. The executive director for affiliate action is Dr. Joanne Wilson, who oversees various programs designed to assist state affiliates and divisions of the NFB. The other two departments at the National Center for the Blind, operations (headed by Mary Ellen Jernigan) and program facilities (headed by John Cheadle), oversee the day-to-day maintenance and operation of the national headquarters, with program facilities focusing on building maintenance and operations focusing on accounting, maintenance of computer equipment, and other administrative duties.
The phone number of the National Center for the Blind is (410) 659-9314. Staff members may be reached by e-mail using the person’s first initial and last name @nfb.org. We all can take pride in our national staff and facilities. Members are welcome to visit when they can. It is appreciated if we make arrangements for these visits ahead of time. The work done at our national headquarters affects all the blind in the country profoundly. We all use the resources there in many ways, and we should take advantage of what we have. Our national headquarters makes the work of all state affiliates and local chapters easier and more effective. Chapter members and leaders need to interact frequently with the national staff. The better we understand the activities at our headquarters, the easier it is for the work of all parts of the movement to be coordinated.
NFB Constitutions say nothing about campaigning for office. Therefore, nothing is forbidden. However, experience and common sense have taught us some things that you may find interesting and helpful. As we said above, any member in good standing may run for office. The only restriction is that presidents and vice presidents must be blind. We have found that it is a good idea to keep campaigns short to avoid unpleasantness. It is not unusual to confine campaigning to the time of the convention itself in a state election. In the case of a chapter, a week is generally sufficient time. Many states and chapters use nominating committees, which submit a slate including one candidate for each open office. The committee should ascertain that each person on its slate is willing to serve in the position for which his or her name is being presented. Anyone else who wishes to run may be nominated from the floor. It is not good form for a person to nominate himself or herself. However, you cannot be elected if others will not vote for you. Therefore, arrange for one of your supporters to nominate you.
Running for office is not a popularity contest. Persons who have not thought about a position or do not want the office should decline. An election is a decision about who can best hold office. Some chapters do not use nominating committees. In that case, someone should give thought to the election ahead of time and do some planning to see that good candidates are available for each position. Often at the time of the election, there will be opportunities for the candidates to make short speeches about what they expect their contributions to be. If there is campaigning, most votes are committed by personal contact before the time of the election. Sometimes it is necessary to point out weaknesses of candidates, but this need not go on and on. Often, the candidate who runs the most negative campaign loses, but not always. At the time of the election, the campaign is over. No constructive purpose is served by a continuation of the talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the winners or the losers. A strong tradition in the NFB is that we support our leaders and policies, even if we were not in favor of them before the organization voted. This practice is entirely consistent with a democratic organization, since all members can vote on leaders and policies. Once a decision is made, however, no constructive purpose is served by continuing dissent by those whose wishes did not sway the majority of the people who voted. Support for our leaders and
policies, once elected or voted upon, is critical to the Federation’s success. It is one of the reasons we have become as effective and successful as we have in changing what it means to be blind. For more information about the election process, see your constitution or the Model Constitution in Appendix B of this guide.
Dues should be paid annually. The amount of dues is up to the chapter or affiliate. Most NFB affiliates, chapters, and divisions keep dues low (anywhere from $1 to $25). We do not want the amount of dues to prevent good people from joining. Most chapters also collect dues for their state affiliates and send them to the state treasurers. Thus, a local chapter may collect $5 dues per year and send $1 or $2 of this amount to the state treasurer for state dues. When dues are paid to the chapter treasurer, names and addresses of the members should be given to the secretary. If a member does not pay dues every year, his/her membership is discontinued. It is a good idea to announce that dues will be due a month or two before they must be paid, so members can come to the meeting prepared.
Members-at-large are those who live in an area where there is no local chapter, and they should pay their dues directly to the state treasurer. The amount is set by the state board or by the membership. There are no national dues.
The president appoints all committees unless otherwise specified by the constitution. The NFB National Constitution provides that the state delegates shall appoint the nominating committee, but this is generally not done in the states. Some chapters require standing committees, such as membership or fundraising. This is up to the group. Some chapters have fallen into the practice of having their presidents appoint only chairmen of committees, then expecting the chairmen to recruit the other members. My experience shows me that appointments will be taken more seriously if made by presidents. Presidents may rely on recommendations from chairmen or request volunteers, but committee members are often more responsive if they are asked to serve by presidents. Appointment of committee chairmen by the president may also help presidents monitor the work of committees.
Chapter meetings may consider any matter the president or membership wish. However, committees often bring recommendations to the membership. Decisions can be made more quickly and will often be better decisions if a small group has given previous consideration. For example, it is more efficient for a committee to check out dates when certain locations will be available for a Christmas party. A committee may research items for a fundraiser and make a recommendation about what to do and how to do it. A committee may check out transportation to a state or national convention, enabling the chapter to make faster and better decisions about support that could be offered for this purpose. A committee may work out the details of a public education event (parade, demonstration, an awards luncheon). The chapter may wish to adopt part of the proposal and make some changes, but the process works better if the entire group does not try to plan the whole event from scratch.
Many chapter presidents appoint committees to handle certain long-term projects, such as public speaking, monitoring public transit, fundraising, etc. These committees should report regularly to the membership at business meetings, and they may ask the chapter for decisions on some questions. The work of committees saves time at meetings, but it is important for the entire group to be informed of the committees’ activities. Frequently, a smaller group works together more efficiently to get projects accomplished, and much work can be done by committees between meetings. Most constitutions provide that the president is an ex officio member of all committees, meaning that the president can attend the committee meetings but is not required to do so. The precedent in the NFB is that the president does not attend the meeting of the nominating committee.
Section 15. Divisions
The NFB has organized many special interest divisions, which are listed below. Each division has adopted its own constitution and submitted it to the NFB President. The NFB Board of Directors votes to extend division status to each division after it applies. Divisions elect their own officers. Every division has the authority to address problems in its area of interest, print its own letterhead and newsletter, plan its own meetings, form state divisions if there is enough interest, raise funds as long as it is not competing with other parts of the organization, and generally promote the interests of the blind as described in its constitution.
Division officers have similar responsibilities to those of state and chapter officers. It is extremely important that division leaders coordinate with the national president and any other groups within the Federation that may be involved in related projects. For example, NAPUB (National Association to Promote the Use of Braille) and NOPBC (National Organization of Parents of Blind Children) jointly sponsor the annual Braille Readers Are Leaders contests for blind children.
Each national division holds a meeting during the national convention. Each national division must provide a list of its elected officers and board members to the NFB president after each annual meeting. Many divisions hold other meetings between conventions. Some state divisions have chapters that address issues on a state and local basis and meet during the state conventions.
Below is a list of the names of the NFB divisions operating at the time of this writing. You will find the names of division presidents on the Web site at www.nfb.org. You will find their meeting times in NFB convention agendas. Even though we are giving very little space here to the work of NFB divisions, we do not wish to undervalue their activities. All members are encouraged to contact division leaders and participate in one or more divisions. Today NFB divisions are an important part of the work of the movement.
NFB DivisionsAgriculture and Equestrian Division
Groups are informal gatherings that occur because someone in the Federation wishes to meet with others regarding a certain matter. If a group becomes effective, it may wish to change itself into a division or ask the president to appoint a committee. If the group wishes to become a division, someone will need to plan with others to adopt a constitution, elect officers, and apply for division status.
There are many groups in the Federation that have been meeting at conventions for years, such as ham radio operators and science fiction fans. There are other groups that meet once or several times, and that is the end of it. Divisions and committees deal with matters that affect a certain group of blind people or an aspect of the Federation. Groups can deal with anything that may or may not be significant to blind people.
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The monthly business meeting of the chapter is for the purposes of conducting business, (making decisions about what to do and how to do it), informing members about state and national NFB activities, hearing committee reports, taking in new members, helping members to be well informed about matters pertaining to blindness, and helping members to get to know each other better. The president should plan the agenda and preside at meetings. The secretary should call the role, read the minutes from the last meeting, and take notes. The treasurer should report on current financial activities. There may be a speaker, but this is probably best every second or third month, so that regular NFB business is not neglected or rushed.
It is generally a good idea to have a calling committee contact all members a few days before each meeting to remind them of the time and place. E-mail reminders may be best for some members. It may also be desirable to have someone coordinate transportation to the meetings for those who need it.
Local chapter meetings usually last from two to three hours. Presidents should find ways to keep the meetings interesting and fast-paced. It is not possible to get all the work done and to have sufficient discussion among members if the meetings are too short. Many chapters include some sort of social activity before or after the business meetings. Between business meetings, there may be committee meetings, board meetings, work sessions on certain projects, social activities, visitations to other chapters, work with agencies serving the blind, meetings with prospective or new members, and participation in state or national NFB activities or other kinds of activities. NFB members should never get bored or run out of work to do. In large chapters, no one can do everything.
The NFB President sends a cassette tape known as a Presidential Release to each chapter and state president about once a month. Chapter presidents are expected to play each of these tapes at the next business meeting after they are received. Since chapter meetings in different localities occur at different times of the month, it is impossible to get each tape to each chapter just in time for its meeting, so there will be occasions when the news is much more current than others. The more these tapes are played, the better-informed chapter members will become and the more they will want to hear the tapes. Playing these tapes assists new and old members to know what is going on in the Federation throughout the country and at the national office. It also helps them learn to recognize names of people in the movement. Best of all, it helps members get to know our national president and what he is doing and thinking. Each tape is less than one-half hour in length; so local presidents can plan accordingly. When a new chapter or state president is elected, it is important that he/she informs the NFB President of the outgoing and the incoming president, so that presidential releases can be sent to the correct person. You can provide this information by e-mail, fax, United States mail, or by telephone.
Presidential releases are also posted on the NFB Web site. Some members may be able to listen to presidential releases this way. In most chapters, however, there are still many people who are not able to read the presidential releases from the Web site. If a member has the right equipment, it may be possible to download the presidential releases directly from the Web site and play them at the chapter meeting instead of waiting for the cassette tape to arrive, thereby making sure that the most recent presidential release is always played at each meeting.
Each state affiliate should plan a convention once a year. A few state conventions last only one day, a Saturday with meetings in the morning and afternoon and a luncheon in the middle or a banquet in the evening. A more common schedule is for members to gather for hospitality and committee and division meetings Friday afternoon or evening. Generally, registration also begins Friday. The main program takes place Saturday with a banquet in the evening. Most affiliates that use this schedule hold business meetings Sunday morning. Any of these and other scenarios is reasonable. The more active the group, the more activities are planned in conjunction with the convention. Saturday lunchtime can also be used for committee or division meetings. Most committee meetings are open to anyone who wishes to participate. The nominating committee meeting is not. Some state conventions have exhibits of technology and other devices Friday afternoon and Saturday during the lunch break. Some state affiliates plan seminars during part or all of the day Friday.
Programs generally include presentations from several service providers. This means members have an opportunity to hear about new developments, and service providers have an opportunity to hear questions and comments from the membership. Directors of programs for the blind can do a better job if they communicate with the blind, and appearing at NFB conventions is one good way of doing so. Other popular convention agenda items are presentations from blind people about their reasons for joining the organization, their employment, or unusual activities in which they have participated. It may be possible to have a member of the state legislature or a member of Congress speak, either during the day or at the banquet. It is a good idea to schedule this presentation following a strong NFB speaker. City transit systems are often interesting items on the agenda. New kinds of technology may be described or demonstrated.
President Maurer will either attend state conventions himself or send a representative to make a report about national NFB activities and to make a presentation at the banquet. If there is an additional speaker at the banquet, that person should follow the national representative. National representatives may be able to assist with the program in other ways, such as posing questions to other speakers, participating in panel discussions, helping with seminars, helping to organize a new state division, and so forth. It is perfectly proper to ask the national representative to spend some time talking with new members or answering questions from persons who have them.
There should be a procedure to register members and nonmembers who attend the convention. Pre-registration will work for those who wish to do it. Registration should include getting names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of all who attend. Registration is a good way to make sure conventioneers are receiving the state newsletter (if there is one) and the Braille Monitor. Registration is also the best time to collect for group meals during the convention. Most state affiliates charge between $2 and $10 for registration, with the cost of the banquet or other convention meals being separate but collected at the registration table. Be sure to note in which media (e.g. print, Braille, cassette tape, e-mail) each person wishes to receive the Braille Monitor and any mailings that are available in more than one medium. Badges may be distributed at registration, and they are helpful in making sure that only those who have registered for the convention receive door prizes and other convention benefits, such as discounted hotel rates. Agendas may be available in print, Braille, or on computer disk. The agenda can also be posted on the state affiliate’s Web site, if available, or e-mailed to members who request it in that format.
Door prizes are a nice touch to add excitement and break up the program. It is traditional in the Federation for a door prize not to be awarded unless the person whose name is drawn is in the convention meeting room; exceptions are sometimes made for small children or their parents, or for persons who are doing specific jobs related to the convention in other locations. Generally, all names are kept in the drawing throughout the convention to encourage everyone to stay in the meetings, even though this sometimes results in a person winning more than one door prize. Other activities that are popular at state conventions are dances, bingo, auctions, talent shows, karaoke, and bake sales. Most state conventions do not include tours, but there may be a good reason for a tour occasionally.
Often members of the organization wish to visit nearby affiliate conventions. This is a good way to get new ideas and make friends. Members from nearby states may also visit your convention. Some of these visitors may have interesting things to contribute. State presidents usually wish to know who is coming, just in case there is a special job or activity for some of the guests.
The business meeting, usually on Sunday morning, is a good time for the treasurer’s report and consideration of resolutions. Often no secretary’s report is needed because the convention is recorded, and the secretary only takes minutes at board meetings. Secretaries should make a record of people elected and keep copies of the resolutions and agendas in the permanent records of the organization. Most state conventions vote on the location of the next convention, although this may be left to the discretion of the board or president. Election of officers, board members, and the delegate to the national convention should also occur during the business meeting.
Just as the NFB is growing, the state conventions are including more and more activities. The president should usually plan the agenda of the main program and arrange to get it produced. The president generally presides at this meeting. Committee chairmen and division presidents should usually plan and conduct their own meetings. There may be a convention chair to handle hotel matters. Board members and host chapter members may have suggestions for program items or convention activities. Public officials, friends, and families sometimes attend conventions, and often they are impressed and learn a lot from their participation.
Some state affiliates hold a second membership meeting during the year. This usually is less formal but can provide a time for more study and discussion of NFB practices and beliefs. Sometimes it is possible to hold a seminar or second membership meeting in a part of the state where a convention would not be well attended. This kind of meeting can also provide an opportunity for new members to learn about the Federation.
NFB national conventions constitute the largest annual gathering of blind people anywhere in the world. Activities are so varied, and there are so many at one time during the early days of the convention that no one can possibly attend everything. All members should attend as many national conventions as possible, in order to get the best idea of what the National Federation of the Blind is all about. There are three good ways to learn a little about a national convention before attending your first one.
1. Read the “Convention Roundup” of the previous convention in the Braille Monitor. It generally appears in the August/September issue.
2. Get a copy of the agenda from the previous convention and read it. If there is no hard copy of last year’s agenda available, you should be able to download it from the Web site, www.nfb.org.
3. Talk to as many people as you can who have attended conventions. Anyone who participates in an NFB national convention will learn a tremendous amount in one week and will gain a new perspective on the effectiveness of the NFB and the depth of experience and knowledge possessed collectively by the membership.
It is desirable to begin planning for your trip to the national convention immediately after Christmas. Make your hotel and travel plans as early as you can. The December issue of the Braille Monitor often carries information about the next convention, which occurs the first week in July.
A national convention is like a state convention multiplied many times, depending on the size of the state convention. Virtually all the divisions meet at the time of the national convention. Most committees also meet. There are all kinds of other group gatherings.
The speakers are of national prominence, consisting of government agency leaders, congressmen, private agency leaders, or blind people who have done innovative or unusual things. The NFB President gives his annual report of activities for the year, and it seems to become more impressive and exciting each year. The annual banquet address at a national convention (most often delivered by our president) is generally one of the most outstanding speeches in the country. Scholarships are presented to winners from all parts of the country. We have presented thirty at recent conventions. There are a number of other awards given to a variety of people for high accomplishments.
Each state affiliate tries to send as many people as possible. It is helpful for each chapter to be represented. If the organization has enough money to do so, it can provide some
financial assistance so that more members can attend the national convention.
A good way to create a written policy statement of the NFB is for the convention to pass
a resolution. In the spring, the NFB President or Resolutions Committee chairperson usually includes a notice on a presidential release to remind members that it is time to begin preparing resolutions for the next national convention. Others, such as the director of governmental affairs, may write or encourage the writing of resolutions that would be
beneficial to clarify our positions on issues. Resolutions may also be used to express the approval or thanks of the organization or to call upon elected officials to work with us on a specific goal or piece of legislation.
The rules for submitting resolutions are announced before each national convention. Currently, it is asked that resolutions be submitted to the committee chairperson or to the President at least two weeks prior to the national convention. Especially if two people write resolutions on the same issue, this advanced notice enables the chairperson to give those people the opportunity to compare notes and resolve any differences if they can.
The Resolutions Committee consists of members from many kinds of employment and all parts of the country, so that these people can help find errors of fact or interpretation in resolutions if any exist. When the committee passes a resolution, it is brought to the convention floor for discussion and a vote. The committee meeting is open, and all NFB members are encouraged to attend. Even though (for reasons of time) comments are not taken from the floor at the committee meeting, if any NFB member who is not on the committee has data or opinions affecting a resolution, he or she should take this information to a committee member. If members are opposed to a resolution that was passed by the committee, they have several days to let their opposition be known to other members and delegates. Since the resolutions committee meets two days before the beginning of the general session of the national convention, and since most resolutions come to the floor of the convention on the last day, there is plenty of time for informal discussions of resolutions before the time of the final discussion and vote. Therefore, supporters and opponents of resolutions should be able to present their arguments concisely on the convention floor. There is always opportunity for discussion before the vote is taken.
Most state presidents also appoint resolutions committees. These committees usually meet at the beginning of state conventions, and resolutions may come to the floor for discussion and a vote at any time the president sees fit. Writing resolutions ahead of time often results in better policy statements for the organization. State resolutions committee meetings are open, just as most NFB committee meetings are. If you wish to serve on the resolutions committee in your state, contact your president and request to be appointed. Your request is not a guarantee that you will be appointed, but increases your chances considerably. Any member may write a resolution and submit it to the committee.
Each year members from many states travel to Washington, D.C., for the Washington Seminar in or around the first week in February. The purpose of the Washington Seminar is to let members of Congress know about the issues that are important to blind Americans. The Washington Seminar officially begins with a “Great Gathering In” meeting Monday at 5:00 p.m., which should be attended by everyone who will be making contacts with congressmen and senators during the next few days. Many announcements are made, and the proposed legislation that will be discussed with Congress is reviewed. The NFB governmental affairs staff prepares fact sheets. These should be distributed to members of the NFB who take them to members of Congress. The fact sheets are also posted on the NFB Web site prior to each Washington Seminar. NFB members must study the fact sheets, so they can be prepared for their presentations to members of Congress. Many congressmen and senators have come to expect to see their blind constituents during this time.
Each state affiliate should arrange ahead of time for someone to make appointments with their congressmen and senators for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of that week. States with only a few representatives in Congress may be able to see all of them in one or two days. It is helpful for larger states to bring more members in order to talk to all of their congressmen and senators.
Expenses are high, and most state affiliates need to provide some assistance to NFB members who participate in the Washington Seminar. Those who have never before had an opportunity to tour our national headquarters can generally take a bus to Baltimore and have a quick tour on Monday morning. Some NFB committees and divisions may also hold meetings in Washington during this time. These may be announced on the presidential release for November or December beforehand, along with announcements of hotel arrangements. The Washington Seminar might be considered a mini-convention, but its primary focus is advocating for national legislation.
NFB members have come to consider it a privilege and a responsibility to represent blind constituents on Capitol Hill. New members who are interested in the legislative process should talk to those who have attended the Washington Seminar in recent years. All members should read the fact sheets used during these seminars. It may be necessary to write letters, send e-mail messages, and make telephone calls regarding these or other issues before Congress at other times during the year. Most members of Congress have learned to respect the NFB for our knowledge and effective presentation of our needs. We want to keep ourselves well informed about the progress of each piece of legislation in which we are interested so that we can communicate effectively with the members of Congress when action is needed. See Section 57, Governmental Affairs, for more information about legislation supported by the NFB.
It has become tradition for the National Association of Blind Students to hold a seminar for blind college students the Sunday just before the Washington Seminar. Most blind students who participate in the Student Seminar and the work on Capitol Hill find these two events both energizing and educational.
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Some local chapters distribute a brief newsletter before meetings. Most do not. Most chapters call and/or e-mail members before meetings and may help organize transportation and this is often adequate communication among members.
State affiliates, on the other hand, generally find that a quarterly or monthly newsletter makes it possible for members to be better informed about activities. It also gives members an opportunity to share their thoughts about matters affecting the blind. A few states have actually distributed weekly publications, but quarterly is probably the most common. There is no requirement that a state must have a newsletter at all, but the larger affiliates find it a very good thing.
The state president must find someone to edit the newsletter or do it himself. In addition, somebody must be found to handle the mailing list. NFB affiliate publications may be in Braille, print, large print, or on cassette. They may also be available on the Web site or on the local channel of NFB-NEWSLINE®.
The content of the publication is up to the editor, but most state presidents write something for each issue. Editors may need to request articles from various members. Other members may be happy to submit material voluntarily.
Large print, Braille, and tape copies may be sent free of charge through the mail to blind readers, as long as they are marked “free reading matter for the blind.” It is necessary to send small print first class or buy a nonprofit bulk mail permit for reduced postage. More information about bulk mail permits may be obtained from your local post office. Information about the “free matter for the blind” mailing privilege is printed below.
It is possible to send material in large print, Braille, and recorded formats to blind people as “free matter for the blind.” Libraries for the blind can send books on loan without a postage charge, and blind people can return these books to the libraries without paying for postage. The sender just writes or stamps “free reading matter for the blind” in the spot where postage is normally placed. Congress made this possible because blind people cannot “run down” to the library or the drug store for something to read the way sighted people do.
This means that the NFB can send out its publications to blind people using the “free matter for the blind” privilege, and so can chapters and state affiliates. Section 36 C.F.R. 701.10 (b) (1), (2), and (3) of the postal code shows what is permitted and what is not. It is a good idea for those sending out mailings to know where to find this information in case the post office raises questions. Generally, there are no problems. If there are, they are easily solved by showing the person in charge at the post office a reference to this section.
Our national monthly magazine is the Braille Monitor, which has become by far the most influential publication in work with the blind. It is available in large print, on cassette, by e-mail, and in Braille. It is also posted as both text and audio on the NFB Web site at www.nfb.org. The audio recordings often include original recordings of speeches by the individuals who wrote and delivered them. All members of the NFB should subscribe to and read the Braille Monitor. Some chapters ask various individuals to report on certain articles during regular business meetings, which may help new members to understand the significance of some of our activities and projects.
Requests for subscriptions should be sent to the Braille Monitor, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. It is essential that each subscription request specify the medium (Braille, large print, cassette, etc.) that is desired. Address change requests must also include which medium is wanted and which medium is being dropped for each subscription. Braille Monitor subscriptions may be sent in by the chapter secretary, president, or by the member himself. Individuals may also subscribe to a text version of the Braille Monitor by e-mail; instructions on how to do so are available at www.nfb.org. Click on Publications, then on the Braille Monitor. On the Braille Monitor page of the NFB Web site, you may also read the most recent and many past issues of the magazine. There is no charge for the Braille Monitor, but many members and chapters make annual contributions for it.
Members are welcome to send information or articles to the Braille Monitor for consideration by the editor. You will observe that there is a series of announcements in most issues of the Monitor called “Monitor Miniatures.” As you read the information, you will realize that announcements about occurrences in your chapter can be printed in the Monitor. In order for this to happen, you must send the information to the editor. Other articles are also welcome.
In the print issue of the Monitor, there are pictures, which are identified in the other media. Send in pictures of people in your chapter and pictures of activities in which you participate. Pictures are filed at the national office and may be used in other publications besides the Braille Monitor. Pictures in the Braille Monitor have become very popular among readers.
Take full advantage of the Braille Monitor. Read it carefully, and send to the editor appropriate information.
These books are small paperbacks in large print that are distributed to the public to help them learn about blindness. NFB members also find them interesting and helpful. The books are published in Braille and on cassette for use of the members. While the supply lasts, they may be obtained from the NFB Independence Market. They may also be borrowed from your regional library for the blind. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS) has recorded all of them except the most recent. They are listed in the NLS publications Braille Book Review and Talking Book Topics as they are produced in Braille and recorded, and they can be located through a search of the online NLS catalog or by contacting your regional library directly. It is a good idea to borrow them from your regional library, so that the library does not discard them. If you wish to keep Kernel Books, of course, you should purchase them.
This book is available in print, Braille, and on cassette. Written by Dr. Floyd Matson, it is a comprehensive history of the first fifty years (1940-1990) of the Federation. It can be purchased from the NFB Independence Market or borrowed from your regional library. Because this is such a large book, you may not wish to give it to new members immediately; but before long many will find it informative and interesting. This book can also be beneficial when placed in public libraries. More than one blind person has learned about the Federation by finding NFB literature in a local or university library. Family members also look in libraries for information about blindness.
This quarterly publication is directed primarily to parents and educators of blind children. It is available in print or on cassette. A subscription fee may be expected. There is an introductory issue of Future Reflections available on request from the Independence Market. This little book can be distributed to prospective readers to show them the kind of material that is included in the publication. There is no charge for the introductory issue.
If you know a family that has a blind or visually impaired youngster, this magazine may be very helpful to them. They also need to know about the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division. You will learn more about working with parents of blind children by reading Future Reflections.
This is a quarterly newspaper published in print and on cassette for diabetics and professionals who work with blind diabetics. You may also receive it by e-mail if you wish. No subscription fee is required, but contributions are appreciated. Any chapter that wishes may receive multiple copies of each issue for distribution to pharmacies or clinics where diabetics will pick them up. Most chapters have members who are diabetic since diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness. Someone in each chapter should keep the name and address of the editor of Voice of the Diabetic handy and send in names and addresses of individuals who are interested in subscribing.
In October 2004, the NFB launched Voice of the Nation’s Blind (VNB), a new Internet magazine that combined traditional articles with audio and video content to create a
ultimedia source of news. The publication covered NFB events and other news about blindness and blind people in the areas of business, culture, history of the organized blind movement, technology, and more.
Now the VNB has become a blog on the NFB Web site. It can be reached by going to the home page, clicking Publications, and then clicking Voice of the Nation’s Blind, or by typing the following Web address into your Internet browser: www.nfb.org/nfb/VNB.asp.
VNB is updated several times a week and includes information about the NFB and blind people around the country. It also includes announcements of all kinds of information and links to more in-depth stories. The blog also has an RSS feed so that members can check for updates and always have access to the latest information about blindness and the National Federation of the Blind.
Articles from the VNB Web magazine are being archived and integrated into the NFB Web site as appropriate.
Each year, the National Federation of the Blind produces an annual report that describes the activities of the organization over the past year. The annual report is a great source of information about the programs, activities, and services of the Federation. It is also a good item to distribute to potential donors or other people who are interested in blindness. The annual report is available upon request and is posted on the NFB Web site. As a new Federation leader, you should read the most recent annual report.
Each year at the national convention the President gives a presidential report, summarizing the activities of the organization during the past year. This report appears in the convention issue of the Braille Monitor, and it is available separately on cassette, in large print and in Braille. But listening to it on tape as it was recorded live at the convention is the most exciting! As a new leader in the National Federation of the Blind, you should immediately read the most recent presidential report, and then read reports from prior years as you can. This reading will provide you with an overview of what the Federation is doing and how our activities, programs, and services have evolved over the years.
In its sixty-seven years of existence, the National Federation of the Blind has produced a vast amount of literature, from reprints of Braille Monitor articles to each year’s banquet speeches. No one can read all of this literature. Over the years, however, certain speeches and articles have become fundamental to who we are as a movement and what we do.
In addition to the recommended readings below, you should always read the most recent presidential report given by Dr. Marc Maurer at each annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, and his most recent banquet address.
If you ordered this book with a supplemental packet, the packet contains ten essential NFB speeches and articles. If you did not order this packet, you should read the following:
“The Cross of Blindness” (Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, 1957)
“A Definition of Blindness” (Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, article originally published in
The Blind American, 1962)
“Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic” (Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, 1963)
“A Left-handed Dissertation” (Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, 1973)
“Blindness: Of Visions and Vultures” (Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, 1976)
“Blindness: The Pattern of Freedom” (Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, 1985)
“Back to Notre Dame” (Dr. Marc Maurer, 1987)
“Reflecting the Flame” (Dr. Marc Maurer, 1991)
“The Heritage of Conflict” (Dr. Marc Maurer, 1995)
“The Search for Anonymity” (Dr. Marc Maurer, 1998)
All of the above speeches and articles are available on the NFB Web site (www.nfb.org) or can be ordered free from the Independence Market of the Jacobus tenBroek Library.
Besides educating ourselves about blindness and the NFB, our literature should be used
to educate the public about blindness and the NFB. The pamphlet entitled “What is the National Federation of the Blind” is free and should be distributed broadly. Braille alphabet cards are interesting to sighted people (especially children) and can be passed out at speaking engagements, health fairs, and in many other activities. Kernel Books are inexpensive and very interesting to those who know little about blindness. The staff in the Jacobus tenBroek Library has grouped many NFB materials into packets to be distributed to answer certain questions or to provide information likely to be needed by groups of individuals.
It is likely that no one can now be familiar with every piece of NFB literature. I have been a member of the NFB since 1965, and I have tried to read new publications when they were first published. Yet, I cannot identify everything listed in the Literature Order Form. You cannot and do not need to read it all. But there is a huge wealth of information and inspiration waiting for you and your members to discover, and more is added every year!
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The National Federation of the Blind, as we have said, is first and foremost an advocacy organization. If there is a problem for blind people, we want to work to improve the situation. In order to identify problems, the organization serves as a watchdog. If a restaurant or theater refuses to admit a person using a guide dog, we want to find out and challenge this practice, which is illegal throughout the United States and punishable as a misdemeanor in some states. If a hotel requires blind people to stay in rooms that are equipped for wheelchairs against the will of the blind, we want to know about it and get the hotel to understand what is reasonable. If a city is thinking of installing audible traffic signals without discussion with the blind about where they should be located, the authorities need to hear from us.
Each state affiliate and local chapter decides which projects are most important to the members at a particular time. Some chapters may work to get restaurants to offer large print and Braille menus. Some may work to see that public restrooms are labeled appropriately. Some may work to mentor blind children and newly blind seniors. All of these are good things to do. No chapter or state may oppose national policy, but each group should choose projects within the scope of our goals as it sees fit.
We want all of our efforts to benefit blind people. We cannot change everything at once. Thus, we choose projects that we can accomplish and that seem important to the group doing the work. Sometimes it is a matter of public education. Sometimes we must confront unfairness. Sometimes it is best to help blind people learn to raise their expectations for themselves in spite of blindness. This is the National Federation of the Blind at work in cities and states throughout the country.
The Federation works to improve laws affecting the blind. Through our efforts improvements have been made in the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Social Security Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and many other pieces of legislation. In 2006, the Louis Braille Bicentennial-Braille Literacy Commemorative Coin Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush. This should generate up to $4 million, which will be used by the NFB to promote Braille, but we must match this amount. This legislation is an example of what can happen when we work well with Congress. At the National Center for the Blind, there is an office of governmental affairs, which works directly with members of Congress. This office also tries to keep the membership informed about what has been accomplished and what needs to be done pertaining to our interests in Congress. We have already discussed the Washington Seminar (Section 22), in which we take several pieces of proposed legislation to Congress. In addition we often need to work on legislative matters at other times during the year. NFB staff members may send e-mails and faxes to state presidents or other leaders requesting action of one kind or another. It is important to follow up and let our national staff know the results after we contact our senators and representatives.
Congressmen and senators respond best to their own constituents. They will respond even better to constituents with whom they are already acquainted. You may be able to arrange for a congressman or senator to come to your state convention as a speaker. This presentation may occur during the banquet or earlier in the program. If you plan to have a public official speak at your banquet, schedule him or her after the presentation from your national representative. Your national representative can plan his or her speech partly for the education of the next speaker. If you schedule a congressman or senator during the day, you may wish to plan for certain questions to be raised from the floor—questions that are designed to get him or her to make commitments that will be helpful to the blind.
Of course, it is always desirable to write thank you letters following meetings of all kinds. If commitments were made, these should be restated in the letter of thanks. If one of your congressmen or senators has been truly helpful to the blind, you may wish to present an award at the time of the appearance at your convention. Seeing a convention (even a small one) of blind people generally makes an impression on the speaker.
Elected officials generally have good memories for names and faces. Many will learn to recognize you very quickly and remember that you represent the blind. I well remember the first time I met Helen Chenoweth, newly-elected congresswoman from Idaho. She walked into our meeting and said, “Ramona, I have always wanted to meet you!” I was astonished, but all I could say in response was, “That is exactly what I want to say to you.” To this day, I can only guess how she knew me and what she knew. Exchanges such as this one make NFB work rewarding and fun. Many of our state presidents and legislative chairmen are familiar to most members of Congress from their states.
In addition to national legislation, we often need to present issues to our state legislatures. There may be occasions when chapters need to support changes in city ordinances as well. Each state affiliate and local chapter plans its own legislation and determines how to present it to the legislature or city council. We only deal with issues pertaining to blindness. Certainly, many of our members care about other things and may get involved publicly in them. As an organization, however, the NFB only takes positions on issues that are significant to the blind as a group. Of course, the best time to bring our interests to the attention of our elected officials is when they are in their home districts, both before they are elected and afterward.
Some state presidents choose to coordinate the work themselves with elected state officials. Others appoint a legislative chairman or committee to do so. Either practice can work well, but the president needs to keep in touch with the legislative committee and assist with the work.
Many state affiliates invite their legislators to receptions or dinners in their capitol cities during the legislative season. Some states gather members to spend the day talking with legislators in their offices. As an example, in Idaho our legislators have no offices, just desks in the House and Senate chambers. Therefore, we hold a dinner or breakfast to which we invite all of them and their wives or husbands. Most years we succeed in getting between one-fourth and one-half of these individuals to come to our event in spite of conflicts in their schedules. We plan a program presenting our needs for the legislative season, and the legislature is very responsive. Legislators like to receive brief written descriptions of each piece of proposed legislation. These “legislative agendas” can be given to those who do not come to the event, as well as to those who attend.
When proposing a piece of legislation, it is necessary to have the bill drafted and find a legislator to sponsor it. Generally, it will be referred to a specific committee. The committee may hold one or more hearings on the bill and may amend it. It is important for NFB members to keep themselves informed about what happens to the bill as it moves through the process. It may be necessary to present testimony at certain committee hearings during the season. Often it is desirable to have one person present a statement while others are in attendance to show support for the comments of the presenter. Legislative work is challenging and rewarding. The more experience you get, the better you will be at it. Sometimes, the legislative strategy of the National Federation of the Blind requires that similar laws be introduced in multiple state legislatures across the country. This strategy may be desirable because the subject matter is not appropriate for federal legislation, or to put pressure on state and national political leaders to recognize the importance of an issue to the blind. The “white cane” laws that exist in every state were introduced in this way. In another important example, beginning in the late 1980s, the Federation began a major push to have legislation introduced in each state requiring that blind children have the opportunity to learn Braille. This was necessary because Braille instruction had declined significantly, and some schools were refusing to teach it to blind students. Twenty-six states adopted our “Braille literacy” laws, and ultimately the federal government included Braille literacy requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When this strategy is used, our governmental affairs staff will often draft “model” legislation that can be presented to state legislators for introduction.
Both governmental and private agencies in work with the blind function best if they actively seek input from blind consumers. The simplest way to make sure that agencies do this is for the NFB affiliate to recommend some good representatives to serve on the administrative board of the agency. Board members become well informed about all aspects of the agency’s service. A good relationship between the NFB and agencies for the blind helps blind people know how best to take advantage of the services available, and helps agencies provide top-quality services.
For a number of years in the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan (former president of the NFB) directed the best state rehabilitation agency for the blind that has ever existed. He established a policy that has now been included in federal law for Randolph-Sheppard vendors. In the event that there is a disagreement between a vendor and the agency, it will be decided by a panel of three. One representative is chosen by the vendor, one is chosen by the agency, and a third is chosen by the first two representatives. This is clearly fair, and it is an example of what happens when an agency works cooperatively with the National Federation of the Blind. Both the agency and the Federation are stronger.
One function of the state affiliates of the Federation is to monitor the work of the various agencies serving blind people in the state. Public agencies generally include: a regional library cooperating with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a rehabilitation agency, a school providing education for blind children, and other programs for blind children in public schools. Keeping track of all of this is a big job, and it is not always possible to cover as much of these activities as would be desirable. We do what we can with the number of people we have in the parts of the state where our members are located. It is often possible to appoint someone to serve on an advisory board for the library as well as the rehabilitation agency.
In most states there are also private agencies providing various services. Independent living centers and sheltered workshops for the blind may be run by public or private agencies. In addition to agencies serving the blind, we also may be able to work cooperatively with peer support groups. It is to their advantage to be knowledgeable about the work of the Federation and to be in touch with other blind people. Programs serving seniors need to have information about working with the blind. Our chapters may need to help senior programs include blind people in their activities.
It is often possible to work cooperatively on certain projects with some of these service providers. For example, an NFB chapter or state affiliate may hold a joint project with a school for the blind for junior high or high school students regarding careers and/or college. An NFB chapter or state affiliate with a senior organization may sponsor jointly a seminar on blindness and techniques used by blind seniors. You may be able to think of many other projects that would benefit both blind people and the service providers. Agencies may be helpful with transportation and mailing lists. Many members of the NFB are more effective at haring their experiences with blindness than professionals, even good professionals. It is important that all participants understand that the project is co-sponsored by two different entities, but these co-operative efforts may often be the best way to provide quality service.
As I have said, NFB chapters and state affiliates can and do conduct get-togethers of many kinds, including conferences, parties, seminars, and committee meetings. In order to express the views of blind consumers, we are constantly looking for opportunities to let others know about our experiences with blindness. Service providers need us. Sometimes they know it, and sometimes they don’t. Both the NFB and service providers are stronger when we can work together.
When blind people are asked what kinds of needs they have, transportation is almost always at the top of the list. Many chapters send representatives to board meetings of city transit systems and to city council meetings when these matters are on the agenda. Many chapters send speakers to make presentations to bus drivers when there are problems or just to keep them in touch with blind riders. Many cities have special boards or staff to handle paratransit.
Paratransit exists in most towns and cities and is for seniors and disabled people who cannot use the fixed route public transit system. Some cities require that you must not be able to use the buses if you use paratransit, but some do not. Some require that only those who live within a certain distance of the bus routes may be eligible for paratransit.
If someone in each chapter is knowledgeable about both fixed route and paratransit services, that person can keep others informed about them. If a blind person’s application for paratransit services is denied incorrectly, the applicant may need help to get this decision reversed. If cities are considering a change in service or budget, the NFB chapter may wish to send a delegation to meetings or write letters or provide oral statements at meetings.
E-mail contacts are useful, but live appearances are best. It may be possible to have a member appointed to a board or committee where that person can have even more influence.
If members from several chapters are monitoring public transit in several different cities, a state may find it helpful to have a transportation committee to coordinate activities and compare experiences. This is a good example of the Federation at work.
Some newly blind people become very depressed and feel that life is hardly worth living. They need encouragement from any place it is available. We cannot replace the work of the rehabilitation agencies, but contact with other people who have experienced sight loss can be a very important part of accepting blindness or poor vision. This is one of the reasons that telephone numbers and Web sites in the name of the organization are important. When someone is looking for information and contacts, he or she can find us. In addition, we will come across people in the community who are losing sight. We need to invite them to our meetings and make friends with them. Personal contact is the best, but we have plenty of literature to provide. Of course, we are always looking for members, but sometimes we need to make friends before newly blind people are ready to join. Social activities often provide a better opportunity to get acquainted than business meetings, but we should welcome people to both.
We can also help newly blind people learn what services are reasonable to expect from the library for the blind and the rehabilitation agency. Even if these agencies are not all we want them to be, they generally can offer some things that are helpful. We might as well take advantage of what is available. Some chapters have a mentor system for new members or prospective members. This is a good way to be sure that some people are not forgotten or missed. Sometimes this happens without a special system. Perhaps we will never have enough time and energy to do this job as well as it should be done. Therefore, we have established NFB-LINK, an online resource that connects members of the NFB who need guidance and connections to those who can best help them.
Programs about diabetes, gatherings for seniors, get-togethers for blind children and parents, opportunities to learn about technology, and many, many other topics can be useful both to new and long-time members. Group activities are essential, but one-on-one contacts and friendships are the foundation to build relationships that make people want to join and work together in chapters.
The best way to recruit a new member is to make friends with him or her. Invite your friend to meetings and other activities. Give him or her NFB literature to read. Mention how the work we do helps blind people locally and across the country. Tell him or her what the Federation means to you. If we are organizing a chapter in an area where we do not already have members, this approach must be modified only to the extent that one individual does not have personal contact as frequently. E-mail and telephone contacts can be used.
Members of an existing chapter often travel to another part of the state to find and contact potential new members for a new chapter. Often this is done in conjunction with an organizational meeting. At the meeting, the members need to hear about the organization from several people who have experience. They need to identify and discuss the needs of blind people locally and across the state and nation. Those who wish to join the newly established chapter can simply pay their dues. Then they need to hear the model constitution, and often it can be adopted at the very first meeting. After the constitution is adopted, officers can be elected. If the group does not wish to move quite so fast, temporary officers can be elected, and the next meeting date must be set. The organizing team should be in touch by telephone, e-mail if possible, and in any other way that works.
If members from the new chapter can come to visit a meeting of an existing chapter, this will help. If a state convention or other activity is coming up, participation in it will strengthen the new chapter. All the members should receive and continue to receive NFB reading materials, especially tapes, to continue to learn more about the organization. The names and addresses of all new members should be sent to the Braille Monitor, along with a note about which format they wish to read.
New members need to find areas where they can contribute to the chapter. Assigning appropriate responsibilities can make the difference in helping members understand that they have something important to offer the group.
If good leadership was found initially, these leaders need moral support and they may need guidance. If more leadership is needed, which is almost always the case, state leaders and members from the organizing team should help to groom more people.
It is also possible for members-at-large to join. If a blind person lives in a very small town or on a farm, it may not be possible for him or her to attend chapter meetings regularly. A new member-at-large still needs support from strong members by phone, by e-mail, by visits, and by receiving NFB literature. Recruiting new members takes work, but it is worth all the effort.
Cultivating new leaders follows immediately after recruiting new members. Reading more tapes, contacting other Federationists, and attending state and national activities (especially conventions) are good ways to grow in the movement. As a person’s commitment and enthusiasm increases, so does skill and knowledge. When he or she is ready and willing to take on new responsibilities, the local or state president should look for the best job available for that particular person. Sometimes new members have new ideas that should be taken seriously and explored. Not everyone wants to or can be president. One person might prefer to be social chairman, legislative chair, transportation chair, fundraising leader, and on and on.
Chapters and states can sponsor leadership development seminars. This is a time for discussion, reporting on activities and events that are unfamiliar to the group, planning for future activities, and setting more general goals. Sometimes there are members within the state who can conduct these events, and sometimes it is desirable to ask for help from elsewhere. The TOPS program, Training and Organizing People to Serve, may provide ideas and approaches for leadership development. It is a good idea to confer with the NFB President or executive director of affiliate action about bringing someone in from another state, even if no financial assistance is needed. This is so because the NFB President has so many jobs to assign that he needs to be aware of where leaders are and how big of a load they carry.
The NFB President invites members to participate in leadership seminars once or twice a year. Anyone who has already attended one can recommend others to go; and recommendations will be considered, but not always taken. There is always a waiting list. The President will do his best to include people as he can. He wants members who are becoming leaders and will participate effectively in the group. National leadership seminars can be a valuable experience for many people, but it is only one way to learn and grow in the Federation.
Projects may serve many different purposes. They may be for public education or building confidence of members. They may seek to recruit new members or strengthen long-time members. They may serve to build better relationships with public officials or eliminate discrimination against the blind. Fundraisers are an important part of chapter activities and usually they accomplish more than raising money. In short, chapter and state projects may accomplish anything the Federation wishes to do or they may fulfill several goals simultaneously.
Many chapter and state projects have been mentioned in conjunction with other discussions throughout this guide. Below is a list of projects for your convenience. Chapters are constantly finding new ideas and new approaches to old ideas. Not every possible project would work in every chapter. This list should generate all kinds of possibilities, but there is no end to what we can do. Chapter activities should never become boring.
1. Inform groups and individuals about NFB-NEWSLINE® and sign up readers.
2. Hold progressive dinners; picnics; Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day parties.
3. Arrange game and card nights; dance lessons.
4. Write letters or e-mails about legislation.
5. Write letters or e-mails for a fundraiser: Imagination Fund; sponsors for a walk-a-thon, etc.
6. Present Braille fair; teach public officials about blindness; teach other groups about the blind.
7. Volunteer for speaking engagements.
8. Plan programs for blind seniors, blind students, and/or other groups of blind people.
9. Raise funds. (See Part V)
10. Give lessons for members and/or nonmembers to learn computers and speech or Braille output.
11. Write brochure for chapter or state affiliate.
12. Set up booth at health fair, technology exhibit, senior fair, etc.
13. Teach Braille to blind or sighted children or adults.
14. Offer cane travel lessons to those whose skill needs improvement.
15. Appear on talk show or other radio or television program.
16. Have contest for those reading NFB literature.
17. Organize transportation to state or national conventions.
18. Collect door prizes for conventions.
19. Organize swimming or waterskiing during summer; ice-skating or sledding during winter.
20. Plan wedding shower or baby shower for member for whom it would be appropriate.
21. Send birthday cards and other well wishes to members when appropriate.
22. Tour city library to see services it offers for the blind. Tour the library for the blind.
23. Tour company to look for employment opportunities for the blind.
24. Build partnership with another service club.
25. Take blind children on visit to the zoo or other activity.
26. Assign members as mentors to blind children or blind adults.
27. Organize trip to NFB state convention in nearby state.
28. Organize trip to amusement park or casino.
29. Read Braille stories at a story hour at a public library.
30. Advise a university about appropriate services to blind college students.
31. Monitor accuracy of information about blindness on TV, radio, and in newspapers and magazines.
32. Have discussion groups about blindness or materials written about blindness and blind people.
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Our dollars affect the most blind people when spent nationally. Still, we must have money in our local chapters, in the state affiliate treasuries, in the division treasuries, and in the national treasury. We just need to keep in mind that funding the national needs will help all chapters and states.
It is appropriate to offer some members some assistance to attend state and national conventions or to attend the Washington Seminar. The appropriate amount depends on the size of the membership and the size of the state. It also depends on how much money the chapter or state is able to raise. State affiliates may find it desirable to subsidize the cost of the hotel or banquet at their conventions. They may wish to plan a special day or evening to host legislators to provide to them information regarding legislation affecting the blind.
Chapters and states need money to do all the things discussed in Part IV and to support all the NFB services described in Part VI of this guide. Chapters may wish to join the local chamber of commerce as a means of participating in community activities and to educate the public about blindness and the NFB. It is not appropriate to distribute Federation money to members personally unless it is to reimburse them for organizational activities and expenses.
This author’s definition of a good fundraising activity for a chapter or state affiliate is: “Something that the members get excited about and that members want to work on.” Some individuals have personally arranged projects that are appropriate and successful.
One high school girl got her school to do a project for the NFB. One member collected pennies from others at meetings. One member held a Tupperware party for the chapter. One member rode the back of a tandem bike in a major cycling event and took pledges on his ride. All of these are excellent ideas. However, most fundraisers involve many members. Many chapter fundraisers are relatively simple and straightforward. These include candy sales, raffles or drawings, walk-a-thons, dinners or dances, etc. Below is a list of good fundraising projects. If you have questions about any of them, contact a state president or a national board member. Fundraising can be a lot of fun and is almost always combined with education of the public about blindness. This stimulates blind people to try new activities. Special events will be discussed in a later section.
Local chapters and state affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind may choose any of dozens of fundraising projects. They should not contract with professionals without conferring with the NFB President. However, almost anything else imaginable may work. With time and experience, strong chapters can raise tens of thousands of dollars each year. This gives them the opportunity to have all the money they need and assist the state and national organizations.
Recently, several states sent representatives who enjoy fundraising to a meeting. One project was to compile a list of some of the things that one or more chapters do as successful fundraisers. With imagination and energy any chapter can do several of these projects a year.
• Handmade quilt, afghan, sweater, scarf
• Appliances, donated merchandise from stores
• Money (50/50 for winner & organization or specific amount)
• Baskets (food baskets, collections of cosmetics, many items for an evening’s entertainment, or any collection of items)
• Sale of specially designed items such as T-shirts, canvas bags, hats, et al
• Bake sale, garage sale, candy sale, craft sale
• Sell NFB jewelry, NFB art calendars, coupon books, and used books
• Donated products sold from businesses or percentage of sale donations (i.e. coffee sales in restaurant on White Cane Safety Day)
• Book sales in bookstores on Louis Braille’s birthday
• Evergreen wreathes available from Frank Likar before Christmas, stuffed Christmas stockings, ice cream at an ice cream social
Dances, barbecues, luncheons, banquets, dinners (spaghetti, chili, Italian, etc.) concerts, gospel extravaganzas, talent/variety shows, etc.
COLLECT CHANGE AT MEETINGS
• Entry fees, business sponsors, pledges
• Walk-a-thon, bowl-a-thon, dance-a-thon, bike-a-thon
BOOTHS AND TABLES
• Fairs, festivals, conventions, shopping malls, etc.
• Sell items such as food, beverages, helium balloons, Kernel Books
• Collect donations
• Distribute information
• Write names in Braille
Note: Booths may have both free items and items at a charge.
Traditional auctions, silent auctions, Chinese auctions, art auctions, auctions combined with a meal or concert
For state convention agendas or for other special events
Apply for general grants or grants for specific purposes, such as scholarships, NFB-NEWSLINE®, equipment, helping new people go to conventions, providing “Braille Is Beautiful” kits to schools, etc.
WRITE SOMETHING TO SELL
Cook books, coloring books, etc.
Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, or Outback Steak House (contact store managers for more information)
At state convention to state treasury or PAC
ITEMS GROUP CAN MAKE FOR SALE
Candy wreathes, Hershey’s Kisses roses, wooden crafts, greeting cards, etc.
Use your imagination!
If you wish to exchange ideas about how to do any of these fundraisers, you can join the listserv, email@example.com. If you ask for advice, you will get it. Each chapter will have to make its own decisions. If there is one person who is enthusiastic about fundraising in your chapter, the enthusiasm will be contagious.
As a chapter or a committee within a chapter gains experience with the kinds of fundraisers mentioned in this list, the group may wish to take on even bigger projects. Not every chapter wants or needs to do big events. Fundraising, from the little projects to the huge ones, can be challenging, stimulating, strengthening to individuals and chapters, and very rewarding. Of course we need the money, but the benefits of fundraising beyond the income are every bit as important and exciting as the money itself!
The National Federation of the Blind is a large and complex organization and must depend upon a complex system to raise funds for its work. This involves every member and every chapter in one way or another. There are projects that are managed through the national office, but there must be more than that.
The need for funds is unquestioned by anyone, but how much is needed is harder to calculate. We must fund the operation of our national staff and programs. We must fund legal assistance for blind persons whose cases will make a difference for many. We must pay for assistance for affiliates that are having problems or need to expand their work. We must assist divisions from time to time. We need to continue to write and publish materials, such as the Braille Monitor and Kernel Books to help with the education of both blind and sighted people in our society. We must participate in international organizations of the blind. We must continue to monitor governmental and private programs that serve the blind. We must continue to build momentum and fund the research and training projects of the NFB Jernigan Institute. We should not forget about state and national legislation. The list of Federation activities is as long as the list of needs of the blind. No one wants to reduce this work, but none of it can occur without financial resources. The work of the Federation affects every blind person in the country, whether he or she is even aware of what is happening.
Some kinds of fundraising projects are conducted by the membership for the national treasury. All chapter presidents should be aware of these and encourage members to participate.
The Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) plan is a system whereby members can support our national activities by having a specified donation withdrawn from their checking accounts on a monthly basis. It is necessary to fill out a PAC form to instruct the NFB accounting staff and your bank regarding your wishes.
There are two parts to the form—one to be kept at NFB headquarters, and one to be sent to your bank. You must sign both parts of the form. When beginning a new PAC Plan, be sure to include a voided check on your account when you send in your PAC form, or include the route transit number of your bank, which can be located on the bottom of your checks or requested by calling the bank. If you wish to increase the amount to be withdrawn each month, no check is necessary. The minimum monthly amount that can be contributed through PAC is $5.
This system was designed for individual members, and many are proud to participate. Some chapters and state affiliates also contribute through PAC, and this is appreciated. However, it should not be considered a replacement for individual PAC donations. The amount of individual PAC contributions is kept confidential. If members do not have checking accounts, it is not possible for them to donate through PAC. Other donations are certainly appreciated, however.
We rank state affiliates as to how much each donates through PAC. Many members watch this ranking carefully and find it stimulating to notice the states that are just ahead or just behind our own. This is especially true when it is possible to move up in the rankings.
Non-PAC donations from states are counted separately. Whether they are received as
one-time gifts or in some other manner, they are still very helpful.
Many of us have friends, family members, and business associates who are aware that we are active in a national organization of the blind that makes a lot of difference to all of us. Some of us know community leaders who may help. Often they do not wish to become active members but would be happy to support our work. These are potential contributors to the Imagination Fund. This fund was started in order to expand our financial resources to help pay for the work of the Jernigan Institute, but it does much more than that. One quarter of the money raised is divided evenly among the fifty-two state affiliates. A second quarter of the money raised is available for grants that can be made to states for special projects.
There should be at least one Imagination Fund Coordinator in each state and as many others to help as possible. These people are called “Imaginators.” Imaginators can raise money in several ways. They can make donations themselves. They can ask their friends and associates for donations. We know and meet people who want to support programs that benefit the blind, and it is up to us to tell them how much the NFB is doing. Many of our friends and associates are interested in our work and will support it financially. We must find ways to ask appropriately. At the time of this writing, we are still learning how to make this kind of fundraising most lucrative. We will keep working at it until we get all the details in place. You may order Imagination Fund brochures and return envelopes from the NFB Independence Market.
Anyone who raises $250 or more can march in the March for Independence at the next national convention.
Since the NFB depends on public donations and we are an advocacy organization, we are trying to build a reserve fund in case of trouble. This fund is called Shares Unlimited for NFB (SUN).
Individuals, chapters, state affiliates, and divisions make donations to the SUN fund as they can. These funds are invested and kept as a reserve. Some members have chosen to make a monthly contribution to SUN by automatic withdrawal from their checking accounts in a way similar to the PAC Plan. Yellow forms are available for this purpose. Most members and many chapters and state affiliates choose to make donations to the SUN fund quarterly or annually. Reminders can be sent from our national office for either of these schedules.
Shortly before the death of Dr. Jernigan, some people decided to create a special fund in honor of our longtime, great leader. The purpose of the fund is to provide scholarships of various types to members of the Federation. The first scholarships have been awarded to make it possible for new members to attend our national convention. As the principal grows, additional scholarships may also be offered. Contributions to the Jernigan Fund should be made out to the NFB with “Jernigan Fund” written in the memo of the check. Announcements of scholarships being offered each spring appear in the Braille Monitor or on presidential release tapes.
We continue to collect donations for the Jernigan Fund, and members and chapters continue to make them. We have not worked a lot to solicit this money. Some committee members organize activities to benefit this fund at our national conventions. Of course, the benefits of the fund provide motivation to support it, and many of us wish to honor Dr. Jernigan by supporting this fund.
Ordinarily, local chapters do not hire or contract professional fundraisers. Some state affiliates do. When this is done, it is essential that the contracts or agreements be written and executed properly. If errors are made, the entire organization can be damaged. Therefore, anytime a part of the NFB wishes to do business with a professional fundraiser, it is necessary to have the NFB President or someone he designates review the contract.
Model contracts can often be provided if it is helpful. If the fundraiser has a contract for us to sign, this may be acceptable or modifications may be necessary. The NFB President will direct state presidents how to proceed, depending on the scope and nature of the activity and commitment.
At one time the most common type of fundraising contract was made with telephone fundraisers. Although many of these companies are doing excellent work, they are under attack and may not be able to continue to operate as they now do. It is possible to contract companies to manage events, and this can be considered. Some chapters manage their own events successfully.
It is standard procedure, when fundraising contracts are used, for the state affiliate to divide the income in half, giving half to the national treasury. Many chapters and state affiliates do this with income from all fundraising projects. A chapter may wish to keep one-third of the income; donate one-third to the state affiliate; and one-third to the national treasury. Members are often proud to do this when it is discussed.
It is possible to raise large amounts of money by planning and holding special events. An event may be a dinner, dance, auction, concert, walk-a-thon, or other kind of get-together. Sometimes two or more of these things can be combined in one evening. Consult state or national leaders with experience in this type of event to help you plan one. Most would be glad to share their experiences with others.
It is essential to work with other organizations and individuals in the community outside our own chapters in order to build the event into a major occurrence. Relationships must be built over months and years to make this cooperative effort most effective. We must make friends through business contacts and other social and civic organizations. We must turn over some aspects of the work to others so that they feel good about helping. However, we must control what is said about blindness and the NFB. Each chapter will gradually learn how to do this and gradually add new sponsors and names to invite. There was a time when we expected an event to raise $1,000 or less. We must raise our expectations. We can increase net income from $1,000 to $5,000 or to $10,000. Then we can increase from $10,000 to $25,000 or to $50,000. The gala held October 19, 2001, to celebrate the groundbreaking of our new Jernigan Institute building at our national headquarters, raised a net income of $150,000. How soon can we top that? I expect it will not be too long.
In Boise, Idaho, a city of less than a quarter million people, the Treasure Valley Chapter of the NFB holds two events a year: a bike-a-thon called Cycle for Independence and a Community Recognition Dinner. Between September of 2005 and June of 2006 we raised more than $15,000 (at least 60 percent net income), and we are hoping to continue to improve both events. In addition to raising funds, both events help us get to know more people in the community. At our Community Recognition Dinner, we also present awards to individuals who have been helpful to the blind. It takes a lot of work, but we find it is very much worth the effort. In Charlotte, NC, our chapter raised $7,000 the first year of its walk-a-thon.
Would you like to be a part of this sort of event? We must dream before the reality can come to pass. My wish for chapters and state affiliates is that they have enough confidence in their fundraising ability that they do not worry about it. They can spend what they want because they know they can raise more. Of course, it takes some experience with successful fundraisers for the membership to adopt this approach. I regard fundraising as FUN! I expect it to work, and I am prepared to do what it takes to make it work. At least one of the members in a chapter needs to take this attitude. If some do, others will pick it up. Gradually, the group will come to understand that fundraising can work. I want us to be optimistic about our ability to raise funds, and I want us to be able to spend a lot. I personally believe the Federation will be most effective when we can afford to have an office and at least one employee (part-time at first if necessary) in every state. In large states we may need more than one office. I hope this day is not too far in the future. I am happy to share my experience if asked.
One more thing should be said about fundraising and money. In the Federation, we do not borrow. If we cannot afford to do something, it must wait. We are not afraid of challenges or work, but we must not spend publicly contributed funds or member donations on interest. And we must not risk what we work so hard to raise. Thus, we should spend what we have and know that we can raise more, but we must never, ever spend more than we have.
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Because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind, every blind person in the country may have access to daily newspapers. For the first time ever, NFB-NEWSLINE® provides the kind of access to newspapers that sighted people have. More than 250 newspapers are on the system, and at least forty states have the service. In addition, there are several national magazines available to blind readers in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. All blind people should sign up for the service.
Each reader is issued a six-digit personal identification number and a four-digit security code by either the NEWSLINE coordinator at NFB headquarters or by the state sponsor. Participating newspapers simply send their text each morning to the NFB-NEWSLINE® computer which translates the text into high-quality synthesized speech. The blind person is connected with the service by dialing the toll-free number (888-882-1629) or by dialing a local number if available, on a touch-tone telephone and pressing his or her identification number and security code when prompted. The subscriber chooses a newspaper by pushing buttons on the touch-tone keypad and moves through the paper in much the same way a sighted person would. There are several sections of each paper. One can choose to read certain articles or parts of articles as desired. There is no charge for this service. If a local number is available to access the service, it should be used instead of the toll-free number in order to help defray the cost of the service. Some newspapers can also be sent in DAISY book form to a reader by e-mail, and this delivery method also helps the organization save money. The e-mailed files can be read on a personal computer, digital talking book player, Braille notetaker, or other device capable of handling DAISY files.
Any legally blind person who wishes to sign up for NFB-NEWSLINE® should contact the national office or the sponsor in his or her state. All members are urged to take advantage of this service. Each state affiliate has the responsibility of finding the money to pay for the service, known as the state NEWSLINE sponsor. In some states the rehabilitation agency has found the funds; in some cases the library for the blind has done so; in other states there have been special appropriations from the legislatures; in other states members have applied for and received grants from private foundations and corporations. Members of the NFB should be involved when libraries or rehabilitation agencies are seeking funds from the legislature. You will need to ask your state president or other NFB leaders to learn more about your state’s NFB-NEWSLINE® service and funding.
State sponsors and NFB members can work to add daily newspapers to NFB-NEWSLINE®. For more information about doing so, contact the NFB-NEWSLINE® director at the NFB headquarters.
Local chapters should be sure that blind individuals in the area know of this service, know how to apply for it, and know how to use it. Local chapters should be sure that local libraries and other service providers are supplying application forms and encouraging applicants to sign up. Since people are continually losing vision, there will be those who know little or nothing about NFB-NEWSLINE® for some time to come.
NFB-NEWSLINE® has a local channel which can be used by the state sponsor to provide information of special interest to the blind. NFB-NEWSLINE® ordinarily does not include information which is already accessible in some other format.
The Independence Market stocks many aids and appliances for the blind and NFB literature. Members may request catalogs in print or Braille, and products may also be ordered from the NFB Web site. Much of the literature is free. Orders for free items may be placed by e-mail, voice mail, letter, fax, phone, or on the Web site. When there is a charge, payment may be made by check or credit card.
The Independence Market also carries NFB jewelry and both video and audiotapes. We do not try to compete with private companies that sell special devices for the blind. Some companies have a good selection at very good prices. However, there are some items (such as certain long, straight, lightweight, white canes) that are largely not available from other places. The NFB membership likes to have aids and appliances available from the Independence Market, and the members make policy. Nevertheless, we are not trying to compete with other suppliers. We need them to be strong companies to get the best service and equipment.
Staff members at the Jacobus tenBroek Library have gathered some NFB literature into several packets to assist individuals in providing information on certain topics. Thus, you can order packets regarding education of blind children for teachers or parents, materials for seniors, materials for newly blind people, and materials on a variety of other topics.
If you have looked at a list of NFB literature, you have found that there are hundreds of pamphlets and packets of materials that can be ordered. Virtually all of them may be used to help educate our members and nonmembers about blindness. Many are reprints of articles that originally appeared in the Braille Monitor, and we thought there would be need for the information later as well.
Try to order NFB materials at least a month before you need them. This means they can be shipped “free matter for the blind” to save on shipping costs. Be sure to specify whether you need Braille, print, cassette, video, or another medium. Be sure to give directions about where to ship the material.
Special attention should be given to a little book entitled So You Don’t See As Well As You Used To. This book describes as many services and approaches in work with the blind as possible. It is available in large print and on cassette. Use it with new members and their families. I like to give So You Don’t See As Well As You Used To and one or two Kernel Books as an introduction to prospective NFB members.
Each chapter and state affiliate should have some NFB literature on hand, but none can store everything. As you can, try to read some of this material. Speeches given at the banquet of our national convention often deal with philosophy and strategy and are available in large print, Braille, or on cassette. Dr. Maurer’s presidential reports show what was accomplished during the year before each was delivered. These speeches are always top quality, and we distribute them widely. Often titles of articles make the topics clear, but not always. Kernel Books help you get to know a little about some colleagues in the Federation. Braille alphabet cards and the What is the NFB brochure are excellent handouts at fairs and demonstrations regarding blindness. If there is someone in your chapter who has read more of this material than you, let that person guide you as to what these items are all about.
At the NFB headquarters we have established a center for the evaluation and demonstration of high-tech devices for the blind. We try to have at least one model each of all the hardware and software available to make speech and Braille output from computers possible for the blind. We also have audible traffic signals, scanners, and machines to make tactile drawings. Bank teller machines and voting machines have been tested. At least three staff members in this department are blind.
There is a limit to how much research the staff can do on any question, but there is a technology answer line for use by the members. If you want to know which of several similar devices appears to meet your needs best, you may inquire of the IBTC staff members as to their experience and testing of those devices. Sometimes reports of these evaluations appear in the Braille Monitor. Sometimes it is possible to offer specialized seminars demonstrating and comparing various devices. From time to time, short-term training on the devices at the IBTC is offered. Watch the presidential releases for these opportunities.
The IBTC is also doing research on home appliances: devices such as microwave ovens, stoves, washing machines, and dryers. Many newer appliances have controls and interfaces which make them difficult to operate by blind people; the IBTC is working to identify appliances which can be easily modified to be operated by blind people and which have features, such as tactually distinct buttons and knobs, that make them easier to use. A permanent display of some of these items, known as the Accessible Home Showcase, is set up at the National Center for the Blind, and sometimes these appliances are also exhibited at the national convention. This is a program that NFB members have found very useful. If members have information about good or bad features on certain brands or styles of appliances, they are encouraged to call or write the IBTC to share it. This service could save blind people hours of time in shopping as visual displays become more and more common in the operation of electronic appliances. There is no doubt that the NFB IBTC has by far the most comprehensive collection of high-tech devices for the blind anywhere in the world.
In recent years the NFB has given thirty scholarships to blind college students ranging in cash value from $3,000 to $12,000. The amount and number may vary from one year to the next, but the scholarship program is a very significant service. In addition to the cash distributed to outstanding blind college students, each winner also receives an expense-paid trip to the national convention, and often there is equipment given to some or all of the winners. Members should watch the Braille Monitor and the NFB Web site for information about the scholarship application process.
Many state affiliates also give scholarships at their state conventions. The average award is less than those given nationally, but they are very significant. Scholarship winners are not limited to NFB members. Any blind college student may qualify. Of course many members do apply and win. Non-members also win, and many decide to join after they get to know more about the organization and its members and activities. In fact, many scholarship winners have told us that the money they won was important but even more valuable to them was finding the NFB. It is a good idea for state affiliates to send applications for both state and national scholarships to high schools and colleges throughout the state.
Three states (Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota) have established training centers for blind adults who wish to learn skills (such as cane travel, Braille, and computer use) and build more confidence in themselves as blind people. This is an example of when the NFB does provide services that could and should be offered by rehabilitation agencies. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, former President of the NFB, built a model training center program for the adult blind when he was director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind (1958-78). Some other states have training centers, but they are not up to the standard set by Dr. Jernigan. Therefore, these three states decided that the best way to see that this excellent training is available to the blind is to establish centers run as the Federation understands works best.
All of the NFB centers are operated by separate nonprofit corporations with their own boards, but they intend to do what the Federation recommends. They are not all alike, but the quality of their training is excellent. The primary purpose of NFB training centers is to increase the self-confidence of the students.
These facilities are residential centers where students are enrolled for a period of six to nine months. Activities include not only daily classes in Braille, cane travel, home economics, and computers, but also a wide variety of tours, sports, special events, and whatever seems appropriate at a given time and place. The best source of information about this training is those who have completed it.
For further information contact: Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, LA; Colorado Center for the Blind in Denver, CO; or BLIND, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN. You may also visit their Web sites.
Some rehabilitation agencies are also trying to offer training of the same quality as that offered in the NFB centers. Some are more successful than others. The NFB centers have truly set a new standard that is beginning to be recognized as reasonable and attainable for blind people throughout the country and beyond.
Center training, when successful, is very challenging and rewarding. It can change the lives of blind students of all ages who participate. Finding and keeping employment becomes easier; jobs attained pay better; social integration becomes more successful; and family activities become more diversified. Blind people who are able to take advantage of high-quality center training are becoming a large part of the leadership of the NFB, as well as leading the blind outside of the organization. You can read about this training in the Kernel Book entitled The Freedom Bell and in many other pieces of NFB literature.
Rehabilitation agencies are required to give you choices about services you need and want. They should pay the cost of training at an NFB center, even if it is located outside your state. If you wish to attend an NFB center or any other center outside your state and encounter difficulties, contact your state president or Joanne Wilson, NFB executive director of affiliate action.
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NFB produces public service announcements (PSAs) about blindness for radio and television. However, many stations receive more public service announcements than they can use. Stations will respond to a request from a local chapter better than to a national mailing. Each NFB PSA includes our national address and phone number at the end. If someone calls or writes our national office asking for local contacts, which happens frequently, referrals will be made to your state or chapter president.
If a local television station requests local contact information (phone number and address) to show at the end of the spot, go ahead and provide it. Ask them to show national contacts and local contacts side by side on the screen. We don’t want stations to edit the PSAs, but it is reasonable to put up the local contact information.
Some members of local chapters have been interviewed by local stations to make public service announcements. Members are encouraged to get all the publicity possible, but the national spots are professionally produced and represent us well. The more exposure they can get, the better for all of us.
Almost any chapter activity may generate news coverage, whether it is a regular business meeting, fundraiser, or public education event. It is necessary to plan far enough ahead to send out appropriate notices so that newspapers, radio, and television stations have time to work them into their schedules. Barbara Pierce has written a public relations manual (available from the NFB Independence Market), which can be helpful in writing press releases and finding contact information for the press. There is also a collection of press materials on the NFB Web site that can be used to help prepare press releases, and the public relations staff at the National Center for the Blind can also provide assistance. The chapter president can prepare press materials, but if someone else in the group will take on this responsibility, others can learn to do it well.
Remember that community service announcements are different from other press coverage. Many TV stations and some radio stations play community service announcements of upcoming events for nonprofit organizations. They usually announce their requirements (the information they need) to get these played. Typically, these announcements must be submitted at least two weeks ahead of the time you want them to air. They should contain just the facts about the approaching event.
Press coverage of news events occurs at the time of the event. To notify the press of an event, you need to send a press release. It can be much longer than the community service announcement and should be sent just a day or two before the event. Instead of just the facts, it should include some public interest information so that the press will understand why it will make a good story. This information may include quotes from members and participants in the planned event. A chapter press release should include a quote from the chapter president and possibly from the person in charge of the event. A quote from someone who has benefited from a past event of this kind may also be included. Some coverage of public affairs stories happens just because it is convenient for the press to get there. They never can cover everything, so you must find a way in your press release to show what is unique, interesting to watch on TV, and impressive to cover. You should include a contact name and phone number at the top of your press release and the words “for immediate release.” E-mail has become a good way to communicate with newsrooms.
If you are interviewed for a talk show or a news story, be sure to mention the name of your chapter including the full name National Federation of the Blind. Sometimes we get carried away with the story and forget that our name is long and must be repeated as much as possible to help people remember it. Name recognition helps both blind and sighted people find the Federation. Especially in news stories, the time is very short. If a newspaper interviews you, keep your message as simple as possible. You do not have control over what they will print or what spin they will give it. Therefore, the simpler you can make the story, the more likely it is to come out the way you want it.
If someone in your chapter knows a reporter for a newspaper or television or radio station, ask that reporter for advice. You might even invite a member of the press to your chapter meeting as a speaker. If a reporter knows you, he or she is more likely to notice your press releases. Newspapers and large stations have assignment editors who direct the reporters to cover various stories, but reporters can also volunteer if they have a particular interest.
Chapter members may wish to arrange speaking engagements before civic clubs, church groups, college classes, and school children. This is limited only by the energy of the members and their willingness to go make the presentations. You may wish to take brochures and Braille cards to pass out, and you may wish to demonstrate some simple appliances, such as white canes and talking clocks. Reading and writing Braille is almost always fascinating to both children and adults. Relax and enjoy the interaction with the group. Questions and answers are often a good approach. Consider the interest level of the group and try to be entertaining.
If some individuals are uncomfortable making speeches, several can go together and share the job. One chapter presents “Braille Fairs.” They arrange to set up in an elementary school gymnasium for most of a school day. Several members demonstrate independent travel, Braille reading, Braille writing, talking appliances, and other devices. Riddles can be written in Braille without contractions with blank lines between the Braille lines, so that the children can translate them into print, using Braille alphabet cards. Other demonstrations can be set up, so that children can experiment with canes or make a tactile map with Play-Doh. Let your imagination be your guide. If there are not too many children, the whole school may be able to come through the demonstration, one or two classrooms at a time. A similar “fair” could be set up in a mall, a hotel lobby, a convention center, or elsewhere if the event and arrangements are right.
All state affiliates should have a phone number listed in the directory. Some states have listed their phone numbers in many directories across the state. This costs money, but can be a good way to help people find the NFB. Some chapters also list phone numbers in directories. In order to do this, the chapter must pay for a telephone line in its own name.
If the chapter or a state affiliate has a Web site or a phone number listed in the directory, it is likely to receive inquiries from prospective members and others looking for information about blindness. A member or members will need to be designated to handle calls. Calls may be forwarded from one person’s home to another or they may be received by an answering machine and returned later by the designated person.
The main NFB Web site is www.nfb.org. Browsing this Web site will enable you to find a tremendous amount of information about the National Federation of the Blind, blindness, Braille, services for the blind, and more. There are all sorts of links to other Web sites, including NFB state affiliate and division Web sites. Those who have computers and enjoy browsing should find our Web site an excellent resource. Those who do not use the Internet personally should keep it in mind when talking with friends and acquaintances about the NFB. Use of the World Wide Web is increasing throughout our society. The NFB must keep up in this important area.
All of the text of the Braille Monitor since 1987 is included on the Web site. Many years of text of Future Reflections is also available. All of the texts of the Kernel Books are there. Aids and appliances stocked by the NFB Independence Market are listed and available to order online. The same is true of NFB literature. All state presidents and division presidents are also listed. Opportunities to donate to the NFB are provided. There really is no way to substitute a description of our Web site for a visit. If you have not already done so, go to www.nfb.org and find out about all of the available resources for yourself.
Many state affiliates and local chapters also have Web sites, and this is a good idea when someone is available who can design a Web site and keep the information current. A local or state Web site does not have to be fancy. It needs to give the NFB chapter or affiliate name recognition and tell Internet users how to reach the organization. It is a good idea to have it linked to the national Web site, so that national information can be accessed and need not be repeated. Increasingly, those who are losing vision are looking for information on the Internet and their family members and friends also search. It takes time to make changes and add information to a site; but if the Web site is not perfect, it is still worth having and using.
There is a listserv for Webmasters at www.nfbnet.org, and usually there is a Webmasters meeting at the national convention. States and chapters may wish to link to state and local service providers. A calendar of state and local events can also be helpful. This enables Web users to find the state convention and local chapter meetings and whatever else you choose to include. State Web sites often show names and e-mail addresses of chapter presidents.
In the twenty-first century, anyone looking on the Internet for blindness resources in your state should find the NFB.
Many groups exchange specialized information through group e-mails or listservs. There is a separate NFB Web site (www.nfbnet.org) where you can find e-mail lists and listservs for many state affiliates and NFB divisions. If your state has a listerv, I recommend that you subscribe to it and contribute. The site also allows you to contact the NFB-net administrator if you wish to establish a new listserv. It is not necessary to use the space on the NFBnet Web site to set up specialized Web sites or listservs, but it is available for those who wish it.
Anyone can sign up on the public listservs. Just go to www.nfbnet.org and click on subscriber information. Computer users in your state will know which group e-mail communication is being used. Since not everyone in most chapters uses computers and the Internet, you may wish to establish a system for helping non-computer users keep well informed about activities and announcements.
There are other kinds of group communications available on the World Wide Web. Doubtless, some states and divisions will use them. We need to be careful that whatever is put up in public space represents the NFB well. Since use of the Internet will continue to change, we cannot anticipate the uses there will be for it. We will just have to use good judgment as we move ahead.
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Although the NFB works cooperatively with many other groups on a variety of projects, we do not join coalitions of the disabled. The reason is simple. We find it necessary to make up our own minds about all matters pertaining to blindness and blind people. Within the Federation, we expect all members to be supportive of positions taken by the majority of members. This is the only way we can remain united and forceful. There are many coalitions and consortiums that want to speak for as large a group as possible, but they deal with some things that do not pertain to blindness and blind people. Sometimes we find the positions they take harmful. We do not want to speak for people with other kinds of disabilities, and we do not want them to speak for us. Individual members may work with a coalition if they are particularly motivated to do so. And chapters or states may work with a coalition on a specific issue if it is considered beneficial to blind people to do so. However, chapters and states should not join coalitions. We speak for ourselves. We do not want a coalition of groups to speak for us. If you have questions regarding this matter, discuss them with a state president who has experience or a national board member.
One of the reasons that the National Federation of the Blind has become as effective as it has is that we have refused to make our internal disagreements public. After a decision is made (whether by chapter, state affiliate, or the national body), we expect all the members in that group to support it. We believe in full debate. The group may choose to limit the time of a debate, but it should give equal time to speakers on both sides of the question. When it is time to vote, the vote should be taken fairly, and discussion should cease.
This is also true of elections. I recommend that campaigns be kept short, but this is not a requirement. If a member or members disagree with a president or other officers, they are free to support someone else at the next election. Even removal from office would be possible if problems become serious enough. However, after the election, we expect the winners and losers and their supporters to proceed with the work of the organization. If someone is not willing to do this, we would rather that the person reduces his or her level of activity than to be argumentative and disruptive in meetings or between meetings. Our members have liked this policy and made it work. Those who practice this kind of teamwork are more likely to be leaders in the Federation. This can be said even more positively in a different context. National Federation of the Blind members respond well to requests for action. We believe in the organization; we believe in our leaders; we believe in the competence of the blind; we believe in ourselves. Thus, tens of thousands of NFB members are willing and eager to work together nationally. The stronger the chapter and the stronger the state affiliate, the better the teamwork. This is the nature of the Federation, and this accounts, in a very large measure, for our success.
Although life for blind people has truly changed significantly during the last sixty-five years, there is much left to do. I am old enough to remember many of the changes. Sometimes it is hard to measure national change from a personal perspective; but with some thought, we will recognize major advances. Some changes are simply and obviously improvements. Employment opportunities are far from perfect, but jobs for the blind are much more available today than in the 1960s and ’70s. Jobs were almost impossible for the blind to find in the 1930s and ’40s. Rehabilitation services have improved dramatically, although improvement is still needed. Rehabilitation agencies need better funding; they need to offer better training; they need not to try to get other programs to pick up their work.
Social Security is better for the blind today than ever before. Still, it is not up to the standards offered to seniors, and it should be. We will probably have to work forever to try to get advances in technology to be useful to the blind. Public understanding of blindness has improved, but we are a long way from being totally integrated into society. Education of blind children has changed, but I am not sure that it is better today than when I was a child. Blind children can live at home with their families, but many are not receiving textbooks they need and many are not encouraged to take classes such as science and physical education. Blind children are not taught to believe in themselves much more than they were fifty years ago. People are living longer and there are several times more blind seniors today, but little help for them. These are just some of the examples of work we continue to do.
The National Federation of the Blind is recognized by those who know us as the leading force for change in work for the blind, and we have made many advances that have benefited all the disabled in the country. But there are still people who have never heard of us and still others who do not understand what we are trying to accomplish. Therefore, we are not near many of our goals.
I have faith that the National Federation of the Blind will continue long after I am gone to work toward true integration of the blind in society. I have confidence in our leaders and in our youth. I can imagine some of the progress, but I am looking forward to some surprises, as well.
If this Guide helps some new Federationists move forward, then its purpose is served. My generation is not done yet, but we are on the downward slope. To the extent that our knowledge and experience can be shared and is beneficial, we want to pass it on. The next generation will find new (and I hope better) ways to continue what was started sixty-five years ago. Most of all, I want the numbers of workers and leaders to continue to swell. I hope the quality of our leadership can always be as outstanding as it has been and is today. Most of all, I am counting on the local and state leaders to carry on and reach new levels of achievement for the Federation and for the blind.
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The name of this organization is the National Federation of the Blind.
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation; to function as a mechanism through which the blind and interested sighted persons can come together in local, state, and national meetings to plan and carry out programs to improve the quality of life for the blind; to provide a means of collective action for parents of blind children; to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind.
Section A. The membership of the National Federation of the Blind shall consist of the members of the state affiliates, the members of divisions, and members at large. Members of divisions and members at large shall have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities in the National Federation of the Blind as members of state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of divisions and shall determine the structure of divisions. The divisions shall, with the approval of the Board, adopt constitutions and determine their membership policies. Membership in divisions shall not be conditioned upon membership in state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of members at large, determine how many classes of such members shall be established, and determine the annual dues to be paid by members of each class.
Section B. Each state or territorial possession of the United States, including the District of Columbia, having an affiliate shall have one vote at the national convention. These organizations shall be referred to as state affiliates.
Section C. State affiliates shall be organizations of the blind controlled by the blind. No organization shall be recognized as an “organization of the blind controlled by the blind” unless at least a majority of its voting members and a majority of the voting members of each of its local chapters are blind.
Section D. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for the admission of state affiliates. There shall be only one state affiliate in each state.
Section E. Any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division of this organization may be suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined for misconduct or for activity unbecoming to a member or affiliate of this organization by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors or by a simple majority of the states present and voting at a national convention. If the action is to be taken by the Board, there must be good cause, and a good faith effort must have been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If the action is to be taken by the Convention, notice must be given on the preceding day at an open Board meeting or a session of the Convention. If a dispute arises as to whether there was “good cause,” or whether the Board made a “good faith effort,” the national convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board’s action is reversed by the national convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect.
Section A. The officers of the National Federation of the Blind shall be: (1) President,
(2) First Vice President, (3) Second Vice President, (4) Secretary, and (5) Treasurer. They shall be elected biennially.
Section B. The officers shall be elected by majority vote of the state affiliates present and voting at a national convention.
Section C. The National Federation of the Blind shall have a Board of Directors, which shall be composed of the five officers and twelve additional members, six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during even numbered years and six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during odd numbered years. The members of the Board of Directors shall serve for two-year terms.
Section D. The Board of Directors may, in its discretion, create a National Advisory Board and determine the duties and qualifications of the members of the National Advisory Board.
Section A. Powers and Duties of the Convention. The Convention is the supreme authority of the Federation. It is the legislature of the Federation. As such, it has final
authority with respect to all issues of policy. Its decisions shall be made after opportunity has been afforded for full and fair discussion. Delegates and members in attendance may participate in all Convention discussions as a matter of right. Any member of the Federation may make or second motions, propose nominations, and serve on committees; and is eligible for election to office, except that only blind members may be elected to the National Board. Voting and making motions by proxy are prohibited. Consistent with the democratic character of the Federation, Convention meetings shall be so conducted as to prevent parliamentary maneuvers which would have the effect of interfering with the expression of the will of the majority on any question, or with the rights of the minority to full and fair presentation of their views. The Convention is not merely a gathering of representatives of separate state organizations. It is a meeting of the Federation at the national level in its character as a national organization. Committees of the Federation are committees of the national organization. The nominating committee shall consist of one member from each state affiliate represented at the Convention, and each state affiliate shall appoint its member to the committee. From among the members of the committee, the President shall appoint a chairperson.
Section B. Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. The function of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Federation between Conventions is to make policies when necessary and not in conflict with the policies adopted by the Convention. Policy decisions which can reasonably be postponed until the next meeting of the national convention shall not be made by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall serve as a credentials committee. It shall have the power to deal with organizational problems presented to it by any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division; shall decide appeals regarding the validity of elections in local chapters, state affiliates, or divisions; and shall certify the credentials of delegates when questions regarding the validity of such credentials arise. By a two-thirds vote the Board may suspend one of its members for violation of a policy of the organization or for other action unbecoming to a member of the Federation. By a two-thirds vote the Board may reorganize any local chapter, state affiliate, or division. The Board may not suspend one of its own members or reorganize a local chapter, state affiliate, or division except for good cause and after a good faith effort has been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If a dispute arises as to whether there was “good cause” or whether the Board made a “good faith effort,” the national convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board’s action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect. There shall be a standing subcommittee of the Board of Directors which shall consist of three members. The committee shall be known as the Subcommittee on Budget and Finance. It shall, whenever it deems necessary, recommend to the Board of Directors principles of budgeting, accounting procedures, and methods of financing the Federation program; and shall consult with the President on major expenditures.
The Board of Directors shall meet at the time of each national convention. It shall hold other meetings on the call of the President or on the written request of any five members.
Section C. Powers and Duties of the President. The President is the principal administrative officer of the Federation. In this capacity his or her duties consist of: carrying out the policies adopted by the Convention; conducting the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Federation; authorizing expenditures from the Federation treasury in accordance with and in implementation of the policies established by the Convention; appointing all committees of the Federation except the Nominating Committee; coordinating all activities of the Federation, including the work of other officers and of committees; hiring, supervising, and dismissing staff members and other employees of the Federation, and determining their numbers and compensation; taking all administrative actions necessary and proper to put into effect the programs and accomplish the purposes of the Federation. The implementation and administration of the interim policies adopted by the Board of Directors are the responsibility of the President as principal administrative officer of the Federation.
Any organized group desiring to become a state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind shall apply for affiliation by submitting to the President of the National Federation of the Blind a copy of its constitution and a list of the names and addresses of its elected officers. Under procedures to be established by the Board of Directors, action shall be taken on the application. If the action is affirmative, the National Federation of the Blind shall issue to the organization a charter of affiliation. Upon request of the National President the state affiliate shall provide to the National President the names and addresses of its members. Copies of all amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws of an affiliate shall be sent without delay to the National President. No organization shall be accepted as an affiliate and no organization shall remain an affiliate unless at least a majority of its voting members are blind. The president, vice president (or vice presidents), and at least a majority of the executive committee or board of directors of the state affiliate and of all of its local chapters must be blind. Affiliates must not merely be social organizations but must formulate programs and actively work to promote the economic and social betterment of the blind. Affiliates and their local chapters must comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation.
Policy decisions of the Federation are binding upon all affiliates and local chapters, and the affiliate and its local chapters must participate affirmatively in carrying out such policy decisions. The name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof is the property of the National Federation of the Blind; and any affiliate, or local chapter of an affiliate, which ceases to be part of the National Federation of the Blind (for whatever reason) shall forthwith forfeit the right to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof.
A general convention of the membership of an affiliate or of the elected delegates of the membership must be held and its principal executive officers must be elected at least once every two years. There can be no closed membership. Proxy voting is prohibited in state affiliates and local chapters. Each affiliate must have a written constitution or bylaws setting forth its structure, the authority of its officers, and the basic procedures which it will follow. No publicly contributed funds may be divided among the membership of an affiliate or local chapter on the basis of membership, and (upon request from the national office) an affiliate or local chapter must present an accounting of all of its receipts and expenditures. An affiliate or local chapter must not indulge in attacks upon the officers, Board members, leaders, or members of the Federation or upon the organization itself outside of the organization, and must not allow its officers or members to indulge in such attacks. This requirement shall not be interpreted to interfere with the right of an affiliate or local chapter, or its officers or members, to carry on a political campaign inside the Federation for election to office or to achieve policy changes. However, the organization will not sanction or permit deliberate, sustained campaigns of internal organizational destruction by state affiliates, local chapters, or members. No affiliate or local chapter may join or support, or allow its officers or members to join or support, any temporary or permanent organization inside the Federation which has not received the sanction and approval of the Federation.
In the event of dissolution, all assets of the organization shall be given to an organization with similar purposes which has received a 501(c)(3) certification by the Internal Revenue Service.
This Constitution may be amended at any regular Annual Convention of the Federation by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the state affiliates registered, present, and voting; provided that the proposed amendment shall have been signed by five state affiliates in good standing and that it shall have been presented to the President the day before final action by the Convention.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.
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The name of this organization shall be the National Federation of the Blind of ----.
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind of ---- shall be to advance the general welfare of the blind of ---- and the nation; to function as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind; to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of ----; to operate as a mechanism through which the blind and interested sighted persons can come together in local chapters and state meetings to plan and carry out programs to improve the quality of life of the blind; to provide a means of collective action for parents of blind children; to forward the interests of blind students and blind seniors and provide them with a means of joint action and expression; to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind.
Section One—Active Members.
At least a majority of the active members of this organization must be blind. Active membership shall be of two (2) classifications: active members who are affiliated with local chapters or divisions and active members who are not affiliated with local chapters or divisions.
1. All active members of local chapters or divisions shall automatically become active members of this organization, with the right to vote, serve on committees, speak on the floor, and hold office.
2. Any person who is not affiliated with a local chapter or division may become an active member of this organization by receiving a majority vote of the active members present and voting at a convention or by complying with requirements established by the Board of Directors.
Section Two—Supporting Members.
Any person may become a supporting member of this organization through procedures established by the convention or the Board of Directors. Supporting members shall have all the rights and privileges of active members, except that they may not vote, hold office, or serve on the Board of Directors. Supporting members shall not pay dues.
Section Three—Disciplinary Action.
Any member may be expelled; and any chapter or division may be expelled, suspended, or reorganized for violation of this constitution or for conduct unbecoming to a member, chapter, or division of the Federation by a majority vote of the active members present and voting at any regular business session of this organization, or by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors. The state convention of this organization may reinstate any person who has been expelled unless such expulsion has been confirmed by the National Convention or by the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, in which event the person may not be reinstated except by the National Board. Any person who feels that he/she has been unjustly disciplined or expelled from this organization, or any chapter or division which feels that it has been unjustly disciplined, reorganized, or expelled may appeal to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, which may (in its discretion) consider the matter and make a binding decision; but until or unless the action of discipline, reorganization, or expulsion is reversed by the National Board, it shall continue in effect.
Any organized group desiring to become a local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of ---- shall apply for affiliation by submitting to the President of the National Federation of the Blind of ---- a copy of its Constitution and a list of the names and addresses of its members and elected officers. When the National Federation of the Blind of ----, either in convention assembled or by action of its Board of Directors, shall have approved the application, it shall issue to the local chapter a Certificate of Acceptance. Annually, on or before January 1, each local chapter shall provide to the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of ---- a current list of its members, their names and addresses, and their state dues. Upon request, a local chapter shall also provide the state President with a list of the names and addresses of the chapter members and with a detailed financial report of the chapter for the past year. The fiscal year of this organization shall be the calendar year. As new members enter local chapters, their names, addresses, and state dues shall be sent without delay to the Treasurer of the state organization. No group shall be accepted as a chapter and no group shall remain a chapter unless a majority of its voting members are blind. The President, the Vice President (or Vice Presidents), and at least a majority of the Executive Committee or Board of Directors of the local chapter must be blind. The President of the National Federation of the Blind of ---- shall be ex officio a member of each local chapter. In the event of the dissolution of a local chapter, or if (for whatever reason) the local chapter ceases to be a part of this organization, its assets shall become the property of the National Federation of the Blind of ----; and it shall forthwith cease to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of divisions and shall determine the structure of divisions. The divisions shall, with the approval of the Board, adopt constitutions and determine their membership policies.
There shall be elected at the regular annual convention during each ---- numbered year, a President, a First Vice President, a Second Vice President, a Secretary, and a Treasurer. The terms of these officers shall begin at the close of the convention at which they are elected and qualified. Officers shall be elected by a majority vote of the active members who are present and voting. There shall be no proxy voting. If no nominee receives a majority vote on the first ballot, the name of the person receiving the fewest votes shall be dropped from the list of nominees, and a second ballot shall be taken. This procedure shall continue until one of the nominees has received a majority vote from the active members present and voting. The duties of each officer shall be those ordinarily associated with that office. The President and the Vice Presidents must be blind.
The Board of Directors of this organization shall consist of the five (5) constitutional officers, and ---- additional members, ---- of whom shall be elected for two (2) year terms at the annual convention during even numbered years, and ---- of whom shall be elected for two (2) year terms at the annual convention during odd numbered years. The ---- Board Members shall be elected in the same manner as that prescribed for the election of officers. The Board shall meet at the call of the President or on written call signed by any ---- of the Board Members. The Board shall advise the President and shall have charge of the affairs of the organization between conventions. At least ---- members of the Board must be present at any meeting to constitute a quorum to transact business. The Board may be polled by telephone or mail ballot on any question. A majority of the Board must be blind.
Section One—Annual Convention.
This organization shall hold an annual convention, the time and place of which shall be fixed by the membership or (if the membership so decides) by the Board of Directors or the President. At least fifteen (15) active members must be present to constitute a quorum to transact business at any annual convention.
Section Two—Special Meetings.
The President of this organization may call a special meeting of the body at any time he/she, or a majority of the Board of Directors, deems such action to be necessary. At such special meeting at least fifteen (15) active members must be present to constitute a quorum to transact business, and written notice must have been sent to the President of each local chapter and division and to the members of the Board of Directors at least ten (10) days prior to the date of the meeting.
The President may appoint such committees as he/she or the organization deems necessary. The President shall be an ex officio member of all committees.
The National Federation of the Blind of ---- shall be an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind and shall furnish to the President of the National Federation of the Blind annually, on or before January 1, a list of the names and addresses of its members and elected officers. A copy of the Constitution of the National Federation of the Blind of ---- and of all amendments to the Constitution shall be sent to the President of the National Federation of the Blind without delay.
The National Federation of the Blind of ---- shall not merely be a social organization, but shall formulate programs and actively work to promote the economic and social betterment of the blind. This organization, its chapters, and divisions, shall comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the National Federation of the Blind. Policy decisions of the National Federation of the Blind (whether made by the National Convention or the National Board of Directors) are binding on this organization, its chapters, divisions, and members; and this organization, its chapters, divisions, and members shall participate affirmatively in carrying out such policy decisions. As a condition of affiliation, it is agreed by this organization that the National Federation of the Blind (whether by action of the National Convention or the National Board) has the power to expel or discipline an individual member and to expel or reorganize a state affiliate, local chapter, or division. In the event of reorganization, the assets of the affiliate and its local chapters and divisions belong to the reorganized affiliate; and the former affiliate, its chapters, and divisions shall dissolve and cease to exist. The name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof, is the property of the National Federation of the Blind; and this organization or any of its chapters or divisions which cease to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind (for whatever reason) shall forfeit the right to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof. The President of the National Federation of the Blind shall be an ex officio member of this organization and of each its local chapters and divisions.
This organization shall elect each year at least one (1) delegate and at least one (1) alternate delegate to attend the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. No person shall be elected as a delegate or alternate delegate unless he/she is an active member of this organization in good standing. To the extent of the resources of this organization, the expenses of delegates and alternate delegates to the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind shall be paid.
The dues of this organization shall be $---- per year, payable in advance. In accordance with Article IV of the Constitution, local chapters shall pay the state dues of their members. Members who are not affiliated with local chapters shall pay their dues before or during the annual convention. A lifetime membership may be secured for a fee of $100.00. No person may vote who is delinquent in the payment of his/her dues.
The funds of this organization shall be deposited in a bank to be selected by the Treasurer with the approval of the President. The Treasurer shall be bonded. All financial obligations of this organization shall be discharged by check, issued on order of the President, and signed by the Treasurer or by an Assistant Treasurer approved by the membership or the Board of Directors.
In the event of the dissolution of this organization, or if (for whatever reason) it ceases to be an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, its assets shall be given to the National Federation of the Blind, to be held in trust for a reorganized affiliate in the state. In the event that no affiliate is organized in the state for a period of two (2) years from the date this organization ceases to be an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, the assets become the property of the National Federation of the Blind.
If the dissolution of this organization should occur and if at that time the National Federation of the Blind is no longer a tax-exempt organization under the provisions of the Federal Internal Revenue Code or if the National Federation of the Blind has been dissolved, all assets of this organization shall be given to an organization with similar purposes which has received tax-exempt certification from the Federal Internal Revenue Service.
This Constitution may be amended at any regular meeting of this organization by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the active members present and voting, provided the proposed amendment has been submitted in writing and read at a previous business session and provided it is in compliance with the provisions of the Charter of Affiliation received from the National Federation of the Blind and with the policies of the National Federation of the Blind.
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