Braille Monitor                                              March 2014

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Imagine Creating a Future Full of Opportunities for the Blind

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: Anil Lewis is the director of advocacy and policy for the National Federation of the Blind. Recently much of his energy has been concentrated on moving forward legislation to phase out the payment of subminimum wages to blind and disabled workers, but like the rest of us he wears multiple hats in the Federation. He is the chairman of the NFB Imagination Fund Committee, and here is what he has to say about how we are going to build and strengthen our organization by helping to fund it:

At the 2013 National Federation of the Blind board meeting, as the chairperson of the NFB Imagination Fund Committee I asked the members in attendance to imagine what our world would be like without the National Federation of the Blind. There was an eerie hush across the room, with many of us undoubtedly reflecting on what our lives would have been like without the NFB. Thankfully we will never have to worry about that circumstance because the National Federation of the Blind is a dedicated volunteer organization of blind people committed to changing the lives of all blind people for the better.

Over the years we have primarily built this organization with our own personal finances. Many of us have also encouraged family members, friends, and associates to help. More people would like to help us in our mission to change the world, but we need to identify them and spread the good news of the NFB. I am searching for an army of committed, passionate Federationists willing to help raise $300,000 in three months.

I realize how difficult the task of fundraising can be to those who have not tried it. Believe me, it becomes an easier task when you realize that the work we do is unique, necessary, and fun. You will find that, as you talk to people about our work, many are excited about supporting our efforts through a financial contribution. I also understand that some people are confused about what may seem to be competing fundraising efforts to raise money for the NFB. But, if we are to continue to fund a movement that changes what it means to be blind, we must offer a variety of opportunities for people to participate financially in it.

We start by recognizing that every day the things we do in the National Federation of the Blind change people’s lives, and, by changing the lives of individuals, we change the world. As an active member of the NFB, I have served as a chapter president, as an affiliate president, and as a member of the national board of directors. In each role and in my current role as director of advocacy and policy for the NFB, through example and action I know that what I do makes a difference in the lives of other blind people. Thousands of other Federationists wake up every morning with the same joy of anticipation and belief. We can do more together than we can do alone, and we do more when we have the fiscal wherewithal to multiply our own efforts. We must continue enhancing our fundraising efforts to ensure that all blind people can live the lives they dream of.

As the president of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter, I encouraged my chapter members to raise money for the chapter. We conducted raffles, candy sales, and fundraising dinners. We used these funds to conduct chapter meetings and local outreach activities and to assist members to attend state and national conventions. Once I became the president of the Georgia affiliate, I then encouraged the membership to support the state affiliate as well as each local chapter. So we conducted more raffles, candy sales, and fundraising dinners. We also solicited state convention sponsors, secured small grants, and set up fee-for-service opportunities. We used these funds to host affiliate board meetings and state conventions, to conduct statewide programs, and to assist members to attend national conventions. We even had the pleasure of hosting several national conventions ourselves. At each level I expanded my tunnel-vision view of the NFB and of my responsibility for raising funds for the organization. As a member of the national board I finally understood the big picture. Although each level and aspect of our organization is stronger when it is able to secure the funding to expand, support, promote, and grow the Federation in a specific area, we are only as strong as the whole organization. We are truly one big family in which each chapter, affiliate, and division is interdependent. Now I actively encourage every member to support the whole organization through the variety of fundraising avenues that exist.

There are opportunities to make general donations to the National Federation of the Blind at any time. Donations to the White Cane Fund are deposited into the general fund of the NFB. The Shares Unlimited in NFB (SUN) Fund donations are stored in a rainy day fund for emergencies. Donations to the tenBroek Fund support the foundation that owns and maintains the physical property used to house the National Federation of the Blind.

Other fundraising options have specific methods of participation. You can become a member of the Jacobus tenBroek Legacy Society when you make provision for a financial donation from your estate to be made to the NFB. The Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship Fund is the fund that allows us to assist members to attend their first NFB national convention. Two drawings raise money for this fund. Individuals, chapters, and affiliates are encouraged to sell the $10 Jernigan Fund drawing tickets distributed to each affiliate prior to our national convention. The winner will receive round-trip airfare and hotel accommodation for two at the following year’s convention plus $1,000 to cover meals and incidentals. Individual Federationists are also encouraged to buy the $5 Jernigan Fund drawing tickets while attending the national convention. The winner of this drawing receives $2,500. The winning tickets for both drawings are selected at the banquet of the national convention.

The simplest, most effective method members of the NFB can use to make regular contributions to the organization is the Pre-Authorized Contribution (PAC) Plan. The PAC plan allows members to make automatic monthly donations to the NFB from their checking or savings accounts. (The ability to make automatic donations through credit and debit cards is coming soon.) You can join the PAC Plan with a minimum donation of $5 per month. Every member should be a part of the PAC Plan.

Many of you are already soldiers in our effort to fund our movement as monthly contributors through the NFB PAC Plan. The NFB Imagination Fund is an opportunity for you to raise your rank to Imaginator by engaging nonmembers and encouraging them to assist us to fund our NFB Jernigan Institute and our affiliate programs. Countless individuals would love to be a part of the social change we create, but they have not been educated about what we do. This is why we need an army of Imaginators to help us spread the word about the NFB and ask potential partners to fund our movement.

Half of the funds raised through the Imagination Fund Campaign support the development of projects and programs at our NFB Jernigan Institute. The other half is available to support the innovative projects and programs of our state affiliates. Our Jernigan Institute programs, like the NFB BELL, Early Explorers, and STEM programs, are creating opportunities for blind youth to participate in their educations in new and exciting ways that will allow them to achieve goals they have yet to imagine. We must continue to use our imaginations to dream of additional innovative strategies and programs that challenge the systems currently being used to educate, rehabilitate, and employ blind youth, adults, and seniors. In order for us to transform these dreams into reality, we must continue to raise the funds required to develop, implement, and replicate these strategies and programs across the country.

We are currently recruiting Imaginators to serve actively in our army of fundraisers for the National Federation of the Blind. We will be launching a three-month-long Imagination Fund Campaign from March 1 through May 31, 2014. We will be working together in concert to achieve a fundraising goal of $300,000. Individuals who would like to participate actively as Imaginators for this campaign should email Anil Lewis at <[email protected]>. You will then need to complete a form with information that will be used to set up your personal Mobile Giving page. This is one of the tools we will employ to help us reach our goal.

We will work together throughout the campaign to motivate and support one another as one unit working to fund our movement. Do you have what it takes to be an Imaginator? If so, Uncle Whozit needs you! Imagine what we could do. Now imagine yourself doing it. Imagine the future full of opportunities we will create together.

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