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Teaching community service.

A training institute helps association members implement their own community programs.

A program to prevent substance abuse in kindergarten through grade three. A forum on building children's self-esteem. A hotline for latchkey kids. A workshop called "Getting Through the Wonder Years of Adolescence."

What do these activities have in common? First, they all focus on fostering the emotional well-being of children. In addition, they all integrate association membership and fund-raising activities with programming and publicity--and are designed and run entirely by members. And they represent the high-profile community programs that are the direct result of a national training institute sponsored by B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C.

Survey identifies focus

In 1989 BBW began a yearlong strategic planning process that involved staff, volunteers, and a consulting firm. With its 100th anniversary approaching in 1996, BBW wanted to ascertain what would continue to attract potential members and donors to its 100,000-member base, especially with more women working and finding less time to volunteer. A survey of both current and prospective members pointed us in the right direction.

The survey results clearly supported the continuing need for a Jewish women's organization that actively deals with issues affecting women, children, and families. Of those members and prospective members surveyed, 98 percent perceived BBW as a service organization, and more than half believed women would join if they felt the organization was doing something in their own communities.

In response, BBW's planning committee recommended a national commitment of staff and financial resources to support any of the more than 600 communities that undertake programs related to one of BBW's three strategic goals: fostering the emotional well-being of children and youth. The Anita Perlman National Training Institute--named after a past president who has long fostered leadership development--was born in 1990.

Step by step

BBW followed several steps to set up and manage its training institute.

1. Provide staff support. BBW has a staff of 58; approximately half of those employees work in 12 regional offices around the country. Initially, we restructured one position at headquarters so that a staff member could spend half of her time on the training institute, staying in direct contact with the volunteers implementing the community-based projects. This became cumbersome and confusing because our regional directors are traditionally the volunteers' staff partners.

Now, regional directors are the training institute contacts for chapters; we limit the number of institute-supported projects in each region so that the staff there doesn't become overwhelmed. In turn, the regional directors are supported by one person at headquarters, who serves as an information clearinghouse and as the liaison to BBW's communication, membership, and fund-raising departments.

Because of organizational belt-tightening, the training institute coordinator position has been folded into the responsibilities of the regional director closest to Washington. She spends one day a week at headquarters, devoting 20 percent of her time to coordinating training institute activities nationwide. This has proven to be a valuable partnership, because she encourages the headquarters staff to look at everything from a regional and local--not just national--perspective.

2. Commit the financial resources. Setting aside $30,000 in seed money to help fund community projects was not easy at a time when BBW was cutting back and trying to weather a recession. Having embarked on a strategic plan, however, BBW leaders knew they had to put their money where their mouths were if the organization was going to be successful for another 100 years.

Grants available from BBW range from $300 to $3,500. They are intended to get projects going while chapters locate funding or in-kind support (facilities, speakers, materials) from local sources such as businesses, foundations, hospitals, and school systems. To be eligible for the grants, a chapter must complete a detailed form that explains the project and estimated budget. A group of BBW volunteers, including the president, make the funding decisions after reviewing staff recommendations. Although chapters may apply for a follow-up grant, most of the first-year projects funded through our training institute become self-supporting by their second year.

BBW is still resolving how to deal with the conflicts that sometimes arise among local and national fund-raising efforts. While we want the community projects to attract local support, we do not wish to jeopardize the national organization and the philanthropies it supports. Volunteers are therefore encouraged to raise money for their community projects as well as for BBW as a whole. Part of the national budget is then returned to the communities through the training institute.

3. Develop a training course. BBW staff set aside several months to plan our first three-day training course, which was designed to motivate as well as educate the volunteers who would be undertaking the community projects. The training focuses on community needs assessment, coalition building, and creative problem solving. Developing high-visibility programs that integrate membership and fund-raising activities is strongly emphasized.

In addition to reviewing basic fund-raising and membership development techniques, the volunteers learn about a variety of issues and how to work with coalitions at the local level to identify, plan, and implement programs to meet specific community needs. One training session, for example, featured speakers from the Children's Defense Fund, Washington, D.C. and the Select Committee on Children and Families, Washington, D.C. The materials the speakers provided and the question-and-answer periods following their presentations gave the participants food for thought regarding the issues they might address in their own communities.

The volunteers who conduct the training walk the participants through the project-planning process, using examples of actual projects. Case studies of hypothetical communities are then distributed. In small groups, the participants discuss the case studies, determining specific community needs, other groups that might be interested in the problem, benefits to helping address the problem with BBW, and specific steps in the planning phase. This gives participants a model to follow when they return home.

Each trainee also receives a binder of materials that walks her through components of a successful program: planning, membership, budgeting, fund-raising, implementation, marketing, publicity, resources, and roles and responsibilities.

Believing a strong correlation exists between the degree of volunteer accountability and a project's success, BBW volunteers developed job descriptions for each volunteer and staff role. The training session concludes with the distribution of the job descriptions, along with suggested time lines and the BBW grant applications.

4. Select the trainees. The elected leader in each region, together with members of the executive board, identify potential candidates to attend the training session: women who clearly have leadership potential, are already active in their communities, and will use the training not only for themselves but to help the entire organization. We consciously go after new leaders. In fact, regional chairs and board members are discouraged from nominating themselves or one another.

Each candidate is then invited to apply for entrance to the Anita Perlman National Training Institute. After reviewing the applications, a committee of volunteers selects one woman from each region to attend the training in Washington, D.C., at BBW's expense. (We pick up the tab for airfare, hotel, and meals.) Several other women from each region are invited to attend but asked to pay their own expenses (including institute tuition of $150). Of the 37 members trained to date, one third picked up their own expenses.

The group has purposely been kept small so that the projects that emanate from the training can be properly supported by the organization in terms of staff and volunteer time as well as monetary grants. The trainees range in age from their late 20s to their early 70s. One thing they have in common is that they're all enthusiastic advocates for BBW and what it stands for.

5. Provide ongoing support. For the program to work, we knew we needed to develop an effective support system for the front-line volunteers--those planning and implementing programs in their communities. Consequently, each volunteer who completes the training (a project leader) is matched with another volunteer (a project liaison), who provides feedback, guidance, and support as the project takes shape. The project liaisons also help the project leaders develop measurable success indicators, which typically include the following:

* number of new and reactivated BBW members in the community;

* number of articles about the project or BBW;

* amount of money raised for the project;

* number of new and "upgraded" donors to BBW;

* number and amount of donations to BBW from nonmembers; and

* number of coalitions on which BBW is asked to participate.

Nothing breeds success like success, so BBW developed a newsletter to communicate the progress in each community to trainees and to the executive board. From issue to issue, the volunteers saw programs being planned, developed, and implemented; they were able to read about the attendance, financial support, and publicity generated by their colleagues' programs. Budgetary cutbacks have since led us to fold the training institute update into a newsletter distributed to all BBW volunteer leaders.

At each convention, we hold reunions for NTI graduates so that the trainees can remain motivated by a committed support group. For recognition as well as publicity, we also give "Ask Me About My Project" buttons to training institute graduates (and other project leaders) to wear at convention.

How sweet it is

After two years and two national training sessions, our success speaks for itself: Of the 37 volunteers trained, all but one have projects planned or in progress. In a way, the training institute has become a victim of its own success. If training continued at the same pace, BBW would continue to add 15 or 20 projects per year, and that would strain staff as well as financial resources.

This year, instead of holding a training session, we have encouraged chapters to replicate projects that have succeeded elsewhere. One community, for example, has found the funding to sponsor "Breaking the Silence," a project on domestic violence that originated in another BBW community. BBW has also published a 50-page booklet that local chapters use to design and develop their own programs, independent of training institute funding.

Specifically, here's what our national training institute has done for BBW.

* Identified future leaders. By selecting as trainees members who are active in the community but not necessarily in the region, BBW taps into another source of potential leaders. Many of the institute participants are now regional board members--positions they had never before considered holding.

* Increased the organization's visibility. Local print and media coverage of BBW activities has skyrocketed because the community-based projects typically involve numerous businesses and organizations. Nationally, the number of BBW-related articles with connection to national training institute activities totals in the hundreds.

* Increased the number of donors. BBW has a membership category called "Friends of BBW" for businesses, non-Jews, or men who give a minimum donation of $100. The number of such donors has multiplied as training institute projects have been put in place across the country.

* Attracted new members. When people at the local level conduct membership or fund-raising campaigns, they can refer specifically to programs in their communities and relate those programs to BBW activities nationwide. This reinforces BBW's image as a membership and philanthropic organization with a clear mission. Also, at least one new BBW chapter has been organized as an outgrowth of a training institute project.

* Deepened member involvement. Momentum has built as members have become involved in planning, publicizing, and supporting local programs that reflect BBW's goals. BBW volunteers are learning to work in coalitions with other community groups, building credibility and stature.

In short, introducing the volunteer-driven Anita Perlman National Training Institute is helping B'nai B'rith Women become more successful at carrying out its strategic plan. This training vehicle is transforming the organization's proud past into a meaningful future.

Translating Training Into Action

Here's a sampling of the programs developed by volunteers who have attended the Anita Perlman National Training Institute sponsored by B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C.

* Children's Advocacy Center, Savannah, Georgia. BBW, together with a local victim and witness assistance program, formed and staffs a speakers bureau to increase awareness of a center for children who have been sexually abused.

* "Kids Are Special," Dallas. BBW developed and distributes a bilingual resource card so that people in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods know where to go for social services.

* "PhoneFriend," St. Louis. In partnership with Progressive Youth Services, St. Louis, BBW sponsors a telephone hotline for latchkey children who wish to speak to adults about their feelings, loneliness, and questions.

* "Playing It Safe," New York City. Through classroom presentations, BBW volunteers teach young children what to do when faced with threatening situations, such as being offered drugs or approached by a stranger.

* Trauma Intervention Program (TIP), San Diego. As a partner in a local coalition, BBW presents seminars called "Emotional First Aid" to help neighbors, friends, and family support people dealing with the aftermath of traumatic events.

A Road Map to Success

Follow these 12 steps to develop effective community programming.

1. Assess community needs. Gather information from a variety of sources to identify a need you can reasonably meet within your community. Find out who else is addressing that need and determine how you can augment, rather than duplicate, those efforts.

2. Determine your goal. Articulate what you are trying to accomplish through your project. What outcomes do you expect?

3. Identify success indicators. Develop a list of quantifiable indicators by which you can measure success. Include measures for visibility, income, fund-raising, and membership. Use this list in planning, monitoring, and evaluating the project.

4. Strategize. Determine who in your community would be interested in your project as participants or partners. Conduct a planning and marketing analysis to identify and clarify your approach.

5. Develop a plan of action. Determine who will do what and when. Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and specific duties. For each action step, state a deadline.

6. Develop a budget. Identify and project all costs associated with your association's action plan. Set any entry fees or prices and determine what income must be raised through other means.

7. Set up a monitoring system. Use your action plan as a guide, making sure all deadlines are clear. Make appointments with others and with yourself to check progress.

8. Communicate internally. Make sure everyone working with you understands the project's purpose and time line. Generate enthusiasm and a sense of partnership in the effort.

9. Communicate externally. Publicize the purpose, progress, and success of your program to people and organizations. Visibility draws support.

10. Launch the project. Plan a formal, high-profile kickoff. Repeat steps eight and nine to build morale, support, and visibility.

11. Monitor and adjust. Are deadlines being met? Are additional resources needed? Meet regularly with key people, and adjust the plan accordingly.

12. Evaluate and follow up. Use success indicators as well as open-ended questions to evaluate each aspect of the project. Follow up the success of your project by continuing to reach out to others for membership and financial support. Capitalize upon your positive local image to build a national image.

Excerpted from Road Map to Success: A Guide to Community Programming, published by B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C.

Gale S. Wood is associate director of B'nai B'rith Women, Washington, D.C.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Author:Wood, Gale S.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:2529
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