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Roadmap to membership growth.

We are a membership organization and our grassroots sets us apart from other organizations. We say and hear this time and again, but we need to remind ourselves once more that we are one of the few national organizations that can boast a truly active grassroots network of members nationwide. We must preserve this unique asset!

Yes, the LWV is a presence in communities across the country, safeguarding democracy and promoting civic engagement. But membership recruitment is as vital to the League as our voters service efforts are to our communities. Without the former, the latter cannot be sustained!

Over the years, other nonprofits have entered the picture, attracting civic-minded people to their ranks and individuals have less time to devote to any single group. Result: the number of members in the League is declining. Without a strong membership, we cannot be maximally effective.

We must halt the decline in membership and reinvigorate the League with new members so that we can continue to make an impact. The LWVUS Board made membership growth an organizational priority at its July 2004 retreat. Since then, the LWVUS has been working on this priority.

Most of our members join locally, and these local recruits are among our most committed League members. While all local Leagues engage in some type of membership recruitment, some Leagues have more success than others. What's the secret?

Before Council 2005, we identified 46 Leagues that had growth in five of the six years from 1999-2005. They represented 22 states and ranged in size from 16 to 688 members. We surveyed these Leagues to see if there were common themes and practices contributing to their success. We discovered six elements that helped them maintain consistent growth.

* Our reputation--The League is well respected in our communities. We stand for integrity, we are knowledgeable and we get things done.

* Interesting programs--Sponsoring programs and events on issues that are important to a community is critical. Leagues know the "hot button" issues in their locales and, more importantly, know how to engage the public and effect change.

* Flexible opportunities--We have more time commitments than ever before. Leagues that provide flexible, bite-size opportunities for individual involvement are able to attract new supporters.

* High visibility--Our communities have to know who we are. We need to work with local media and community leaders and brag about what we do.

* Community outreach--We all have to be salespeople for our good work and our effectiveness as an organization.

* Asking people to "Join"--Using opportunities that abound in day-to-day living, successful Leagues make a point of asking people to join and support them.

Building on these findings, the LWVUS has been working for the past six months with communications experts who have successfully led other nonprofits to organizational growth. Specifically, we are developing a pilot program that will utilize the components listed above in a consistent way to attract new members.

The pilot program is designed to reach out to a single, large and growing, population of potential members--retirement-age women. This certainly is not the only audience that the League hopes to attract, but initial research indicates that this group offers us an opportunity for the most immediate success. In this pilot, we will be testing a strategy for targeting this group.


In the future, the audiences that we reach out to will change but we will always be mindful of communicating with a potential new member in a way that is consistent and resonates specifically with that individual.

Much more information about this pilot program will be available at the National Convention, June 9-13th in Minneapolis, MN. The Membership workshops (Monday, 2:00-3:15 PM and 3:30-5:00 PM) are where you will be able to learn more!

Watch for additional details about our "roadmap" to membership growth. In the meantime, reach out to the people around you and let them know that the League of Women Voters is where hands-on-work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. Through membership in the League, they can have a big impact on their communities. Show them the way!

By Carol Reimers, LWVUS Board Outreach Chair
COPYRIGHT 2006 League of Women Voters
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Title Annotation:League of Women Voters
Author:Reimers, Carol
Publication:National Voter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:Advocacy.
Next Article:LWVUS nominations 2006-2008: officers, directors and nominating committee.

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