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Starting a New Group

Louise Fox
Bet Shemesh Israel
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 2, April-May 2002, p. 30.

Starting a new Group is an adventure. You start full of ideals and enthusiasm, sure of the gap you are filling, and excited at the prospect of being able to help lots of mothers who—until now—had no local access to LLL.

Then only one or two mothers show up to the first meeting. Perhaps none come to the second. You put up posters, hand out flyers, put ads in local newsletters, and several months later you’re still only getting a few mothers at most meetings, and hardly anyone has come back more than once. What are you doing wrong?

Leaders in this situation are probably not doing anything "wrong." It seems to take time to raise awareness of LLL’s existence in a new place. There’s a reason why Group dues are not required for the first year—it’s understood that you may have limited income with which to pay them. However, it often happens that a Group is into its second year (or sometimes third) before a core group of mothers is established who become members and return month after month.

Why do so many mothers come to a meeting, say they enjoy it, and then never come back? In some cases, mothers may have gone back to work, or a schedule change makes it difficult to come to meetings. These mothers may have originally come with a specific question or issue. They leave their first meeting, happy to have received the support and information to answer their immediate question. The next month, if they’re doing fine, they may not come again because they have no "problem" to bring to the Group.

Until a core group of mothers is established, this situation may persist. The meetings may default to a question/answer format when there’s only one or two mothers facing two Leaders. The mothers want answers to specific problems even though the Leaders would prefer a discussion with input and sharing from all sides. While Leaders find it difficult to stimulate enthusiasm in this kind of situation, it is important to remember that these meetings are also filling a need.

If a mother comes with questions, leaves feeling she has answers that will help, and is happy that LLL has helped her, then even if she never comes again the Group has done a good thing. That mother has been helped in a way that she wanted—she found information on a specific aspect of breastfeeding that was important to her.

Not everyone is looking for ongoing support from a Group. If mothers come with questions and we offer information, it’s like a phone call with someone who never calls back. We do our job by filling the need the mother has, whatever that need may be.

While you’re working hard but your Group hasn’t "taken off" yet, here are some ideas that may act as a catalyst:

1. Ask discussion questions based on home experience, not directly related to breastfeeding, so even mothers with their first newborn can contribute an answer. For example, "How do you get your house clean with a baby around?" "What are some easy to prepare, nutritious meals/snacks for a breastfeeding mother?"
2. Assemble "New Mother Packets" and give each new attendee a little packet to take home. Include a list of upcoming meeting dates and locations, membership information, LLL and local informational brochures, discount coupons, refrigerator magnet, and Leaders’ phone numbers.
3. Invite a Leader Applicant or experienced mother from another Group to attend your meeting. Ideas and suggestions coming from someone other than a Leader can help to get discussions started and make other mothers feel more comfortable sharing their own ideas/experiences.
4. Draw on mothers whose newborn is not their first child. Such a mother has experiences to share and does not come to a meeting with only questions.
5. Be sure the meeting location is easy-to-find, safe, and welcoming.

A word about memberships:

It is common to be timid about encouraging memberships, especially to newcomers. It often helps to focus on the benefits of membership to the LLL Group/Area rather than only what the individual mother is going to get for her money. Some examples include:

1. Volunteer organizations need money to enable them to function and fill a need in society. Information and support are like water, it is free but its delivery to you does cost money.
2. Point out that Leaders pay dues, too, and are volunteers not paid to lead LLL meetings. Explain how each part of LLL, the LLL Group, the LLL Area, Division, or Affiliate, and LLLI, benefit from memberships.
3. It can be helpful to mention that LLL is a registered nonprofit organization and membership is a form of giving charity, helping us to reach and help more mothers.

Finally, I encourage each Leader starting a new Group to stick with it; you will see results, even if it takes over a year! Starting a new Group is a major commitment, but is also very rewarding.

Louise Fox and her husband, Joshua, have three children: Benjamin (almost 7), Rebecca (4), and Daniel (almost 2). She has been a Leader for three years, currently co-leads two Groups in Bet Shemesh, Israel, and is District Coordinator (DC) for the Jerusalem District in Israel. Brandel Falk is the Contributing Editor for this column. Send articles or ideas to Brandel at Pal-Yam 34, Tsameret Ha-Bira, Jerusalem, ISRAEL or ImaBDF at usa.net (email).

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