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How Do You Promote Membership?

Diane Bengson
Bellbrook OH USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 4, August-September 2001, p. 87

How do you sound when you explain the benefits of breastfeeding at Series Meetings? Are you enthusiastic and assured? Most likely, you are excited to share the many benefits of breastfeeding to mother and baby. You have confidence that breastfeeding is the best way to feed and nurture babies and children, and know that in most cases, breastfeeding difficulties can be overcome.

However, what about the part of the meeting that comes before the discussion about the benefits of breastfeeding? I'm thinking specifically about when we promote membership in LLL. Leaders have told me that they feel uncomfortable asking for money, or worry that the mothers in the Group can't afford the membership fee. Some Leaders feel that LLL should be free and available to all, and that breastfeeding support shouldn't have a price tag attached. Some of us, myself included, feel funny asking anybody for anything. We get bogged down by worrying that difficulties, such as a mother's tight budget, can't be overcome.

I think there are several ways to overcome the difficulties we experience when promoting membership.

1. Speak with confidence. Being confident, or even just pretending to be confident, casts your cause in a positive light. Notice the difference between these two scenarios.

In the first scenario, the Leader says, "If you want, you can join LLL, but you don't have to." The Leader's voice fades away, and she looks down in her tote bag for her meeting notes.

In the second scenario, the Leader speaks clearly and meets the eyes of the mothers in the room. She says, "Membership in LLL is a gift to you, your baby, and other breastfeeding mothers." Then she mentions the benefits of membership, explains how simple it is to join, and passes around a recent copy of NEW BEGINNINGS. This Leader isn't forceful or overbearing in her presentation; instead, she is friendly and positive. She speaks with conviction. Charlene McCoy, an Ohio, USA Leader, states, "I try to be matter-of-fact, as if to insinuate that purchasing a membership is what most mothers want to do."

2. Rejoice in the benefits of membership. Do you believe mothers will truly enjoy and benefit from their membership? The truth is, mothers do. They enjoy receiving their own copy of NEW BEGINNINGs in their mailbox, and they appreciate discounts for conferences and on books. They find satisfaction in supporting the work of their local Group, as well as the Area and LLLI. They are proud to be a member of this supportive international organization. Heather "Sam" Doak, an Ohio, USA Leader, says, "The public/community service part of membership really hits mothers hard. The mothers in the Group are eager to give back something, but cannot afford the time while raising small children. The membership fee is really a small amount to help another mother do something that you appreciate and enjoy as much as breastfeeding."

3. Appeal to emotions. Confidence and belief in the value of membership is particularly effective when combined with an appeal to the emotions. Membership in LLL feels good to mothers. Many mothers want to join as an acknowledgment of the help and support they have received, and want to show their gratitude to the breastfeeding community. Martha Crone, another Ohio Leader, says to the Group, "If you've been helped by LLL, this is a way to give back a little to ensure that the Group is here to help others."

4. Give mothers the choice. Heather "Sam" Doak leads a Group with many mothers who rely on public assistance. She says she is often hesitant to mention LLL membership when these mothers are already struggling to make ends meet. However, "assuming that they couldn't afford memberships would be insulting to them," Sam says. "I have been pleasantly surprised that by offering memberships, nearly all the mothers take me up on it. I also remind them that the cost of formula for one month is quite a bit more than the LLL membership fee!"

5. Let them know how their money will be used. When mothers know that memberships provide new books for the Group Library and pay for postage, Group supplies, copying expenses, and additional training for Leaders, they are often glad to help. Many Groups display a chart showing where membership monies go, and explain different aspects of LLLI outreach at Series Meetings. Lisa Ashbrook, another Ohio Leader, mentions that all LLL Leaders are volunteers and pay memberships themselves, which she says always raises a few eyebrows. Mothers are also glad to know LLL is an incredibly thrifty organization, where every penny counts toward helping mothers breastfeed.

The next time you are talking about membership to the Group, think about the enthusiasm you have for breastfeeding, and know that your enthusiasm for LLL memberships is just as catching.

Diane Bengson, a Leader for 12 years, is currently the ALLE for Ohio, USA. She is also the author of HOW WEANING HAPPENS. Diane and her husband, John, have three children: Shaun, 17; Joel, 13; and Emma, 6.

Share how YOU promote membership by writing to: Connie Boord, 4417-78th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park, Minnesota 55443-3405 USA or cboord at earthlink.net (email).

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