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One Group's Testimonial

Susan Smylie
Floresville, Texas, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 6, December 1999-January 2000, p. 138

This is a real-life story of how promoting membership (subscription) has worked for our Group. We have gone from being a Group where most of the members were Leader Applicants or long-term members to one where almost everyone who attends a meeting becomes a member. Many mothers join at their first meeting and almost all join by their third meeting. A variety of approaches has contributed to our success.

Probably the most significant change and the one that produced the most dramatic results was the way we promoted membership. We stopped promoting membership as a benefit to the member and started promoting it as a benefit to LLL. We still let potential members know what membership offers them, but the heart of our appeal is the benefit membership provides to LLL. Although the exact phrasing changes from month to month, our appeal sounds something like the following:

LLL is here to help all women who are interested in learning about breastfeeding and membership is not required; however, LLL could not be here without our past members. Membership is what sustains LLL as an organization. If you believe that you have been helped by LLL and would like to ensure that LLL is here to help other mothers in the future, we ask that you consider becoming a member. Please talk to our Treasurer (her name) at the end of the meeting if you are interested in becoming a member.

  1. During our membership appeal, we include a description of all the benefits to the member, and show a copy of NEW BEGINNINGS.
  2. We have a sign-in sheet that has all the members' names and addresses typed on the form. All members have to do is check off their name and list the children they brought to that meeting. There is a column on this form that states "Are you interested in becoming a member?" This column is already filled in for members with the word member. It is apparent to non- members that many women have chosen to join our Group. The final column on the form lists the members' renewal month, which makes it easy for both the member and the Group Treasurer to keep track of this information. We have received many renewals because the sign-up sheet acts as a reminder.
  3. New members are recognized at the meeting following the one in which they joined. They are given a packet that includes a name tag (blue felt with their name written in fabric ink, fastened with a diaper pin), a pocket calendar purchased in bulk from LLLI (732-16), their membership card, and a dollar-off coupon good toward the purchase of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING or WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. This coupon is good only through our Group, and the discount is taken off the member price. We present this packet immediately after talking about membership, and we thank the mothers for joining. Because we have at least one new member almost every month, we are almost always able to make this presentation, which again shows others that women are choosing to join our Group.

    We have to make an initial, small monetary investment for purchasing the items to include in the packets, but it has paid off in increased memberships. We purchase our books in bulk, so even with the dollar-off coupon, we still make money, and the coupons have resulted in increased sales!

  4. We limit our Group Library to members only. This was the hardest decision to make, and it was not made as a way of promoting membership. We simply were losing too many books due to non-members not returning. We have probably sold a few memberships because of our decision, but more importantly, we have kept more of our books in the library!
  5. We include the “Membership Matters" flyer in every New Mother Packet. This gives the mothers more information to read at home, so they can think about membership after the meeting.

I know some Leaders are reluctant to fully promote membership, because they are afraid the mothers attending the meeting may not be able to afford membership. I think that Leaders need to present membership, talk about why it is important and then leave the decision to the mother. Several single mothers who are college students have joined our Group and one stay-at-home mother paid her membership during a time when her husband was unemployed. She was willing to spend their money because she felt LLL membership was an important investment. I have found that mothers like the feeling that they are part of something bigger than themselves; they are helping mothers worldwide to breastfeed. We are offering mothers the opportunity to support the cause of breastfeeding that they feel so strongly about. Promoting membership should not be an unpleasant task, but rather something to celebrate! As I often say at meetings, "By joining LLL, you are helping women in your community, in Texas, across the US and around the world!"

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