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Harvest Time

Robin Rziha
Hoisington KS USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 42 No. 3, July-August-September 2006, pp. 58-59

This time of year, in late June and early July, farmers in the US wheat belt are reaping their crops -- a season known as harvest time. Growing up in a farming family and a rural agricultural community in Kansas, USA gave me an appreciation for the harvest and for the community spirit that supports the farmers' efforts to achieve a swift and fruitful harvest.

As a member of the LLLI Community Network (CN) Membership Ideas Discussion, I have noticed a similar community spirit as Leaders share their amazing ideas for sustaining and increasing LLLI memberships. Memberships are a major source of revenue for LLLI. Memberships, so to speak, are one of the most important crops that each and every LLL Leader takes the time to prepare, plant, nourish, grow, harvest, and then sustain. I suppose in this analogy of crops and harvesting, LLLI might be like the large grain elevators, which receive and store grain, that are monumental in purpose and vision to the communities where they stand. The grain is transported from the elevators to be utilized worldwide in remarkable and unique ways. If farmers have a poor harvest, then elevators will have less grain to be transported throughout the world.

When the "LLLI elevator of memberships" is low, what LLLI can and cannot fund through the worldwide organization is directly impacted, and key programs and services may be cut from the budget.

What can Leaders do to help bring in a fruitful harvest of memberships? I offer these inspiring ideas from the CN Membership Ideas discussion.

Prepare and Plant

  • Membership Flyer: the LLLI Benefits of LLL Membership flyer provides an easy way to promote membership. This is available at www.lalecheleague.org/membership.html.

  • Other flyers promoting membership: the shared files section of the CN Memberships Ideas discussion has other wonderful flyers that have been posted by Leaders.

  • Packets for new mothers at Series Meetings include a welcome letter with membership information as well as an issue of NEW BEGINNINGS. Ideas for the letters are in the shared files for the CN Membership Ideas Discussion.

  • Membership as "payment" for services: La Leche League Leaders cannot charge for home visits, but a Leader can recommend a membership to help "continue" the organization when a mother offers to pay for the Leader's services.

Nourish, Grow, and Harvest

  • Group Library: Some Groups restrict all Library books to members except for THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and perhaps one or two others that a first time attendee or new mother might really need to read to help her until the next meeting.

  • Present the Group Library as a benefit of membership at every meeting.

  • Tell mothers that the books are bought with membership funds, and as we like to offer something extra to members to thank them for their support, the Group lends books to members only.

  • Area Conferences and Continuing Education Programs allow a discount for those attending who purchase a membership or are current members. LLL of Oregon, USA had over 84 new memberships as a result of offering a discount to members for their programs in 2005!

  • Membership Gift Ideas provide the purple Breastfeeding Initiative Bracelets as a gift for membership. The bracelets are nice and trendy and may appeal to mothers who haven't purchased a membership yet. To order bracelets or learn more, visit www.lalecheleague.org/initiative.html [Website note: this address is no longer active.].

  • Scholarship Memberships: some Areas and Groups have obtained outside funding such as grants for "capacity building." With the capacity-building grants, memberships are offered for a reduced rate to mothers. The Great Bend, Kansas Group was able to offer 15 membership scholarships to mothers in 2005 for the rate of $15 (US) each as a result of a grant from a local community foundation to help build capacity within the organization. LLL of Kansas solicited funding from Kansas Alumnae in 2005 to provide gift memberships to Groups that had requested funds for mothers in their Group. The donor could also choose a Group to which she wanted the membership donated.

  • Membership Payment Plan: many Groups offer a payment plan to purchase a membership. Some Groups will set the payments up on a schedule of $10 (US) each month for four months, which conveniently works out to be a series of meetings!

  • Groups/Areas with extra funds purchasing memberships for Health Agencies: some Areas and Groups that find themselves with extra funds in their treasuries have been purchasing memberships for local and state health agencies. They also recommend that New Beginnings magazine be placed in waiting rooms for the mothers who are served by these agencies to read after the staff members have had a chance to read the issues. LLL of Kansas purchased 30 memberships in 2005 for county WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) agencies in Kansas.

  • Memberships with breast pump rentals and sales: one LLL Group that does breast pump retail sales and rentals has been providing a free membership as an added benefit for the mothers who purchase or rent breast pumps through the Group. The mothers have appreciated this benefit as well as the fact that the cost of the pumps and rentals is more reasonable than other retailers and rental stations. In 2005, this Group provided 39 memberships to mothers through breast pump rentals and sales. (Editor's note: As Affiliates may have different Policies addressing Leaders' involvement in pump rentals. Leaders in Affiliates should check with their support person first.)

Sustain

  • Giving mothers the opportunity to contribute to the organization: one CN Membership Ideas discussion member writes,

    Perhaps the key is to find a role for each mother that builds loyalty to LLL and makes her feel a part of the organization whether leadership is being considered or not. I think mothers need a personal reason to stay in LLL. For instance, participating in the World Breastfeeding Week Celebrations (WBWC) events builds community at the local level and makes membership feel more personally rewarding.
    To find out more about how your Group can become involved in the 2006 WBWC, visit the USA's Celebration of World Breastfeeding Week at www.lllusa.org/wbw.
  • La Leche League Mother-to-Mother Forums: encourage mothers to visit and register for the mother-to-mother forums on the LLLI Web site. This will help mothers to become involved outside the local Group and will give them a sense of community and satisfaction when they are helped or are offering encouragement and support to other mothers (www.lalecheleague.org/vbulletin/).

  • Member recognition provides members with a "thank you" in a newsletter or annual report so that they are recognized for their contribution to the organization. Each month at Series Meetings, many Leaders will also publicly thank the new members since the last meeting. Having a meeting sign-in sheet that already has members listed so that they only need to "check off" their names at each meeting provides a visible benefit to members. Some Groups also have special name badges that Group members are given to wear at each meeting.

  • Membership renewals: membership should be followed up with a renewal notice prior to the expiration for the membership. Members can be offered a choice of renewing their membership or "I do not wish to renew my membership but I am enclosing a donation to help support the work of La Leche League." If donations are tax-deductible in your country, be sure to mention that in the renewal notice.

If you are not already a member of the Community Network Membership Ideas discussion, please consider joining and sharing your ideas for membership growth.

Editor's Note: LLLI Membership Cards have been redesigned with a fresh new look to include the 50th Anniversary logo. Download them from the CN and either print from your home computer or your local printing store and present them to new LLL members in your Group.

Membership Approaches

Membership "pitches" that have been shared on the Community Network Membership Ideas discussion include:

  • Be a member of La Leche League and help ensure the existence of LLLI for the upcoming generations of mothers, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren -- including our own.

  • LLLI has a membership fee of $40 (US) per year. For that fee you receive NEW BEGINNINGS. Some of that money stays right here with the Group, enough to buy a new book for the Library or enough LLLI pamphlets to make up several of our Early Weeks packets that we give to pregnant and new mothers and to buy postage to mail packets to those who don't come to meetings.

  • LLL of (your Group's name) is here thanks to the mothers who became members in the past. Please consider joining so that LLL of (your Group's name) will be here in the future.

  • Membership is a gift for you and your baby and it helps to support breastfeeding mothers and babies all over the world. With membership you will receive NEW BEGINNINGS, which is the only magazine dedicated entirely to mothering through breastfeeding.

Read more in the Membership Ideas discussion by logging into the CN.

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