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Letters to LLLI: Spending LLL Funds

Carmen Vandenabeele
LLLI Board of Directors
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 3, June-July 2002 p. 66.

Dear Leaders,

Preparations are well under way for the 18th LLLI Conference, July 3-6, 2003 in San Francisco, California, USA with the theme Strength Through Diversity; Creating One Breastfeeding World. Leaders, families, and health professionals in many countries of the world are hoping to attend. They’re working to turn their dreams into reality. Plans are underway for Area, Affiliate, and Regional gatherings for education and support. There are also events planned for family activities as well as Continuing Education sessions for Leaders and health professionals. The Letters team has received several questions from Leaders about the use of LLL funds for Conferences and other LLL events, and general questions on how decisions about spending LLL funds are made. These questions included:

  • What principles are helpful when determining the use of Group, Area or Leader funds for attending LLL events?
  • Is it always necessary for Leaders to share rooms with other Leaders when using LLL funds or can a family’s lodging be covered?
  • Is there other information we should know about that might impact local decisions about Conference attendance?

Division, Area, and Affiliate Administrators, as well as Leaders, are very conscientious about their stewardship of limited financial resources. A growing number of Leaders and their support people have discovered the benefit of referring to basic LLL principles and ethics. This, coupled with any local laws or LLL guidelines, can guide important decisions about the use of funds or any other issue. Just as well-informed and supported mothers make appropriate decisions about breastfeeding in light of their family circumstances, well-informed and supported Leaders make appropriate decisions on behalf of LLL in their unique situations.

Leaders are encouraged to make decisions with LLLI’s purpose in mind as well as with the principles that follow. There is a renewed emphasis on Leaders taking responsibility for decisions made in light of the LLLI Mission—similar to the practices used in the very early days of La Leche League. We also encourage you to include all affected parties in the decision-making and to consult, when appropriate, with support and resource people. These ideas below may be new for some but they interconnect to form a web that supports decision-making and they reflect the respectful relationships found in mother-to-mother support.

Funds, whether financial or human, are used carefully and go toward supporting LLL’s mission.

Activities comply with local government regulations.

Families are a priority in La Leche League. This might be a factor in the use of funds for volunteers and staff participating in various activities in pursuit of the mission. Many very effective volunteers have families who need their attention and presence. These volunteers must take family welfare into consideration when attending administrative meetings and educational events. Rather than expecting these volunteers to wait until their families can do without their presence, LLL is an organization that allows volunteers to be with their families while serving the organization and the mission.

Decisions about how resources are used are removed from self-interest as much as possible. For example, when decisions are made about a Group Leader or member using Group funds to attend a Conference, the decision-making involves those who raised or donated the funds. Or it might involve other Leaders in the same and/or neighboring Groups. The person receiving the benefit could also provide input to the decision, but she would avoid dominating the decision.

Decisions consider the good of LLLI as a whole. Things to take into account could include the continuity of LLL’s presence in a particular community; the depth of LLL’s influence in the community and the benefits of involving Group members, Peer Counselors, fathers, and other volunteers in Conference activities; the breadth of LLLI presence in the world and the possibility of helping LLLI volunteers from communities with fewer resources.

These are some principles to guide decision-making. Perhaps you can think of others. In many countries, including the USA, the determination for use of funds is based on how they are used to fulfill the organization’s purpose. Because Conferences promote the LLLI mission in many ways, there are many possibilities for funds being used to support attendance—including legitimate expenses of attending for Leaders, families, Peer Counselors, and Group members. However, it is important to make sure that donors understand how the funds may be used. In grant applications, clarity in all stages of the application about the ways the funds will be used will prevent misunderstandings.

Since LLL funds are often limited, sharing a room with other LLL people is a widespread money-saving practice that is encouraged by many LLL entities. At the same time, our focus on families makes it possible for volunteers to give their whole hearted presence to any educational event. It can also involve fathers, teenagers, and other potential breastfeeding advocates in activities in support of our mission. Rather than try to make an organization-wide rule, we suggest careful thinking and flexibility in light of LLLI’s purpose and the principles found above. You may also find it helpful to see how other Areas make these decisions.

LLL New Zealand Leaders know it is difficult to obtain funding to attend an educational event outside the country. LLL NZ requests that Groups apply only to local funding agencies and corporations so that LLL NZ can continue to apply to national funding agencies for large projects. Although the cost of an International Conference is astronomical (about US $4,000) for them, Leaders do fundraise to attend.

In South Africa, grant proposals and appeals (to corporations, international agencies) are coordinated through the Area Coordinator of Leaders (ACL) or Funding Coordinator. Costs of attending an LLL International Conference are similar to those of a New Zealand Leader. Highly motivated Leaders have used personal funds to help defray costs. Funds gathered from craft sales, garage sales, cake bakes, sling sales, and raffles seem like a small amount but Leaders know that every bit counts!

From the Netherlands, Ans Schoenfeld, Area Treasurer, reports "The Dutch representatives get their travel expenses, hotel, and registration reimbursed. They are supposed to pay for their own food. I always booked them two in a room. The travel expenses are the largest portion and then it doesn’t add that much to the amount if you are with two in a room instead of four. In other words, we couldn’t afford to send another representative to put four in a room. The money comes out of our [Area] budget. We haven’t done much on fundraising, mostly because we don’t have much experience with it and don’t know where to start and who to ask."

In LLL Luxembourg, the ACL reports that Leaders have developed guidelines together for the use of these funds based on long time practice.

  • Administrators and Leaders who have never been to Conferences are a priority.
  • Only flight, hotel, and Conference fees are funded.
  • They balance the amount of funds they have with how many Leaders are interested and then see how many they can fund.
  • Applicants are also encouraged to participate. Their expenses are reimbursed if they sign their Statement of Commitment within a year after the Conference.

In Mexico the Area will pay half of all expenses for 10 Leaders. In return, these Leaders are expected to commit to stay active in LLL for the 12 months following the Conference and to share their experiences in writing, Chapter Meetings, etc.

Throughout Latin America, Leaders send funding proposals to foreign embassies, corporations (including airlines), and other NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) as well as WABA, UNICEF, and LINKAGES. Their successful fundraising has depended on persistence and emphasis on the training to be obtained and how it will benefit their communities.

Leaders in Paraguay number only seven so they decide together whom to fund. With average salaries equivalent to US $400, Leaders need to be funded completely in order to attend events outside the country. Donations, such as from the Matthieu Chazelle fund (See sidebar on page 59.), as well as other grants and scholarships, were gratefully received. This situation is typical of most countries in Future Areas in South America (FAiSA).

In Future Areas in Asia (FAiA), the ACL, Coordinator of Leader Accreditation, and Area Professional Liaison decide who will be funded depending on the current priorities of the Area and amount of outside funds available. The Area Council has strong finances and a talent for raising the needed funds to cover all or part of several Leaders’ expenses.

The Hong Kong Group always tries to pay Conference registration as a sign of support for the Leaders. Then Leaders in the Group decide together who will benefit from the funds. This often depends on who is available to go. Applicants receive funding also, as available, as do non-separating babies and toddlers. Meals are not funded.

Spain is a new Area that is just beginning to develop policies and guidelines related to fundraising for Conferences. All extra money earned by Groups (from book sales, member fees, grants, and other income) will be dedicated to Continuing Education for Leaders. Each year the Area Council will calculate how much money is available for travel expenses and registration fees and then will divide it equally among the Leaders who are available for travel that year. The Spanish Leaders haven’t decided yet whether these amounts will be carried over from one year to the next with the idea of being able to send Leaders overseas to events such as LLL International Conferences. They want to strike a balance between the need for training administrators and the need for making annual meetings possible for all Leaders.

Connie Little de Goiri, ACL, lives in the autonomous Basque region (along the Atlantic Coast) of Spain. She writes, "I was able to secure a grant from the Department of Equal Opportunities and Gender Politics. Among other things they funded 75 percent of the cost of my trip to Chicago, hotels, food, other transportation, and the purchase of continuing education materials for Leaders: tapes and books."

In her grant application Connie stressed that "Promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding according to the WHO and UNICEF recommendations is supported by local legislation and is cited as a priority in the Plan for Affirmative Action for Women in the Basque Country, which is very helpful for getting grants. It wouldn’t be very appropriate for local institutions to ignore the parliamentary mandate regarding breastfeeding and equal opportunities for women."

Like many Leaders who are successful fund raisers, Connie is aware of her value as a Leader to the mothers in her community and of the value of the education and training she gets at an LLL International Conference that enable her to be a more effective Leader.

The education and training, including the interactions with other Leaders, breastfeeding advocates, and health professionals from around the world, that a Leader can get at an LLL International Conference are unique and invaluable to her ability to provide outstanding support to more breastfeeding mothers over a longer period of time. Of course Leaders usually also have lots of fun at a Conference and this is an important factor to consider. Psychologists and our own experience tell us that we learn better and retain more when we have fun. We wish you every success with obtaining the financial support you need to enrich your community with LLL services. We hope to see you in San Francisco!

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