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Getting a New Group Off the Ground

Jeannine Flanagan
Chester NJ USA
From: LEAVEN Vol. 34 No. 3, June-July 1998, pp. 56-57.

When I moved to New Jersey, USA, three and a half years ago, I was waiting for my LLL leadership paperwork to be finalized. There wasn't a Group in my town but there were several within a 30-minute drive. The District Advisor and a local Leader told me there were women in my town and surrounding communities who might be interested in a Group. I decided to start a Group as soon as I was accredited.

Our first meeting was in May 1995. Today the Group has 20 paid members and is going strong. I would like to share some of the things I found helpful in getting a new Group on its feet.

Getting Started

  • Read the section in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK on starting a new Group (pages 185-88 in the 1998 edition).
  • Contact your District Advisor/Coordinator (DA/DC) and ask her for suggestions. Make sure there is really a need for another Group.
  • Choose a name. When the Group name refers to a geographic area that appears on a map, LLLI can refer mothers to you easily. Mother you hope to reach will recognize the familiar name as well.
  • Stick to the basics, especially if you are a lone Leader or new Leader. Page 4 of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK lists the five basic responsibilities of a Leader. As your Group becomes more established and Group workers begin to help with Group tasks, you may feel able to take on additional activities such as Enrichment Meetings, Toddler Meetings, or Couples Meetings.
  • Develop a system of organization. Complete the meeting report each month and keep accurate treasury and attendance records. Also keep track of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of women who call you for information. They are potential members or your may want to contact them for special events.

Publicity

  • Send a press release announcing the new Group and a meeting notice to all local newspapers. Find out which papers are sold outside your grocery store. This is a good indicator of which papers are read by people in your community. Don't forget to include weekly publications, free newspapers and free parenting magazines often available at the local public library. See pages 148-51 and 287-88 of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK for information on press releases.
  • Volunteer to list your phone number with a community referral line if available. I am on a referral line approximately every four or five months. When I am not on the line, I receive about six calls a month; when on the line, I receive 10 or 12. The mothers who call do not all live in my town, but they do live in my county. I send a meeting notice to mothers who live near me and suggest that those who live in other areas contact a Leader closer to them for meeting information.
  • Visit nearby Groups. Offer to put one or two of their phone numbers on your answering machine, and ask them to do the same for you. Send them your meeting notice every series. These steps help set up a network of referrals between Groups.
  • Send a meeting notice to pediatricians, obstetricians, midwives, childbirth instructors, lactation consultants, hospital maternity and parent education departments and the public library. I have not received many referrals from these sources, but it helps to have the Group's name out there.
  • Almost every mother who calls me for information receives something in the mail from me, including a meeting notice if she is within my area. This increases the chance that she will remember me and come to a meeting.
  • To help you keep track of which sources of publicity produce the best results, add a column to the meeting sign-in sheet asking where the mothers heard about the meeting.

Finances and Group Supplies

  • LLLI will supply a subscription to NEW BEGINNINGS for the Group Library. A kit containing information sheets and various other material helpful in starting a new Group is sent from LLLI or the Affiliate.
  • LLLI will extend a $200 (US) line of credit to purchase books for resale or other supplies such as membership cards and meeting notices.. Your Group will be charged interest after 90 days, so you may want to consider paying the balance yourself, if your finances will allow that, and then have the Group reimburse you. Keep careful records, including receipts; Affiliates or other countries may have different procedures.
  • As the DA/DC if there are Groups that may be willing to donate a few books to your library. I was fortunate to have two Groups nearby that not only donated books but also pamphlets and letter-size file boxes to organize my Group files.

The First Meeting and Beyond

  • Invite the DA/DC and several neighboring Leaders to your first meeting for moral support. The turn-out may be small but don't get discouraged. It takes time to build a Group. Even an established Group will have periods of low attendance.
  • Keep track of membership expiration dates so a letter can be sent two months beforehand reminding mothers to renew their membership.
  • If there is a local Chapter, attend meetings for your own support and as a way for other Leaders to get to know you. They are more likely to refer mothers to your Group when they have met you.
  • Keep your eyes open for potential Leader Applicants. A Leader Applicant may become a co-Leader who will share the responsibilities of managing the Group with you or she may start another new Group! Then you can pass this article on to her.

Top 10 Tips for Starting a New Group

Joanne Clark Hamilton, Foley, Alabama, USA

1. Make friends with nurses, teachers in hospitals and private childbirth classes, people who own or work in baby gear stores, resale ships or health food stores.

2. For the lone Leader starting a new Group, especially in a small community, take all the advice about projecting a good image and triple it. Everything you do, say or wear can be interpreted as "what La Leche League people do."

3. Be extra sure to keep up on all new information about breastfeeding, easily found in the pages of LEAVEN and NEW BEGINNINGS. You won't have a co-Leader to bail you out at meetings. It is very important for you to be as educated and informed as you can possibly be-which, of course, also means knowing when you need to call on your Area Professional Liaison Leader or District Advisor/Coordinator.

4. Money, money, money. Does your Area offer help? Can you get some donations? You will need funds to buy a supply of LLLI pamphlets and make copies of meeting notices.

5. Publicity, publicity, publicity. Plaster the community with meeting notices. Put them on every community bulletin board you can. Don't forget the public library. You can make bookmarks and get permission to slip them into every parenting and baby care book too.

6. Keep in contact with other Leaders in nearby Groups, your DA/DC and Area Council. Also consider joining the Leaders' email list, TLC (The Leader Connection). You will need recharging frequently.

7. Small is fine. Write this on your mirror, post it on your refrigerator, especially if you are starting a Group that split off from an existing Group. It's natural to be disappointed by an initial small turnout. But don't be; it's natural for the turnout to be small initially.

8. Don't overdo it. Don't burn out after one year. Set limits for yourself.

9. If the start-up is really slow, consider an Area Council position. It will help keep you energized and you'll make good contacts and get many great ideas.

10. Keep a constant eye out for your future co-Leader. She's out there somewhere.

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