Phone Help and Memberships
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 5, October-November 2000, p. 101
Many Groups in metropolitan areas pay a fee to be listed in the residential pages of the phone book so that individuals can contact LLL to ask a breastfeeding question or locate a Group in their community.
When this Metro Phone number is called in the Minnesota and Dakotas area, a taped message plays which lists the first names and phone numbers of five Leaders. In this metropolitan area, Leaders who volunteer for this service are scheduled to answer calls for a week at a time, three or four times a year.
Volunteer Leaders for "Metro Phone duty" receive a schedule and a special zip-code directory for the metropolitan area. When a scheduled Leader receives a call, she answers the breastfeeding question or refers the caller to a Leader in her community, using the mother's zip code to determine the closest Group. The Area Directory is used to direct other callers to Leaders and Groups outside the metropolitan area. Deb Roberts, a Leader in Minnesota, wrote the following article for Northern LLLights, the Leaders' Letter for LLL of Minnesota and the Dakotas, which explains the opportunity to promote membership during phone calls.
When I was first scheduled for Metro Phone, I was so eager to try out my skills that I helped nearly every caller myself, instead of referring her to a Leader in her community. THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, and my file of pamphlets and tear-off sheets were all close to the phone. I had a Leader's Log and pen waiting on my kitchen table. I learned a lot from looking up much of the information that I passed on to the caller but it was time consuming!
When my toddlers let me know that I was spending too much time on the phone (by misbehaving), I knew that my family had to come first. I began to refer callers to Leaders near them but I felt somewhat guilty, as though I were shirking my responsibility. I was also concerned that a frustrated mother might not want to make yet another phone call in order to get the help she needed. However, I realized that I had overlooked three good reasons for referring callers to their local Leaders. It is the easiest way for Leaders to handle numerous Metro Phone calls, it provides the best service to mothers, and it is a good opportunity to recruit new members!
Referring callers makes the Metro Phone job more manageable for Leaders who have chosen to add this optional activity, especially those with young babies and children. Using the zip code index in our Metro Phone Directory, I give the caller the names and phone numbers of at least three Leaders. If there are several Groups in her area, I also offer the meeting times and dates so the caller can decide if one date or location is more convenient. I encourage the mother to call me back if she is unable to reach any of the Leaders. Each call takes only a minute or two. If the caller happens to be within my Group's area, if possible I help her myself; if I can't, I refer her to my co-Leaders.
Metro Phone's first "reason for being" is to help mothers with initial questions, but another priority is helping the mother find ongoing support. When a Leader has the opportunity to help a caller in her own area, she is able to encourage the mother, both during the initial call and during follow-up calls. After answering the caller's question, the Leader can then invite her to attend the next Series Meeting where she can meet and learn more from other mothers. The mother attending a Group continues to receive information and support from a Leader who she now knows personally.
Referring a caller to Leaders nearby is beneficial to both the caller and La Leche League. Connecting mothers with a local Leader increases the chances that they will attend meetings and join La Leche League. Developing a personal rapport with the mothers who call increases the number of potential LLL members! As a Leader in a Group that struggles to attract new attendees, let alone new members, I welcome any opportunity to speak with mothers in our area. My co-Leaders and I are eager to send our meeting notice and a personal invitation to potential new members. If another Leader helps those mothers, we don't have the chance to establish a personal relationship, invite them to our Group, or offer them the opportunity of membership. We don't want a mother's call to Metro Phone to be her only contact with La Leche League.
There are times when a mother is too upset or doesn't want to make another call. In that case, after personally helping her, I give the mother the name and number of a Leader near her or ask if I can give her name and number to that Leader. The Leader can then make a follow-up call and/or send the mother a meeting notice.
Referring callers ensures that we maximize the outreach potential of Metro Phone. By connecting callers with local Leaders, we offer mothers the opportunity for Group support and create potential for new members. We all benefit!