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Grants for LLL

Janette Vincent, MD
Elverta CA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 42 No. 4, October-November-December 2006, pp. 82-83

I began attending La Leche League meetings near our home in Sacramento, California, USA in early 2000, shortly after the birth of our daughter. As I became more involved, ultimately becoming an LLL Leader, I also began to hear more about how wonderful the LLLI biennial Conferences are. Although my family could not afford to travel to Chicago, Illinois, USA to attend the 2001 LLLI Conference, we did splurge to attend the 2003 Conference in San Francisco, California, USA since it was only a 90-minute drive from our home. The Conference was everything that I had heard, and more. Before the closing ceremony even ended, I knew that I had to find funding to get us to the 2005 Conference in Washington DC, USA.

As luck would have it, a very good friend of mine happens to be the executive director of a local nonprofit organization, and he agreed to help us seek funding. He first advised me that charitable foundations will only fund nonprofit corporations that have applied for and received tax exemption from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). All LLL Groups in the US are covered under the LLLI tax-exempt umbrella (see editor's note at end of article). He also advised me that, in order to get funded, we would need to convince a foundation that attending the Conference would have a substantial positive effect on other people's lives, not just provide a free trip to Washington. In particular, we would need to show that funding us would improve the health of mothers and babies by increasing the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding in our area, the Sacramento Valley District of La Leche League International (SVLLL). Based on my friend's input, we proposed to accomplish this by:

  1. Conducting a broad outreach campaign targeted to new mothers by distributing brochures about LLL to hospitals, obstetrical offices, and other places frequented by new and expectant mothers; and
  2. Conducting monthly "micro-conferences" for SVLLL Leaders, at which I and one other SVLLL Leader who went to Washington would present information from the Conference.

It wasn't until much later that I would begin to realize the magnitude of these proposals.

Because of the long lead time involved in securing funding, we (i.e., my friend's organization) began submitting proposals in the summer of 2004, almost a year before the Conference. We ended up submitting proposals to eight foundations. In late spring of 2005, just in time to make our travel reservations, we received award letters from two foundations that are very prominent in the Sacramento area. The California Wellness Foundation offered $5,000 (US) including about $2,500 for brochures, $1,900 for travel and Conference fees, and $600 for administration by the nonprofit agency that secured the grant. The Teichert Foundation offered $2,000 (US) to be used for any combination of brochures, CDs from the Conference, and books and other supplies for our local Group.

Of course, the Conference itself was just as enriching as I had remembered from two years prior, and my husband and daughter had a wonderful time spending Independence Day weekend with hundreds of other breastfeeding families in Washington DC. But it wasn't until several months after we had returned home that my nonprofit friend began inquiring, with gradually increasing levels of concern, about our progress with the other commitments in our funding agreements (i.e., the brochures and micro-conferences). I had so enjoyed the LLLI Conference that these other responsibilities and commitments had all but slipped my mind. As I began looking into it, I slowly began to realize that I had committed to far more than just spending four fun days in Washington enjoying the Conference sessions and the company of my LLLI colleagues. I also began to realize that we would need to submit reports to our funders by the spring of 2006, documenting all we had accomplished with their money. As I began to grasp the extent of my responsibilities, I began spending more time fulfilling them.

Our goal in distributing brochures was to increase awareness of La Leche League as a credible source of breastfeeding information and encouragement, available to all women who want to breastfeed. Surprisingly to us, prior to this project La Leche League did not have a brochure that appeals to all women, written specifically to introduce La Leche League to new mothers, especially those uncertain about whether and how long to breastfeed. Thus, we invested a substantial amount of energy creating a new brochure to meet this need. We really liked the two-color glossy layout of the trifold brochure WHAT IS LA LECHE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL? (LLLI, September 2005, Publication No. 293-17), especially its pictures of breastfeeding mothers of varying ages and ethnicities. With the help of Paul Torgus, Graphic Designer at LLLI, we used the general layout of that brochure and inserted the text that we had drafted.

The focus groups for the recent Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign in the US found that mothers make the decision to breastfeed when they think of breastfeeding as the standard to which other infant feeding methods are inferior. So after listing the experts' recommendations to establish breastfeeding as the standard, we highlighted first the risks of not breastfeeding and then the benefits of breastfeeding. We made the headings easy to read, emphasizing the slogan "happy mothers, breastfed babies," assuming that this would appeal to all mothers' desire to be happy. We specifically mentioned that our phone help is free since so many women who want to breastfeed see the fees of a lactation consultant as a barrier to the help they need. We prominently displayed our contact information inside the brochure as well as on the back. Just hours before the brochure went to press, we also secured and included a new user-friendly Internet domain name (www.lllnorcal.org) to point to our Web page.

After designing the brochure, we shopped around for printing prices, and pooled our grant funding with funding from local Groups throughout SVLLL to obtain a much lower per-brochure cost. This enabled us to print a total of 30,000 brochures at less than eight cents each. We distributed 20,000 brochures to the local hospitals that, with the exception of one, were all very happy to accept it, and praised its educational content, professional appearance, and appropriateness for ethnically diverse populations. One hospital system commented that the number one issue cited on their postpartum surveys was the need for increased postpartum breastfeeding support. Some hospitals place our brochure in their "Welcome Baby" packets while others have their lactation consultants distribute them directly to new mothers in the hospital and in their outpatient lactation clinics. Our brochure fulfills step 10 of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative: "Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic."

Per the suggestion of two hospitals that already give large amounts of written materials to their new mothers at discharge, we distributed their allotment of brochures to their physicians' offices. For these two hospitals we also purchased reference copies of the POCKET GUIDE TO THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, and Medications and Mother's Milk by Thomas Hale, PhD, for use by hospital staff when mothers call for breastfeeding advice. We prominently displayed our contact information on these books so that staff can easily refer mothers to La Leche League for ongoing information and support. Another 10,000 brochures will be distributed via local libraries, high schools, community health centers, WIC (Women, Infants, Children) programs, childbirth educators, other physicians, midwives, and various community health fairs.

In addition to distributing these brochures throughout the Sacramento area, we uploaded the brochure template with the LLLI contact information to the LLLI Community Network (CN) so that LLL Leaders around the world can easily use it to create their own professionally printed brochures. Download the file onto a disc and take it to your local offset printer, who can insert your area's local contact information. The brochure can be downloaded from the the LLLI Publications discussion on the CN at http://community.llli.org (search LLLI Publications Discussion, go to the Library section, see the folder named "General Interest," and download the file "LLL Helps Mothers").

Based on what we believe to be reasonable assumptions, we project that our brochures will encourage as many as 500 more mothers to initiate breastfeeding and an additional 500 mothers to initiate exclusive breastfeeding, even if they never attend a La Leche League meeting. We hope that these numbers represent only a small fraction of the number of new mothers who will initiate breastfeeding as a result of our brochure being distributed in other areas around the United States and the world through the LLLI Community Network.

In January 2006, we began conducting monthly microconferences for all Leaders, Leader Applicants, and interested Group members in SVLLL. Each session provides an overview of one session from the 2005 Conference, followed by a potluck lunch to encourage further discussion and networking. With funding from the Teichert Foundation, we purchased the LLLI Conference CDs to help in the preparation of session presentations and handouts. We project that the approximately 700 total hours of continuing education for SVLLL from these micro-conferences will rejuvenate our Leaders, encourage new Leader Applicants, and, through the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, ultimately result in as many as 1,600 additional months of breastfeeding in the Sacramento area. Now that's even better than a free trip to Washington!

Editor's Note: When applying for a grant, proof of tax exemption (in the USA, this means a letter of determination from the Department of Revenue that says LLL has been incorporated in your state as a 501(c)3 organization) is available. Contact your Area Treasurer, Resource Development Coordinator, or Area Coordinator of Leaders for more information.

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