2012 was a great year for the League of Women Voters and the many local Leagues that successfully grew their membership while helping to promote the League’s message nationwide. LWVUS wanted to find out what these Leagues have been doing to grow their ranks so effectively, and so we asked them to share some of the ideas and activities that are leading to their great growth. Our third League highlight is the LWV of Orange County, Florida.
In 2012, the LWV of Orange County grew its membership the most out of any League (with more than 150 members) in the country, expanding by just over 33%! It is an outstanding achievement, and one that Sandra Powers, Co-President-elect of the Orange County League, says is the result of a broad effort. Powers told us that, as is usually the case, “It’s hard to find only one thing that made the League grow.” To be sure, successfully growing the League requires enthusiasm across the board. However, there were a few significant areas in which the League focused their attention and really enhanced their membership prospects.
One key to the League’s success was their commitment to improving outreach. After establishing a committee dedicated to membership and events, the League energetically promoted each with personal touches. They increased personal welcomes at their events, followed up with phone calls to prospective members, and stressed active League involvement in their new membership orientations. They also followed up with a membership packet and a phone call to new members – an approach that warmly informed new members about League activities and encouraged them to be actively involved from the beginning. The positive changes that new members have already brought to the League are evident. “New members recently formed our Natural Resources committee and our new Social Policy committee,” explains Powers.
In addition to this improved communication, the League also stressed fun, informative, and interesting events. Their Hot Topics luncheons were particularly effective. It was at these events that the League drew more members by encouraging participation in committees by placing sign-up sheets in highly visible places. Equally important, says Powers, were the “timely and interesting topics” that the luncheon planners had organized. By engaging with topical discussions, the League attracted larger audiences. The League’s smart planning had an unmistakable effect on interest in the League; at their annual Program Planning meeting in January 2013, the League had expected 40 attendees, but were pleasantly surprised when 80 interested Leaguers turned up!
The combination of active, personalized outreach and inclusive, topical events undoubtedly had an effect on boosting League membership. The League also updated the local League brochure, in addition to concentrating on accurate and up-to-date member information and reporting regularly to the national and the state Leagues. They also hope to digitize all forms of communication with their members this year. This emphasis on timely and accurate communication complemented the League’s other activities and meant that prospective members were more easily informed about how to get involved.
Powers admits that the excitement about the national election and voter registration efforts swung attention towards the LWV last year. What the LWV of Orange County did so effectively was to capitalize on this attention with improved outreach, exciting events, and active efforts on behalf of their membership committee. All of these things contributed to a fantastically successful year for the LWV of Orange County, Florida.
The LWV of Orange County (FL) is one of more than 300 Leagues participating in the Membership & Leadership Development Program, which through a system of training and coaching is helping Leagues to focus on organizational growth and leadership development. The program is funded by the Fund for Local League Growth.