LWVUS has developed, tested, and refined an innovative approach to strengthening the League by attracting new members and fostering new leaders – called the Membership/Leadership Development (MLD) program. The program focuses on two key elements to achieve successful community outreach and organizational growth:
1. Offering best practices in organizational development, community outreach, and leadership development to local, state, and national League leaders.
The strategy includes activities and outreach tactics to help Leagues succeed in recruiting and engaging members and developing new leaders. Specifically, it helps Leagues intentionally incorporate organizational development best practices into all of its democracy-building work in the community.
2. Providing a sound structure of support for local Leagues that includes trained coaches at the state and national levels.
The structure described below includes development of a national coaching team, which in turn helps the development of coaching teams within each state -- to support the work of local Leagues in organizational growth and leadership development.
II. Working in Partnership
The MLD Program is a success because it is a partnership among the levels of League; each with its own unique and powerful role.
WHO: Ruth S. Shur Fellows (National Coaching Team)
PURPOSE: Fellows support the state-level coaching teams. They serve 2-year terms and are responsible for a given pair of states. They will work in partnership with another coach to help ensure cross training and further information sharing. Fellows are in communication each month with the state coaching team. They provide support and share information from LWVUS.
BENEFITS: Fellows receive training in leadership development and membership recruitment/engagement best practices, as well as mentoring and coaching techniques. Fellows are also given many networking and educational opportunities throughout their term.
WHO: State Coaches (One coach for every two participating local Leagues.)
PURPOSE: Coaches mentor two participating local Leagues from their state. They coach local League teams in best practices by maintaining monthly contact, supporting them through challenges and celebrating successes. They also may help to develop training opportunities for local Leagues within their own state with help from the Ruth S. Shur Fellow for the state and LWVUS support team.
BENEFITS: State coaches are given many networking and educational opportunities throughout their tenure, including some targeted training about coaching techniques.
WHO: Local League teams
PURPOSE: Local League teams ensure that best practices for membership growth and leadership development are incorporated into every League activity. They help gain support of the entire local League for the best practices.
BENEFITS: Participating Leagues will have access to special materials and information from LWVUS, as well as supportive, trained state coaches. This is great leadership development opportunity that will have lasting impact on participating local Leagues, including stronger ties to the community, increased membership and larger, more diverse leadership pool.
Benefits of the Program:
Leadership Development and Membership Growth - The League network will be strengthened to better serve our democracy. Leagues in the states where coaching is in place, will see increased membership and visibility in their communities as MLD plans and communication strategies (i.e., “best practices”) are applied consistently.
Training and Support - LWVUS will work in full partnership with each coach and with the state Leagues. LWVUS will provide extensive training (covering costs of attending the Shur Fellow training session) and ongoing, regular support for Ruth S. Shur Fellows throughout their experience, to answer questions and provide additional technical assistance.
Materials - LWVUS will provide materials for each Shur Fellow and the state coaches. Examples of these are training memos, press release templates, talking points, and planning worksheets.
Benefits of Becoming a Coach:
Engage in a new leadership role on the national level – As a national coach, you will learn a new skill and/or further develop coaching skills. You will have opportunities to mentor other League leaders and help strengthen the organizational development of the League across the nation.
Building Relationships - National, state, and local Leagues will strengthen our mutual relationships as we work closely through this program. An online community allows for coaches to share ideas, successes, and questions.
Personal Development– Each Ruth S. Shur Fellow will receive training and support to strengthen personal coaching skills. Our goal is to not only help Leagues succeed, but to develop one of the finest national coaching teams in the country.
IV. Guidelines for Participation
Who Can Apply?
Any League member who has a passion for and interest in building the League and mentoring League leaders may apply to become a Ruth S. Shur Fellow. Current members of the LWVUS Board or currently sitting State League Presidents may not apply for this position. Please note that being a Ruth S. Shur Fellow is a two-year commitment; League members who would like to pursue being an LWVUS Board member or State President in the next two years should not apply for this position.
Key Qualities of a Ruth S. Shur Fellow:
The following are key qualities for a good national coach:
- Enthusiasm in general (and for the League in particular)
- Enjoys people
- Strong listening skills and ability to develop a comfortable relationship so that League leaders can share frustrations and awkward situations that may arise
- Strong verbal communication skills
- Creativity and ability to identify opportunities and provide suggestions
- Respectful and supportive
- Takes initiative
- Follows through
- Avoids being judgmental and open to considering new ideas
- Sense of humor
- Flexible and open to change
- Uses positive reinforcement wherever possible
This list was compiled with input from experts in coaching, LWVUS board members and current Ruth S. Shur Fellows.
Key Responsibilities of a Ruth S. Shur Fellow
Ruth S. Shur Fellows’ responsibilities are broken down into four main focus areas: mentor, cheerleader, accountability coach, and communicator. We have tried to quantify what this role might "look like" each month.
Mentor – When talking with the state coaches each month (a minimum of one communication per month per state is required), Ruth S. Shur Fellows (here-after called "coaches”) should inquire about their progress, help them solve challenges, and talk about successes. Coaches can refer state teams back to the training materials, share ideas/successes from other Leagues, and provide general support. Very simply, coaches listen and advise.
Cheerleader – Coaches need to help state teams support local Leagues to "see" their successes and applaud them. With the many responsibilities placed on League leaders, they do not often stop to recognize and celebrate where they have succeeded. Instead, leaders tend to focus on what might have been done differently and what still might be left to be done. Coaches need to help League leaders stop and appreciate their successes and appreciate the importance of recognizing successes in general. Success breeds other success; it is invigorating and provides an opportunity to shower praise and encouragement.
Accountability Coach – One of the most valuable roles that the coach plays is keeping Leagues on track with their work. Again, knowing how busy League leaders are, it is easy to slip into old patterns of operation and ignore the organizational growth and membership recruitment opportunities. This is not a PUNITIVE role. It is a PARTNERING role – the coach helps the state leaders work with their local Leagues to stay on track with their plans and develop new patterns of operating where outreach is built into their activities. By talking with state teams monthly, coaches can check on progress, see where challenges have occurred, and generally get a feel for whether the Leagues within their states will make their goals. Without this monthly check-in, Leagues are likely to slip back into established patterns of not prioritizing outreach and visibility efforts, which leads to failure, not success.
Communicator – Coaches serve as a communication bridge between the levels of League. Coaches will report back to LWVUS on the activities and health of the state and local Leagues they are coaching, as well as pass information from LWVUS to the state Leagues. In other words, the coaches serve as one of the main communication vehicles with the Leagues they are coaching. Coaches will develop relationships with the Leagues they are coaching, by speaking with League leaders via phone.
V: Fulfilling the Responsibilities of a Ruth S. Shur Fellow
What does fulfilling the roles described above look like each month? Like so much of this work, there is not an absolute "one-size-fits-all" approach. But, there are three common components for all coaches:
Ruth S. Shur Fellows will communicate with their state League teams at least once per month. Person-to-person communication (i.e., a phone conversation) is the most effective communication mechanism (short of a face-to-face visit). In other words, an email message is likely not to be as effective a communications tool. Fellows are expected to establish a regular, monthly time (e.g., third Thursday of each month) to talk with their state coaching teams via phone or online video conference. This helps both parties (the Fellow and the state coaching team) plan – both setting aside the time and being prepared with information to share. The state coaches will fill out a monthly survey to provide additional information to help with coaching the local Leagues. Fellows will be expected to read these surveys each month before the calls and to encourage completion of the surveys by the state coaches and to gather information about the local Leagues to discuss with state coaches on the call.
Ruth S. Shur Fellows will communicate with LWVUS (and the other Fellows) each month. This "reporting" will occur by completing online surveys about each state the Fellow coaches and by a monthly conference call with the LWVUS Support Team and other Ruth S. Shur Fellows. This will enable LWVUS to see a complete picture of how Leagues are performing, identify common challenges, and celebrate local League and coaching successes.
Ruth S. Shur Fellows will receive and review state and local League communications. Coaches should ask to receive the state and local League Voters, check state and local Leagues’ websites for new content, and ask to be included on any email distribution lists. This will help coaches to not only know about specific events and activities but also help to understand the kind of outreach mechanisms that are being used or that need to be created or improved.
VI. Criteria to Select Ruth S. Shur Fellows
To be considered for a position as a Ruth S. Shur Fellow, you must first be nominated or nominate yourself using the online nomination form. Apply here by November 15, 2015!
The nominations will be reviewed by a panel and finalists will be interviewed.
ALL SELECTED RUTH S. SHUR FELLOWS WILL MEET THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:
1. Experiences that demonstrate the individual has the qualities to be a supportive, effective national coach to state teams
2. Commitment to a minimum of 2 years as a national coach
3. Capacity to undertake the proposed activities:
- Attend the Ruth S. Shur Training March 2016. March 3rd - March 6th 2016.
- Take time each month for coaching calls (national and state based calls) and online survey reporting, approximately 5-10 hours per month
4. Recommendations from 3 references (at least 2 of which are from League members) that reinforce that the nominee has the experience and/or qualities of a good coach
5. An interview with the nominee which reinforces that the nominee has the experience and /or qualities of a good coach (if requested).