With so many Leagues growing their membership nationwide last year, LWVUS wanted to find out how Leagues are finding success and share ideas of what activities are leading to such great growth. The first local League we interviewed is the LWV of Marion & Polk Counties, Oregon.

In 2012, the Marion & Polk Counties League grew by 13.83% and now boasts over 100 members! We asked local League President, Petra Berger, to share with us what her League has been doing to successfully grow its membership.

Petra told us that their success is primarily attributable to three things. The League has:

1: Implemented a “high-gear, pro-active” membership recruitment campaign;

2: TRIPLED their voter services programs; and

3: Revamped their publicity program to be more systematic and continuous throughout the year.

Petra explained that as part of their membership recruitment campaign, every community event is now used as a chance to make new contacts. To make sure that these contacts remain engaged with the League, periodic follow-up phone calls are made to invite individuals to upcoming events. These calls ensure continued interaction with prospective members, which makes it more likely that they will join the League.

The personal touch is also a big part of Marion & Polk Counties’ success. One-on-one conversations with current and prospective members foster an atmosphere of community. LWV of Marion & Polk Counties makes a point of designating assertive volunteers who are well-informed on League issues and willing to have “no-pressure” conversations with prospective members. 

Informal social events also play a role in membership growth. For example, Petra notes that their ‘Coffee, Chocolate and Chats’ events have been a great way to foster community involvement and League growth in a fun, and casual way. Twice a year they also hold a New Member Orientation. These sessions are a dialogue with the goal of finding out “what the new members believe they need to know about the League, and what level of involvement in the near future they are thinking about.”

The Marion & Polk League also makes sure that they are offering a variety of programs that appeal specifically to their community. Some of the steps they take to ensure programming success include:

- Creating a Program and Outreach Team comprised of volunteers with a variety of different talents;

- Ensuring that they understand the local community’s interest in certain topics and creating public dialogue around those topics;

- Planning well in advance for several highly visible public forums with well-known speakers;

- Setting up small group discussions on topics relevant to current community issues.

LWV of Marion & Polk Counties distributed information continuously in 2012 which, Petra noted, was a big part of their success. They distributed a monthly newsletter to all members and prospective members, they used VOTE411 cards and bookmarks to increase visibility, they spoke on local radio, wrote League-related articles for local papers and used a local study (on transit issues) to engage the entire community.

To be sure, there was no single event that led to LWV of Marion & Polk Counties’ increased membership but rather, consistent and varied activities combined with an increased media presence really made a substantial difference. Petra tells us that while there is still some “fine-tuning” that the Marion & Polk Counties League plans to do, “there is more ‘buzz’ in our community about what the local League is doing” and buzz is critical to finding new members. Congratulations to LWV of Marion & Polk Counties!

Want to grow your League like the LWV of Marion and Polk Counties? Through the MLD program, the League is becoming more effective and more powerful in communities throughout the nation. The MLD program is funded by the Fund for Local League Growth.

Give to the fund and help grow the League in your community. For more information about the MLD program and how to participate, please contact Shauneen Grout at SGrout@lwv.org.