Local Leagues across the country have been working to build their membership and have been using innovative strategies to successfully foster growth. LWVUS talked to these leagues to learn how they have recruited new members and leaders so effectively. Our fifth League highlight focuses on the LWV of Oberlin, Ohio.

LWV Oberlin’s push for new growth started with the revival of a local League idea. Long-term members revitalized a previous “Birthday Bash” event and created something that breathed new life into the League. In February 2012, existing and potential members gathered at a cozy local vineyard with live music, appetizers, and, of course, good conversation. LWV Ohio board member Carol Patterson spoke to highlight the vital work of the League, emphasizing its lobbying efforts in order to convey the organization’s multiple facets to attendees. Member Elizabeth Aldrich wrote that Patterson “emphasized the League's action agenda, pointing out that it is important to keep up membership numbers as a national, state and local organization in order to maximize its lobbying clout.” She also noted that at the event members had an opportunity to “share some League experiences and hear about the work of the League on the national, state and local levels.”

In addition to the quality of the company and ideal location, the guest list made the event a true success. Existing members compiled a database of over 100 invitees, including elected officials, community leaders, college professors, and friends. The personal invitations included self-addressed reply cards and the option to join the League, in order to boost response rates and membership potential.

The Oberlin League’s leaders and members knew that one event, no matter how successful, would not be enough. They followed up with increased visibility and community involvement. League President Linda Slocum attracted attention and new members by attending a city council meeting to read a position statement about fracking, or injecting fluid into the ground to fracture shale and release natural gas, which is a key issue to many Ohioans. The League gathered further support by sponsoring a lively debate for Congressional candidates. Upcoming event guest speakers Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S. Representative Jim Jordan will surely build up LWV Oberlin’s already impressive momentum.

President Slocum is enthusiastic about the leadership potential among the League’s 35 new members, one of whom has already been invited to serve on the state board. Slocum expressed, “New members bring a wealth of ideas, skills and areas of expertise to the League.” The President is not the only one who is invigorated about the new membership. She continued, “Not infrequently someone comes up to me after a board meeting to say she’s so happy to be part of such an interesting group of people.  There is lots of enthusiasm and we’re planning to build on that.”

We share LWV Oberlin’s excitement about their incredible 44% growth in 2012. The local League’s members created this explosive expansion by organizing festive events, making contact with key community members, emphasizing the league’s policy action agenda, highlighting political figures and LWV leaders, and developing local visibility. Congratulations to the accomplished members and leaders of the LWV of Oberlin! We’re looking forward to seeing what you achieve next.

Want to grow your League? 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.