A War on Voting…

by Elisabeth MacNamara

In 1920, a major effort to register newly enfranchised voters and educate them in the political process was prominent on the agenda of the just formed League of Women Voters. A few years later, state Leagues were challenged to increase voter turnout by 25 percent, leading the Alabama League to note: “…it is a very difficult matter to qualify for the vote in Alabama…”

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Happy Constitution Day!

Join with us as we celebrate Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.  

This is an opportunity to reflect upon the remarkable foundations we continue to rely on today.  Let us all remain dedicated to the hard work required to protect individual liberties, ensure an open and responsive government, and promote a fair and independent judiciary.

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Texas redistricting plan is blatantly illegal

This week, we joined with the League of Women Voters of Texas in urging the U.S. Department of Justice to object to the Texas congressional redistricting plan.

The Texas plan is by far the most extreme example of racial gerrymandering among all the redistricting proposals passed by lawmakers so far this year. This plan is blatantly designed to stifle the voices of minority voters in favor of locking in partisan gains. Read our statement and letter here.

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9/11: We cannot give up or give in to those that hate

League President MacNamara's statement marking this weekend's 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks calls on Americans to "honor [those that died] by renewing our efforts to reinvigorate our democracy."

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A day that paved the way for future generations

On Friday, we celebrated the 91st anniversary of gender equality with women achieving the right to vote. Today is the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.

It’s curious that even decades after these monumental changes, we still count the anniversaries. Some would say it is so we never forget, while others might argue it is because our quest is not over.

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#75: Fence-sitters

by Marcia Merrins

Dear League Leaders,
Selling the League to Tough People - “Fence-sitters” 
We had a membership coffee in June at a new coffee shop (incidentally operated by Literacy Volunteers to subsidize income cut by NYS). The League's "hook" was to invite community members to talk about issues that concern them. (See title below.)  The very informal presentation was on target. The chemistry was there. One prospect’s reaction to the League and the cost ($60 PMP) both seemed positive. But when the time came for signatures, the meeting ended with the prospect saying, "Everything sounds good, I'll and get back to you." The membership team sent the appropriate materials and followed up with a phone call.
Weeks go by. And as you fail to get a decision, you slowly change their status in from "blazing hot" to "warm" to “cool” and then finally to "whatever." Fence-sitters are among the most frustrating "tough customer" types to deal with.

There are four types of fence-sitters -- each with a different underlying issue. They are The Internally Conflicted, The People Pleasers, The Dissatisfied, and The Future Members Who Just Need More Time.
Here are some thoughts on how to handle them:
The Internally Conflicted - With these people, there’s some kind of internal debate...perhaps with a family member who may not agree with some League positions or they may have limited income. If you pick up these clues, your goal is to uncover the internal debate and then provide ideas, compromises, or solutions to get them all on the same page - your page.

The People Pleasers - Often, the real reason someone leaves you in limbo is because they don’t want to deliver the bad news that they want to join but they nervously hem and haw when you ask if they’ve made a decision. Stay in touch by putting them on your email bulletin list and move on.
The Dissatisfied
- After meeting with you, the prospect isn’t really excited about any of the ways they could be involved within the League. They haven’t given you a “No” yet because they’re still looking around. Keep and touch and keep sending them timely tidbits. If you’re lucky enough to get them on the phone or get an email reply, they often give the indifferent response “yeah, I'm still considering the League.” There may still be opportunity with this fence-sitter type, but you haven’t provided enough value yet. Get creative with your ideas.
The Future Member Who Just Need More Time
- When they said, “Sounds good” they meant it. They’re actively putting things in motion to join (i.e. retirement in a few months, kids to young, etc.) . Keep the dialogue flowing. Ask them questions. Continue to build the relationship. Include them on your next email blast. Be patient.
Marcia A. Merrins
LWVUS Board of Directors
Trainings and Meetings Chair
716-672-4275 Home
716-672-5472 Fax
PS  Title for Membership Coffee: "Redistricting? Economy? Consolidation? What Concerns You? The League of Women Voters Wants to Know!  Join Us for Coffee and Conversation"

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#74: Remember the Magic 8 Ball?

by Marcia Merrins

Dear League Leaders,
You can be kissing League membership or contribution checks because by learning the power of making the "ASK". Most people don't get new members because they never ask, or even worse, they never ask anything, period.

When you ask a question, you throw the ball to the other player - your member prospect - you get them involved. Question after question, you lead them down the field, first down, second down, first down until you've got a TOUCHDOWN (enter end-zone dance here)!

The questions you ask put you in position to make a League friend. How do you know what your member/contributor prospect  needs? Wants? Thinks? Believes in? How do you know what their past experiences have been? What they find of value? Are you assuming, or asking?

As an "asker", the best feeling in the world is to have someone smile and say, "That's a great question." AH, success! That's what asking questionsis all about. It's about asking relevant and powerful questions that get your prospects to smile and then reveal something about themselves, their needs, wants, thoughts, beliefs, past experiences or what they find of value.

Doing this doesn't happen overnight. It takes preparation and practice. It also requires that you put into action what you already know.

Here's how to be a  "asker":

1. Ask open-ended questions. I'm not telling you something new; I'm just repeating something that the majority of people still don't do! Break the bad habit of asking questions that allow your prospect to reply with a simple yes or no. If they don't have to think about their answer, you haven't asked a good question.

2. Prepare questions before hand. Spend time creating questions before you meet with your prospect. Asking relevant and powerful questions doesn't just happen. You have to put some work into it.  You'll be amazed at how differently the conversation goes when you arrive prepared, with not just knowledge about the prospect but, with questions too.

3. Get them thinking. If it's a question you've heard everyone and their Grandma ask, then don't ask it. Think outside the Magic 8 ball (where you only get yes or no or maybe answers) and be forward thinking.  Be thought provoking, relevant, and creative to move forward.

4. Ask for their support. This should be the easiest on the list but usually it's the one that people fear the most - the fear of rejection.  You'll never get anywhere if you don't ASK! What's the worst that can happen?

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#73: A Message from Rudyard Kipling

by Marcia Merrins

Dear League Leaders

Council 2011 was well focused  as leaders thought through the challenges as they set goals for their state leagues.  This exercise served as a springboard for ideas. Change, adapt, add, or delete as necessary for your League. Get your creative juices going! 

I keep six honest serving men

(They taught me all I knew)

Their names are What, and Why and When

and How and Where and Who.

-by Rudyard Kipling, “Six Honest Serving Men” from the “Elephant’s Child”



1. WHO

  • What can help or make contributions?
  • Who must I “sell” on this idea?
  • Who can help me get additional resources?
  • Who will benefit?

2.  WHAT

  • What do I need in the way of additional resources?
  • What techniques or methods can I use?
  • What is the best way? The first step?
  • What will make the idea better?

3.  WHERE  

  • Where should I start?
  • Where is resistance likely to be found?
  • Where should I “plant seeds”?

4.  WHEN  

  • When should I introduce the plan?
  • When should we implement the ideas?
  • When should we revise our strategy?

5.  WHY  

  • Why should they buy this idea?
  • Why is this way better?
  • Why is the resistance so strong?

6.  HOW

  • How can we improve the idea?
  • How can we “test the waters”?
  • How can I persuade centers of influence?




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#72: Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You...

by Marcia Merrins

Dear League Leaders,

On any team, one of the most difficult, yet important, steps is to become acquainted with other board members. Even if many of you have served together on your League board of directors for years, I am sure most Leagues have a few newbies. Even if you don't, on your retreat or board orientation take a few minutes to get to know a bit more about each other!

To make the job of introducing yourself a little easier, take a few minutes and consider the following statements. You can scribble some thoughts and ideas.

Who am I?______________________________________________________________

Money, time, and responsibility aside, I would rather be doing___________________________________more than anything else.

If I were going to a costume party,  I would dress as a _________________________because________________.

What I value most is:_______________________________________________________

What motivates me is:______________________________________________________

What I like most about the League is ___________________________________________

What I like least about the League is:___________________________________________

Most of all, have a bit of fun with this!


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#70: How Does Your League Rate?

Dear League Leaders,

What a great day...finally, the sun has started shining and everything has been blooming so beautifully. It revives and gives the promise of new beginnings.

The League also renews itself annually – with new leadership, new studies and new directions. Yay for Conventions! I hope to see many state delegates at our Council in June so we can get charged and recharged together!

I do know that Leagues are always asking about how to get new members. Here are a few areas to consider that may pinpoint challenges in your League.



Marcia A. Merrins
LWVUS Board of Directors
Trainings and Meetings Chair

716-672-5472 FAX


Tip #1 - Don't be "other centered."

If you are finding it difficult to recruit and retain members to your League, ask why? What is it about your League that makes it unappealing?


We have a tendency to look externally for the reasons, ie. "Everyone is too busy" or "he/she needs to spend more with their family " which may be true. However, if you find these reasons used often, I would challenge you to take a look INTERNALLY as well.

Remember, people join motivated organizations. What makes up a motivated organization? Motivated organizations know what they want; they have goals, a vision, and an action plan. When is the last time you evaluated your League? Ask your current members to evaluate your League in the following areas to better understand where your are strong and where more attention needs to directed.

* Is our community a better place because the League has a presence?
* Internal communication and visibility.
* Growth and development opportunities.
* Member participation.
* Recognition.

Tip #2 - Recruitment is an on-going process - It isn't something that you only do in the summer and fall. If  you co-sponsor or collaborate on a program with another group or participate in a community service opportunity, that is a recruitment and image development opportunity. Use those opportunities to educate people about your League. All members should be prepared to answer the question, "tell me about the League, what do you do?" Can your current members do that and is the message consistent?

Just like companies - work to make your organizations name a house hold word. Remember also, lots of people are often members of more than one group so this effort may have positive recruitment affects.   Don't miss the opportunity to "sell" your League.

Tip #3 - Make sure your group is worth the time to join
If I'm a new member, is there something I can do that can give me a sense of accomplishment? Is the only way to actually be "active" in your League is to be an officer?

A common complaint I hear from younger members is besides going to meetings there is nothing for general members to do unless you decide to stick with the organization and become an officer. Does that sound like fun to you? Empower your members, give them responsibility and the opportunity to practice their leadership skills. This not only will increase their confidence level but will also make them more experienced leaders in the future.

Tip #4 - Create a positive and welcoming environment
Know your members names; know your members needs; personal contact is key - email is great and it's easy but if you really want to keep your members and show that you value them - you must work toward more personal contact. Does your exec board know people's names? If you are saying there are just too many members then it is even more important to have personal contact. Members want to feel important and that they are appreciated. By knowing your members, it shows that you care and that this person matters to you regardless of the importance of their job.

Structure your meetings so everyone feels comfortable. When discussing issues or brainstorming allow for individual reflection and group discussion in order to accommodate the different processing styles of introverts and extroverts.  

If the age of your members varies greatly, keep in mind that their needs will be very different and discuss how your League can work to meet those needs.

Lastly, create an environment where members are secure with sharing their opinion even when it differs from the leadership or with the majority opinion. Disagreements and conflicts if handled in a professional and respectful way make you stronger. Strive to have a very diverse membership base. Different perspectives, experiences, and life styles will make the League stronger as long as everyone is working toward the same vision and working toward accomplishing the same goals.

Tip #5 - Recruitment is not one person's job
Although one person may need to coordinate efforts, EVERYONE should be responsible for maintaining and sustaining membership. Your recruitment campaign should include specific techniques and tasks to be accomplished, a timeline, and an indication of who will be responsible for completing each task.

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