Answering Questions about the League Can Help Increase Membership
Courtesy of the Michigan Voter
|All members should be concerned about how to increase membership in the League. Without a large number of members, the League would not be able to continue its participation in several worthwhile projects and, in addition, may lose clout in important areas of concern.
When recruiting new members, it is helpful for Leaguers to be able to answer individuals' questions about the organization. Whether speaking with an individual one-on-one or making a presentation about the League to a group, members should be able to answer some general questions about the League of Women Voters as well as to explain in more detail the programs in which they are currently involved. The following information can help.
What is the League of Women Voters?
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
Who can be a member of the League?
Any citizen of the United States who is at least 18 years of age and who subscribes to the purpose and policy of the League can be a voting member. Non-citizens and those under 18 can be associate or non voting members.
How can the League be non-partisan and still take stands on issues?
The League is non-partisan because it never supports or opposes candidates or political parties. It does take stands on governmental issues selected by the membership. After an issue has been thoroughly studied and discussed by the members then consensus is taken and a position reached. The League then takes stands or acts only within that position.
Am I required to attend League meetings?
League has no attendance requirements for members (unless you are serving on the Board of Directors). We hope you will choose to attend as many League meetings as possible because the best way of becoming knowledgeable about the League is by participating.
What is the League Board?
In the LWV of Honolulu, the Board consists of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, 4 elected directors and up to 8 appointed directors. The Board usually meets once a month, and the League program consists of those governmental issues at the national, state and local levels which have been selected by League members for:
- concentrated study and the consensus (if it is a new issue) or
- League action (those issues which the League has already studied and on which a position has been reached). The same process is followed at the local, state and national levels, except that local program is adopted every year, while state and national program are adopted every two years.
What is consensus?
Consensus is the method used within the League to reach a position on a governmental issue. Consensus is reached after the study of the issue is completed.
Member discussion, based on questions formulated prior to consensus, takes place until overall agreement of the group is reached. (It is not a vote or simple majority or unanimity.)
This agreement, or consensus, is the basis for League positions. Current state positions were reached as a result of consensus of all local Leagues.
Why doesn't the League concentrate only on local issues?
The League of Women Voters is a national organization whose strength lies in the fact that we participate at the national, state and local levels throughout the United States. If we dealt with local issues only, we would lose our effectiveness as a unified, national organization. You, through membership in your local League, belong to the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and of the United States.
What is meant by the League being a "grass roots" organization?
The League is a participatory democracy. Its members adopt and amend bylaws which provide a framework for the organization; members adopt the budget, elect officers and directors and select program. In addition, agreement on positions comes directly from the membership.
How do members make these basic decisions?
On the local level, members make these decisions at the League's annual meeting.
Delegates who represent their local Leagues make those decisions at state and national conventions held every two years. national conventions are held in even-numbered years; state conventions are held in odd-numbered years.
What is a unit meeting?
A unit meeting is a small group meeting within a local League. It is usually scheduled on a regional basis or on a time basis to meet member convenience. For example, a unit meeting might include only those members from Kailua or it might be morning unit or an evening unit. At unit meetings, League program and study items are presented and discussed, along with other League concerns. Sometimes units elect to take on special League projects such as observing certain governmental boards and councils.
What is a general meeting?
A general meeting is a League meeting set up for the entire local League membership to take care of League business, to discuss League program and sometimes to take consensus. General meetings usually have a much larger turnout than individual unit meetings.
How do I become a member of a League committee?
Volunteer! In the League, one should never hesitate to speak up. The League of Women Voters is a participatory group which encourages participation -- just as it encourages the active and informed participation of citizens in government.
Individuals do not need to wait to be asked to be a part of the League because LWV is an open organization. If something interests them, individuals can talk to a committee chair, call the President or as meetings are announced in the bulletin, just go. The League leaders will be delighted. Only budget, nominating and bylaw committees are filled by appointment or election, and even in these instances, the League wants to know your interests and concerns.
Now that I am a League member, may I tell people what the League thinks on certain issues?
Yes. You may certainly discuss League positions and issues with your friends, family, neighbors and other League members; the League encourages such discussion. However, you may not speak officially for the League unless you are authorized by the Board of Directors of your League to do so. This means that you may not, in the name of the League of Women Voters, make statements to the press or at public hearings or write letters to the editor or to governmental officials. (Your may do all of these things as an individual, however!) League policy requires LWV to speak with one voice, and for the President or someone else authorized by the Board to make official statements.
What is Voter Service?
Voter Service is the arm of the League which works to provide voters with non-partisan, unbiased information on which to base decisions, and to help them participate effectively in government. League positions on issues are never indicated in any way in Voter Service activities.
Examples of Voter Service includes:
- "League of Women Presents" a half hour TV show that was aired for several years on Oceanic channel 20. It was produced and presented every Monday evening by the LWV of Honolulu. It focused on current issues discussed by a panel of experts from the government, the business community, special interest groups and the general public.
- "Running to Win", organized and presented by the League of Women Voters of Honolulu, was a one-day seminar to encourage more people to become interested in the political campaign process and to become candidates for elective office in Hawaii. The program was designed to deal with the realities of campaigning and included workshops conducted by experienced experts for the community in off-election years.
- "Speak Out, Hawaii", first designed as a public service spot on the radio, expanded into a TV spot on channel 5 before the State's primary elections. Organized, produced and presented by the League of Women Voters of Honolulu, 87 members of the business community as well as individuals from public interest groups and the general public "spoke out" each day on issues that concerned them.
Be sure to tell members how rewarding it is to he a part of such an important organizations as the League. Arid remind them to enjoy their membership by becoming an active volunteer in the League's numerous programs.