More than 40 affiliate leaders from around the state gathered at regional conferences over the summer to network and strategize about how to build capacity and maintain the presence of their affiliate in their community. The affiliate leader’s regional conferences are an important time for NAMI affiliates, as they are able to connect with others from around the state facing the same challenges and working towards the same goals, sharing ideas and strategies. This is a vital step in growing our voice and ensuring that NAMI reaches as many people in Wisconsin as possible.
This year, the regional conferences kicked off in Oshkosh, opening with an affiliate led session that allowed for leaders from represented affiliates to talk a bit about what their affiliate is working on, in addition to the barriers they might be facing and opportunities they see for future growth. This allowed for affiliates to engage with each other and see that they are not alone in their work, opening the doors for further communication and collaboration in the work we are all doing moving forward.
From there, Colleen Rooney, NAMI Wisconsin’s Public Relations and Events Coordinator, gave a compelling presentation on Fundraising and Resource Development. The main take away demonstrated that in order to build for the future, affiliates should shift the focus away from fundraising and special events and pay attention to developing donor relations that lead to long-term organizational sustainability. Towards the end Colleen led an activity called the self-discovery tool, the first step toward discovering total community resources. Affiliate leaders engaged in an open discussion about their organization and “the NAMI case,” answering questions like who are we, what do we stand for, where do we want to be and how can we get there? Taking the time to work through this assessment together proved to be extremely beneficial as it allowed for everyone to come together and really discuss who it is we want to be in the community and how we can shape our focus to continue to develop that.
After a taco bar for lunch, Kyira Hauer, NAMI Wisconsin’s Associate Director, gave a presentation on membership recruitment and development, where Kyira precisely explained why membership is important to NAMI and how we can clearly convey why advocates should join NAMI. She illustrated that in order to sustain participation in your cause, you need to make members feel like they are a part of something that they have a hand in changing. Kyira provided affiliate leaders with ideas for growing membership, who to reach out to and how to nurture current members, reminding them that at the hard of our work, we are creating connections and reminding people that they are not alone.
Wrapping up the day, Colleen gave a second presentation on Developing an Online Presence, where she was able to give a hands-on tutorial on various social media outlets and further explain the importance of having an online presence. She began with a social media trivia game, astounding the audience with surprising statistics on the use of social media in America. Colleen provided affiliate leaders with concrete examples of best practices for marketing your organization online. The wealth of new information was a bit overwhelming for many, but affiliate leaders came out convinced that utilizing social media is vital to their success.
As we said our goodbyes, positivity and newfound motivation echoed from all who attended. Attendees said that the “enthusiasm was contagious”. It was also noted that the conference was key to highlight the “importance in continuing to grow their affiliate and help it move forward…making it more visible and strong in their community” and helped them “feel like [they] aren’t alone in the work [they] are doing – making it easier to know they can call on each other when things seem overwhelming.”