11 Leadership Essentials for AAUW Branch Programming

What’s the best way to show your community what AAUW is all about? Through effective, mission-based programs. Whether you’re planning your branch’s programs for the new year or revamping current plans, these steps can help you identify new resources, ideas, and perspectives that will take your branch programming to the next level. Read on to learn how to build powerful, mission-based programs that will help you recruit and retain new members.

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1. Determine the topics that link AAUW’s mission to your community.

Mission-based programs will grow your AAUW community. Assess the interests of your branch members and the community, and link your programs to the topic(s) most relevant to both. Get started by conducting a survey of your members. You can list topics beforehand and then have your members rank them in importance. You’ll find a substantive list of potential community outreach just in the following areas alone.

Programs that focus on AAUW public policy issues: civil rights, affirmative action, hate crimes prevention, reproductive rights, economic security, work-life balance, pay equity, retirement security, health care, career and technical education, charter schools, higher education, No Child Left Behind, school vouchers, STEM education, Title IX, or sexual harassment, among others.

Programs that use AAUW research reports on issues like women in community colleges, the pay gap for women one year out of college, sexual harassment in schools, and the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM.

2. Build on the expertise and passion of members to gather a team.

Putting on great programs is not only the responsibility of the branch program vice president. All members, especially members of the branch board, have a stake in successful branch programming. The members of your programming committee should include but are not limited to the membership, public policy, finance, communications, funds, and interest group chairs. Any branch members involved in community action on human trafficking, the pay gap, education, or other AAUW issues also need a seat on your planning team.

3. Explore the resources available on the AAUW and state websites.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to develop mission-based programming. AAUW’s website offers a kaleidoscope of program resources, including Programs in a Box, research reports, and videos. You can also learn how to spice up your current programming and use this step-by-step guide to make sure your events are accessible for people with disabilities.

Reach out to the AAUW Branch Program Resource Committee (BPRC) members and AAUW staff for help or to share your successes. They are eager and available to offer assistance with your branch programs. You can reach the BPRC with questions or success stories at programs@aauw.org. Success stories may be posted on AAUW’s website or Facebook page, and your program may even become a Program in a Box!

Don’t forget to take advantage of your state leadership as well. Many AAUW states offer a speakers bureau and access to other programs that have been particularly successful in your area.

4. Read Get with the Program and Mission & Action.

The quarterly newsletter of the BPRC, Get with the Program, keeps your team in the loop on resources like the new and revamped Programs in a Box and provides answers to your questions about mission-based programs.

A monthly newsletter from AAUW headquarters, Mission & Action is an outstanding source of AAUW news that concerns your branch! Not currently receiving Mission & Action? E-mail connect@aauw.org today to sign up.

5. Collaborate with like-minded organizations.

The possibilities are endless, but you know your community and which groups can further your branch’s objectives best. A simple call to a group’s president can lead to a great collaboration.

Here are some examples of groups that would make good collaborators and are found in most communities:

  • League of Women Voters
  • Parent-teacher associations (PTA/PTO)
  • Business and Professional Women (BPW)
  • Girl Scouts
  • YWCA
  • Girls, Inc.
  • Vision 2020
  • Women’s Small Business Association (WSBA)
  • Teachers’ and education groups
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Soroptimist
  • Rotary
  • Key Club (a high school service organization)
  • Honor societies
  • STEM-focused organizations
  • Libraries
  • Hospitals
  • Public policy groups
  • Women veterans’ groups
  • Women business owners
  • College and universities
  • Sororities and other clubs.

6. Keep your branch website active and engaging to your community. Share program updates with local media.

Most people now use the Internet to find what they need. It is essential to have a compelling online presence so your community knows that your branch is active, engaging, and looking for new members. AAUW created Site Resources to help branches set up a free website. You can take your website to the next level by contracting with Site Resources to maintain your website for a nominal annual fee. E-mail site-resources@aauw.org for a free website analysis.

What should your website include? Your site doesn’t need to be flashy to be effective, but you need to focus your messages and content around what’s in it for readers. Put information about where and when your branch is meeting and ask folks to attend. Provide easy links to join your branch or to register for events. And keep the content up to date.

Add interesting photos or graphics, upcoming events, new articles or headings, and any new offer. Think of ways to make your website lively and engaging so that visitors will want to return on a regular basis. Maintain a yearly calendar so visitors can see what events you’re planning. Don’t forget to ask for volunteers.

Your local media can drive traffic to your website and spread the word about your programs. Visit the website of your local newspapers and radio and TV stations to find out how to share information about your events with their audiences. Learn the deadlines for weekly publications and if your information can be included as a public service message for free.

7. Strengthen your own presentation skills.

A successful program needs to start off with a bang, and a presentation to local community groups or even your own branch can offer just the right kind of fireworks when done well. Engage a local professional for tips and advice or contact staff at AAUW headquarters who would be happy to help. You can also talk with people whose styles you admire or research online resources by just searching Google for “presentation skills.” Find the best practices that fit you.

8. Be prepared! Create an extra program to use in case of last-minute cancellation.

In the event of a no-show: You’ve planned months in advance but your speaker cancels at the last minute. What do you do? First, consider whether the program was advertised to the public. If so, see what AAUW resources are available around the topic. You’ll find videos and scripted Power Point presentations available in several of the AAUW research-based Programs in a Box. Then perhaps follow the presentation with a group discussion.

Was the event policy-related?
See if an AAUW staff member or state leader can speak on the topic. Again, comb the Resources page on AAUW’s website. We have a number of policy programs that are practically turnkey.

Can you choose a different topic? If so, take advantage of the rich expertise of members. For example, AAUW archives offer fascinating stories, and your branch historian will appreciate the opportunity to share them with the general public. Even AAUW members might be surprised by what they learn.

The National Women’s History Museum is also a wonderful source for historic information and activities. Among other things, the museum’s website has easily downloadable quizzes on women’s suffrage, women’s achievement, women’s history, and more.

9. Be flexible! Include unexpected opportunities that weren’t in your schedule. They just might become a branch staple.

AAUW has just made available a new movie for community screening, but your program schedule is fully booked. What do you do? Add a program! These last-minute opportunities often double as fundraisers, so don’t let a full schedule keep you from taking advantage. Gather a group of volunteers (often a great reason to reach out to groups in your community) and make your plans. Look for other opportunities as well. Perhaps a community issue has risen to the surface, and you decide to host a discussion. These timely events make for excellent community outreach and recruitment vehicles.

10. Survey members and supporters to help shape future branch programs.

Knowing who has expertise or powerful connections with content experts is a great head start to building compelling mission-based programs. You’ll also find that members tend to volunteer and participate more enthusiastically if they are passionately interested in the topic. Use this sample poll or create your own to find where your member’s mission-based interests are!

11. And last but not least…

you should embrace the exciting opportunities to integrate programming with policy, recruitment, local campuses and your social media network. Remember to think big!

Find other AAUW Leader Essentials — a collection of
resources for AAUW officers.


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