Supporting and involving your members
Local deaf children's societies are only as strong as the members who belong to and support the group. Making sure membership is open and accessible, and helping members to get involved in running the group, are essential in keeping the group healthy and active.
Ideas from local deaf children's societies
Local deaf children's societies will often start out as a group of parents and carers who already know each other. Of course, there is strength in numbers, and attracting new families will help widen your reach and support to deaf children and their families in your community.
It doesn't have to be a regular commitment but getting a sense of what your wider membership have to offer can be really useful. Equally, understanding how you can better support your membership can help strengthen the relationship.
Some examples may be:
1. Get a sense of how members could individually support the group
Perhaps they work for a company which offers matched fundraising? Or perhaps they have a particular skill or expertise? Maybe you could include one or two questions as part of your registration forms to gauge a sense of this. Or, if you have a Facebook page for members, a call out or poll could be useful.
2. Give your members plenty of opportunities to say what they think
It’s always great to know when you’re doing something well, but equally it's useful to know if, and why, someone’s not happy or if something might be done better. Having the opportunity to share these views constructively - maybe by circulating a questionnaire after events, or posting a poll on a Facebook page - not only makes members feel valued but can help shape the group. Recently we heard how some local deaf children's societies ask deaf children and young people themselves for feedback, through simple happy/sad faces or asking them to draw a picture.
Take a look at our Feedback and Complaints procedure to see if it’s something you would find useful.
3. Supporting communication, visual or hearing needs
Involvement of deaf parents or adults themselves is invaluable, so be sure to make them feel welcome by providing communication support e.g. having BSL interpreters or written materials. You may not have to pay for interpreters, perhaps other committee members are able to sign. Similarly, for those with visual impairments, can you provide written materials in a larger font or on colored paper? Have a chat and discuss with individuals how they can contribute comfortably and effectively and get the most out of being involved in the group.
4. Consider alternative communication methods
A lot of committees of local deaf children's societies have found having separate Facebook pages or WhatsApp groups really useful in keeping in touch with their members. There's also Facebook Live if you wanted to invite members to join a discussion, for example in getting their feedback or sharing news (linking to the point above).
5. Don't forget the support we offer
No doubt you are able to empathise with the families who are members of your local deaf children's society, but sometimes you may not know the answer. Don't forget that we are here to help you support families in your area. Make sure you make the most of the services provided by us. Our Freephone Helpline is always a great place to start if you know someone needs some help or advice. Contact the Helpline on 0808 800 8880 or visit our Contact us page for more options
Improving services in your area is also another way to make sure families get the support they need. Our regional directors, local children and families' support officers and Campaigns team are all here to help.
The above are just a few suggestions on how to be inclusive but we've also developed some Accessible Guidelines if you'd like to explore things further.
Some local groups find it challenging to engage with deaf young people and organise activities that they will enjoy.
We asked some deaf young people to share their top ten tips to help local groups reach out and support more deaf teenagers:
1. "Don’t forget to ask us what we think"
There’s a difference between the activities that adults think young people want to do and what they actually like. Don’t be shy! If young people are given the chance, they’ll happily tell you what they’d like to get involved in.
2. "Get in touch with us and not our parents"
If you’re organising an event for teenagers, make sure you promote it using materials that are targeted at them, and not their parents!
3. "Share our stories"
Real life stories are engaging and inspiring. Encourage young people to share their stories on your website, newsletters or on social media. The more you showcase your young members, the more likely it is that others will get involved.
4. "Age specific activities"
Run activities for deaf young people that are relevant and exciting for their age group. If possible, try to organise activities which are exclusively for teenagers – no parents allowed!
5. "Mix it up"
Don’t do the same activities every year. Break away from routine and try something new.
6. "Get on social media"
Young people love social media. Get online and post content that’s fun and engaging for teenagers and not just families. Do some research into which social networks are popular with the young people in your group. If you’re unfamiliar with Instagram or Snapchat, why not ask one of your young members to manage your group’s account?
7. "Think about the terminology that you use"
Not everyone uses the word ‘deaf’ so try using a variety of terms in your marketing such as ‘hearing loss’ or ‘hearing impaired’. Make sure you highlight that your groups are open to everyone, whether they wear hearing aids, have cochlear implants or use BSL.
8. "Signing can be fun"
Offer the chance to learn BSL. It’s a great way to engage young people who already sign or want to learn. If you’re in contact with deaf teenagers whose main form of communication is BSL, get them involved in teaching others.
9. "Recruit some youth reps"
Appoint youth reps who can collect the ideas and opinions of the children and young people in your group to feed back to the committee. As well as helping you ensure that you’re organising engaging activities for your members, becoming a youth rep is a fantastic opportunity for teenagers to develop skills and build confidence.
10. "Invite us to your next meeting"
Another way to involve young people is to invite them to a committee meeting and give them the chance to share their experiences and perspective with you. Think of fun and creative ways to involve them in the discussions and decisions about your group.
For more ideas, contact the Local Groups team or take a look at our Running Youth Activities guide.