Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Holidays - Final Blog of 2016

Greetings of the Season to one and all!

I hope this message finds your holiday preparations at least reasonably completed and you are enjoying the beauty of the Season, however you define it.

I was in Bethesda the Week of December 5-10 doing some really cool things.  I got the opportunity to meet and work with HLAA's new Program Assistant for Chapters and Membership Services, Erin Mirante.  I am so excited Erin joined the HLAA Team.  Her first day was November 28th.  She is so warm-hearted, enthusiastic, and eager to assist our chapters.  If you have not had a chance to welcome Erin, please drop her a line and say "Hello". Erin's email address is

During her first month with HLAA (December), Erin has been working a lot with HLAA's Membership Coordinator Gaelin Bryant to learn the HLAA database system.  While databases are not everybody's idea of a good time, they form the foundation for HLAA to support its chapters and members.  If you remember the old computer adage GIGO (garbage in - garbage out), it goes a long way to explain why Erin spent her first month immersed in databases.  Without accurate and up-to-date data, HLAA simply cannot serve its members. 

It is not my intention to leave Erin buried in databases forever.  Smile.  During December, Erin has also been reading copies of all the emails that come in to me from the Chapters.  She and I have been discussing the various needs contained within those emails and the necessary action items to meet those needs.  Erin will begin to handle some of the chapter admin functions I have been handing, so please don't be surprised if you receive an email from Erin in 2017 instead of from me.  Please continue to send your emails requesting assistance to  or to Either Erin or I will respond.

While I was in Bethesda, I also attended the December 7th public session for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) report Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability.  OMG!  The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) report Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability is rocking the hearing health world.  Already, President Obama gave an Executive Branch shout out to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in his weekly Presidential address last week for actions they have taken as a result of the Report. Senators in Congress have proposed legislation to create a new category of OTC (over-the-counter), entry-level hearing aids for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss as a result of the Report.  Hearing health care will never be the same.

Why am I telling you this?  Because NOW is the time for HLAA chapters to engage in community service and advocacy projects that improve publicly available information on hearing health and engage a wider community. NOW is the time to start planning some outreach and community service activities for 2017!  NOW is the time to start a conversation about what YOUR chapter can do to get involved in this exciting ground-swell of change. Want to see a list of what those kinds of projects might look like? Please check out the Outreach and Community Service tab on the HLAA Leader Support page.  There is a whole list of projects toward the bottom of the page to get you started.   I am looking forward to helping our chapters make the most of this window of opportunity. 

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, please let me remind you I will be working part-time beginning in January.  As many of you know, I don't live in Bethesda.  I telecommute from Florida.  Between Erin and I, we will continue to respond to you quickly, efficiently, and compassionately.

All the best you and yours in 2017!
Valerie Stafford-Mallis

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanksgiving Greetings from Chapter Development Office

Good afternoon!  I hope everyone is getting ready to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving.

This time of year I like to count my blessings for all the wonderful things in my life.  I especially like to count my blessings TO MY BLESSINGS. That is why I am writing to you this afternoon.
I would like to thank each and every one of you, HLAA's chapter and state organization volunteers, for your tireless efforts to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss.  Because of the information, education, support, and advocacy you provide every day, people with hearing loss live better lives.  You truly make a difference to over 48 million Americans. Without you, there would be no HLAA.  Thank you!

I would also like to thank you for the opportunity to serve you this year in the Chapter Development office.  It is an honor and a pleasure to support your efforts and hopefully to provide a little encouragement along the way.  When I took this position back in January I promised a response to your requests for assistance by the close of the next business day and with just a very few exceptions, I think that promise has been kept.

It might interest you to know I’ve sent 7,979 emails since starting in this position January 4, 2016.  What a glorious conversation we have had!  We have talked about starting chapters, strengthening chapters, and even, sadly, closing a few chapters.  We processed forms, brainstormed ideas, plotted strategies, and shared a few laughs along the way.  I am sure I have learned more from you than the other way around and I am so very grateful to you.

2016 is shaping up to be a year of transformation for HLAA and its staff.  For personal and health reasons, I have requested to work part-time in 2017.  I am excited about transitioning into this new phase of my life and I am so grateful to HLAA for supporting work-life balance. 

HLAA is in the process of bringing on additional administrative support for chapters and membership, to ensure that we continue to assist your work on behalf of HLAA as you have every right to expect.  This new person, soon to be announced, will be taking over a lot of the administrative support functions I have been doing.  We know there will be a learning curve and this has been factored into the transition plan.  The new person and I will work together as a Team to make the transition as seamless for you as possible.  

I am excited to be able to continue to deliver the Chapter Building Workshops and the webinars, write the articles, improve the Leader Support guidance we make available online, run the Chapter/State Development Room at Convention, and provide you with the customized assistance you have come to expect. Help will still be only a phone call or an email away. 

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with me and HLAA during these past months.  I look forward to achieving GREAT THINGS together going forward.

Happy Thanksgiving!

All the best,

Valerie Stafford-Mallis
HLAA Director of Chapter Development

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

State/Chapter Leader / Delegate Registration Information

Dear State and Chapter Leaders,
HLAA is excited to host the HLAA2017 Convention in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah. You will want to add at least a day or two to your trip – there is so much to see and do! To start planning, go to
Be sure to see the upcoming November/December issue of Hearing Loss Magazine for details about the Convention, but in the meantime, I want to get some preliminary registration information out to you.
State associations/offices and chapters may register up to 4 officers (i.e., president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer) PLUS 1 Delegate (encourage a member who is being groomed for a leadership role to use the Delegate registration).  Officers must be current members of HLAA.   The officer registrations are not transferrable to other HLAA members. 

State Chapter Coordinators are also eligible for the State/Chapter Leader/Delegate Registration .
               State /Chapter Leader/Delegate Registration
  Deadline: March 31, 2017 (not January 31st, as in previous years)
               Rate: $125 + Cranky Cochlea Dinner Theater ($65)
                After March 31, 2017 this pricing is no longer available; use the regular registration form found in Hearing Loss Magazine or the Convention page on
State and chapter leaders and delegates must register using a registration form – online registration is NOT available due to the type of information collected on the form and due to the fact that we must have a current State/Chapter Update form on file (an annual requirement).  
If you have not submitted the Chapter/State Update Form this year, please download the form from  The Chapter/State Update Form is also available on the Convention page.  Your registration will not be processed if we do not have a current form on file. Updating your chapter information is important so our records and website reflect the correct data.

We are excited about the plans being made for the HLAA2017 Convention and we hope to see you Salt Lake City! Be sure to check for updates on the Convention page, in the biweekly HLAA e-News (if you are not receiving the HLAA e-News, sign up at, our Facebook page, and on Twitter @HLAA #HLAA2017.

On Another Note -

As you might know, I have moved into a new role at HLAA – I am now the director of external affairs and events, focusing more on corporate sponsorships and other projects. Our new meeting planner, Niaz Siasi, is now officially on board and anxious to meet you all in Salt Lake City. Niaz is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in Communications. Her email address is Please give her a warm HLAA welcome.

Thank you for all you do for HLAA and I look forward to seeing you in Salt Lake City.

Best Regards,

Nancy Macklin
Director of External Affairs and Events
301.657.2248 Ext. 106

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Outreach and Awareness Project Ideas

Supporting people with hearing loss and their friends, families and coworkers lies at the heart of the HLAA mission. HLAA State organizations and Chapters provide assistance and resources in their communities when they do outreach and community service projects. They also help to eradicate the stigma associated with hearing loss and raise public awareness about the need for prevention and treatment. In the process, they attract new people to the chapters and rekindle existing chapter members’ enthusiasm.
Examples of outreach projects HLAA affiliates might consider doing could be educational forums or classes for employees of hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALF’s), fire departments, emergency care providers, police forces, recreation and entertainment facilities, businesses, etc.  Outreach might also take the form of presentations to students of all ages, teachers, scout troops, service club members, houses of worship, etc. HLAA organizations might organize a seminar or expo for veterans or for the community as a whole.
The Outreach/Community Service tab of the HLAA Leaders Support page has an extensive list of outreach/community service projects your group might consider. It is by no means exhaustive.  You are more than welcome to come up with your own ideas.  It also lists helpful planning tips to get you started.  Click here for more information about planning projects and making outreach a part of your chapter leadership structure
Outreach Project Ideas

1.   Participate in area health fairs, farmers markets and awareness events. (See the Publicity page for more information. Publicity Materials to display and distribute are available free from the national office, through the HLAA website or by calling 301.657.2248. HLAA asks that the organization reimburse HLAA for the shipping cost.)

2.   Help educate people about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by introducing the need for assistive listening systems in the community.

3.   Work with professionals and fraternal organizations (Lions Clubs, Sertoma, etc.) to provide free hearing screenings.

4.   Sponsor a class in speech reading, Cued Speech, assertiveness training or coping/communication strategies, aimed at helping people with hearing loss.

5.   Plan a party or special event for children with hearing loss.

6.   Start a support group for teens. Include plenty of fun events and socializing. (HLAA’s Hartford Chapter in Connecticut does this well.)

7.   Fund an assistive listening device for a school, nursing home, etc.

8.   Conduct workshops on assistive listening devices.

9.   Visit libraries to acquaint them with HLAA. Set up a library display. Encourage library membership in HLAA. (The Diablo Valley Chapter in California does this well.)

10.                Conduct "mini-meetings" for people in senior centers and retirement residences that can’t travel to chapter meetings. Take a hearing loop and all the assistive listening devices you can collect for a hands-on demonstration.

11.                Visit long-term care facilities and nursing homes as a friend to patients with hearing loss. Acquaint yourself with the staff and help them evaluate the patients’ hearing problems and related needs. Offer to put on an in-service workshop for the staff.

12.                Each year, November 29 is HLAA Founder's Day when we remember Founder Rocky Stone and the beginning of the organization. Plan activities during November that commemorate Rocky and draw the community’s attention to the needs of people with hearing loss.

13.                May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. Plan a project for May that will bring attention to the issues of hearing loss. Ask your governor/mayor to issue a proclamation and seek publicity in newspapers and on the Internet, radio and TV. Place attractive displays in libraries. Initiate and participate in a hearing health fair with service providers. This is a good time to go into public schools with lessons on hearing loss and/or noise awareness. (Our Southwest Connecticut Chapter has conducted such a program.)

14.                Visit local restaurants and assess the noise levels within them. Work with a local newspaper or dining guide to report the results. Here’s how.

15.                Hold a half-day workshop. Meet in a free, public meeting space and solicit a catered lunch from a nearby restaurant (even a chain restaurant). Here are some possible themes.

16.                An employment workshop geared to employers and employees

17.                An awareness and coping skills workshop geared to consumers or parents of children with hearing loss

18.                Coping with hearing loss (show the HLAA DVD Learn About Hearing Loss, invite a speaker to talk about the emotional and social effects of hearing loss, and/or have a member panel where each person discusses how they have learned successful coping strategies)

19.                Explore facilities in your area: Are amplified phones available in public places, large stores, hotels, and hospitals? Do public utilities, emergency services, and other critical locations have written procedures for contacting people with hearing loss? Is hearing accessibility well publicized with the correct signage?

20.                Develop a resource directory of places with assistive listening systems.

21.                Audit state resource directories to make sure that they list HLAA headquarters and the HLAA State organization and Chapter(s) there.

22.                Does your state have a newborn screening program? Are existing laws for people with hearing loss being implemented? Serve on state or local commissions, councils, and regulatory and advisory boards as a representative. Let them know your interest in participating,

23.                Encourage movie theaters to show captioned movies. Send letters of support and thanks for captioning to national television networks, advertisers, and the companies who sponsor captioning.

24.                Initiate "55 Alive" driver training or CPR classes for people with hearing loss.

25.                Adopt a school. Initiate a scholarship program for students with hearing loss.

26.                Give HLAA membership as gifts where they will be appreciated and useful. (The state organization or chapter pays for the membership.)

27.                Request HLAA membership brochures, place the organization’s information on the back and distribute them to professionals and organizations in the community that have an interest in hearing loss. HLAA offers special member benefits to hearing health professionals.
I am here for you if you want to brainstorm ideas.  As always, thank you for sharing your time and talents with HLAA.  You are appreciated so much!
Valerie Stafford-Mallis
Director of Chapter Development

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Liability Insurance

Fall is shaping up to be a very busy and productive time of year for our chapters and state organizations. Many of you are reaching out with questions about obtaining event liability coverage for your meetings and other activities.

You need look no farther than the Leader Support page of the HLAA website!

Liability insurance
Most HLAA organizations hold regular meetings or special events at places such as libraries, community centers, senior living facilities and churches. The business manager at the facility may request a certificate of liability from the organization. The certificate is proof that the organization has liability insurance, called a "certificate." You may obtain this certificate through HLAA headquarters by completing the Liability Insurance Application form
[Word] [PDF] and sending it with payment of $25 to HLAA.

You can fax the form with credit card information to 301.913.9413, email the completed form with credit card payment as a PDF document, or mail the form and payment to HLAA, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 1200, Bethesda, MD 20814.) Please see form for details.

State organization or Chapter meeting and/or special event venues are added as riders to the HLAA headquarters’ liability policy. The policy provides some limited coverage for personal injury, medical expenses and damage to the property at the chapter meetings or event specified in the agreement. The associated fee our headquarters incurs ($25) is passed along to the requesting state organization or chapter. The person requesting the certificate receives an email containing the certificate. It is that person’s responsibility to provide it to the requesting facility manager or contact person.

Please let me know if you have any difficulty downloading the form from the HLAA website.

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with HLAA. You are amazing!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Friendly Fall Announcements for HLAA State and Chapter Leaders


If you know of any outstanding individuals, HLAA Chapters and State Organizations, companies, or organizations be sure to nominate them for a 2017 HLAA Award! The 2017 Awards Nomination Packet is now available on our website. HLAA will honor award recipients at the HLAA2017 Convention. The deadline for submissions is Friday, December 2, 2016. Chosen nominees will be notified in January 2017.

HLAA2017 Convention State/Chapter Development Track Call for Papers Now Open

Do you have an innovative idea for making chapters and state organizations stronger? Would you like an opportunity to share your knowledge with the rest of HLAA? If so, here is your opportunity!
The Call for Papers is now open for HLAA2017 Convention workshop proposals. You don’t want to miss this chance to share what works in your chapter and have a great time doing so in the process! On the Call for Papers page you can also find information on presenting in the State/Chapter Development Room. The deadline for submissions is December 2, so don’t delay, apply today!


Every October 1 HLAA chapters submit their Chapter Update Forms.  You can click here to download the form.  

HLAA’s Membership Services and Web Technologies Departments use the information on these forms to update your chapter’s database record and its listing in the Find A Chapter page of the HLAA website.  With 160 + Chapters and State Associations, working from these forms is the best way for us to handle the data.  We apologize for having to ask you to fill out the form. Please believe me when I say this, we really appreciate your patience and understanding. 

Many of you have already submitted your forms and your diligence is so appreciated.  If you are not sure, I am happy to check for you. Just email me at

I hope you are having a wonderful fall. You open the world of communication to people with hearing loss and you make a difference in their world.  Every day! 
All the best,
Valerie Stafford-Mallis

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Convention 2017 Call for Papers Now Open Until December 2, 2016

Attention all HLAA State and Chapter Leaders! 

As you know, the HLAA-nation will gather June 22-25, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah to learn the latest and greatest ways to deliver the HLAA mission and to live our best lives possible.  

Do you have innovative ideas for making chapters and state organizations stronger?  Would you like an opportunity to shake things up in Salt Lake City, Utah by sharing your knowledge with other HLAA State and Chapter Leaders?  If so, here is your opportunity! 

The Call for Papers is now open for HLAA Convention 2017 proposals.  There are Educational Tracks and a special track for the  State/Chapter Development Room. Come share your unique ideas with us.   We need you!  We welcome your ideas in joint presentation proposals, individual presenter proposals, panel presentation proposals…whatever works! Put your thinking caps on and let your imagination soar.  The sky truly is the limit.

If you are interested in presenting in the State/Chapter Development Room or for one of the other HLAA Convention Educational Tracks please consult  >> Events >> Convention >> Call for Papers for more information. The Call for Papers for the Educational Tracks is open as well. 

Don’t delay…apply today!  The Call for Papers closes December 2nd

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with HLAA.  You make the world a better place!

All the best,

Valerie Stafford-Mallis

HLAA Director of Chapter Development

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

HLAA Affiliates on the Move with Walk4Hearing and Expos

HLAA Chapters and State Associations are on the move in a big way this fall. 

Fabulous HLAA Walk4Hearing Kickoffs and Walks4Hearing are taking place in cities around the country right now. The Walk4Hearing is HLAA's signature fundraising and awareness event that benefits both Chapters and the national organization. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Walk4Hearing is the largest walk for hearing loss awareness in the country. Every spring and fall thousands of walkers - children and their families, young adults, young at heart, and everyone in between - form teams and walk in their communities to increase public awareness about hearing loss, help eradicate the stigma associated with it and raise funds for programs and services. HLAA depends on generous volunteers to raise funds, generate enthusiasm and awareness at each of the Walk4Hearing sites.

Many of our Chapters and State Associations are also discovering the power of  hearing health expos. In the past couple of weeks I've enjoyed reading about the California State Association October 8th Hearing Loss Tech Expo 2016.  The  HLAA Rochester NY Chapter is holding its "Day of Hearing" October 7, 2016. HLAA chapters in Florida held a series of Expo's this past Spring using names such as "Hearing Health Expo" and Hearing Technology Expo" for their events. This list is by no means exhaustive.  Other Chapters and State Associations not mentioned here are staging exciting events, as well.

What's really important is that these chapters and state associations are using community-wide events to go where the people with hearing loss are.  They realize how difficult it is to get people with hearing loss to come to their first HLAA meeting. They reach out to those people in a fun, exciting, and non-threatening way. coming to an HLAA meeting then becomes a natural next step for these people.

Successful hearing expos do not happen by themselves.  They involve lots of operational planning and strategic  partnerships between HLAA volunteers and community hearing healthcare professionals, hearing assistive technology vendors, hearing instrument specialists, exhibitors, sponsors, and community media outlets.

Workshops that educate and inform the public are a big draw. Workshops that address living better with hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance draw people in and provide hooks for media coverage. 

The media community events editors are always looking for events to publicize in their community calendars.  Media health editors are always looking for human interest stories about prevalent health conditions and what can be done about them.  It is hard to imagine a more prevalent health condition than one that affects 48 million Americans!  Also popular are opportunities to try out hearing assistive technology and to ask questions of hearing health professionals.

Hearing expo planners will tell you to start out small and grow the event over time.  For instance, one Expo I know of had no hearing instrument representatives exhibiting in the beginning.  By the time the 2nd or 3rd Expo rolled around, that had changed.  Why?  The exhibitors who did participate in the first Expo found value in their participation and they told other vendors. The Chapter volunteers planned a small first-time event carefully and executed that plan with precision. The next year they drew upon what they learned the year before to plan a little more ambitiously and executed that plan successfully. The next year they repeated the evaluate-learn-grow-execute cycle.

If you are looking to revitalize your chapter, connect it to the community, and fulfill the HLAA mission of information, education, support, and advocacy, please let me encourage you to consider an Expo.  You don't have to do it alone. You can collaborate with other chapters in your State Association, other healthcare institutions or healthcare training programs (technical schools, community colleges, universities, etc.) in your community, and so on.

Thank you for all the amazing ways you fulfill Rocky Stone's vision for HLAA.  You are appreciated!

All the best,
Valerie Stafford-Mallis
HLAA Director of Chapter Development

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Deliver Your Chapter's Unique Value - Final Installment - Provide An Incredible Experience

Deliver Your Chapter’s Unique Value – Final Installment

We’ve been talking since the middle of June about ways to deliver your chapter’s unique value and to differentiate it from online sources of hearing loss information. You’ve identified  your chapter’s  unique strengths and opportunities and you’ve used those to mitigate any weaknesses and threats it might have.  You’ve powered up your chapter’s marketing to move beyond just listing meeting dates, times, and speakers in brochures,  announcements, and flyers. You are now informing people about the things they will learn at each chapter meeting and how it benefits them.  This benefit-oriented focus is leading to people-generated referrals. More people are coming to your chapter’s meetings and events.  What you are doing is working.  Congratulations!

Now what do you do?  How do you keep the momentum going?  This is where your chapter delivers its unique value by providing an incredible experience that cannot be found online.

It starts with first impressions.  You only get one chance to make a good first impression.  You must build a strong team totally focused on providing this unique experience. This means that chapter leaders embrace the need to welcome first-time visitors warmly and to encourage them to return.  Chapter leaders understand first-time visitors  usually come to get specific questions answered and they are prepared to answer those questions.  Chapter leaders understand that people keep coming back for  social interaction, friendship, and improved listening/communication experiences.  Spouses/communication partners/family members come for education, mentoring, and support.

A Welcome Plan supports a strong team effort that makes people want to come back. The team recognizes walking into a chapter meeting for the very first time can a high-stress situation for a newcomer.  They make the newcomer feel  safe, welcome, good about themselves, and glad they came.

Warm and friendly greeters located near the entry to the meeting room, staffing the information table, make coming into the meeting place inviting.  Chapter leaders point out the benefits of the HLAA chapter and help connect new comers with existing members.  Welcome kits highlighting the chapter’s activities, meeting dates, leader contact info, and reasons to come back are handed to every new comer. Chapter mentors and leaders are clearly identified.  They comfortably approach newcomers.  They appear to be enjoying themselves.

Chapters build time for social interaction into each meeting and encourage socialization with simple refreshments.  Some chapters designate special time before or after the speaker presentation for this purpose.   Chapter leaders and mentors are prepared to answer the most common questions about hearing aids, hearing healthcare providers, and the cost of hearing aids. Each newcomer’s contact information is obtained and a follow-up email, note, or phone call goes out within 2 days. This “pleased-to-meet-you” reach-out contains information about the chapter’s mission, meeting schedule, next activity. and how to get in touch. 

How does a Chapter build a strong team that will be able to consistently and effectively deliver incredible experiences that can’t be duplicated online?  Hold a Chapter Development Workshop and brainstorm program ideas.  Review what you uncovered during your SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).  Talk to other chapter leaders.  Consult the Leader Support page of the HLAA website   for ideas on Run A Strong Chapter, Meetings, Outreach/Service.  Discuss your chapter’s current environment with your leaders. Reach out to HLAA’s Director of Chapter Development  Discuss the vision for where your chapter wants to go. Where do you see your Chapter being in 5 years?  What one or two things might you do that you presently do not do?  Solicit your chapter leaders’ ideas and engage their commitment to try new things.   Commit to trying one or two new ideas every year. Make this an ongoing process.  

Remember, it is important to have fun. If your chapter has fun, others will want to have fun right along with you. People with hearing loss connecting with each other and having fun will differentiate your chapter as offering something of unique value. 

Good luck and thank you for sharing your time and talents with HLAA.  Exciting, and FUN, things are ahead! Please reach out to me to share your ideas.

All the best,

Valerie Stafford-Mallis

Monday, August 15, 2016

Deliver your Chapter’s Unique Value Part 4 – Power-up Your Chapter’s Marketing

For the past three blogs we’ve been thinking about delivering your chapter’s unique value to differentiate it from everything else that’s out there: going online for information, doing nothing about one’s hearing loss, and so on.  We talked about analyzing your chapter’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We talked about looking for ways to chapters might use strengths to mitigate threats and weaknesses.

Today I’d like you to consider some ideas to power-up your Chapter’s marketing.

When we talk about marketing, most people immediately think of meeting announcements, brochures and flyers.  Meeting announcements, brochures and flyers are very important and no chapter should be without them.   Powering up your chapter’s marketing, however, is so much more than that.   It is adding a set of experiences to meeting announcements, brochures and flyers that communicate to the world WHY your chapter exists and WHY its existence matters. 

Where and how do you even begin?  Instead of just talking about what your chapter does, also talk about WHY it matters. 

·         WHY does your chapter exist? To make the world a better place for people with hearing loss through information, education, support, and advocacy.

·         WHY does your chapter do the things that it does?  Because we expand our worlds when we do things together

·         WHY should someone come to your chapter?  To experience not having to hide one’s hearing loss anymore.  To experience the power of community and other people in overcoming the daily challenges of hearing loss. To find a place in a hearing world where it is okay not to hear typically.

·         WHY should they come back?  To tap into understanding and acceptance.  To make friends. To have fun.  To have experiences they would not otherwise have.  Did I forget to say to have fun?

People respond to people.  Providing information that focuses on WHY what your chapter offers and does matters opens the door to more people-generated referrals. People-generated referrals in turn, supplement the referrals from your meeting announcements, brochures and flyers.

What are some examples of people-generated referral opportunities for your chapter?

·         People your chapter meets at community events who respond to your chapter’s presence. Events matter!  Get out there in the community. Go to where the people with hearing loss in addition to using meeting announcements, brochures, and flyers. 

·         People individual chapter members talk to at the grocery store, doctor’s office, gym, or the dry cleaners’ who respond to a member’s compassion

·         People hearing health care providers refer to your chapter

·         People who meet your chapter members out in the community going to restaurants, enjoying captioned movies and looped performance halls, shopping in stores, walking their dogs, and book clubs

·         People who see HLAA chapter members laughing and enjoying life again. HLAA members may have lost their hearing but they haven’t lost their capacity to enjoy life!

Success breeds success.  When people see your chapter members living the life on their terms, moving confidently in the direction of their goals, they will want that for themselves.

Provide the real experience that can’t be experienced on-line.  See if your chapter can get out once a month.  If once a month isn’t feasible…make it once a quarter.  If once a quarter isn’t feasible, try twice a year.  Stumped for ideas?  Check out the Outreach and Community Service Project Ideas  on the HLAA website’s Leader Support page:   

Try reaching out to the community with compelling experiences that show WHY your chapter and what it does matters.   See if the community doesn’t reach back out to you….at least a little.  I’m betting you will be surprised and your chapter members will have a LOT more fun.

In the next blog we are going to talk about another way to deliver your chapter’s unique value – by providing an incredible experience for anyone who walks into a chapter meeting.  Stay tuned and thank you for sharing your time and talents with HLAA! 

Valerie Stafford-Mallis

Friday, July 29, 2016

Deliver Your Chapter’s Unique Value – Part 3 - Use Your SWOT Analysis

In the July 12th blog we considered the steps of a basic SWOT (Strength-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis as a way to help you to think more strategically about your chapter. 

So, after you have identified your chapter’s internal strengths and weaknesses and its external opportunities and threats …what in the world do you do with the information?

Put the information in a form where patterns begin to emerge.  You can make the tabulation as simple or elaborate as you wish. Here's a simple format

Internal Strengths
Internal Weaknesses
External Opportunities
External Threats

Eloise Schwartz, of the Metro Milwaukee Chapter, shared a beautifully done Power Point of the SWOT analysis she did for her chapter.  I've excerpted a more elaborate tabulation of her chapter's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.  Eloise will share her SWOT analysis.  Please send an email to if you would like to see the rest of it.
Take your lists and you ask yourself a few more questions:

  • Which areas of internal weakness present the greatest threat to your chapter’s continued existence?  Prioritize them by listing the most significant first.
  • Which external threats present the greatest threat to your chapter’s continued existence?  Prioritize them by listing the most significant first.
  • Which internal strengths represent the greatest hope for to your chapter’s continued existence?  Prioritize them by listing the most significant first.
  • Which external opportunities represent the greatest hope for to your chapter’s continued existence?  Prioritize them by listing the most significant first.
My personal preference is to play to strengths first…pick the low-hanging fruit before going after the hard stuff.  Ask yourself:
  • What are my chapter’s existing strengths?
  • Can we enhance those existing strengths?  What might some goals and project plans be to do this?
  • Which opportunities might be within our reach? What might some goals and project plans be to do this?
  • Which strengths can we use to take advantage of those opportunities? What might some goals and project plans to do that be?
  • Can we use some of our strengths to mitigate some of our weaknesses?

And so on…
Go ahead and give it a never know what might bubble up!!
Valerie Stafford-Mallis