League of Women Voters of South San Mateo County V

Fall-Winter 2016
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type


The League of Women Voters of South San Mateo County (LWVSSMC) is the local organization of the national League of Women Voters (LWVUS). Entirely staffed by an extremely committed group of volunteer leaders, this 100+ member League gets direction and support from LWVUS as well as LWV California and LWV Bay Area. The League is a nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues. Its continuing goal is to register as many eligible voters as possible while providing useful and factual information on which voters can base their votes. Although nonpartisan as an organization, League members are encouraged to be politically active as individuals, by educating citizens about, and lobbying for, government and social reform legislation. 


The LWV was founded in 1920 during the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, held six months before the nineteenth amendment to the US Constitution – which gave women the right to vote – was ratified. From its inception, the LWV has been a grassroots organization whose leaders believe that citizens should play a critical role in informed advocacy. The LWVSSMC was founded in 1955 to cover the cities of Atherton, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Redwood City, and Woodside. This League, along with most others, provided a great way for educated women to engage in stimulating debate, develop deep friendships, be trained to run for elected office, and do the important work of promoting an informed and active citizenry. The LWVSSMC membership has aged, and their numbers have declined to 125 today from a high in the 1980s of 325 men and women. LWV’s volunteers recognize times have changed dramatically and are encountering difficulties in attracting new members.

Project Objectives

LWVSSMC asked the ACT team to develop a strategy to:

  • substantially increase LWVSSMC membership,
  • increase the number of members who actively participate in the organization,
  • recruit members who are willing to take over leadership roles,
  • retain as many existing members as possible,
  • develop a membership strategy that could be replicated by other local Leagues and scaled up to use at state and national levels of League,
  • increase diversity,
  • and attract younger participants.

Project Overview

The ACT team conducted extensive fact-finding to extract membership recruiting gaps, best practices in other organizations, and membership motivations. To that end, the team interviewed:

  • members of LWVSSMC, both long-term members and relatively new members;
  • 239 local non-members, through a survey;
  • members of other LWV Leagues with both successful and unsuccessful recruiting histories;
  • membership heads of LWV for Bay Area, California, and US;
  • and members of other similar organizations.

The team also used secondary research to inform recommendations. 

Key Recommendations

  • Identify new member targets
  • Tailor activity planning (scheduling, location, content, and social time) to reach each of the member targets
  • Assign a membership committee, mirroring targets
  • Learn social media skills to reach targets and advertise LWV
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for volunteers/donations at every opportunity
  • Assign a mentor to each new member
  • Actively, regularly engage
  • Take advantage of help that has been offered
  • Consider more aggressive fundraising to enable task offloading to paid staff

Final Report Outline

  • Introduction/objectives
  • What the ACT team learned from its research
  • Recommendation detail
  • Prioritized action plan
  • Appendices