Chapter Leadership Institute Library

The following is a compilation of resources that should be of benefit to both the newly elected and seasoned NFB chapter leader. Some of it is NFB-specific. Other material is drawn from external resources. We hope it proves beneficial in helping you take charge of your local chapter.

Table of Contents

Introductory Notes

This library is maintained by the NFB of Virginia Chapter Leadership Institute. If you would like to contribute resources for the benefit of all, please let us know.

A lot of the resources below are downloadable .doc files. You may use Jarte, a free WordPad-based word processor if you do not own a copy of Microsoft Word. Jarte works well with screen readers.

The following contain selections from the Training Our People to Serve manual published by the former Affiliate Action Department under the leadership of Joanne Wilson. The literature is supplemented by external reference materials.

Running a Chapter

This section is devoted to practical tips on running a chapter and chapter meetings. Here you will also find sample templates that should prove useful in your chapter operations. For the newly elected chapter president, this should be your first stop.

Open Letter to New Chapter Presidents by Barbara Pierce

Recently the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio had occasion to organize a new chapter. The young woman who was elected president had no past experience as a Federation officer, so I wrote her a long letter setting forth ideas, projects, and principles that we in the organized blind movement have found useful in building our local chapters. Lots of good ideas are not mentioned here, but perhaps it is useful for new chapter presidents, and for us all from time to time, to spend a few minutes thinking about the fundamentals of chapter-building. Here, in significant part, is the letter I wrote.

Download the letter here.

Tips for Running Effective Meetings

By the nature of being organizers, most of the work we do in the Federation somehow involves group interaction. Whether it's heading committee meetings, chapter meetings, or state board meetings, most of us will play the role of facilitator many times during our Federation work. Below are some suggestions you might find useful as you are called upon to lead meetings of all sizes in the Federation.

Download the tips.

Basic Parliamentary Procedure

Parliamentary Procedure is a system of rules that allows meetings to be conducted efficiently and group decisions to be made fairly. The purpose of such rules is to ensure that the will of the majority of our membership can be done, while protecting the rights of the minority. In the National Federation of the Blind we do not subscribe to any one particular parliamentary authority. The way that meetings are conducted within our organization depends on the size and function of the meeting, as in any other organization. And because the majority of our membership is blind, we occasionally modify parliamentary rules to make conducting a meeting as a blind individual more efficient. Below you will find a list of commonly used parliamentary terms, as well as a brief description of how to use parliamentary procedure during a meeting.

Download the Parliamentary Procedures.

strengthening local chapters

We hope that the following suggestions will help you to make the work you do on the local level as meaningful and productive as possible.

Download the Strengthening Local Chapters document

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the process of identifying direction for an organization that is firmly based in the mission, purpose, and values of the organization. This planning can be done both informally and through a formal process involving techniques such as brainstorming, consensus building, and establishing shared definitions. The following is a brief outline of the building blocks for a well-designed strategic plan:

Download the Strategic Planning document here.

Seminar Starters

Below you will find topics and material suggestions to help you conduct philosophy discussions with your members. Also in this section, you will find a variety of Kernel book stories with accompanying questions that can also be used for this purpose. Remember, this is just a list to help you get “jump started.”

Download the Seminar Jump Starters.

Code of Conduct

Our code of conduct outlines the policies and standards that all National Federation of the Blind members, especially our leaders, are expected to adopt
and follow. To report a potential violation of this code, please consult section IX below. Reports can be filed using the code of conduct grievance report form or by calling our dedicated voicemail box at 410-659-9314, extension 2475. Read more.

Document Samples

Please feel free to download and adapt any of the samples below for use in your local chapter:


The NFB philosophy is the backbone of the organization’s policies and positions. Here you will find philosophy discussion starters and helpful articles to help guide your chapter through thought-provoking discussions in understanding why the organization takes the approach that it does.

First, consider reading this article from the Braille Monitor, NFB Philosophy: What It Is and What It Is Not.

Next, here is a beginning list of thought provokers to consider forming the basis of a philosophy discussion at your next chapter meeting.

And here is a list of hand-picked philosophy articles you can download and use at your next meeting to start a discussion.

A Matter of Attitude

Thoughtful readers of Kernel books will recognize a recurring Theme that many of the problems of blindness are not caused by blindness itself but by attitudes about it. Sometimes the attitudes causing the problem are held by sighted people about the blind. But very often the problem attitudes are held by blind people about themselves. Here Seville Allen relates an unusual and ironic incident which makes the point. Read more.

Competing on Terms of Equality

At one time in my life I sold life insurance a most interesting occupation. I had a big rate book in print. I could not always afford to hire somebody to go with me and read it for me. I was trying to make a living, not be an executive. I couldn't put it into Braille. I didn't have enough reader time for that and even if I had, it would have meant carrying around volumes. So that wouldn't have been practical.

I had another problem: The company kept changing the rate book as new policies and procedures came along. So what was I to do? Read more.

I Want That

I lost my sight as a teenager. Because of my eye condition my eventual total blindness was predictable. Even so, nobody had ever told me or my parents that this could happen. I was devastated.

I had been to the store earlier in the day. While waiting at the check-out counter I had picked up a magazine as one does to pass the time. I read little bits of it, and it looked interesting so I bought it.

Later that day at home I picked up the magazine. And, that was how I found out I was blind. I couldn't read it at all. Read more.

Keeping Sight of the Vision

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan began his 1976 National Convention banquet address entitled, "Blindness--of Visions and Vultures," with the following story:

"Behold a king took forth his three sons to judge their fitness to govern the kingdom, and they stopped by a field, where a vulture sat in the branches of a dead tree. And the king said to the oldest son, 'Shoot--but first tell me what you see.'

"And the son replied: 'I see the earth and the grass and the sky...' Read more.

Keeping within the Lines

The kindergarten in the public school that I attended when I was five left me with a feeling of alienation and frustration-though I didn't know the words to describe the problem. My teacher was a kind and gentle lady, who tried to help me, but I presented difficulties which she felt unable to solve. Many of the kindergarten activities were done visually. Learning colors, drawing, recognizing letters and numbers, naming the geometric shapes-all of these were presented visually. Some kindergarten tasks could be done quite effectively without sight-counting, reciting the alphabet, remembering your own address and telephone number, listing in order the days of the week or the months of the year. But in the drawing classes, I was unable to "keep within the lines," and "keeping within the lines" was important. I learned the shapes of the print capital letters from the building blocks we had, and I came to know the forms of numbers in the same way. By the time kindergarten had come to an end, I had learned to print my name, MARC, but I usually got it backwards-CRAM. As I viewed it, the experiment with kindergarten was only marginally successful. Although it was never stated, the lesson of kindergarten was unmistakable-blind people are different from others; they require kindness; they can't do the ordinary things that other people do; they can't keep within the lines. href="">Read more.

Nights of Walking

Since I am a lawyer, I do a lot of traveling. I was away in Idaho working on a case when our first child, David, was born. My wife Patricia and I live in Maryland, more than 2,000 miles from Idaho. I had a hearing on Monday morning, and I needed to interview witnesses and prepare argument for the case. My wife had been pregnant for several months, but the baby wasn't supposed to arrive for quite a while. When I left on Friday morning, everything was fine. When I spoke with Patricia on Friday night, she was feeling better than she had for weeks. I went to bed more than 2,000 miles from home ready to buckle down to do the work for the court appearance scheduled for Monday.

Early Saturday morning I commenced interviews with witnesses. The trial would focus on the constitutional rights of private citizens to free speech and freedom of assembly. I was preparing testimony for the court and marshalling arguments for the summation. The court appearance would be brief-not more than half a day. A number of the facts to be presented were quite unusual, and the time before the judge would be severely limited. Preparation and planning were absolutely vital. Read more.

Of Pain and Possibility

In some ways the United States of America in the late twentieth century is not an easy place in which to adjust to blindness. True, the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind for more than fifty years, the evolution of effective methods of travel using the long white cane, and the technological advancements which have produced new jobs and more Braille than ever before have all played their part in expanding the opportunities available to our blind citizens. But because psychologists have learned a great deal about the stages of adjustment to death and the grief associated with it, other profound life-changes (even those that do not necessarily bring with them irrevocable limitation or loss) are now all being lumped together in an undifferentiated mass of doom and gloom. This is a far cry from an earlier generation's admonition to keep a stiff upper lip in all circumstances and pretend that nothing awful has happened. Most people today recognize that ignoring loss or profound change is as foolish under most circumstances as ignoring the physical symptoms of illness. But perhaps it is time to say that the pendulum has now swung too far in the direction of self-absorbed introspection. Read more.

On the Stigma of Blindness

Throughout history blindness has been misunderstood by almost everyone. The word "blind" has had connotations of helplessness, witlessness and lack of discernment. Blindness has been (and still is, to some extent) considered a stigma and a badge of shame; for this reason many blind persons are hesitant to admit that they are blind and try to avoid any action such as reading Braille or carrying a cane which would categorize them as blind. Every thoughtful blind person is aware of this stigma. Indeed, although I acknowledged its existence, I rejected it from an early age. Joining the National Federation of the Blind only increased my awareness of this stigma and strengthened my resolve to overcome it. However, its impact was brought home to my wife and me when we were on a trip a number of years ago. We had gone to the National Center for the Blind, headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind, in Baltimore, Maryland, to participate in a leadership seminar. We flew on United Airlines, making a change of planes in Chicago. I had traveled to the seminar using an aluminum cane; while in Baltimore, I bought an NFB fiberglass cane. On the return trip, therefore, I carried two canes. Read more.

Sight Unseen

"To be or not to be." That is indeed the question. Whether to note one's blindness in writing when applying for employment or not has troubled many people with various disabilities for far too long. This dilemma has, pardon the expression, dogged me for many years. As I have searched for teaching positions in various local colleges and universities, my practice has always been to let the quality of my credentials speak for me.
But last year something remarkable occurred when I found myself once more searching for openings in local colleges and universities. I began by flooding the market with resumes and letters of inquiry and following up with endless phone calls to countless local colleges and universities. The summer wore on, and I was wearing out. Read more.

Standing on One Foot

We who are blind are part of the larger society. We tend to see ourselves as others see us. We tend to accept the false views about our limitations and, thus, do much to make those limitations a reality.

I can offer a personal example. Quite sometime back, an article written by R. H. Gardner appeared in the Baltimore Sun. It was headlined: "Ice Castles' A Little Hard to Swallow," and this is what it said: Read more.

The Movement and the Message

As educators and organizers we must be able to encapsulate the Federation's philosophy into short, digestible messages with which people can connect. The following ten-point summary, excerpted from Jim Omvig's book, Freedom for the Blind, (provides an excellent overview of the NFB's philosophy about what it does and does not mean to be blind: Read more.

Who is Responsible for Whom?

I am the blind parent of a sighted child. My daughter was four years old when we were out walking one day. Now, there have been times when my daughter knew that I knew everything and times when my daughter was sure I knew nothing. We were going through one of those "I don't think he knows very much" stages. Whether that happened because of something that somebody at preschool said to her about having a blind father, or because it just happens in the development of children, I don't know. So, we were out walking one day. I've always walked with a cane, and I've always taken care of Missy-never had one accident whatsoever. But when we came up to the curb, she said, "Stop, Daddy, stop!"

I was surprised, and I said "Missy, I know to stop."

"How do you know?" said Missy. Read more.

Legislation and Advocacy

Each year the NFB works at the local, state, and federal levels to create and protect opportunities for all blind Americans. These documents offer a glimpse into the driving power behind our advocacy efforts. These resources will prove useful in preparing your chapter to do its part to carry the campaign forward.

For the latest advocacy efforts, please visit the Advocacy page.

Please download the following documents to gain a better understanding of how we advocate at a state and federal level.


The work of the Federation does not stop with policymakers. Equally important is the work on the streets, the people and businesses with whom we interact on a daily basis. It is there where we forge new partnerships, and it is there where we find other blind individuals we can assist and maybe bring into our fold. Use these resources to plan your outreach activities.

If you want to help everyone write to the same standard, consider using the Editor's Wish List.

You know how there's a day for just about everything? Here is a compilation of noteable dates around which you can plan outreach events. Grab your copy of the Public Education Calendar.

And to get started with promoting those events, here's a handy guide on Writing Press Releases.

Here's a phenomenal no nonsense guide on Reaching Out to Others.

Leadership Development

None of this is possible without leaders to help chart the course ahead. Leadership is not reserved for the elected, and for our purposes, leadership is not exclusively measured against what you can offer the Federation. These are just some of the resources we will use throughout the year to build you up as an individual.

First, conflict is inevitable in life. Conflict is the reason you pick up books or watch movies. If there was no conflict, there would never be learning opportunities, but how you navigate conflict is a learning process in itself.

Christine Grassman, an attorney among several other specialties, offers this helpful Conflict Analysis Tool that could help leaders identify and navigate conflict in their respective spheres.

Please download the conflict analysis tool here.

Second, here is a suggested book list. The books on this list were recommended by leaders in the Federation. We recognize that not every book will influence every individual; however, these books spoke to some of us, and we hope that they might also have an impact on some of you.

  • On Becoming a Leader by W. Bennis
  • Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leadership by Gary Wills
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
  • Over the Top by Zig Ziegler
  • Paper Money by Adam Smith
  • The Prince by Machiavelli
  • The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Success Unlimited by Og Mandino
  • Tai-Pan by James Clavell
  • Tuesdays with Maurie by Mitch Album
  • The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

The current CLI cohort should also keep tabs on the CLI Reading List, from which assignments will be drawn. You do not have to be a member of the cohort to enjoy that list of excellent books.

And here, for your convenience, is another list of hand selected articles speaking to leadership development in the NFB. Please download and share freely.


This is a starting look at some fundraising ideas. Please check back as we work to build up this section with more resources.

Audio Collection

Here is a small but influential collection of audio recordings that will further enhance your education. If you have independent recordings of other seminars or discussions, please consider submitting them for everyone’s benefit.

You may also be interested in experiencing one of the previous national convention banquet speeches. Click here to visit the banquet speech archive.

The NFB at Large

If you are new to the organization, you will want to start by reading the following selections taken from a Guide for Local and State Leaders by Ramona Walhof. It will give you a firm foundation on the organization’s structure and positions.



This chapter contains:

  • Section 1. A Brief History
  • Section 2. NFB Philosophy
  • Section 3. Constitutions
  • Section 4. President
  • Section 5. Role of National President
  • Section 6. Vice Presidents
  • Section 7. Secretary
  • Section 8. Treasurer
  • Section 9. Board Members
  • Section 10. Role of National Board
  • Section 11. NFB Headquarters
  • Section 12. Campaigning
  • Section 13. Dues
  • Section 14. Committees
  • Section 15. Divisions
  • Section 16. Groups


This chapter contains:

  • Section 17. Local Chapter Meetings
  • Section 18. Presidential Releases
  • Section 19. State Conventions
  • Section 20. National Conventions
  • Section 21. Resolutions
  • Section 22. Washington Seminar


This chapter contains:

  • Section 23. State and Chapter Publications
  • Section 24. Free Reading Matter for the Blind Mailing Privilege
  • Section 25. Braille Monitor
  • Section 26. Kernel Books
  • Section 27. Walking Alone and Marching Together
  • Section 28. Future Reflections
  • Section 29. Voice of the Diabetic
  • Section 30. Voice of the Nation’s Blind
  • Section 31. Annual Report
  • Section 32. Presidential Report
  • Section 33. Other NFB Literature You Should Read


This chapter contains:

  • Section 34. Advocacy
  • Section 35. National Legislation
  • Section 36. State Legislation
  • Section 37. Agency Relations
  • Section 38. Public Transportation
  • Section 39. Reaching out to the Newly Blind
  • Section 40. Membership Recruitment
  • Section 41. Leadership Development
  • Section 42. Project Suggestions


This chapter contains:

  • Section 43. General Information
  • Section 44. Chapter and State Fundraising
  • Section 45. Fundraising Suggestions
  • Section 46. National Fundraising
  • Section 47. PAC
  • Section 48. Imagination Fund
  • Section 49. SUN
  • Section 50. Jernigan Fund
  • Section 51. Contracts with Professional Fundraisers
  • Section 52. Special Events
  • Section 54. Fundraising Goals


This chapter contains:

  • Section 55. NFB-NEWSLINE®
  • Section 56. Independence Market
  • Section 57. International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC)
  • Section 58. Scholarships
  • Section 59. NFB Training Centers


This chapter contains:

  • Section 60. Public Service Announcements
  • Section 61. Press and News Coverage
  • Section 62. Speaking Engagements
  • Section 63. Phone Book Listings
  • Section 64. Web Sites
  • Section 65. E-mail and Listservs


This chapter contains:

  • Section 66. Coalitions
  • Section 67. Teamwork
  • Section 68. Looking to the Future

We hope this compilation of resources proves useful in developing your chapter and your leadership potential.