McDonald Fellowship Program

The 2024 NFB National Convention is an experience you do not want to miss.

Many of those who have attended our national NFB conventions are amazed at how meeting and interacting with over 3000 other blind and low vision convention attendees has positively changed their lives. They not only learn how the problems of vision loss can be overcome, but also experience the confidence that comes with solutions.

If you have never attended a convention, we offer two programs to assist you in attending the convention and getting the most from the experience.

  • A) McDonald Fellowship organized by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia
  • B) Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship run by the National Federation of the Blind

First time in-person convention attendees are strongly encouraged to apply for both.

Below the description of these two separate programs, you will find details on the process for requesting assistance if this is not your first convention.

McDonald Fellowship from the NFB of Virginia

The McDonald Fellowship program was established in 1998 to assist those who have never attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) or those who have not attended in many years and wish to come to a convention.

Robert and Marian McDonald selflessly contributed to our Virginia affiliate to further the progress and better the lives of those who are blind, visually impaired, and low vision in Virginia. In their honor, we recognize the personal benefits that come to people who attend a national convention for the first time. In their memory, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV) continues their legacy of education and empowerment to Virginia's blind citizens.

We anticipate awarding fellowships to assist each recipient with costs of attending our NFB National Convention to be held July 3 through July 8, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about the national convention here.

Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship provides funding support to National Federation of the Blind members who want to attend a national convention for the first time.

Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an in-person NFB National Convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.

To learn more about this national program, and to apply, please visit the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship page.

You may also learn more about the program by reading this Braille Monitor article.

Next Steps

Federations are welcome and encouraged to apply for both the Virginia specific McDonald Fellowship and a National Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship.

We will link each of our Fellowship winners with mentors who will assist them in getting the most out of their national convention experience. McDonald Fellowship winners are expected to attend the entire NFB convention and share their experiences by addressing our 2024 NFB of Virginia state convention.

Deadline for applications for the McDonald Fellowship is April 15, 2024. Winners will be announced on May 15, 2024.

Your application should be submitted using the form below.

In addition, you are required to contact your Chapter President or an affiliate Board Member for a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are due by April 15, 2024.

Applications or questions about the Fellowship program should be sent to:

Mary Durbin, Chairman
McDonald Fellowship Committee
Phone: 757-472-2495

Our committee wants to help you make 2024 the year you attend our national convention. The convention will be even better because you were there.

Additional Notes From the President

Every year, the affiliate president will receive a few requests for convention assistance from affiliate members. I am putting some ground rules in place to help clarify expectations.

If you are planning to request assistance, please send your request to me in email, Your request should factor in the following:

A. What are my total expected costs:

What should I expect to pay for convention factoring in expected costs for travel, lodging, meals, and convention registration? I have no idea how much it costs to get from your home to the convention hotel. You need to do the research. In addition, the banquet is a highlight of the convention and you don’t want to miss it. You need to factor this into your calculation.  Many people choose to share rooms and you will start seeing roommate requests posted to our announce list starting soon.

No one will be going to convention for free. The Jernigan Scholarships and McDonald Fellowships do not provide all the funding for convention for first timers. Individuals requesting financial assistance should expect to make a significant contribution to your convention expenses. You should be factoring in this expense into your budget.

B. What is my chapter contributing?

Your chapter is a resource for financial assistance. Do not come to the Virginia Affiliate requesting financial assistance if you have not asked your local chapter. I will be following up with chapter presidents to understand how you are contributing at the chapter level to programming and fundraising.

C. How much are you requesting from the affiliate

After considering other sources, how much are you requesting from the Virginia affiliate. Please note that we do not provide funding in advance. Our NFBV Treasurer Mark Roane will provide funding at convention but you need to work locally to get your travel and room expenses addressed. You should definitely expect to attend the Virginia Caucus to receive the financial assistance. I do not know the date and time for the caucus at this time but you will want to make certain you are there. It is not Mark’s job to hunt you down at convention and it is not Mark’s job to provide you funds as you walk into the hotel.

Fundraising is the means through which we have the resources to provide financial assistance. When I talk to your chapter president, I am checking to determine if you are engaged in the chapter and affiliate fundraising. We will certainly be selling items at the Virginia table at convention and you will be expected to help with that activity if you receive financial assistance. You should be hustling throughout convention and afterward back in Virginia to sell our products to fund our movement.

We are asking that requests are submitted no later than June 1, 2024. You should be planning in advance, booking your hotel room and taking advantage of the early registration pricing. 

We want everyone to join us at the convention and we hope this guidance clarifies the process. However, if you have questions, I am glad to address them.

McDonald Fellowship Application Form

1 Start 2 Complete