Outgoing President Nancy Bickel Reflects on League Accomplishments

Nancy-Bickel-head-webNancy Bickel

“Your term as President really helped connect the League with more parts of the community…Thank you so much for reaching out to the diverse people of Berkeley and the Bay Area.”  This recent note from a Berkeley Council Member surprised and touched me.

Diversity: Over the past three years, connecting with the larger and more diverse community was a primary goal of our Board. This past year we have begun to see results. After several years of working with BOCA (Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action), the Berkeley NAACP, PTAs and schools – by co-sponsoring candidate debates and registering voters, we’ve found some good ways to help organizations achieve their own goals – using their own people and methods.

For example, we all want to encourage young people to actually vote, but studies show that potential voters respond much more effectively when they feel they are being asked to vote by people who belong to “their own” group – their neighborhood or their ethnic or language or age group. The League is still doing direct tabling to register voters and we’re also encouraging groups to develop and carry out their own plans by using our publications or other assistance as needed. [See Voter Services Election Season Timeline p. 5].

When I joined the League in 1976, our local League had about 400 members, among them older African-African women, many of whom had joined in the early 1940’s when then President Ruth Scheer had invited Frances Albrier to join.  Until then, white and black women’s organizations had been separate, though often seeking the same goals. As members of the African-American community spoke up more boldly demanding their civil rights, they tended to form and join their own civil rights organizations. League

diversity declined. Also, as more women worked full time they didn’t have as much time-energy to work with League or other volunteer organizations. Since the 1970’s, men continued to play a role in our League.

[Read more about Ruth Scheer and Francis Albrier on our website at http://www.lwvbae.org/league-news/frances-albrier-first-african-america-member/]

Growth: This year, for the first time, we hired a membership growth consultant – Adena Ishii, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, whom we had honored in 2014 with the “Spirit of the League” award. She saw our $75 membership fee as a big barrier to joining, so we have just introduced a free first year membership option – And the number of new members has begun to increase. [See p.4] 

Engagement:  Now our job is to draw these new members into League activities and to combine their interests, skills and passions with the League’s strong backbone of public policy positions and effective education and advocacy.

Moving Forward Together:  Although I am retiring from the Board, as are Treasurer Sarah Miyazaki, Program Coordinator Lessly Wikle Field, and Jill Martinucci, who withdrew March 1, we will continue to work with the excellent new Board to achieve our goals.  Deborah Malbec will move from Communications Coordinator to President, Voter Services Coordinator Phyllis Gale and Action Coordinator Diz Swift will continue their outstanding work on the new Board, as will Secretary Christine Wenrich. Past President Jinky Gardner has already returned to the Board as Membership Coordinator. New to the Board are Regina Beatus, who has been leading the Climate Change Team very successfully, and Preston Jordan, who is active on environmental and other issues in Albany and has become active in the League. New to League and the Board will be Treasurer Emily Beckhusen and Margo Schueler.  [Read more about these Board members at http://www.lwvbae.org/our-board/]

I have been welcomed and befriended by League colleagues ever since I joined in 1976 and I have in turn welcomed and befriended others. I know that our new Board members have many skills, much energy and generous spirits. They will welcome new and longtime members and, with their help, continue “making democracy work.”

Your know-how and energy are essential to our future success — please volunteer for tasks — whether large or small.


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