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Strategizing for the Future of LLLI

Anne Hutton and Marcia Lutostanski
Co-Chairs of Strategic Planning Team
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 43 No. 1, January-February-March 2007, pp. 20-21

The LLLI Strategic Plan adopted by the LLLI Board of Directors in October 2006 provides a common direction for all LLL Leaders and staff working toward the future for LLLI. This plan is meant to be fulfilled through the actions of LLL Leaders and the LLLI office staff. Along with the LLLI philosophy, the strategic plan gives focus to the mission and to the work that Leaders do each day in their local communities. If we succeed in meeting the target outcomes of the plan, LLLI will be a stronger organization well positioned to help more mothers and babies meet their breastfeeding goals.

Strategic Plan Objectives and Target Outcomes

The Strategic Objectives in the plan can help Leaders and staff more effectively deliver the LLLI mission to serve breastfeeding mothers and babies. We hope that each of the strategies resonate with Leaders as a way to focus our energies to reach more people with the LLLI message of good mothering through breastfeeding.

Focus on mother-to-mother support

  • Establish mother-to-mother contact baseline, and increase mothers directly served (through Group and online meetings, telephone and email help) by 10 percent over two years.
  • Maintain user satisfaction rating of 3.5 (out of five) or better among LLL contacts per survey.

Emphasizing mother-to-mother support reinforces the LLLI mission and allows us to capitalize on the unique way in which LLL helps breastfeeding mothers and babies. Mother-to-mother support differentiates LLL from most other sources of breastfeeding information. Additionally, LLL Leaders -- as experienced breastfeeding mothers themselves -- are unique among lactation professionals. In the User Surveys, mothers who had used our support services (phone helping, LLL meetings, email help, etc.) rated all the services good to excellent. (For more information about the findings from the User Surveys, please see pages 92-94 in the Oct-Nov-Dec 2006 issue of Leaven.)

By doing what Leaders have done for years -- answering questions in an accepting, respectful manner, welcoming all mothers to our meetings, and making our philosophy of mothering part of our breastfeeding information -- we have achieved a very high level of customer satisfaction. We want to maintain that high level of customer service while increasing the number of mothers we help. To realize a 10 percent increase, Groups that currently average 10 mothers at meetings would be averaging 11 after two years. And Leaders taking 60 phone calls a year (about five per month) would add another call every other month. On an individual basis, these changes seem achievable and not overwhelming. With each LLL Leader doing what she can to meet the target objective of a 10 percent increase, together we can achieve this growth.

Build volunteer network and reach currently underserved populations

  • Increase number of LLL members by 25 percent over two years.
  • Increase number of LLL Leaders by 20 percent over two years.
  • Target for reaching currently underserved populations -- To Be Determined.

Membership fees are a significant revenue source for LLL. And members are important as mothers involved with LLL and committed to learning more about breastfeeding, as LLL promoters, Group workers, and potential Leader Applicants and Leaders. Increasing the number of LLL members will help more mothers to breastfeed and also sustain our organization. Plans are underway to restructure the current Member Services Program to make it more attractive for Leaders to sell memberships and more beneficial for individuals to buy memberships.

Leaders are our core resource. Building our Leader numbers -- by focusing on Leader retention and accreditation -- will help us in every aspect of our work. A 20 percent increase in Leaders will create new LLL Groups, strengthen existing Groups with more co-Leaders, and open additional possibilities for meeting the needs of mothers. We recognize that while LLL Leaders are trained to help any mother who comes to us, we are not reaching all breastfeeding mothers and babies in all communities. By examining underserved/ under-represented populations in different locations, LLL Leaders can explore new ways to reach out to these mothers.

Build LLL credibility to be first referral from health care professionals (HCPs) and health agencies

  • Conduct 100 Community Discussion Groups, building relationships with at least 500 local HCPs worldwide.
  • Establish baseline for the number of HCPs participating in LLL educational programs, then increase participation by five percent in two years.

Around the world, many obstetricians, midwives, doulas, pediatricians, and nurses know of LLL and refer their patients to us for breastfeeding information and support. However, there are many more who may not be aware of the services we provide, or who may know of LLL generally, but are not familiar with local Groups and Leaders. Building strong local contacts between LLL Leaders and HCPs can ensure that breastfeeding mothers and babies are getting the best information, support, and care.

Community Discussion Groups (CDGs) are facilitated discussions where a Leader asks a group of HCPs for responses to a short list of questions about breastfeeding and LLL. CDGs are easy for LLL Leaders to conduct (as they are similar to a Group meeting but require even less talking by the Leader) and they are a great way to establish collaborative relationships with HCPs in your community. If you would like more information about the CDGs, please see (and join!) the LLLI Community Network discussion about them at: [link removed -- please use the CN search function to find this discussion].

Build LLL awareness among mothers, mothers-to-be, and the general public

  • Improve awareness of LLL among mothers and mothers-to-be by four percent (to 70 percent) over two years.
  • Establish baseline for local media references to LLL, then increase references by five percent over two years.

The online User Survey determined that 34 percent of our target audience (74 percent of mothers-to-be) have "never heard of" LLL. These women are influenced in their decision to breastfeed by their husbands, family, and friends. Increasing media references about breastfeeding and LLL in local media outlets (newspapers, radio shows, etc.) may persuade more women to decide to breastfeed and seek out LLL for support.

Transform LLLI into a global organization

  • All LLLI (funded/staffed) programs supporting global LLLI community (versus US focus).
  • Within two years, the LLLI Web site will have portals for each major language of all countries in which LLLI has a presence.

LLLI is moving toward making its international office a hub point for LLLI operations and activities around the globe. LLLI office programs are being evaluated and changed to ensure that their efforts support all LLL Leaders. Over time, LLLI resources including our Web site will be available in all major languages of LLL Groups. The development of language portals may require dedicated funding, which will be addressed as part of the process.

Implementing the Strategic Plan

The LLLI Board of Directors, staff, and LLL Leaders were all involved in developing the LLLI Strategic Plan. Likewise, all are important in implementing the plan to achieve the target outcomes. The success of this strategic plan depends on each Leader understanding how her work with mothers strengthens the LLLI mission. We envision a multi-faceted implementation with three major angles.

LLLI Strategic Workgroups

The LLLI Board of Directors chartered several Strategic Workgroups to address key action items. This will help LLLI to achieve target outcomes more quickly. The following Workgroups are working on specific strategic activities:

  • Global Resources -- Implement Leader Activity Reporting and other systems to track key resource statistics (Groups, Leaders, members, etc.) for LLLI.
  • Membership -- Explore options for improving member services and increasing memberships.
  • Underserved Populations -- Explore options for LLLI to reach currently underserved populations by locality.
  • Spanish-Language Resources -- Develop Spanish-language LLLI materials.
  • Community Discussion Groups -- Conduct discussions and build collaborative relationships with local health care professionals.
  • Publications -- Evaluate outsourcing options for publishing and distribution of LLLI publications while ensuring presentation of LLLI philosophy.
  • Public Awareness -- Increase public awareness of breastfeeding and LLL via local media outlets.

LLLI Executive Director and Staff

The LLLI Executive Director (ED) and staff will be implementing operational changes in alignment with the Strategic Objectives. Specifically, they are reviewing the many findings and recommendations from the Program Benchmarking effort to implement changes to improve LLLI programs. "The benchmarking teams of Leaders, experts, and staff members took a close look at LLLI programs. For each program, they found many ways to simplify activities and focus on our mission," says Rachel O'Leary, Program Services Committee co-Chair. The ED and staff are also working with US administrative groups to transfer LLLI programs that had been primarily serving the US and remove these from LLLI staffing and funding. Overall, resources will be shifted toward activities that support the Strategic Objectives and reach target outcomes.

LLL Leaders

Our volunteer Leaders are our most important resource. Leaders have provided important input to the LLLI Strategic Plan. Leaders with particular interests and skills will serve on the Strategic Workgroups to help deliver quick progress in some key areas.

Overall, however, the success in meeting target outcomes rests with individual Leaders who take an interest in some part of the Strategic Plan and then make small changes in their day-to-day work to focus on a strategic objective. As Malcolm Gladwell described in The Tipping Point, huge changes can be implemented by merely refocusing efforts -- with little or no additional volunteer time or funding required.

Here are a variety of ways in which Leaders can work toward achieving target outcomes in their day-to-day work:

  • A Leader provides information about LLLI mother-to-mother online support forums so mothers receive ongoing support between Group meetings.
  • A Leader volunteers to answer online help forms.
  • A Leader volunteers to moderate an online bulletin board or chat.
  • A Leader asks every mother who calls for help to become a member of LLL.
  • A Leader sends an email membership solicitation to every mother who attended the Group meeting but did not purchase a membership.
  • To complete application work jointly and more quickly, several sponsoring Leaders and Leader Applicants meet together.
  • Area Leaders celebrate new Leaders and honor Leaders with long service to LLL.
  • Co-Leaders conduct a Community Discussion Group with local lactation consultants.
  • Leaders in a geographic area send a joint meeting notice to all pediatricians' offices.
  • Area Leaders sponsor a health professional seminar providing continuing education credits.
  • Group Leaders publicize meeting dates/times in local free parenting magazines.
  • Leaders share ideas and documents with other Leaders worldwide via the LLLI Community Network.

To monitor our performance in implementing the plan, we will be regularly tracking internal statistics for the target outcomes. Therefore, everyone in LLL -- whether as individual Leaders or through their Area/Affiliate -- needs to be accountable to LLLI and provide information in a timely manner. The new Leader and Member Information Systems and the Leader Activity Reporting System will provide easy online tools for individual Leaders to use to report. Leaders may also report via the traditional administrative channels (District Advisor and/or Area/Affiliate structure). By providing information about her activities and members, each Leader can ensure that her work is counted!

Global Strategic Planning Summit

Because of the importance of the LLLI Strategic Plan in setting our direction for the future, a special meeting has been structured in advance of the 50th Anniversary La Leche League International Conference this July. The Global Strategic Planning Summit will provide two and a half days for Leaders to learn more about the Strategic Plan -- how it can frame LLL work in local communities and help LLLI to further deliver on its mission to help breastfeeding mothers and babies. "If you have ever wondered about how other Leaders do their work or if you are curious about how to improve what you do, this unique opportunity, the Strategic Planning Summit, is for you," said Jane Tuttle, Chairman of the LLLI Board of Directors.

The Strategic Planning Summit will be a gathering of worldwide Leaders committed to the success of LLLI. At the Summit, we will discuss ways to focus LLLI resources on activities that celebrate and capitalize on our unique position in providing mother-to-mother breastfeeding support. Participants will explore each of the Strategic Objectives and identify more innovative ways to incorporate these in our LLL work. This is a chance for any Leader to contribute to the future of LLLI by learning more and sharing ideas. The Summit is open to all Leaders, and attendance at all sessions is not required.

The Strategic Planning Summit will provide opportunities to meet with other Leaders in LLL functional departments (e.g., Leader Accreditation, Finances, Professional Liaison) as well as in small workgroups based on common interests. The Strategic Workgroups will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face and share their findings with other Leaders. All Leaders are encouraged to share their success stories and examine new ideas for implementing the LLLI Strategic Plan. In all, the Strategic Planning Summit provides a one-time opportunity for Leaders to celebrate the first 50 years of our organization and act to ensure the continued success of LLLI for the next 50 plus years!

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