With your help, NAMI can continue its work as America's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

NAMI Services to Affiliates

Success in meeting its mission requires each NAMI affiliate to provide a structure and methodology of meeting the needs of individuals and families dealing with the impact of mental illness on their lives.  Local NAMI affiliates must recruit and retain members to actively carry out their mission of support, education and advocacy. This Work Plan is designed to guide affiliates in meeting their mission, and it is intended to be a starting point.

This plan provides a foundation for affiliates to develop a stronger organization. A local NAMI affiliate must continually review its accomplishments, deficiencies and successes in meeting the needs of local family members and individuals diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

The Work Plan addresses 7 major areas in which staff can assist:

  • Membership Development
  • Membership Retention
  • Organization Development
  • Leadership Development
  • Financial Development
  • Marketing
  • Education Programs and Support Groups

Technical assistance for affiliates is available and may be requested by contacting Peg Morrison at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by calling 1-800-686-2646.  NAMI Ohio has developed a number of products to assist local affiliates in meeting their mission. We encourage NAMI affiliate staff and board members to review this list of resources.

If there is not an affiliate serving your area and you would like to explore possibilities for starting a local NAMI affiliate, please contact Peg Morrision at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by calling 1-800-686-2646.

Affiliate Support and Development Work Plan

Membership Development

The single most important task for any affiliate is to attract and engage new members.  When one considers that one in five people in any given locale have a mental illness, it is obvious that we have much work to do.  By the same token, we have a tremendous pool from which to draw our membership.  Without the continuous recruitment, engagement and retention of new members, a NAMI affiliate will wither and die.

Goal:  To increase awareness of the local affiliate and its value as a membership organization.

Objective: To increase awareness of NAMI as a resource for support and education to members of the community.
Action Step:  Develop small posters and/or other resources with which to market their affiliate.
Action Step:  Provide a training and support to identify and prepare member(s) for public speaking engagements.

Objective:  To facilitate the education offerings such as Family-To-Family, and other NAMI Signature programs which provide knowledge to those impacted by mental health issues.
Action Step:  Work with current and new membership to identify and actively recruit new teachers for these programs.
Action Step:  Work with local public and private organizations to secure funding to support these educational efforts.

Membership Retention

Individuals and family members approach NAMI with a variety of needs and with a variety of skills.  To be successful, NAMI affiliates must welcome, get to know and involve members as they first join the affiliate.  An affiliate’s ability to manage relationships with different people seeking to meet a variety of needs determines its quality and potential growth

Goal: To develop mechanisms that support continued active involvement of members.

Objective:  To provide a mechanism for assessing new member strengths and matching those assets to organizational needs to keep members dedicated to the NAMI affiliate.

Action Step:  Develop a template for use in welcoming new members and soliciting their specific help on a project basis.
Action Step:  Reinforce with all members the need to welcome and provide an easy mechanism for member involvement.

Objective: To identify educational topics which promote interest in the NAMI affiliate.

Action Step:  Develop a list of popular topics, suggested resources and other helpful information.
Action Step:  Identify local resource people to speak on a wide range of topics.

Objective: Create opportunities for members of the community to be involved in NAMI sponsored awareness events and advocacy efforts.
Action Step:  Explore community resources that facilitate NAMI’s connection with other community groups.  For example, secure in-kind donations and publicly acknowledge a company’s support.

Objective:  To create a comfortable environment where everyone can feel welcome.

Action Step:  Identify neutral meeting facilities, address barriers to attendance and reinforce the need to embrace all potential members as valued assets to the affiliate.
Action Step:  Assess local needs in terms of culturally appropriate support groups and speaking engagements.  Culture is an inclusive term that encompasses not only race and religion but also host of factors such socio-economic level.

Objective:  To identify process for timely collection and processing of membership dues.

Action Step:  Include membership renewal information in advance of dues expiration dates.
Action Step:  Assign membership to a committee or volunteer to allow focus on the importance of task.

Organizational Development

Clearly, the best-run affiliates are the ones that are the best organized.  They have formulated bylaws, elected officers and appointed committees, developed policies and procedures and have volunteers in place to handle key affiliate functions, such as answering calls, holding meetings and collecting dues. 

Goal:  To adopt procedures that lead to a professional and stable organization dedicated to NAMI’s mission. 

Objective:  To establish a minimum standard of operation necessary to meet the NAMI mission and promote a professional image in the community.

Action Step: Assess current activities, barriers to activities and prioritizing of affiliate activities to support the NAMI mission of education, support and advocacy.

Objective:  To reinforce the NAMI commitment of inclusiveness for consumers and families and identifying appropriate functions germane to each.

Action Step:  Review and reinforce operational standards and methods of operations that meet the needs of family members and individuals diagnosed with a mental illness.

Objective: To utilize standardized membership forms, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, posters and other affiliate materials that create an identifiable and professional NAMI image.

Action Step:  Consult with NAMI Ohio or a local resource to develop affiliate materials that are consistent in look and are functional.

Objective: Obtain incorporation and non-profit status.

Action Step:  Identify individuals with expertise in this area and provide access to them so as to facilitate the affiliate’s legal status needed to obtain grants and be recognized as a legitimate and professional organization within the community.

Objective:  Secure resources for daily operations that enhance the professional image and respond adequately to community needs.

Action Step:  Identify local businesses and organizations that may have resources, either direct or in-kind, that would support the work of the local affiliate..
Action Step:  Institute a procedure for conducting informational meetings with key community groups/resources (newspapers, civic groups, etc.).

Objective: Adopt an operating plan that utilizes the NAMI Affiliate Tool Kit as a foundation and guide for daily operations.

Action Step:  Utilize the technical assistance available through NAMI Ohio to assess the affiliate’s strengths, developmental level and barriers to growth.

Leadership Development

Developing and maintaining a professional organizational image contributes greatly to a local affiliate’s success.  It is crucial to the long-term viability and growth of the affiliate to provide for succession planning.  Any one person in the same leadership role for a period of years inevitably leads to problems with letting go and involving many members in the work of the affiliate.  By utilizing a leadership development plan as an integral part of the affiliate operations, a strong, viable affiliate will be available to serve families and individuals for the long-term.

Goal: To develop an understanding and appreciation of the need for grooming members to move into leadership positions so that the affiliate can prosper in the long-term. 

Objective:  To encourage the use of committees to provide opportunities for members to develop leadership skills.

Action Step:  Utilize the Affiliate Toolkit to identify needed committees and the individual assets of volunteers necessary to effectively carrying out the NAMI mission while utilizing a large number of the membership.

Objective: Adopt volunteer position descriptions and a mechanism for utilizing volunteers in increasingly responsible leadership positions.

Action Step:  Provide an opportunity for individuals to become involved at different levels to accommodate comfort levels while conveying the need for commitment to the organization.

Financial Development

Member dues, once an affiliate is established, should generate enough income to cover the basics.  In-kind contributions, such as donated copying and meeting space, also supports an affiliate financially.  Other approaches to raising money can and should be undertaken by an affiliate.  Some fundraising activities may be a good way to engage groups of people and newcomers.  Each community offers different opportunities for affiliate fundraising.  However, all NAMI affiliates should be incorporated and should obtain official 501 (c) (3) status.

Goal:  Secure resources to become and maintain an autonomous and self-supporting organization.

Objective:  To identify potential fund raising opportunities within the community.

Action Step:  Consult with local business to identify any resources for on-going income, such as those offered by many chain stores (grocery rechargeable gift cards, scrip, etc).

Objective:  To put in place a mechanism for writing grant proposals for funding of projects.

Action Step:  Consult with local foundations as to local training and support opportunities.
Action Step:  Utilize web-based resources for potential sources of funding as well as information on grant writing techniques.


As indicated in previous sections, it is imperative that a local affiliate make itself very visible in the community it serves.  Tremendous growth can be achieved, but only if the general public, individuals living with a mental illness, family members and mental health professionals know about NAMI and what it offers.  The NAMI name and organization is one of our communities’ best kept secrets.  NAMI Ohio must commit itself to providing personal and material assistance to local NAMI affiliates so that a systematic plan to increase awareness can be implemented locally.

Goal:  To adopt necessary tools and people resources to increase awareness and community support of local NAMI affiliates and to increase referrals from both public and private mental health professionals.

Objective:  To establish and maintain a speaker’s bureau that offers presentations targeted to families, consumers, providers, civic groups, schools, clergy, law enforcement, social service agencies, homeless agencies, domestic violence shelters, and any others who could benefit from a NAMI presentation.

Action Step:  Sponsor an in-service training that provides basic public speaking training, confidence-building exercises, and appropriate content to members willing to participate in such an outreach effort.

Objective:  To offer monthly educational sessions of interest to the mental health community.
Action Step:  Draw upon local and state resources to meet the needs of local NAMI members and general community members.
Action Step:  Survey membership and others for suggestions of popular topics and presenters that appeal to both current members and to potential members.

Objective:  To encourage the distribution of, through members and agencies, NAMI informational brochures and posters.
Action Step:  Reinforce on a continual basis, the absolute necessity for the affiliate to be visible and accessible.

Objective:  To adopt a marketing strategy outlining marketing opportunities and methodologies that will enhance the knowledge of and reputation of NAMI locally.

Action Step:  Utilizing current resources and other expertise of current members to develop a written document that easily guides the affiliate with the steps necessary to increasing visibility and appeal to those in need of NAMI services but unaware of its existence.

Education and Support

Support and education are critical roles for any NAMI affiliate, and are essential to the growth and maintenance of every affiliate.  Each affiliate must develop its own plan and priority according to their resources and community needs.  To meet the expectations of a local NAMI affiliate, support and education must be a foundation of all other affiliate activity.

Goal:  To provide quality and informational presentations or courses that attract members and educate professionals and non-professionals about mental health issues in both children and adults.

Objective: To maintain a cadre of certified and willing members to teach the Family-to-Family and other NAMI signature education programs per criteria set by NAMI Ohio and NAMI National.

Action Step:  Recruit individual members to volunteer as instructors for the NAMI signature educational programs other NAMI signature education programs .

Objective: To equip local member volunteers with the information and expertise necessary for targeted in-service trainings (e.g. teachers, case managers).

Action Step:  Develop a variety of presentations, based on Family-to-Family and other NAMI signature education programs content, that could be easily presented by anyone within a NAMI affiliate that has experienced the impact of mental illnesses on their or loved ones’ lives.
Action Step:  Encourage that volunteers form teams to provide moral and practical support for one another in the delivery of community presentations.

Objective:  To require trained support facilitators for NAMI sponsored support groups.

Action Step:  Select and support training for members to facilitate support groups that are non-threatening, appropriate and designed to address the needs of any person who may attend.
Action Step:  Reinforce the NAMI policy of openness and inclusiveness, as well as its policy of “safe haven” group support.

NAMI Ohio Technical Assistance and Community Outreach Topics

This list represents some specific areas in which NAMI Ohio staff can assist local affiliates in their efforts to reach family members and individuals impacted by mental illness. NAMI Ohio can also provide ideas and guidance for community presentations as well as targeted outreach. Support to affiliates is not limited to areas listed here.  Contact Peg Morrison at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 1-800-686-2646 to further discuss your affiliate’s needs.

Governance Issues:  Incorporation, Bylaws, Tax Exempt Status, Operating Policies and Procedures, Board Member Training, Informal Mediation Assistance, Strategic Planning

Marketing:  Planning, Sample Membership Brochures, Sample Posters, Brainstorming Sessions

Membership Processing:  Consultation and Technical Assistance

Affiliate Networking:  Regional Meetings, Mentoring

Education and Support:  Leader Training, Technical Assistance and Troubleshooting

Community Presentations:  General Awareness and Outreach, NAMI Overview, Resource/Presenter Ideas

Targeted Presentations: Law Enforcement, Schools, Care Facilities, Courts, Provider Agencies, Faith Communities