While a focus on goodwill in the American Legion Auxiliary generally relates to civility, being respectful of fellow members’ opinions and ideas, and just plain being nice, also has a strong connection to membership.
With 22 million veterans currently living in the U.S., recruiting new members into the ALA is a sense of obligation for all of us. When we meet prospective members eligible to join our wonderful organization, we paint a bright picture of the ALA with hopes of these interested folks submitting an application to join. And what about membership retention? What is your unit doing to engage its current members?
Consider these tips when it comes to making membership meaningful in the spirit of goodwill, for both current members and those considering joining:
Have a return policy. Consider delegating two people from your unit as the points of contact for all things membership. And return those phone calls, emails, and social media messages from people interested in your local ALA! It’s crucial to respond to inquiries from the public. A phone call that’s left ignored or a voice mailbox that’s full and won’t accept new messages, for example, can turn a prospective member off immediately. These people may justifiably wonder: Why would I join an organization that doesn’t care enough to tell me more about themselves or how I can make a difference? Returning messages in a timely manner shows you care and value that person’s interest in joining the ALA.
Get serious – with email, that is. As American Legion Auxiliary members, we witness firsthand the sad situations that may befall some of the veterans, servicemembers, and families we serve. We know it’s important to have fun when we can. But it’s equally essential to take ourselves seriously so the public will too. Consider how it looks when the unit president’s email account or social media handle is grandmagiggles88 vs. ALAUnitPresident235.
Be a (membership) card shark. A large problem in the ALA is dues being paid by members at the unit level and not reaching National Headquarters for a variety of reasons. Units not cashing membership checks or submitting them in a timely manner to the department open the ALA organization to financial risk. And membership numbers could be a lot higher than they appear, solely due to remittal issues. The quickest way to avoid this problem? Pay online or by phone. The benefits include convenience, instantaneous acknowledgement that the member’s dues have been received, and it allows a member to immediately self-print her valid membership card. Paying online is secure and takes only a couple of minutes.
Breakdown at the bartender. This individual is often the point person for phone calls and visitors coming to your Legion post home social club activities. In some cases, the bartender is not a member of The American Legion Family. This person should, however, be welcoming and have a certain knowledge of how Legion Family membership is processed. Consider keeping a laminated card containing post/unit/squadron leader contact information, scholarships if applicable, and other vital membership information at the bar for quick reference.
Promote events and activities creatively. The post home is not the bar, but if that’s where a lot of your members go, have you made an outreach effort to promote upcoming mission-related service projects or events? What about having membership applications displayed prominently at the entrance? Make sure your post home has a significant amount of American Legion Family applications (you can order them through your department) displayed in a high-traffic area. Go behind closed doors to promote activities – affix clear plastic frames to bathroom stalls. No one will miss your messaging!
Be sure to visit the Public Relations/Marketing Resources area of www.ALAforVeterans.org for additional ways you can get the word out and help grow your membership.
This content appeared in the May 2018 Auxiliary magazine.