Pro Tip: Host Virtual ALA Meetings

In today’s world with people constantly on the go, driving children to and from events, long work hours, or health and mobility issues, it can be difficult for some American Legion Auxiliary unit members to make it to a physical meeting.

The solution? Add a virtual component to your meeting. Those members who are able to/want to can still go to the physical meeting location while those who can only make it by participating online from her own residence are still able to attend and keep up on the unit’s activities.

Another benefit of virtual meetings — it prevents the quorum problem (i.e., not enough members present to conduct business). A new way of hosting meetings allows the unit’s business to continue, especially for timely items that need voted on.

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A hybrid meeting setup that includes both online and in-person interaction allows for more options in terms of meeting participation and is likely to increase meeting attendance and membership in the organization. It can also help keep your unit from losing your charter or folding.

Units that predominantly meet virtually are loosely termed “eUnits.” Electronic units allow members to communicate and hold meetings via teleconferencing, email, an online group, or other e-meeting software. Designed for working women and students attending college, the eUnit format also provides a great opportunity for those unable to leave their home, because of health or mobility issues, to remain involved in the American Legion Auxiliary.

In addition to electronic communication, eUnit members do meet in person occasionally as required by their unit’s Constitution & Bylaws.

There are several options for hosting virtual meetings. One is www.FreeConferenceCall.com, an audio, web, and video conferencing service that is free to users. At the physical meeting location, a computer with a webcam, microphone, and speakers are set up so unit members who dial in remotely through their own devices have the ability to communicate with those at the unit just as they would if they were there.

The software is easy to set up and install, provides security because users must have the meeting ID number, and it allows for the recording and downloading of video conference sessions. In fact, American Legion Post 269 in Patchogue, N.Y., uses this service for its virtual meetings.

Other popular software for this use includes zoom.us. For free, users can have a meeting with up to 100 participants with video conferencing/web conferencing features, but there is a 40-minute time limit on group meetings. However, there are other opportunities available with the software to fit your unit’s needs.

Webex.com also has several options for online meetings; however, there are no free plans with this website. Another choice is Google Hangouts that can be used from a computer or smartphone. ALA Indianapolis Women’s Inc. eUnit 438 in Indiana uses Google Hangouts for its unit meetings to chat via text. The unit also supplements conversations with Survey Monkey surveys to gather information from the entire unit about dates, projects, etc.

There are many sites you can use for video meetings, so find the one that works for your unit.

It doesn’t matter how you meet as a unit — it matters that you check in regularly with each other to carry out the ALA mission of serving veterans, military, and their families.

This article was originally published in the August issue of Auxiliary magazine. 

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