American Legion Membership & Post Activities Committee Chairman Kenneth Orrock of South Dakota said the big take-away from a strategic planning session Jan. 10-11 in Indianapolis is a message that aims to reach every level of the nation's largest veterans service organization, from National Headquarters to the local post.
"The five-year plan has laid the foundation for a culture of growth within every facet of The American Legion," Orrock said after Saturday's closing session of the M&PA Committee's meeting. "That culture of growth hits posts, districts, departments and national."
One plank in the five-year plan is image building of the organization through better communications in the media and among the public. To that point, committee members heard from John Raughter, principal deputy director of the Media & Communications-External Division of the Legion. Raughter showed committee members the proofs of a publication on its way to press that offers guidance about how local Legionnaires can better convey the organization's message. The booklet, "The American Legion Membership Public Relations Guide," will be available in about a month and can be ordered by e-mailing pr@legion .org or by calling (317) 630-1253. Download a PDF version of the document in Publications. 
One message in the booklet, Raughter explained, is the importance of identifying enthusiastic members for interviews with the media. "Have an upbeat member, not a pessimist, give the interview," he said. "There are a lot of great things going on in the Legion, always positive things to bring out in an interview. There are always posts that are growing. You can point out that there are about 2,000 more American Legion posts than there are Starbucks coffee houses (in the United States)."
Orrock later added that stories of membership growth and revitalization should be shared and celebrated through recognition of recruiters and publication of their efforts. "If you think someone needs recognition, do so," he told committee members.
Each member of the Membership & Post Activities Committee has been assigned a group of departments to offer assistance and support in their recruitment programs. All departments of The American Legion have now submitted to National Headquarters their own five-year growth plans to go along with a similar five-year plan at the national level that aims to achieve an all-time high in membership by the organization's 100th anniversary in 2019.
"We need to share stories of success and excitement for the culture of growth," Orrock said. "We need to be the cheerleaders of these posts."
Orrock also emphasized the Legion's need to engage two key membership groups: active-duty military and Vietnam War veterans. "The American Legion can become a part of their lives from the time they enlist throughout their lifetimes," he said, adding that American Legion College graduates, nearly all of whom have worked in post-revitalization projects, can be a vital resource.
American Legion Past National Commander David Rehbein, who attended the sessions Friday and Saturday, congratulated the Membership & Post Activities Committee for the progress it has made in the last two years – especially the development of the five-year plans. "What you've done in these last two years is set yourselves up to drive the process," he said. "Membership will go up because you have a plan."