In the past eight years, Legionnaire Nathaniel King has recruited 3,420 members into The American Legion. He won the National Recruiter of the Year in 2004 and, by bringing in 760 members this year, earned the honor once again. King, a member of Post 267 in Columbus, Ga., says the simplest way to get new members is to simply ask. But as technology has evolved, so has King's membership approach.
"I'm on Facebook all the time. I'm on Twitter. I even did a reconnect at Fort Benning using Skype. I got 50 members through that," King said. "(National Commander) Clarence Hill spoke on the new way being technology, and I can guarantee you if we continue to do that, we're going to see a growth in our organization."
King said successful recruiting requires a knowledge of The American Legion. "One of the keys is knowing our product," he said. "In my post we have several membership workshops through the year. That's a tradition we started."
And in Post 267, membership is a very serious topic. "We had more than 26 Gold Brigaders (Legionnaires who recruit 50 members in a membership year)," King said. "We have ‘Race to 50.' The first one in our post who reaches 50 (new members) is awarded $100. That creates an incentive, and that creates a go-getter attitude."
But King isn't just trying to bring in new members. He's trying to keep them once they join the organization.
"I'm real big on retainability of our members because of where the problem with our national organization lies. We recruit with the best of them, but it's the retaining of those members. It's that face-to-face, that calling on the phone. Facebook is great. Everybody is on Facebook."
Membership increased across the board in the Legion this year by more than 34,000. During Wednesday's national convention, several membership awards were presented. The Department of Delaware was honored for having the most improved market penetration, while the Department of Vermont was honored by achieving the highest market penetration.
The Department of Vermont also was presented The O.L. Bodenhamer Trophy for leading the Legion in traditional membership for the Flag Day report of June 14. The department attained more than 96 percent of its goal by June 14.
Also honored were the winning-Race to the Top Competition district commanders. The competition honors district commanders in each of the five "Race to the Top" categories whose district membership on March 31 represented the greatest percentage increase over its previous year's membership. The winners were:
- Category I - Jack Climer, Department of Utah
- Category II - Wayne Duffell, Department of Georgia
- Category III - Carl Nelson, Department of Georgia
- Category IV - Gary Nelson, Department of Arizona
- Category V - Patrick Holter, Department of Maryland
The following departments were honored for achieving a 95 percent or higher response rate for Consolidated Post Reports: Idaho, Montana, Vermont, Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wyoming and Florida.
And winning the NEF Commander's Challenge, which honors the commanders of the top NEF fundraising departments, by size, were William Kearsing Jr., Department of New York; Henry "Butch" Adams, Department of Georgia; Kenneth LaFleur, Department of Louisiana; Donald Cabrol, Department of Mississippi; and Nels Lofgren, Department of Wyoming.