American Legion Post 145 in Peoria, Ariz., communicates to its members about post activities, membership efforts and other general news through email. But members often miss the emails due to the influx they receive in their inbox. So Post 145 has added another communication tool that has a better open rate: texting.
“Why use it? Text messaging has a 98 percent open rate,” said Bobbie Kimelton, a Post 145 member and Arizona District 11 commander. “If you send an email the open rate for emails is less than 20 percent.”
The text messaging service that Post 145 uses is EZ Texting (www.eztexting.com), which features several plans with various price options. Kimelton shared a free one is WhatsApp (www.whatsapp.com). It can be easily downloaded through an iPhone or Android, and it provides the basic, necessary tools to communicate with your members at once. To import the phone numbers to begin sending text messages, Kimelton said that it takes about 10 minutes – post adjutants can visit MyLegion.org, download the post membership roster into an Excel spreadsheet and upload it into the selected text messaging program.
A few of the many ways Post 145 uses text messaging is to:
n Remind members to renew. The text message provides Post 145 members a direct link to the post website to renew. “We get a much better response on our dues this way,” Kimelton said.
n Send a thank you after members pay their dues/renew. This message also lets the member know how their dues will be used, such as to support post programs.
n Send a follow-up message after making Buddy Checks. “One of my favorite things to use text messaging for is to support our Buddy Checks,” Kimelton said. “Once we’ve called our members and verified that they are well, we use the text messages to let them know about post meetings and activities they can participate in.”
n Send copies of the post’s events calendar. The post also sends photographs and videos of events that occurred.
n Send out agenda for post membership meetings. Post 145 meetings are in-person and via Zoom so the text message that is sent has a link to join the meeting virtually, as well as time and location since the post doesn’t have a home.
n Reach out to the spouses of post members who have passed away. Kimelton shared that it’s a great way “to keep in touch and be able to say ‘Hey, we are thinking of you. Do you need anything from us?’”
“There literally is an unlimited use of ways you can use this communication tool. One of the things I love about this concept (texting) is that you can utilize it for all different kinds of things from the post level all the way to your department functions.”
Text messages through the available apps can be prescheduled. If you wanted a post meeting reminder every month to go out you can schedule it so it occurs without having to always remember to send one. And the phone number being sent is not someone’s personal one. A phone number is assigned. Through EZTexting, Post 145 has created individual groups (for Buddy Checks, post membership, four pillars, etc.) and a phone number for text messaging is assigned to those groups.
If recipients don’t want to receive the text messages, they can opt out. “In the entire time we have been doing it, we have had two people (opt out),” Kimelton said. “Everybody appreciates it because it gives them an immediate notification.”
RENEWAL SUCCESS WITH TEXTING
American Legion National Vice Commander Michael Mitrione recently visited the Department of Georgia to participate in a revitalization effort where attempts to reach expired Legionnaires were being made by phone. In response to a call that Department of Georgia Commander Mark Shreve made, he received a text that said, “‘Hey, can you text me that information,’” Mitrione said. “So, we started texting. We put together a (uniform) message and the response we got back in the three days we were there (was) over 400 renewals.”
Each text message included the membership number for the expired member, as well as a link to renew online. After the initial success in Georgia, Mitrione carried that over during his visits to Tennessee and North Carolina. In North Carolina, Mitrione said, “It was kind of the same results: about 150 (renewals) the first day, and I think it was well over 300 by the second day when we left. (Tennessee Adjutant) Dean Tuttle told me later that he personally had like 75.
“You send somebody a text message, they’re going to look at it. So, the response has really been amazing to me. I strongly recommend each department to use this method next year to reach out to (non-renewals and) expired members.”