A strategic business plan and “marching orders” from members help you refine your elevator pitch for membership. The American Legion already has a fantastic surface-level pitch – who doesn’t love supporting veterans and their families?
But we also looked at how to meld our priorities with what’s hot in the community. For example, workforce development has become a huge focus for Anchorage in the last few years, so we coupled our suicide-prevention efforts with that because if a veteran is gainfully employed and engaged, risk of suicide declines. To fulfill this important joint mission, we networked in the community.
1. We worked with organizations like the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and Anchorage Economic Development Corporation to join discussions and advocate for veterans.
2. We partnered with the USO to develop a networking event specific to helping service members who are leaving the military meet influential veterans in the Anchorage community. The intent isn’t only to help the servicemembers find jobs, but to help them develop a community of support to replace the one they’re leaving. This is something critical that our younger members told us they struggled with when they left the military. It also ties into the workforce development focus, so we invited those key partners to join the networking session.
Our first session had about 20 or so individuals, and our third iteration attracted about 60. Word was getting around town. Servicemembers who attended were also getting connected with our strategic partners, such as with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Group.
Every community is a little different, so these specific tactics may not apply to you. But perhaps homelessness is a prevalent issue in your community; how can you get involved to be part of the solution? What about community cleanliness? Maybe get a group of volunteers together to wear Legion caps and shirts, then go clean up a local park or highway. Invite the media to come cover it and then use that interview time to highlight how this kind of service ties to the veteran community. The more they see that the Legion and your post isn’t just a place to go have a beer, the better.
Laura Dean, adjutant and public relations chairperson at Jack Henry Post 1 in Anchorage, Alaska, which has more than doubled its membership, to over 800, in the last four years