The name may have slightly changed, but the mission remains the same: growing The American Legion.
What was once referred to as post revitalization has taken on a larger scope. American Legion national staff is now teaming up with department, district and post Legionnaires to engage in district revitalizations, targeting larger areas consisting of multiple Legion posts.
There’s no doubting the benefits that Legion posts bring. During Saturday’s Membership & Post Activities Committee meeting, Internal Affairs Assistant Director Michele Steinmetz said that since April 2012, more than 5,000 Legionnaires have been transferred from department headquarters posts into local posts. New members also have been added to the membership rolls during post revitalizations.
"We’re not doing away with post revitalizations," Steinmetz said. "We’re enhancing that by bringing the idea of a district-wide revitalization to the forefront. And we’ve seen great success with this."
Steinmetz gave the M&PA Committee an overview of the district revitalization process, including a timeline of events prior to the event:
• The Legion department determines a need and contacts National Headquarters to set up the revitalization.
• Contact is made with a primary point of contact at the location, and a home base for the event is identified.
• The availability of a service officer is ensured.
• The department/district makes sure all posts in the area are aware of the event and that volunteers from each post are involved.
• A list of expired, headquarters post and DMS information is requested by national staff.
• National staff prepares letters to those expired and headquarters post members and mails them prior to the event.
• National staff prepares press releases about the event and ensures those releases are disseminated to local media outlets.
• National staff provides membership materials and recruiting materials to the respective area.
Once national staff is on site, a meet and greet takes place between staff and volunteers. The ground rules are discussed, and simple things like making sure phone books are handy, and that volunteers bring both their cell phones and chargers, are reiterated. A script also is provided to the volunteers who will be manning the phones; those volunteers are trained on how to fill out Member Data Forms.
Steinmetz stressed implementing Operation Outreach – a Department of Defense initiative meant to reconnect the civilian world with the military – in any revitalization if the opportunity exists. "If there is a Guard unit in the area, talk to the district or county commander to see if the opportunity exists to do something with that," she said.
During the revitalizations, several volunteers stay behind at the home base to call names on the phone lists. Other volunteers will go door to door to reach out to former/potential members; if no one is home, information is left behind at the address, including the "Why You Should Belong" booklet and a membership application.
During the revitalization, efforts should be made to have a service officer attend at least one of the days at the home base. Steinmetz and other membership staff said when a service officer is present, often times several veterans are able to file claims for benefits to which they didn’t even know they were entitled.
Steinmetz said the even though the actual event wraps up, the work isn’t finished. Phone messages left with prospective members often are returned after the event. "Three to four weeks after the events people still are calling," she said. "You have to make sure there are people in place to follow up on those calls."
Steinmetz also said it’s important to recognize the efforts of volunteers who assist in the effort. She suggested having national commander incentive pins on hand to distribute, as well as certificates of appreciation.
While posts still are being revitalized during these events, the results are broader.
"District revitalizations gives us a bigger bang for our buck," said National Membership Director Billy Johnson. "We can do in one district revitalization what it would take one (national membership staffer) six visits to posts to do. And we’re training so many more people at the same time.
"Staff can’t cover every state across the country. But with these district revitalizations, we can cover a lot more."
To schedule a district revitalization, contact your department headquarters.