The target date for American Legion departments to achieve 100% of their assigned membership goal for 2019-2020 was extended from May to June 17 due to the effects of COVID-19 with stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Seven American Legion departments met or exceeded the target date – Colorado (101%), Mexico, Montana, North Carolina (101%, home of National Commander James W. Oxford), Philippines (109%), Utah (101%) and Wyoming (101%).
“I believe the success of this state comes from having a good leadership in the Membership Committee. (See the department’s useful membership tools here). Also, the hard work of the members of the state,” said Department of North Carolina Commander James Moore.
A few other department commanders shared thoughts on how their respective department achieved a goal set before them.
Department of Montana Commander Jeff Nelson shared “an informal list of what an organization can achieve.”
1. I believe recognition starts at the top, and that is our headquarters staff that kept us informed daily of membership growth. They supplied the district and zone commanders, as well as membership chairmen, the information about which post were on track and which post were lagging throughout the year. These reports created a competition between district and zone commanders to encourage post commanders about the bigger picture involved in reaching post goals. I believe that every post is looking for new members in their community to bring new blood and new ideas into their organization to keep The American Legion at the forefront of veterans concerns.
2. Buddy Checks were an excellent means for keeping in touch with those past members that haven’t renewed in a while and to find out how they are getting along. Perhaps they may renew and perhaps not, but it built a relationship that The American Legion is alive in the community and cares about their veterans enough to just say hi and how are you doing.
3. The Mylegion.org website was perhaps one of the most useful tools in our arsenal. Many of our adjutants use this tool to keep track of DMS enrollments. They were able to find out instantly if a new member had just joined in their community, send out a letter or call, and let them know about transferring to a local post. In this letter it explained the importance of having their membership in a local post and who to contact if they don’t receive a reply from the post. It also supplied information about past members and so many tools that could be used in contacting them and keeping up with the current membership as well.
4. Monetary incentives created by National Headquarters played an important motivation. At the commanders and adjutants meeting last fall, we put in a membership bid that we felt was achievable for our department. It not only gave us an incentive to reach that goal but then put us in a position to reach other goals. The rewards (Big Twelve Competition) helped our department invest in new office equipment that replaced older pieces that were breaking down.
5. Finally, credit goes toward every post commander and adjutant in the state of Montana that recognized the importance of membership. So many of them reached out to get new members or transferred them through DMS into their post. When we attended district meetings throughout our state we asked those posts that were there to step up and strive for that 103 percent this year. One district took it to heart and with outstanding leadership reached over 108 percent for their district. If members can see the benefits of having new blood come into their post it is a win no matter how you look at it.
“It is the commanders in the past that have supplied our present staff with knowledge and experience on setting and reaching goals. Montana has a proud background of being a leader in a lot of American Legion programs, and I believe it is that tradition that has carried on through the years. It is always a reminder that we strive to be the best, but never allow shortcomings to set us back.
Department of Wyoming Commander Mike Cooke said, “It took a team, and it took the entire department.” He provided six ways the department achieved 100% membership.
Communication. It just involves a lot of communication with the districts and the members throughout the state. Basically just giving everyone ownership in what we do here in the state of Wyoming and let them know that everything we do at the post level is a reflection all the way through. I encourage district leadership to have town halls with their posts, and posts commanders and leadership to have town halls with their local leaders. Communication is key; the biggest thing I wanted to see was positive communication with everyone.”
Education. “We educate our members on what we do at the post, district, department and national level. Once they know those answers they are able to better recruit our new members and retain our older members.” Cooke said new and longtime members are encouraged to take the Online Basic Training course for further knowledge on the organization.
Leaders. Wyoming is putting their National Legion College alumni in membership positions. “They bring in great ideas and are energizing everyone."
Community exposure. Non-members “are seeing what the posts are doing, whether it be handing out meals to first responders or helping individuals with groceries during this pandemic. They are seeing that type of interaction with the community, and they like that positive impact and they want to be a part of that.”
Buddy Checks. “Taking care of your neighbors is one of the things that we do all of the time, and it shows.”
Sharing. “A good number of the 100% departments are out of the West … the one thing we do is share. We do our meetings every month and talk about what’s working and what’s not working. I have utilized information from my counterparts in Colorado, Montana and Utah. It’s a team effort.”
Department of Colorado Commander Dean Noechel said, “This was a TEAM effort this year. We made over 100% membership because of our dedicated Legionnaires. They have worked tirelessly supporting the programs, and when the COVID-19 virus put us on a stay-at-home order, our posts stepped up right away with Buddy Checks. We call and let them know that The American Legion is here and ready to assist if they shall need anything. Members remember that and when they get the next renewal notice they will renew their membership because we care and we took the time to personally call them.
"We achieved our goal by working together with our districts and posts, traveling around the great state of Colorado doing membership drives and membership round ups. We had our National Vice Commander Robert Liebenow on the western slope for a week-long membership round up and he visited areas that have not seen a national officer in about 15 years.
“Our membership teams in our posts, districts and department are dedicated Legionnaires that are the driving force of TEAM COLORADO! Having a great volunteer TEAM is key to success.”