During a visit earlier this year to the Department of Oklahoma, American Legion National Vice Commander Michael Mitrione said he spoke with another Legionnaire about how to engage current, former and prospective members. The Legionnaire told Mitrione that if someone wants to reach another person today, “you need to reach them in the media they’re comfortable with,” Mitrione said.
Later, when Mitrione was visiting the Department of Georgia and taking part in a revitalization effort where attempts to reach expired Legionnaires were being made by phone, “(Department of Georgia Commander) Mark Shreve, in response to one of his telephone calls, got a response back saying, ‘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 – a member of American Legion Post 55 in Fredericksburg, Va. – carried that over to visits to Tennessee and North Carolina. In the former, 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.”
When North Carolina Legion leadership reached out to Mitrione about coming there for a similar effort in late March, again using text messaging to expired members while performing Buddy Checks, Mitrione and his team were able to renew 40 expired members from the department’s headquarters post, as well as another six who were members from other posts.
Mitrione said some of the people they contacted had thought they’d already renewed, while others had forgotten to. And others had complaints, which “gave us an opportunity to go back and say, ‘Let’s talk about it. What’s the issue?’” said Mitrione.
Mitrione also has a list of members in his region and says he regularly sends them birthday greetings via text, while thanking them for their membership and asking if they have any concerns or problems, directing them to their local post in the process.
“I got (a response) back that said, ‘I’ve been paying my dues for three years, and nobody’s ever contacted me,” Mitrione said. “I said, ‘Well, let me get a hold of the department commander, because he’s really interested and we’re trying to fix this type of situation. We’re trying to reach out to members … even if it’s not more than once a year we wish them a happy birthday.”
There have been times when Mitrione has had to reach out via a traditional phone call if a text goes to a landline and an email goes unanswered, but he said using text messages has provided much better results at a quicker pace.
“If you call me on my home phone … you’re not going to get me because you’re not in my directory,” he said. “But people look at their text messages. That’s why they say don’t text and drive. You send somebody a text message, they’re going to look at it. So, the response has really been amazing to me. It’s reaching out and touching our members.”