Former American Legion Membership & Post Activities Committee Chairman Randy Goodman of Georgia shares his best practices for membership recruitment and retention.
Q: How viable is traditional face-to-face membership recruitment in public places?
A: I see a Georgia post at grocery stores and Wal-Mart all the time. They set up a table, wear their Legion gear and share The American Legion story with veterans and their families in front of these facilities, and all look interested in learning about
The American Legion. It always results in membership.
Getting outside of your post is key because all of your business cannot be conducted inside your post. So be involved in your community; share The American Legion story; wear your Legion cap and T-shirts; and show pride in your organization. People like to belong to organizations that are successful, and we are successful.
Q: How can posts get younger members more excited about The American Legion?
A: Mentorship is the key to engaging a first-year member in The American Legion. Help them to understand The American Legion as you do, with passion. You are part of an organization that you really like. At some point, you want to see them understand The American Legion as you do. Help them understand the four pillars of service of The American Legion. Have a goal. Choose a pillar. Choose a program, and help them to make that program be the best it can be.
Q: How can one explain the value of The American Legion to members of the armed forces?
A: They have to understand what The American Legion is all about, and they learn by being alongside us, by sharing our goals, and we need to understand their needs so we are able to assist them.
Access Granted is a joint (memorandum of understanding) between the DoD and The American Legion. DoD leadership has responded to our requests to be on installations or in armories to assist and explain our American Legion role in the community. Access Granted gives The American Legion and other veterans service organizations that opportunity to interact with active-duty and National Guard and reservists around the nation.
They do need our help. We know the need is there. This just gives us greater access to families in need.
Q: What if a post doesn’t have a big active-duty military community nearby?
A: With sequestration, DoD has really placed greater emphasis on National Guard and reservists to perform active-duty missions. When they return, they have similar needs for employment and family assistance. Many of our American Legion posts meet in armories around the country, and we have a direct relationship with the National Guard and reservists. We understand their needs. Membership has really increased where we have helped them adapt and adjust to coming back to their communities.
Q: If a post is small but growing, how can they fulfill all of The American Legion’s programs?
A: The goal in any American Legion post is to do at least one program of The American Legion – there are programs that support each pillar of service. Select one program and make that program the pillar of your community, and you will be successful.
Q: What good is MyLegion.org to our post and membership program?
A: MyLegion.org has the current membership of your post and also has those who have been members of The American Legion and also members who are part of your direct mail solicitation group. If you want to expand your post, use MyLegion.org, search by ZIP code, find those members in your area, and send them a letter. MyLegion.org already has a letter developed for you. All you have to do is fill in the blanks. Send the letter out to those prospective veterans in your area and when they respond and want to transfer to your post, you make the necessary adjustments to your roster, they become members. Get them active as early as possible.
Q: How can a post learn what other American Legion officers are doing to improve membership?
A: MyLegion.org has a special section for officers called the Officers Portal where you can check around the nation, or anywhere in the world, and learn from your fellow officers. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It will make you a better officer and make The American Legion better.
Q: How should a post put together its membership team?
A: The membership team has to be reflective of the diversity in your community, whether it’s female, Hispanic, African-American – these veterans will be attracted to The American Legion’s four pillars of service. Share with them the value of becoming members of The American Legion.
Once veterans are engaged with your members, they become part of your family. If you want to grow your family, utilize the communication skills that you have. Whether you are Hispanic, female or African-American, there are basic social needs we all have. We served together in a very unified fighting force. We have that same passion to serve together in our communities. Make that a part of your dynamic.
Q: How can a post share membership success stories with others?
A: If you have a membership success story, I encourage you to go on Legion’s site www.legiontown.org and place your success story there. Share with the rest of The American Legion and the community what you do to support veterans in your community.
Q: What can a post do to get involved with The American Legion centennial?
A: The American Legion will soon turn 100 years old, in 2019. The American Legion has created a Web page, www.centennial.legion.org, so that American Legion posts can share their history with the rest of the world. You can create a history, have a link to it and share it with your community. The 100th anniversary is designed to observe history, to celebrate our legacy and move forward to the next century. The centennial Web page also offers an opportunity to share your American Legion legacy and to increase your membership.
We encourage you to develop your post history on the web page and also share that with the local media. Sharing your local story with your local media will draw attention to the success of The American Legion.
Q: How should we respond when a non-member comes in asking about The American Legion?
A: When you walk into a post and no one engages you – no one speaks to you – you just lost a member. Having someone make you feel welcome in a post – a smile and a handshake go a long way toward helping that veteran.
I like to win. I like to engage myself with different personalities. When I see others that are positive, it has a reflection on me. It really warms my heart. I smile and get a smile back. Veterans are unique people, and I treat all veterans with the same respect.
Q: How hard is it to charter a new American Legion post?
A: It’s absolutely easy to charter a post. In Georgia, 25 members is what you need to get a post started, but you don’t need all 25 at once. Twelve or 13 is enough to begin working on establishing a post and understanding what areas of emphasis you want to place in your community – whether it’s children and youth, helping veterans, Americanism or advocating for a strong national defense – we can get you a post charter.
In one county in Georgia, we canvassed the area, found veterans who were interested in assisting military families that lived in the county. We started a post in 2014. This post has grown to over 100 members. In their first year, they received the Post Excellence Award. Posts serve the needs of the community. When there is a need, we step in.