Every American Legion post should have a plan in place to coordinate and direct membership development. The post commander, ultimately, is responsible for the success or failure of the post to meet its membership goals for the year. Often the commander is assisted by the post membership chairman, who helps by selecting membership team members, planning membership rallies or events, and assisting the commander and adjutant with the processing of new and renewed members.
Commanders often follow a formula for success by assigning an energetic and motivated Legionnaire to be the Post Membership Officer (or chairman) to supervise the following post membership teams:
- Contact team
- New Member team
- Retention team
The Contact team concentrates on developing leads to areas with a likely concentration of veterans. The geographical borders of the local post community should cover not only the local business zones and residential neighborhoods, but should reach out to neighboring communities and counties that are under served by American Legion posts.
Some features of the expanded area should give it high potential for successful membership development, including:
- Convenience in travel time to the post and scheduled events.
- A sense of community awareness about the post, its location and positive contributions.
- A willingness in the community to help boost post membership through poster and counter-top displays, public-service announcement outlets, local advertising buyers, etc.
The Contact team should restrict itself to building a list of areas and neighborhoods where potential members might be located. With post leaders, the membership chairman coordinates specific events to host in these local communities throughout the year.
Post leaders might also prepare plans and make necessary arrangements for post-sponsored events that are scheduled on the post calendar. Such events could include an Americanism rally or fireworks, a post membership breakfast or dinner, a post open house, an American Legion birthday party, a dance, a children’s day, a Halloween carnival, a fun-run marathon competition, Legion Rider fun runs, and a talking Christmas Tree or Santa Claus hotline for children.
After events and potential neighborhoods are identified, the New Member team goes into action. These team members are the “salesmen” and conduct door-to-door area canvassing; build relationships with local media, churches, and civic and fraternal clubs, and create and share newsletters, posters or counter-top displays. Often a member of this team will write letters to the editors of local newspapers; coordinate a public information booth, table display. All members would be involved in sponsoring a local youth sports team or a post-sponsored community service program such as a community health fair, child abuse/missing children fingerprint program, a civil-defense disaster emergency preparedness test or a teen drug -abuse program.
The membership chairman and New Member team together chooses a specific contact method – email, snail-mail, phone, or door-to-door solicitation – and establish a specific calendar schedule for using it, as well as identify where to apply it.
The New Member team specializes in convincing eligible prospects to join the post. Team members should be persuasive speakers who are comfortable talking with people, especially strangers, and proven “go-getters” with good working knowledge of the Legion, its organization, purpose, history and services. This team also compiles a list of names, addresses, emails and telephone numbers for all eligible prospects who would not join the post (the Contact team uses this list for future contact efforts).
Lastly, and most importantly for the continued success of the post, the Retention team specializes in persuading current and former Legionnaires to renew membership in the post, using post membership rosters and historical data to identify non-renewed members and to make personal contact with each member to address concerns and get favorable renewal decision.
The success of the team concept in membership building is directly related to post members’ willingness to participate and assume the responsibility for planning, organizing and directing post events. Success is measurable by the post meeting and exceeding all membership objectives assigned by the district or department.
The team concept, using Contact, New Member, and Renewal teams is equally adaptable at district and department levels where far greater resources are available for team membership, and where team members can be selected from an array of posts.
District Team efforts should be primarily directed to building membership in the district’s weak posts, or in newly chartered posts in need of growth to develop and sustain its programs and the American Legion home.
District officers select the district membership chairman and members for the three district teams. Special attention is given to selecting of the best workers from across the district for this important role.
District leaders and district membership chairman choose the posts needing help, the contact method to employ and the calendar of events, as well as planning and organizing the events themselves.
Finally, post and district leaders may call on the staff of the Illinois Membership Department for assistance. National staff is also available, they may travel and assist in building membership teams for certain posts. Contact Membership Marty Conaster for details about such traveling.